You can probably blame Glenn Beck for the latest education conspiracy theory that, having resisted truthifying in the Wisconsin legislature, is set to sweep into Minnesota politics. To wit: the idea that the Common Core State Standards will result in federally mandated iris scans of children, among other violations of privacy.
An eight-month-old group, Minnesotans Against Common Core, is circulating the same talking points and using many of the same commentators that ignited a Wisconsin controversy that resulted in a state investigation. The campaign’s goal here is the repeal of the lone standard implemented in Minnesota.
Capping months of controversy, last week a Wisconsin legislative task force recommended banning schools from using retina scans, facial recognition technology and other methods of collecting biometric data as part of the Common Core academic standards.
Never mind that the Wisconsin Legislative Council in November debunked the rumor that what Beck and others on the far right have termed a “centralized national curriculum” has already led to subjecting schoolchildren to retina scans in Florida.
Never mind that a U.S. Department of Education report that supposedly contained pictures of the scanners and an explanation of their use in education turned out to contain no mention whatsoever of retina scans, and only a cursory reference to the standards.
Never mind that the state’s two ranking lawmakers with education appointments — Republicans both — declined to participate in the inquiry.
Expenses paid by John Birch Society
And never mind that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a branch of the John Birch Society paid travel expenses for five of the out-of-state experts who testified against the standards at the task force’s hearings.
“The legislature should aggressively oppose any direct or indirect effort by the federal government to further intrude into Wisconsin K-12 education,” states the report by the panel, appointed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). “Wisconsin is best served by creating Wisconsin-based educational standards.”
For months, Beck has been crusading against the Common Core, a four-year-old effort by 45 states to set a uniform bar for what students at different levels should know and to encourage critical inquiry, analysis and problem-solving skills.
Began as a voluntary effort by states
A response to fears that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) encouraged teachers to forgo dynamic instruction in favor of drilling students to pass tests and encouraged many states to lower standards, Common Core began as a voluntary effort by the states.
After U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed states to adopt the new standards in exchange for grant money and waivers from compliance with NCLB, critics on both the far left and right cried foul. No surprise, some Tea Party members have dubbed it “Obama Core.”
The real agenda, as Beck sees it, is to create a “cradle-to-grave” system for collecting data on everything from students’ blood types to their parents’ voting status and use it to plug them into a “planned economy.”
A reminder, if you haven’t heard the term planned economy for a generation or two: It’s code for a communist system. That’s right: a federal government plot to dumb down the workers of the future so that they will not resist the loss of their freedom.
Minnesota was one of the first states to adopt Common Core, rolling out the first associated exams last spring. Because the state already had higher math standards, it adopted only the reading portion of the standards, which do not come with an associated curriculum or uniform assessments.