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Anti-Common Core talking points live on, despite having been debunked

You can probably blame Glenn Beck for the latest education conspiracy theory that the Common Core State Standards will result in federally mandated iris scans of children, among other violations of privacy.

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. 

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Comments (10)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/16/2013 - 10:59 am.

    Ah who wrote this propaganda? It’s true there are nutty people who oppose Common Core. Smart of the author to present them as the opposition. The truth is Common Core is a disaster and a lie – the standards and movement are being directed by the federal government through NCLB and RTTT, and being funded and carried out by the billionaire boys club. This is against the law – the federal government is prohibited from imposing curriculum on the states.


  2. Submitted by Dennis Schapiro on 12/16/2013 - 11:16 am.


    There is opposition from the left and center as well as from the right. Please don’t pick a side and defend it, but try to report with some objectivity.

    Here’s the link for an article that attacks the common core by Anthony Cole:


  3. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/16/2013 - 11:17 am.

    BTW – There’s a lively debate going on in the nation concerning Common Core. Many former supporters have now abandoned it. Good education reporting would acknowledge the conflict over the standards, and would honestly investigate the relationship of NCLB, RTTT, the rich philanthropies involved in education deform, and all of their roles in creating CC and pushing it out in a fever to states across the nation, despite not having been tested or properly defined.

    Nor does this story mention the excessive testing – down to kindergarten – that CC proponents are foisting on students – turning our schools into testing factories. Nor does this story mention a recent report from MIT that students who do well on standardized tests nevertheless do not improve “fluid” thinking that requires creativity and critical thought.

    Why does MinnPost refuse to honestly report on education?

  4. Submitted by Joe Musich on 12/16/2013 - 02:50 pm.

    Common Core …

    But are they inclusive,equitable, and unconscious regarding class. I know Beck doesn’t make those arguments. However, those arguments are there and should be presented. Until then Common Core is still to be debunked. Your headline is misleading!

  5. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/16/2013 - 02:58 pm.


    The average 10-year old could debunk Glen Beck’s conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, there are a lot of legitimate criticisms of Common Core that aren’t even discussed here, much less debunked.

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    MinnPost provides news and analysis based on reporting by professional journalists, most of whom have decades of experience in the Twin Cities media. The site features video as well as written stories. MinnPost adheres to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.”


  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/16/2013 - 04:13 pm.

    Double the trouble

    Hmmm. Mr. Beck is to be ignored if possible, shown to be the publicity-addicted know-nothing that he is if necessary.

    So, if we cast Mr. Beck aside, as we should, perhaps the John Birch Society instead of hysterically waving the anticommunist flag it’s been carrying since I was a lad, has become interested in promoting intellectual inquiry and the scientific method, along with speaking and writing skills, in every academic field?

    I think not.

    The Birch Society is, again, still, ad nauseum, raising its usual straw man. Every economy is planned. Successful economies plan well. Unsuccessful economies plan poorly, often by worshipping at the altar of a mythical “free market,” and sometimes by veering too far in the other direction and trying to micromanage, virtually always without success. A federal plot to dumb down the workers of the future so that they won’t resist the loss of their freedom is, frankly, unnecessary. That task has been taken over by large corporations, and their employees have, in most cases willingly, given up a good deal of their freedom in exchange for a decent performance review and a pay check. Many corporations don’t want independent thinkers. They want reliable, malleable employees who will do as they’re told.

    To the degree that the previous allegation is true, the involvement of billionaires in educational “reform” raises some suspicions at my house. People don’t just give away millions of dollars without having some sort of agenda in mind, and I’d like to know with more specificity what that agenda is.

    Some of the commentary seems a little hysterical. My own bias is that MinnPost does a pretty good job of reporting “honestly” on education. That’s not to say that it’s bias-free, but those biases are usually apparent. Be that as it may, however, I’m inclined to think that the congruence of Common Core, No Child Left Behind, billionaire reformers and whatever RTTT might be is something that deserves more scrutiny.

