The Soviets and the Common Core

Passions are high around the Common Core, but Ze’ev Wurman zoomed past the point of the ridiculous when he commented on a recent blog post by my colleague Jeff Murray “where did you learn this style of ‘reporting’- from the Soviet politruks.” The post that offended Wurman can be seen here, but it was a pretty straight forward report on a debate at the Pickerington Ohio Chamber of Commerce on the Common Core. I was one of the participants and can attest that there were plenty of anti-Common Core voices in the crowd and they were given every opportunity to make their arguments.

But, the purpose of this blog is to challenge Wurman’s reference to the Soviets because it is so over-the-top and frankly offensive to me, as it would be to anyone who knows anything about the Soviet Union and its oppression of people across Eastern Europe. My wife is Polish, and we regularly visit her family with our children in Poland. I lived and taught in Poland in the early 1990s, and I worked with former Solidarity leaders on efforts to help Polish schools and educators transition from communism to Western-style democracy.

One of my best friends in Poland is a man named Wiktor Kulerski. Wiktor’s family experienced the horrors of oppression under both the Nazis and the Soviets. Wiktor’s family was remarkable. His grandfather and father ran the largest newspaper in Poland, Gazeta Grudziadzka, between the World Wars. Three generations of Kulerski’s served in the three free Polish parliaments of the 20th century. Wiktor’s father was sentenced to 12-years in prison by the Soviet puppet regime in Poland in 1951 for “carrying out espionage on behalf of the American and British secret services.” He was also convicted of “attempting to overthrow the Communist regime by sheer force.”

In 1994 Wiktor’s father wrote for the Main Commission for Research of Crimes Against the Polish Nation: “…They made it impossible for me to go into the files for cause (for prosecution)…I actually saw the indictment against me for only a very short time…They never issued a bill of indictment, but only read it. During the entire trial we were forbidden from making notes. We didn’t have any pencils or paper. During the trial we were always separated from or lawyers. They never delivered my sentence directly to me. After sentencing they never responded to any of my appeals.”

The show trial of Witkor’s father was front page news with headlines like “Witold Kulerski, traitor and servant of traitors.” As a teenager Wiktor was persecuted at school because of his father’s political activities. At one school assembly the president of the Polish Youth Union – a red-headed girl of 15 – asked Wiktor to explain his father “the American imperialist who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for treason.”

This was how justice, reporting and education was done under the Soviets. Wurman knows better. Speaking of the Common Core and Soviets in the same breath is to twist and distort history in a shameless way.

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