Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom
Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom

Common Core: Not About "Better Education"

by Karen VanTil Gushta, Ph.D.

Simply put, the imposition of the set of national Common Core standards, and all the testing and data gathering that goes along with them, is not really about better education for America’s children. First of all, there is no evidence to support the premise that raising standards improves student achievement.1 Secondly, even if there were evidence to show such a correlation, the Common Core standards have not been field-tested to show that these particular standards are better than previous standards. In other words, the 45 states that signed on to the new standards (and most of them did so in order to have a better shot at getting federal education funding from the Obama administration) did so with no evidence to show they would really improve student learning.

So what is behind the push to get national standards for all schools across our country? Standards dictate curricula—so by getting the majority of the states to adopt the same standards, we now in effect have a national curriculum, in spite of laws that explicitly state there should not be a national curriculum. And when one examines the content of the standards, it becomes clear that the true goal is to produce a nation of compliant, non-thinking people who lack the knowledge of our history and the freedoms that define us to resist those who would strip those freedoms from them. This has been the goal of educators sympathetic to socialism and collectivism for over a century.

In 1933, John Dewey co-authored the Humanist Manifesto I, which called for a synthesizing of all religions and a “socialized and cooperative economic order.” Dewey, the most influential educational theorist and philosopher of the 20th century, saw that schools would be the most efficient means for producing members of this new “socialized and cooperative” society. In 1916 he had already set forth his educational ideas in Democracy and Education. As R. J. Rushdoony points out in The Messianic Character of American Education, “for Dewey education and indoctrination had no intrinsic difference. The choice, indeed, as Dewey saw it, was either to accept his brand of education and be persuaded into socialism, or face socialism by means of dictatorship.” Dewey stated, “Social planning can be had only by means approaching dictatorship unless education is socially planned.” 

Since it was published, Democracy and Education has been exposited by professors in teacher education programs across America. When I taught philosophy of education to masters level students in the early 1990s, I used it as one of the primary texts. However, I neglected to give them the necessary context for understanding his dense and wordy tome. I failed to tell them he later co-authored the Humanist Manifesto and travelled to Russia in 1928 to admire the creation of the “collectivistic mentality.” If I had done so, it would have helped my students see Dewey’s true intent through all his layers of verbiage.

However, I did not. Instead, I engaged my students in a “close analytic reading” of Dewey’s book. This method of studying literature by attending only to the text and excluding historical or biographical context—unless it is referenced within the text itself—is now the exclusive method recommended by the Common Core standards, with the claim that this develops students’ critical thinking skills.

As helpful as this method of reading texts might be—and some Christian educators recommend it—it is not the only way literary texts can or should be taught. But Common Core permits no others. Consequently teachers, who will now be evaluated in most states according to how well their students perform on the Common Core tests, will most certainly hew closely to both the methods and the exemplar texts listed in the appendix to the Common Core. And as Dr. Terrence O. Moore points out in his book, The Story Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against Common Core, the list of exemplar texts leaves out classic Christian writers like Augustine and Milton, as well as writings of those who were a critical part of America’s founding, such as Benjamin Franklin. The result, says Moore, is a “sub-standard, limited, and superficial” education.

In addition, a few of the recommended texts in the Common Core appendix can only be described as pornographic. In Newburgh, New York, teachers complained to the Board of Education that “at least three of the books listed on the [New York State Common Core] curriculum contain passages using inappropriate language and visual imagery that most people would consider pornographic.”2

The more closely one looks at Common Core, the more troubling and disturbing it gets. The deeper one digs, the more clearly one sees that Common Core is the newest iteration of a scheme that has been pursued by progressives—both educational and political—with unrelenting fervor since the turn of the 20th century. With the Common Core, they believe their goal is finally within their grasp. There is still time to show that they are wrong.

1. Tom Loveless, “The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Leaning?” Vol. III, No. 1 (The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings, February 2012), 8.
2. Education Reporter, “Controversy and Porn Pervade Common Core Curriculum,” January 2014,