How I learned to stop worrying and love the Common Core

Color us embarrassed. Turns out the haters (and I guess the Mayans) were right. Though this isn’t time for “I told you so.” The Common Core standards and assessments truly have brought on the End of Days. Of course, every human still standing—or, rather, crouching, huddled and scared in their makeshift bomb shelters with nothing but Spam, bottled water, and dial-up Internet to sustain them—already knows this. But we do feel a tad responsible for the whole “annihilation-of-Earth” thing. So, for posterity—and to clear the air (sorry, bad pun, I know the air is filled with Uranium-238)—I offer here a recount of just how we got so horrifically off track. Really, we were just trying to ensure that American kids knew how to read and write.

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Oops. Our bad.

It was two weeks ago that The Demise began—and it wasn’t all Fordham’s fault. On that fateful Sunday, the town of Tainted Springs, South Carolina (population: 3), officially banned the Common Core standards. Mayor Leda Price (also the town’s bartender and part-time animal-control officer) was obviously convinced by Hoover scholar Bill Evers, who had been enjoying himself in her pub the previous evening. Within hours, all hell had broken loose.

Emboldened by the Tainted Springs precedent, the South Carolina legislature backed away from the Palmetto State’s commitment to the Common Core. At first, a few of us chuckled over the state’s abiding fickleness. First the nullification crisis in 1832. And let’s not forget the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union of 1860. Or that little matter of Fort Sumter.

What began as South Carolina’s reverse-adoption (never say rejection) of the standards soon snowballed into the Anti-Common Core Confederacy (ACCC). Within days, Sandra Stotsky had cajoled Massachusetts into signing on—and declared herself president of the ACCC (though Evers later staged a coup). Jay Greene convinced Arkansas to do the same. Texas and Virginia instantly joined, and Utah governor Gary Herbert announced that, while Duncan made clear that the state is free to do whatever it chooses, it decided to join the ACCC because Ze’ev Wurman told it to.

The new organization was civil at the start: ACCC pamphlets “just happened” to turn up across the country in teacher professional-development packets, PTA meetings, even (reportedly) on the back of bathroom-stall doors at Achieve’s office near Dupont Circle. But tactics soon took a darker turn. Cars in the National Governors Association’s parking garage were keyed. (Pioneer Institute staffers were suspected.)  Members of the Council of Chief State School Officers were prank called. The Gates Foundation headquarters was TP’ed. Arne Duncan’s basketball was stolen. G.E. was told that if it didn’t rescind David Coleman’s grant, all its light bulbs would be smashed.

In retaliation, the NGA and CCSSO expelled their ACCC members and ramped up efforts to write their Common Core U.S. history standards—intentionally making no mention of any of the ACCC states or their citizens. (Instead, those areas are referred to simply as “Panem.”) Enraged all the more, the ACCC lit a huge bonfire outside the NEA headquarters and burned copies of Common Core mapping guides—as well as effigies of Bill Gates, the Common Core mastermind. This got the Occupy crowd involved—though God knows they had no idea what cause they were protesting for.

This could have been the end of it, if only President Obama had stepped in. But Obama, advised to finally keep mute about the Common Core standards (pro or con), went radio silent. No 101st airborne division. No National Guard. No Gitmo interrogations or military tribunals. Rookie move, Barack.

I’ll spare you the ensuing details but suffice it to say that, with all of the advances in technology and STEM education over the last fifty years, defense technology today is really, really good—and no country has been shy in showing off. While we thought Neil McClusky was off his rocker when he predicted it two years ago, the Common Core standards have, indeed, brought on World War III. As we sit in the rat-infested darkness of our office basement, on the brink of destruction of life as we know it, we have this to say: We at Fordham really thought the standards were pretty darn good.

And now, we bid you adieu.

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