Common Core Education Standards: The GOP at the Rubicon

caesarcrossingrubiconAs the Michigan legislature is getting set to vote on national Common Core standards in education, it bears watching how they will act.   I think we have come to the Rubicon and this vote will tell us all we need to know about the intentions of the GOP in our state.

First a little background on what I mean by the Rubicon. If you’re familiar with Julius Caesar and his civil war, please skip this; you already understand the foreboding nature of anyone metaphorically crossing the Rubicon.   Just prior to the establishment of the Roman Empire, the Roman Senate had created a rule that no military forces could come south of the Rubicon, a shallow river just to the north of Rome.  Any military force crossing the river was considered a threat to Rome, even if it was Roman soldiers doing the crossing.   In 49 BCE, Julius Caesar had had about enough of Rome and decided to cross the Rubicon.  This started a massive civil war which eventually led to the establishment of the Roman Empire.  In short, crossing the Rubicon means “point of no return.”  Once Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he was de facto at war with his own country.  There simply was no going back.

As for the Common Core, there has been a great deal of talk around the country about establishing a set of standards which should guide the education of all American students.  It is a pretty daunting task, and as the ideas were floated a few years ago, I thought the Common Core was a really bad idea for our country.   I am an advocate of local control of school districts.  I applaud places like Harbor Springs which teaches a class in Native American languages because this preserves the heritage of our community.

Start to imagine what a Common Core would look like.  It is already challenging enough to teach in Michigan when the textbooks are pretty much all written for California and Texas schools.  Text book manufacturers know where the money is…it’s where the population is, and consequently items on the high stakes California and Texas tests are emphasized in all text books, even if it matters little  to us in Michigan who died at the Alamo or how the California referendum system works.  Just how do educators from the fifty states decide on what every American student needs?

So as I watched the Common Core movement carefully, I was very skeptical and pretty solidly against the idea of trying to blend all the things that are unique about the various regions of our country into a single set of standards.  (Please note that I think it is relatively easy to create a system of standards for math and science, but literature and social studies are a much tougher challenge.)

In the blink of an eye, however, I became a strong supporter of the Common Core. What caused this sudden change?  What piece of sand lodged itself in my eye that caused me to blink so violently?   As you might have guessed, it came courtesy of the radical right.  As I began collecting stories from South Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, and more about the “Christian” right’s efforts to infuse their mythology into our public schools, I knew it was time to help the children of these states escape the fate of being told that creationism is science and that dinosaurs lived alongside humans.

If you believe that I’m crying wolf about what I see as the organized efforts by the “Christian” right to infuse their beliefs into our public education, feel free to take a look at these stories.  It’s not a conspiracy folks.  It’s an on-the-ground, concerted effort to subvert the First Amendment.

Lousiana and Evolution

South Carolina and Dinosaurs

Kansas and Evolution

How can we stop it?  The Common Core.   Thankfully there are still a majority of educators and legislators who understand the separation of church and state.  They understand that students are allowed to believe whatever creation story they choose.  They understand that science is science and religion is faith.  Pretty simple really…except for those who see it as their responsibility to declare jihad on public education and force their religious beliefs down our throats.

(I think I’ve been at one of those international conferences on religious repression in my dreams.  After the mandatory 9 am coffee and stale donut reception, we had to choose among sessions like:

  • “Women’s Rights?  Hahaha!” The Huron Room by some Taliban scholar
  • “Rape for a Reason: Ethnic cleansing the fun way”  The Erie Room by some “Christian”  Serbian historian
  • “Beheading 101: Keeping our women pure”  The Superior Room by some radical “Islamic” cleric from Saudi Arabia
  • “The Art of Shunning”  The Ontario Room by some “Hindu” elder
  • “Joey and Dinosaur: How Evolution is a Joke”  The Michigan Room by some dude in a skunk costume.

But it was just a dream.  I think.)

So while the GOP and the radical right elements financing them in Michigan (DeVos, Koch, etc) always have a Mackinac Center manufactured set of statistics to support the ongoing attack on public education, they are going to have a really hard time fighting the Common Core on any basis other than their last chance to infuse their “Christian” beliefs into our public schools.

It is indeed the Rubicon.  If the GOP decides to shoot down Common Core (and as of this writing is planning no hearings, no public input, etc….Right-to-Work-for-Less anyone?) they are announcing to all of us what their real agenda is.

Cyber Schools? – easy to create religion-infused curriculum that is hard for the state to monitor

Charter Schools? – paying for religious instruction in many cases

Home Schooling? – sanctioning direct religious instruction

We truly are on the banks of the Rubicon, and turning back is impossible if the GOP decides to cross.   There’s a way to stop this disturbing and un-American trend and that is through the Common Core.  As long as there are sufficiently knowledgeable and dedicated educators who understand our students need real science in order to compete, our last line of defense rests in the Common Core.  I urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to keep Michigan out of the “Top Ten Silliest States” rankings for at least another month.


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