To Be a National Curriculum, or Not to Be a National Curriculum: More Fordham-Finn Flip Flopping

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Who says that Common Core ELA cuts classic literature, poetry, and drama? Our good friends at the Fordham Institute (see Checker & Co. as Gates Foundation vendor) must wake up early to start writing their dramatic “exemplar” texts and examples for America’s kids and policymakers. But here’s a dramatic exemplar of Common Core’s Surrealist art imitating life: Checker Finn as ed reform’s very own Hamlet.

A new episode in the Common Core drama demonstrates once again the situational ethics involved with Common Core advocacy. Let’s take it from the top.

[quote align=”right” color=”#999999″]As people in the K-12 edu-sphere now know, Fordham has had more costume changes than Madonna…[/quote]

Back in 2011 (the Era of Good Feelings for the Common Core) one time “conservative” Checker Finn must have been feeling all “together we can” and “change you can believe in” when the Obama Administration used its gentle “voluntary methods” of RttT bribes, Title I threats, and conditional NCLB waivers to get (see the definition of coerce) states to adopt national standards. Clearly, Fordham’s inner LBJ needed to come shining through in this triumphant Great Society moment when Checker signed, along with other noted conservatives Linda Darling-Hammond;  M. Joycelyn Elders, MD; Donna E. Shalala; Marc S. Tucker; and Randi Weingarten, in support of a nationalized curriculum to accompany the nationalized standards, nationalized tests, and nationalized teacher evals being driven by those other stalwarts of the Party of Reagan — President Obama, Arne Duncan, and the Gates Foundation.

Shanker Institute “Manifesto” for a Nationalized CurriculumMarch 7, 2011

“We therefore applaud the goals of the recently released Common Core State Standards, already adopted in most states, which articulate a much clearer vision of what students should learn and be able to do as they progress through school. For our nation,this represents a major advance…Shared curriculum in the core academic subjects would give shape and substance to the standards, and provide common ground for the creation of coherent, high-quality instructional supports — especially texts and other materials, assessments, and teacher training….With U.S. education’s long history of state administration and local control, the very idea of common curriculum guidance will strike many as overly controversial. The fear of centralization, institutional rigidity, and narrow-minded political orthodoxy is deeply ingrained in our political sensibility—beginning with our Constitution’s implicit delegation of education’s governance to the states. But now, in an era when states are coming to recognize the national importance of a coherent education system, they are working together to find ways to raise expectations for all. They are showing a willingness to trade state-by-state invention and reinvention for a more shared implementation of successful practices together with the possibility of greater economies of scale—in effect, to create a new and more consistent system.”

As Whitney Tilson would say: STOP THE PRESSES!! That was then, this is now.

As people in the K-12 edu-sphere now know, Fordham has had more costume changes than Madonna (the Material Girl, not the good one). Now as Common Core is daily being pasted in the press from coast to coast and mocked by comedians on late night TV, and as right-leaning reformers are seeing more and more of the real Beltway-loving Fordham, Checker must be getting what the existentialists called “bad faith” or “bad conscience.” Or, at least Fordham must be having concerns about the branding troubles associated with their strategy of “Forward,” “We Won’t Quit,” and “Betting on the Future”  with those DC-based champions of academic excellence: the CCSSO, NGA, Achieve, AFT, Gates, and Obama/Duncan/US ED. Not to mention that this is all hardly aligned with Fordham’s “right leaning” or “conservative-leaning” Royal Nonesuch-style masquerade they periodically like to perform.

So, here it is – aptly titled “Intellectual coherence and the Common Core” May 21, 2014 Fordham’s own exemplar text of “we were for it before we were against it” where they now piously declare:

“The remedy for these problems, let us be clear, is not a national curriculum. But neither is it to bay “local control” at the moon and just let schools continue to do what they’ve been doing.

Which brings to mind two lines from Shakespeare that seem to best summarize Common Core and its advocates:

“All the world’s a stage… one man in his time plays many parts.”

and also what the Bard’s Marcus Brutus says about Julius Caesar:

“The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway’d
More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.”