BY ALEX KING
Tyler County residents sharing concerns about the implementation of Common Core in local schools met in Tyler County Senior Center's Ellsworth Auditorium on Nov. 14. Guest speakers, some from other West Virginia counties, discussed the background of the national set of standards as well as the impact they think it will have on students.
Tyler County resident Bonnie Henthorn, who has spoken out against the standards at Tyler County Board of Education (BOE) meetings, said her research into Core started three years ago when her daughter began struggling in school. She conveyed that these standards would not only be harmful to the education system, but detrimental to society as a whole.
"I trusted my school and local school board," said Henthorn. "So did many people in this country. But I can no longer sit idly by. I don't think any of us should. This meeting is not only about the curriculum and the standards, it is about the many tentacles that extend into all areas of our lives through the implementation of Common Core."
Henthorn said new mathematical processes are being falsely recognized as strategies, although they are "confusing and cumbersome."
"It is more accurate for my fifth grader to do it the old-fashioned way. Teaching fuzzy math is no way to excel in math. Using math and lots of it is the way to excel."
She said that county fifth graders are still learning the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, with a few fractions on occasion.
She also discussed English, Language, Arts (ELA), which are grouped together under Core. Although stating that a book titled The Bluest Eye, which contains an explicit instance of pedophilia, has not been adopted by Tyler County Schools, she noted its presence on Core's exemplary reading list in other states.
"It's too explicit for me to share with you tonight," said Henthorn of the book's material.
She also mentioned other publications she felt were being used to promote numerous political and social agendas.
"The front page story on the Weekly Reader my daughter brought home was about extending the school day by one hour," she said.
Other curriculum examples she said she found troubling were: inappropriate sentences students were asked to correct; students being taught to use emotional words and act on emotions, not facts; combining compound sentences which promote blind government obedience; and instances of group-think harming creativity and individuality.
"Local schools say that they choose the curriculum, but in order for kids to pass Common Core tests, the school must choose a Common Core curriculum," she said.
Henthorn also suggested that the role of local BOEs was fading.
"Who needs a local board of education when the fed is calling the shots?" she asked, stating that she and others would stand with the local BOE if they chose to resist the standards. "Common Core and all of its tentacles are quietly changing the purpose of education from reading, writing, and arithmetic to controlling and marketing value systems, morals, and ethical behaviors that should be taught in the home rather than the school system."
Senator Donna J. Boley of Pleasants County also attended the meeting.
"The legislature did not vote for Common Core," she said. "It was not voted on by your elected officials or county boards. It was established in May of 2010 on a vote by your state board of education."
Senator Boley discussed her efforts to make more elected officials aware of the standards. She then introduced Angie Summers of the Wood County Constitutional Advocates.
"Common Core is a set of national standards funded and created by special interest groups and supported heavily by the United Stated Department of Education," said Summers.
She explained that those special interest groups begin with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded many corporate groups who in turn funded other groups responsible for Core. She said the complete list of these corporate groups was too long to fit on one projection slide.
"The groups hired a company called Achieve to build the standards," she said.
Summers said the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act has been rewritten, and now Core has access to student data without parent consent. She said the conditions for accepting federal money for one program included adopting the new standards and that many states have also agreed to link the data system containing student information to other states and agencies.
"They don't need data to improve the standards, they need standards to improve the data," said Summers of Core's intentions.
Summers said this nationalization of education was in violation of the tenth amendment, which states that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the states or the people. She revealed that West Virginia adopted the standards one month before they were officially released.
Summers also listed some of her group's reasons for opposing Core: i t was not a state-led initiative; it was not approved by state legislations; and there were no field-tests of the standards to indicate that they were superior quality.
She said the standards were conceived with confidentiality agreements behind closed doors and some professionals involved in conceiving the standards now disapprove of them. She indicated that the standards were not developed by West Virginia teachers but rather copyrighted by the special interest groups funding Core.
Summers also discussed the mining of data that Core will permit.
"The State Longitudinal Data System will be a huge databank of files on all kids from pre-kindergarten to workforce," she said. "All of these states have agreed to link these databases with each other and other agencies. In essence, you have a national databank."
She said some of that information will include family income, medical information, and religious beliefs.
More information about where the Constitutional Advocates stand in regard to Core can be found online at wvagainstcommoncore.wvconstitutionaladvocates.com.