NC legislators listen to debate over Common Core standards

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2014 

— Critics of the Common Core State Standards charged Thursday that the education guidelines are doing everything from promoting abortion and globalism to causing children to hate to go to school.

Opponents of the Common Core made up the majority of the speakers Thursday at a public hearing of a state legislative research committee that is considering whether to recommend dumping or overhauling the standards used in North Carolina’s public schools. Legislators, who could draft legislation next month, heard from 60 passionate speakers, on both sides of the issue.

“I demand that you listen to the will of the people and obey Jesus Christ,” said Alan Hoyle of Wake Up Call Ministries, who held up a Bible as he charged that Common Core promotes “sodomy, abortion and feminism.”

But supporters said it would be wrong to force teachers to abandon standards that were first introduced last school year.

“Teachers do not need to have the rug jerked out from under them with another standards change,” said Lillie Cox, superintendent of Alamance-Burlington Schools, who said she was speaking on behalf of the state’s superintendents.

The standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association, are supposed to set a clear, consistent blueprint for what students should learn from kindergarten through high school. Common Core is supposed to be more rigorous, introducing concepts at earlier grades than before.

Common Core has been adopted in 45 states, with the North Carolina Board of Education agreeing to it in 2010. States were encouraged to adopt Common Core to improve their chances of winning a federal Race to the Top grant.

‘Simply raising the floor’

Several educators who spoke Thursday said that Common Core has improved education by getting students to think more about problem-solving skills as opposed to rote memorization.

Karyn Dickerson of Guilford County, the current North Carolina Teacher of the Year, said the Common Core standards have caused educators to reach out more to help all students, including lower-achieving ones.

“We are simply raising the floor or the baseline for what they must achieve so that the ceiling can reach limitless heights,” Dickerson said.

But critics of Common Core, including several parents, retired educators and members of conservative groups, painted a more sinister picture. Their viewpoints are part of a national conservative backlash that’s causing some states, such as Tennessee, to consider dropping Common Core.

“Hear the cry,” said Rick Hopkins, chairman of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. “Stop Common Core now. Return our schools to a system of education, not indoctrination or social engineering. Leave the sex education, religion and political views of the children up to their parents and churches.”

Standards linked to globalism

The conspiracy theme was echoed by speakers from the Stokes County Tea Party, such as E.A. Timm, who charged that Common Core is a “stealth federal takeover” that will help communists gain control.

“Education is a fundamental natural right of the parents and is best handled locally,” he said. “Common Core makes that natural right untouchable by the parents and opens the door to national totalitarian control.”

Speaker Frank Livingston charged Common Core is not about federalization but about globalization, linking such parties as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the United Nations, education theorist Bill Ayers and the Muslim Brotherhood to the standards.

Several speakers, including Barbara Brown of FreedomWorks, a national tea party organization, charged that Common Core is designed to help Gates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $170 million nationally to promote Common Core.

Paula Hall, a Franklin County farmer, read from Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” to charge that Common Core “teaches our young pornography.” The book, which includes incest, rape and pedophilia, is on a list of suggested, not mandated, books that the state puts out for high school juniors.

“Common Core wants to guide our young today in the perversions,” she said.

Some speakers complained that the Common Core standards have taken away the joy of learning by teaching some material that’s too complex for students and too easy for others.

“Do you know how many parents are having to Google so they can help their kids with first-, second- and third-grade math?” said Jennifer Schrand, a Wake County parent. “This is pretty ridiculous.”

But James Barrett, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member, told legislators that “struggling is how we learn things,” citing the challenges his daughter is experiencing.

“Yes, they’re challenging standards,” he said. “But what’s the alternative?”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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