Acorn Woodland Elementary, Oakland, CA. Established in 2000 by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Coalition of Essential Schools.
By Danette Clark
This article can also be found at EAGnews.org.
Despite the left’s efforts to convince us that Obama’s relationship with William Ayers was irrelevant to how he might lead as president, the facts that prove otherwise are plenty and can no longer be ignored.
Not only was the history between Ayers and Obama very relevant and media-worthy during the 2008 presidential election, it will have a devastating and lasting impact on our country.
To understand the agenda (and lies) at the core of our new national standards, you have to go back to why many on the right were concerned about Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers to begin with — their work on education reform.
Although it is true that the Common Core State Standards are voluntary and not mandated by the federal government (yet), they are federally manipulated. Further, the people and pedagogy behind the standards, and the garbage content that comes with them, are the same as that of the radical reform long supported by both Obama and Ayers.
The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), a progressive education reform model rooted in the social justice pedagogy of John Dewey and Paulo Freire, was expanded by President Obama and communist Bill Ayers through their work with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in the 1990’s, and later, through the Chicago Public Education Fund.
CES Schools was founded in 1984 by Theodore Sizer who was, at the time, head of Brown University’s education department.
Like John Dewey, the late Ted Sizer (also a humanist) believed that education should bring forth democracy. First, however, education must address the “institutionalized oppressive practices and attitudes” of the American society.
Of course, in order to address these so-called institutional injustices in the classroom, one must be willing to cross the [unconstitutional] line from educating children intellectually to educating them morally. Not only was Sizer willing to cross that line, but he created CES schools for that specific purpose.
Sizer wrote that ‘moral’ or ‘character’ education “is an intellectual undertaking that must infuse the entire school”. In 1970, Sizer and his wife, Nancy, also wrote a collection of lectures titled Moral Education wherein they referred to the “simpleminded sermonizing tradition” of the 19th Century as “the old morality”. The Sizers argued for “a new morality”, one that gives primacy to students’ “moral autonomy and independence”.
To that end, CES schools were created to serve a ‘broader role‘ in children’s lives — to teach them “how to act in the social and ethical arenas of society”.
Sizer’s partner in the start of CES schools was Deborah Meier, now well-known among progressive circles as a prominent education reformer. Meier still works closely with Bill Ayers for social reform through education, and is a founding leader of Democratic Socialists of America, a Marxist organization that strives to end capitalism and bring about “a humane international social order”.
In 1993, Brown University President Vartan Gregorian (whom President Obama appointed as a White House Fellow in 2009) collaborated with Ted Sizer on the launching of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. The institute was created to build on the work of Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools and to expand that work to schools nationwide.
Sizer and Gregorian immediately began a grant selection process through which several grants, as part of Walter Annenberg’s 500 million dollar challenge to the nation, would be awarded to launch Annenberg Challenge sites across the country. The first nine sites chosen were Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay area, South Florida, Houston, and Chicago.
Gregorian was instrumental in selecting the group led by Bill Ayers and chaired by Obama to receive a grant for the start of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in 1995.
Ayers’ organization, Small Schools Workshop, also received Annenberg dollars to aid in opening new CES schools and to transform existing schools into CES member schools (also referred to as ‘small schools’, ‘smaller learning communities’, ‘small autonomous schools’ and ‘schools within a school’). The organization provided (and still provides) curriculum resources, hands-on professional development, and grant development.
Ayers co-founded the Small Schools Workshop with fellow bomb-making domestic terrorist and Marxist-Communist, Mike Klonsky, who now serves as the organization’s national director.
In Chicago, Obama and Ayers funneled money to the now disgraced and de-funded ACORN to identify and train community members to become teachers in CES schools. In other states, CES recruited ACORN workers to elbow their way onto local school councils and scream for reform.
With heavy funding from Bill Gates, Carnegie Corporation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and CSR, Title 1, and smaller learning community grants from the U.S. Department of Education, CES has grown into a nationwide network of thousands of schools. Each school is provided with curriculum material, professional development training, and staff support through CES regional training centers, affiliates, and partner universities. CES currently uses the Annenberg Institute “as a forum for sharing resources and amassing political weight”.
For those who don’t necessarily believe that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, how about dozens of bad apples?
As explained here, Common Core ‘architect’ David Coleman and his partner Jason Zimba have history with the Obama and Ayers led Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
Linda Darling-Hammond, creator of Common Core assessments and a member of the Common Core validation committee, is already publically known as an education reform ally of Bill Ayers. However, what has gone largely unnoticed about this former Obama advisor, is that she, like Ayers, has devoted her entire career to the expansion and success of CES reform.
Darling-Hammond is a long time advisory board member to the National Equity Project, formerly known as the Bay Area Coalition of Essential Schools (or BayCES). The National Equity Project provides ‘equity coaching’ to educators in dozens of school districts — the very same equity coaching that leaves us with teachers who believe the mention of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is racist.
Unfortunately, Coleman, Zimba, and Darling-Hammond aren’t the only Common Core developers whose roots are with the progressive/humanist agenda of the Coalition of Essential Schools and the Annenberg Institute.
In fact, Achieve, Inc., one of the organizations leading the charge in the creation of Common Core, is currently made up of several CES/Annenberg foot soldiers.
