This site is written by Christel Lane Swasey. In the photo above, I’m the one on the left. I met Renee Braddy (middle) and Alisa Ellis (right) after I saw their school board presentation on educational freedom, which is the fight against Common core. It is on YouTube: Two Moms Against Common Core. http://youtu.be/Mk0D16mNbp4 . A mutual friend sent me a link to that video, and I watched it over and over, trying to wrap my brain around what these two ladies were saying. That first week, as I researched, horrified, on my own, I could not eat or sleep. I got Alisa and Renee’s contact information and started to research alongside them.
We became Three Moms Against Common Core. Together with a few handfuls of dads, moms, grandparents and teachers we formed Utahns Against Common Core‘s website and petition in 2012. I decided to make this blog to document what I was finding. At that time, in 2012, there was almost nothing about Common Core online anywhere. The little that was there, was from the NGA/CCSSO official sites that created Common Core. We had to dig into original documents, contracts and grants to connect the dots and to see what had really happened. We’re still at it.
We Utahns Against Common Core have been at Utah State School Board meetings, local school board meetings, have spoken about our Common Core concerns to cottage groups, on radio stations, television shows, and at conferences near and far; have had meetings with legislators and with our Governor; have had many rallies and a big symposium. We aren’t alone. There are countless parents/teachers against Common Core in every state. Check out Arkansas, Idaho, Florida, California, New York and Oklahoma’s sites.
We work hard. We don’t have funding; we print fliers, posters and T-shirts out of our home grocery budgets. We are fueled by passion for the things that matter most: God, family, country.
I’ve been teaching and writing all my life.
I have a B.A. degree in English and a M.A. degree in Communications, both from Brigham Young University. I earned my teaching credential at California State University San Bernardino. I have a Utah Cactus I.D. and my level II, 1st grade-through-postsecondary Utah teaching credential is valid and up-to-date. In the current stifling atmosphere where one cannot say that one has concerns about Common Core and maintain a job or get hired by a public school, I don’t know if the state office will ever renew my certificate to teach when it comes time, next year. We’ll see.
I am home schooling a seventh grader and a four year old right now, and I teach classes at George Mueller Academy. I taught Basic Composition and Freshman English at Utah Valley University as an adjunct professor (two years), worked as a full time grant writer for a consortium of Utah Valley charter schools (one year); taught third grade at Renaissance Academy in Lehi, Utah, and at Odyssey Charter School in American Fork, Utah (two years) and taught high school English and drama at Colton High School in Colton, California (five years).
The topic of my Master’s thesis, Ethnographic Literary Journalism, which I presented at the International Association of Literary Journalism Studies Conference in 2009 at Northwestern University, Illinois, is relevant to this site. It explains how the imaginative tools of creative, narrative writing, combined with the time-intensive, scientific methods of anthropology can create great literary journalism, or great literary anthropology. Translated, that means that even informational text-writing can be taught without killing a student’s –or a reader’s– imagination. (Full text of thesis is available here: http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ETD/id/1888 )
That brings me to my main academic concern.
Common Core mandates that elementary students read no more than 50% classical/imaginative literature, making room for more and more “informational texts” –and by twelfth grade, the percentage of allowable classic literature is further reduced– to only 30%.
Informational text has, prior to Common Core, been taught in history classes, journalism, science, or other disciplines. Although Common Core’s creators, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, have stated that the 70%-30% split has been misunderstood, and is to be across all disciplines (not just in English class) it seems that most English teachers didn’t get that memo.
Neither did the Utah State Office of Education, which says that under the new Core, schools will promote “more ‘informational’ text at every age and grade—text that gives information about the world rather than simply telling a story.” That worries me.
Students are being pushed to write technically more than they are being inspired to write creatively. Common Core-aligned assignments focus on increasing “informational” readings and writings, to the exclusion of the kinds of readings and writing assignments that inspire students love to read/write.
My bachelor’s degree is in English literature and my master’s degree in Communications focused on informational texts (ethnographic literary journalism) so I do value both classic and informational texts. Still, the Common Core Initiative’s decreasing of classic/imaginative literature– or, if Pimentel and Coleman are to be believed, the Common Core’s redistribution of the responsibility of teaching English language arts across the subjects and classes –either way, this is a dangerous transformation of American schools.