    A case could be made, I think, that a push for national standards is a double-edged sword.

    On the one hand, it could be viewed as simply one more attack on teaching as a profession, doing its own little bit to reduce teachers to little more than presenters of packaged curriculum. If you’re like Mr. Beck and his true believers, and life just isn’t complete without a good conspiracy theory to keep you going, then anything that smacks of a curriculum broader than your particular school district is bound to fuel a new and gloriously convoluted theory of why it’s all designed to turn your children into mindless lackeys.

    On the other hand, one of the genuine, and to a degree, justified, criticisms of the “local control” that Americans worship is that, without broader standards, it’s quite possible for kids in one school district to learn concepts and facts that are almost totally missing from the curriculum in another district that’s far away, geographically and/or culturally. Do students in the deep South learn that the Confederate cause was traitorous or noble? Is the industrial revolution in this country an unmitigated benefit? An environmental and economic catastrophe? And so on. Is evolution genuinely debateable? How do we square Christianity with slavery in the South? Individual states and school districts may well approach these and other questions very differently.

    No Child Left Behind seemed shallow to me from the beginning. I want to see more from the Common Core before I really make up my mind one way or the other. That said, if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, to fall back on the Arab maxim, then if Glenn Beck is against something, I’m inclined to give whatever it is the benefit of the doubt.

  7. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/16/2013 - 06:25 pm.

    Exactly what Ms Hawkins had in mind


    “That said, if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, to fall back on the Arab maxim, then if Glenn Beck is against something, I’m inclined to give whatever it is the benefit of the doubt.”

    That’s how propaganda works.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/16/2013 - 07:45 pm.


      …but I’m more inclined to think that you’re either giving Ms. Hawkins too much credit for influence, or me too little for still being able to detect buffalo chips despite my advanced years. Neither one strikes me as accurate. I still want to wait and see what the final “common core standards” are, and how they’re to be implemented. Maybe they’re too onerous, or test-riddled, or have other fatal flaws. Or maybe not.

      And, given Mr. Beck’s well-established reputation for on-air hysteria, a certain degree of skepticism regarding his pronouncements seems justified, whether Ms. Hawkins agrees with him or not.

      • Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/17/2013 - 08:16 am.

        Well thankfully you don’t need to read Beth Hawkins to find out. Try reading Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, Valerie Struass, Jeff Bryant, Perdido Street School, the Cato Foundation, the Badass Teachers associaton on Facebook, Dump Duncan on facebook, Leonie Haimson on Class Size Matters, and hundreds of other sources who Beth Hawkins deliberately ignores.

        Plenty has been reported on the problems with Common Core. Just not here. The raising of Glenn Beck’s craziness is just an inept and inelegant attempt to say that opposition to Common Core is rooted in craziness. That is so far from the truth as to be laughable.

  8. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/18/2013 - 09:21 am.

    Everyone’s probably moved on from this thread, but I’ll continue it. Here’s a great piece from Governing Magazine about Common Core and its opponents. No Glenn Beck here, just serious critics. I’ll post a link with a short quote because it is a certainty that Beth Hawkins will not address this issue honestly.


    The opening paragraphs perfectly defines why Beth Hawkins will not report on this issue honestly – the real criticism of CC is that it is part and parcel of the education deformers’ agenda – one which Ms Hawkins has internalized as the driving purpose of her writing:

    “Since the Common Core State Standards for education were first proposed in 2009, 45 states have adopted them. As major public-policy initiatives go, this has been a hurtling train, backed by powerful people and institutions, that has been roaring down the track a breakneck speed.

    Now, however, comes the backlash. In at least 17 states there is some kind of serious movement against the Common Core standards. The media have largely portrayed the push to scrap them as the product of a Republican repudiation of any and all things related to a federal government headed by Barack Obama. This is not true. The antipathy to Common Core is part of a much larger rejection of the dominant education-reform paradigm, supported by leaders of both political parties, that embraces charter schools, vouchers, more testing of students, increased accountability for teachers and hostility to teachers’ unions.”

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