In 2008, attention was focused on Bill Ayers’ past as a terrorist; this, Stephen Diamond maintains, missed the real damage, which was political. Diamond, a social democrat, calls Ayers a “neo-Stalinist,” in line with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, whose country Ayers visited to make speeches about education being the “motor force of revolution.”
According to Diamond, Neo-Stalinism is an “authoritarian form of politics which attempts to control and build social institutions to impose state control of the economy, politics and culture on the general population.” Ayers and his allies used the “critical policy area” of education, and through four aims: “local school councils,” small schools, social justice teaching, and payment of reparations through education spending.
Local school councils and “small schools” are efforts to escape modern schools that, in Ayers’ estimation, “are all about sorting and punishing, grading and ranking and certifying” and demanding “obedience and conformity.” Ayers’ numerous, supposedly scholarly, books and articles are filled with such hyperbole that depicts demands of the regular school day, like objective tests and class periods, as evidence of a police state.
Former Senior Policy Advisor to the Department of Education and member of the California Mathematics Framework Committee, Ze’ev Wurman, testified that the Common Core overlooks basic skills, lowers college readiness standards, and offers “verbose and imprecise guidance,” while dictating that geometry be taught by an experimental method that was tested on Soviet math prodigies in the 1950s—and failed.
In English classes, teachers will reduce the amount of time spent teaching their subject of literature to only 50 percent, and then to 30 percent in high school, a move criticized by education reform professor Sandra Stotsky. Replacing literature will be “informational texts” like nonfiction books, computer manuals, IRS forms, and original documents, like court decisions and the Declaration of Independence.
Documents, like the Declaration, however, are taught in a manner that downplays their significance. Overall, students will be losing a sense of a national and cultural heritage that is acquired through a systematic reading of classical literature and study of history.
Although the official rhetoric promoting these standards is more muted, the approach parallels Bill Ayers’ pedagogy. The replacement of traditional mathematics with “conceptual categories” lends itself to advancing a social justice agenda, as Ayers colleague Eric Gutstein does through his math education classes.
The Common Core emphasis on having students simply explore original texts parallels the John Dewey-inspired approach that Ayers favors, of having students “discover” and “construct” knowledge. Not wanting to be beholden to outside, objective measurements of students’ knowledge, such teachers promote other more subjective measures, like displays of “deep” understanding, “higher-order” thinking, and ability to collaborate. By all indications, the testing being developed now will use such criteria.
Mary Grabar, Ph.D., is founder of the Dissident Prof Education Project, Inc., which is committed to “resisting the re-education of America.” Sign up for “dispatches” at www.dissidentprof.com. Her other publications can be found at www.marygrabar.com and include Accuracy in Media, PJ Media, Weekly Standard, Minding the Campus, and many others. She teaches English at Emory University.