We become human by passing on our stories. Souls are enlarged by their exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that happen in all classic literature. Classic stories create a love for books and reading that cannot be acquired in any other way. Dickens, Shakespeare, Hugo, Orwell, Dickinson, Whitman, Dostoevsky, Rand, O’Connor, Dahl, Carroll, Marquez, Cisneros, Faulkner, Fitzgerald– where would we be without the gifts of these great writers and their writings?
The sly and subtle change to education made by the Common Core Initiative, that cuts out so much to make room for informational texts, will have the same effect on our educational system and on our children as if Common Core had mandated the destruction of a certain percentage of all classic literature. How much does this differ from book burning in its ultimate effects?
While there are equally serious affonts by the Common Core to students in the diminishment of high quality math, my special passion is English and that’s why I mention it particularly here.
YOU HAD ME AT UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Having said all of this about the academic concerns I hold against Common Core, still, I would never, ever have devoted thousands and thousands of hours to this movement and this blog, without a penny of pay, for the past three years, if academics were the only issue.
The deeper and more vital issue is America’s Constitutional right to representation, which the structure of the Common Core initiative kills.
No teacher, taxpayer, parent or principal has a say in the Common Core initiative. When the creators of the Common Core decide to change it, they will change it. There’s no voting. There’s no amendment process for anyone. That wonderful concept: “the consent of the governed” which the Declaration of Indpendence calls a mark of a just and proper government, goes away. Checks and balances? None. Representation? A vote? None. The two groups that co-created Common Core (thanks to the funding of Bill Gates, a heavy handed “philanthropist”) are: the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
If you think about it… we didn’t elect NGA’s huge membership or staff. We can’t fire anyone at NGA. NGA is not a representative Congress. NGA is not a public institution– it’s a private trade group that happens to have an official-sounding name. That name confuses people. It sounds so governance-y. But it’s not.
As a private club, it’s not subject to transparency laws. It doesn’t even have to allow investigators or media in to the closed-door meetings. No citizen and no board member could ever vote to change what NGA does. Governors themselves can’t even vote to change NGA, unless they are NGA members, which some very smart governors choose not to be. Last time I checked, the governors of South Carolina, Texas, Maine, Alabama, and Indiana were staunchly determined never to join the NGA, or had joined and quit.
Yet NGA makes national policies without due process of proper representation — it has already done so, in the case of Common Core.
Its partner, CCSSO is its twin. CCSSO has not only co-created Common Core, but it also created Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS). The Department of Education is officially partnered with both CCSSO (and with SHEEO, the higher-ed club) in using the CEDS common data standards. When you realize that every state uses these CEDS common data standards, and that every state has a federally paid-for State Longitudinal Database System that is totally interoperable with each other state’s system, you begin to see that a national data bank, using children’s information without parental knowledge or consent, is in place. That’s not just a little bit creepy. That’s 1984-Orwell style creepy. Learn more about the data standards here.
NGA and CCSSO are certainly welcome to exist as private groups, just like any group in a free country. But as national governing bodies? No– that’s unconstitutional governance.
What will it mean in the future, now that most of the United States have chosen to adopt Common Core? Pretend that there were no problems right now with the academic standards at all. What will happen when the NGA/CCSSO alters them, as they’ve promised they will, (see page 3) — and suddenly a majority of states dissent? Where is any recourse? Where’s citizen access to NGA/CCSSO?
The Utah Constitution says that the elected school board should hold the reins, not businessmen at Achieve, Inc., contracted by NGA/CCSSO. But NGA/CCSSO assumed a role as a national governing body over education. And meanwhile, the federal government is enforcing/coercing states to stick with the Common Core using financial grants and contracts over Common Core (aka College and Career Readiness) standards and tests, so that few state education leaders have the financial courage to tell the federal agents to back off our Constitutional rights. Nor do they admit how much they are influenced by an even further removed, even more nonrepresentative entity, the United Nations. Just look at some of the educational goals of the United Nations and see how closely the Common Core Initiative aligns America’s schools to every Agenda 21 compliant detail.
America, we have handed over the keys to the family car. This is bad. This is serious.
And that’s why I’ve made this website.