For example, Achieve, Inc. board member, Jeffrey Wadsworth, president and CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, partnered with the Coalition of Essential Schools, Ohio State University, and KnowledgeWorks Foundation in 2006 to create a new CES school in Columbus, Ohio.
The manner in which Achieve, Inc. was founded is also very telling.
In 1995, the same year the Annenberg Institute launched the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and eight other challenge sites, it also named its first ever board of overseers. Board members included Vartan Gregorian, CES founder Ted Sizer, and Louis V. Gerstner, chairman and chief executive officer of IBM Corporation.
Louis Gerstner served as vice chair of George H. Bush’s New American Schools Development Corporation, which was already funding Atlas Communities, a project of the Coalition of Essential Schools.
Just five months after being named to Annenberg’s Board of Overseers, Gerstner and then NGA Chairman Tommy Thompson, called for and led the 1996 National Education Summit to address the “need for Governors and business leaders to act on K-12 education standards”.
Several papers were commissioned in preparation for the summit, which was held at IBM’s Executive Conference Center in Palisades, New York. Among those in attendance were 40 Governors and 49 corporate executives.
Although ironically, very few educators were invited to attend, it was said that several education leaders, “from different political viewpoints and professional experiences”, had been interviewed and were in agreement that “high academic standards — defined as a common core of learning for all public school students, with measures of performance based on that common core are essential to school reform”.
“Explicit expectations” outlined by the summit called for standards that “clearly define what students should know and be able to do”, and accurate systems to track student progress. It was also made clear that, although standards and assessments were necessary tools, there had to be “a clear articulation… of the skills necessary to meet the workforce needs of the next century” as well as a “specific agreement on the academic content students should be learning”.
It was right then and there that Achieve, Inc. was founded, with Annenberg’s Louis Gerstner appointed as its first chairman. Appointed as vice-chair was, then Governor of North Carolina, James B. Hunt, who was already working closely with Linda Darling-Hammond and CES founders, Sizer and Meier.
Today, Hunt’s organization, the James B. Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, is a partner in the creation of the Common Core State Standards.
Since its founding in 1996, Achieve, Inc. has taken a lead role in the creation of Common Core and has created a system for national and international benchmarking of standards and assessments — all the while remaining deeply involved in and dedicated to a reform initiative that indoctrinates students into “a new morality” for a new society.
While it is true that Bill Ayers didn’t specifically write the Common Core State Standards and has even spoken out against the initiative in recent months, it doesn’t change the fact that both his and Sizer’s fingerprints are all over the standards and their accompanying resources.
Specifically, many of the inappropriate and anti-American Common Core texts that parents are ticked off about today were written by friends of Ayers, Obama, and Sizer.
Toni Morrison, for example, author of the Common Core recommended incest-laden book, The Bluest Eye, was recently honored by President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison’s book has been recommended by Ayers and CES schools for at least two decades. At the CES Brooklyn School for Global Studies, a parent book club even participates in the reading of this pornographic book with 15-year-old students.
Common Core creators and proponents claim the new national standards are better because they are ‘fewer’ and ‘deeper’, meaning students cover fewer topics in greater depth. This is one of the Ten Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Referred to as “Less is More” and “Depth Over Coverage”, this second CES principle calls for student mastery and achievement of a limited number of essential skills as opposed to covering a wide range of content.
CES reform, like Common Core, also favors ‘critical thinking’ over rote memorization of facts, and with that, both unscrupulously call for the ‘close reading’ of texts that relate to ‘real world problems’ like equity and fairness, racism, rape, incest, homosexuality, and American greed.
By their very nature, the Common Core standards force interdisciplinary learning (a.k.a. cross-curricular learning), another staple of CES reform. Without it, there would be no socialist indoctrination in Math class or lessons on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English class.
It appears that just as the corporate world hi-jacked the 1996 education summit, it has also hi-jacked Sizer’s reform model to create a national standard that even Sizer wouldn’t approve of.
Community organizing, pro-union education reformers like Ayers, Meier, and Sizer have always opposed corporate involvement in the business of education, as well as a one-size-fits-all national standard and achievement testing. On more than one occasion, Sizer went head to head with Louis Gerstner over these very issues.
US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, on the other hand, while happy to continue the CES/Annenberg legacy of social and moral indoctrination, has had no problem taking corporate dollars or closing failing schools, thereby kicking tenured educators to the curb.
Ayers and Klonsky summed it up in 2006 when they wrote that Arne Duncan (by way of his Renaissance 2010 school project in Chicago), “has used the terms of the small schools movement to promote privatization and the erosion of public space”.
Today, Obama and Duncan specifically promote, by name, Sizer’s CES schools and Ayers’ Small Schools Workshop while billions in corporate dollars and federal tax dollars are being spent to carry the ‘terms’ of their movement into the creation of Common Core.
Considering the numerous Common Core developers, writers, assessment creators, validation committee members, and funders deeply tied to CES reform, it seems clear that Common Core is the culmination of a 30-year-old progressive reform initiative still driven by the ‘irrelevant’ Bill Ayers.
Perhaps now, Arne Duncan should be asked to clarify his snide ‘black helicopter’ statement.