Last Thursday in Towson, Maryland, concerned parent Robert Small was physically removed from a public forum for daring to interrupt Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance during the so-called "question-and-answer" portion of a school board meeting. Dance was only answering questions from parents previously submitted in writing. When Small stood up to tell the audience that he believed the introduction of the new Common Core curriculum would compromise education standards, he was approached by an off-duty police officer working as a security guard and forcibly removed from the auditorium. He was subsequently handcuffed, and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer. Though the charges have reportedly been dropped, the incident remains a shocking reminder of the oppressive nature of Common Core and the liberal educational establishment charged with enforcing it.
Here is a video of the incident. It clearly shows the security guard taking out a pair of handcuffs and flashing his badge before grabbing Small's arm and dragging him towards the back of the room. As he is being taken out, Small says, “Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle. You have questions. [The panel members] don't want to [answer questions] informally.”
Just before being removed from the room he asks far more important question. "Is this America?" he wonders.
It's certainly what passes for America when those in authority want to control the flow of information. Examiner.com writer Ann Miller, who was present at the meeting, described the process as one in which Superintendent Dance "added insult to injury by screening, omitting, and editing parents’ questions," further noting that those he chose to answer were "softball questions."
Another parent in attendance sent columnist Michelle Malkin an email corroborating that assessment, insisting the meeting was little more than a rah-rah session touting the greatness of Common Core, followed by the pre-selected questions. "They were mostly softball questions of course and you could feel everyone’s frustration that no hard-hitting questions were being asked," the writer explained. The description of Small and the incident? "He was just a dad trying to get some information about his children’s education and ended up in jail for not sitting down and shutting up. I was there and it was absolutely chilling to watch this man silenced."
Chilling might be an understatement. Small was held until 3 a.m. after being charged. He faced a fine of $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison for the alleged assault, as well as a fine of $2,500 and up to six months in jail for disturbing a school operation. The police report contended Small attempted to push the officer away when he was first confronted.
On Friday, Small spoke with the Baltimore Sun. “Look, I am being manhandled and shut down because I asked inconvenient questions,” Small told the paper on Friday. “Why won’t they allow an open forum where there can be a debate? We are told to sit there and be lectured to about how great Common Core is.”
The "greatness" of Common Core deserves to be questioned at length, and those questions go far beyond Small's characterization that the curriculum was lowering school standards and preparing students for junior college. Other critics of the program, currently being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, rightly say that the implementation of federal standards amounts to a federal attempt to seize control of public school education.
Common Core was created -- and copyrighted -- by two Washington, D.C., lobbying organizations. They received input from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are DC-based trade associations. Most of the creative work was implemented by ACHIEVE, Inc., a progressive non-profit group largely underwritten by uber leftist Bill Gates, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The series of educational standards was put together without any input from state legislators, teachers, local school boards or parents. The program was sold to individual states coercively, with governors promised large sums of stimulus money to sign on and enticed by waivers relieving them of the requirements demanded by No Child Left Behind or threatened with a withholding of funds for resisting.
Even then, the federal government will only be paying for approximately half of the huge costs associated with implementing the program. Those costs include providing a computer to every child, and introducing another level of bureaucracy known as "master teachers." The master teachers will be tasked with coaching, monitoring and assessing classroom teachers. Much of that effort is aimed at making sure teachers "teach the test," because their jobs depend on it. After implementation, states and local school boards will bear the lion's share of funding the program's continuation.
The standards themselves are equally dubious. Cursive will no longer be taught. Euclidian geometry, emphasizing logic, will be replaced by a geometry "standard" so dubious, it was jettisoned by the Soviet Union 50 years ago. Rote memorization will be greatly reduced. Great literature will be eliminated in favor technical material, such as manuals, that enhance the computer-centric method stressed by Common Core. Moreover, an integral part of the progressive agenda with be served. Social justice will be stressed, along with redistributionist economic theories and radical environmentalism.
Yet the most disturbing aspect of the program by far is the reality that it paves the way for the acquisition of an unprecedented level of personal information by schools. The federal government is aiming to sell that info to interested third parties using a loophole in the 2009 stimulus bill as its vehicle. While the feds can't create a national database of student information, the bill allows individual states to develop State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS), cataloguing data generated by Common Core testing. Moreover, in 2011 the federal Department of Education concluded that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was to be "reinterpreted" to allow the dissemination of that student data to virtually anyone without written parental consent. According to the conservative think tank the American Principles Project, this "data mining" is nothing less than "one part of a much broader plan by the federal government to track individuals from birth through their participation in the workforce.”
The extent of the data collection is highly disturbing. On page 44 of its February 2013 report, the U.S. Department of Education displayed photographs of "four parallel streams of affective sensors." Once the program is fully implemented, those sensors will be used to "provide constant, parallel streams of data...used with data mining techniques and self-report measures to examine frustration, motivation/flow, confidence, boredom, and fatigue" of children. In short, they will become de facto lab rats.
Its gets worse. Last year, 24 states and territories reached a deal to proceed with data mining in exchange for grants. “Personally Identifiable Information” will be collected from each student. that data includes: parents’ names, address, Social Security Number, date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.
Almost unbelievably, the intrusion doesn't stop there. A November 2010 report released by the Institute of Education Sciences as guidance for the aforementioned State Longitudinal Database Systems revealed that "Sensitive Information" will also be acquired from children. It is listed in the report as follows:
1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student's family;
3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student's parent; or
8. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
The data mining of Sensitive Information ostensibly requires written parental consent. But as Mary Black, curriculum director for Freedom Project Education explains, that requirement can be circumvented. “I think they would get around parental consent through testing,” Black said, warning that academic exams could be tailored in such a manner as to extract the relevant data without parents' knowledge. Black further contends that even if parents are successful in keeping their children away from such invasive questions, they could be "branded" and placed in a special category a result.
Yet getting parents on board may be even simpler than that. The extraction of such information could be heavily sold to unsuspecting parents under the auspices that it constitutes a critical component of their child's educational development and success.
As of last March, nine states have embraced the data mining component of Common Core. Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina will be “pilot testing” the effort. Students’ personal information will then be sent to a database managed by inBloom, Inc., a private organization funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Furthermore, as long as the school districts agree, inBloom, Inc. can disseminate the information to any company with whom they choose to share it.
Perhaps all of the above explains why Superintendent Dance required pre-submitted questions--and why Robert Small was hustled out of the meeting when it became apparent he had the potential to steer it dangerously "off-script." It is a script largely designed to obscure the reality that the Common Core is not merely a one-size-fits-all effort to federalize education. It is arguably one of the most egregious invasions of personal privacy ever perpetrated by the federal government, in collaboration with duplicitous state officials and profit-hungry businesses.
In answer to Robert Small's question, yes this is America -- until Americans decide they've had enough of it.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.