Conservative media's incessant campaign to demonize the Common Core State Standards, often confined to the right-wing bubble, is now playing out in local politics.
Over the past year, the Common Core State Standards have been at the center of a heated national education debate. Released in 2010 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with input from parents, school officials, teachers, and experts, Common Core is “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.” Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards, though news out of Indiana this week has reduced that number.
On Monday, Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation withdrawing the state from Common Core, even though the state had already started implementing the standards. A release from Pence's office stated, “I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level.”
Pence's statement buys into one of the many myths popularized by conservative media about Common Core -- that it's a federal takeover of education, guilty of “central planning.” Other prevalent myths are that it creates a class curriculum, teaches wrong answers, injects partisan ideology, dumbs down standards, and data mines children's information.
These myths and more have made the Common Core debate so vitriolic that states are actually changing the name of their standards because the mere phrase “Common Core” has become "toxic." New York is negotiating to delay Common Core-based tests, and an Oklahoma Senate panel voted to repeal Common Core earlier this week. As the Associated Press reported on Monday, “the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans.”
These state-level decisions come on the heels of a robust campaign from various misinformers in the right-wing media who consistently use inflammatory language and stoke fears to mislead about the standards.
Here are the five most incendiary media figures and outlets fueling the Common Core outrage machine.
Fox News: Kids Might Become Doctors And “Operate On The Wrong Knee”
Fox News' misinformation on Common Core has been well-documented. The network appears to have no idea how the standards actually work, accusing them of everything from “sneak[ing] in partisan lessons” to creating doctors who might “operate on the wrong knee.” Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck even falsely invoked Common Core to back an attempted book ban in North Carolina.
Michelle Malkin: “Common Core Jerkitude Is A Bipartisan Disease”
There is perhaps no louder voice against Common Core than conservative author and columnist Michelle Malkin. From her “Stop Common Core” Twitter list to her plethora of anti-Common Core columns at National Review Online, Malkin routinely uses inflammatory rhetoric to demonize the standards. She has given out “Biggest Common Core Jerk” awards and referred to “Common Core jerkitude” as a “bipartisan disease.” She's referred to the standards as a “lab-rat testing experiment,” called them a “Trojan horse for lowering [expectations],” and claimed they create “a Big Brother gold rush and an educational Faustian bargain.” Her constant, erroneous insistence that Common Core is a “top-down” approach that the Obama administration is using to “corrupt education” leaves little doubt that Malkin will leave no stone unturned in her relentless and false attacks on the standards.
Glenn Beck's The Blaze: “We Will Not Save Our Country Unless We Save It First From This Attack”
Roughly one year ago, conservative commentator and founder of The Blaze.com Glenn Beck turned his attention to Common Core on his BlazeTV show, claiming that “our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology” because progressives “jammed this through in the dead of night.” Beck went so far as to declare that “We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack.”
Since then, TheBlaze.com has repeatedly distorted the conversation on Common Core often through hyperbolic headlines posted on the site:
NPR reported earlier this year that Beck “has often led the push” against Common Core:
The mainstream business wing of the Republican Party strongly backs Common Core, arguing that raising standards is vital to creating the next-generation American workforce. But in an echo of the rifts in the GOP nationally, the Tea Party branch has been critical of the new standards.
Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck has often led the push. On his show The Blaze, he often charges that Common Core will undermine student individuality and teacher autonomy, and that it marks a dangerous takeover of local control by federal bureaucrats pushing a leftist agenda.
“This is a progressive bonanza, and if it's allowed to be in our schools in any form and become the Common Core of America's next generation, it will destroy America and the system of freedom as we know it,” Beck told his audience last year.
Breitbart.com's Susan Berry: Common Core Dumbs Down Standards “To Achieve A Social Justice Agenda”
Dr. Susan Berry at the conservative news site Breitbart.com writes frequently about the supposed perils of Common Core. She has pushed the myth that Common Core dumbs down “standards and curricula for all students in order to achieve a social justice agenda.” She has also turned to conservative groups like The Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation to propagate the false assertion that Common Core is a “national takeover of schooling” and that the “Obama administration is intent on controlling what is taught at each grade level in schools across the United States.”
Berry has claimed that the standards are “part of a world-wide initiative that may ultimately serve to make American values and practices secondary to global sharing.” After Bill Gates appeared on ABC to discuss his foundation's funding of Common Core, Berry went so far as to ask: “The question is, why is a college dropout non-mathematician being asked to defend the Common Core math standards?”
The Daily Caller: “Here's PROOF Common Core Aims To Make America's Children Cry”
Right-wing news site the Daily Caller has posted dozens of articles about Common Core, often with photos of school assignments and incendiary headlines like, “Here's PROOF Common Core aims to make America's children cry,” and, “How MORONICALLY HARD can Common Core math make subtraction?” Many are sourced from Michelle Malkin's Twitchy website. Various myths accompany its inflammatory rhetoric, including claims that the lessons derived from Common Core amount to “authoritarian propaganda” and that Common Core critics oppose “centralized” education. Like Breitbart's Susan Berry, the Daily Caller has also turned to the conservative Heartland Institute to push the falsehoods about Common Core, including that it is “a national monopoly on education.”
In the continued battle over Common Core, even supporters have acknowledged that implementation has not been smooth, and that the process needs improvement. But these media figures and outlets doing their damndest to ensure that the national conversation on Common Core is steered in a distorted direction only make it harder to have a reasonable discussion.
For more on the lies and truths about Common Core, visit Media Matters' Mythopedia Project.