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Rolly: Rotten to the core

Published July 10, 2012 2:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If nothing else, the conspiracy theorists in Utah are a lively bunch. Like the Energizer Bunny, they never give up.

A group called the Utah Education Coalition, which nobody seems to have heard of, is buying a free lunch Tuesday for all the members of the Utah Legislature and their spouses. The lunch is being held at the Cheesecake Factory at City Creek Center and all the legislators have to do for the free lunch is to listen to a lineup of speakers from noon to 2 p.m.

Most of the speakers, according to the invitation, are from conservative think tanks, while one is from a Washington, D.C., law firm.

Subject: The Common Core, which has long been a rallying cry for Utah's right wing. They hate it, believing it to be a secret plot to corrupt our innocent schoolchildren.

The Common Core is a math and language arts curriculum developed by educators and state officials from several dozen states as a way to bring commonality to curriculum so that children moving from one state to the other will be even with their new peers.

But the right wing knows there is something nefarious there. They know that it's a government conspiracy designed by President Obama to take over the hearts and minds of our little ones.

And they have proof, based on their own imaginings.

During the last legislative session, the anti-Common Core movement became somewhat of a circus, with conservative soldiers like the Eagle Forum and others urging legislators to kill the evil beast known as the Common Core and replace it with something uniquely Utah.

The right wing was concerned that the State Board of Education had signed onto the Common Core and was determined to right that wrong.

A resolution was introduced to ask the school board to reverse its decision, and Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka spent a good deal of time browbeating Gov. Gary Herbert into supporting that move despite the fact that most educators, including Herbert's own advisers, love the Common Core and believe its standards are higher than anything offered in the past.

When Herbert did not offer sufficient obeisance to Ruzicka, a mysterious flier was distributed to delegates on the eve of the Republican state convention that blasted Common Core and urged delegates not to support leaders who favored it. The implication was a strong indictment of Herbert, who won the convention anyway.

When the anti-Common Core resolution passed the Senate on the last night of the legislative session and languished in the House, never making it to a vote, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, held a bill on the governor's priority list long enough that when it went to the floor it was too late for a vote.

Dayton was a leader of the anti-Common Core movement.

Another anti-Common Core soldier, Oak Norton, got into a vicious e-mail exchange with State School Board member Dixie Allen after she accused him of wasting valuable staff time by requesting volumes of records the right-wingers were sure would out Common Core as government mind control.

When Allen said the staff didn't have time to chase conspiracy theories, Norton became unhinged, spewing examples of the legitimacy of the requests. He used a quote from Carol Lear, the legal counsel for the State Office of Education, which Lear denied saying.

He used quotes from State Schools Superintendent Larry Shumway that Norton says placed the federal government behind Common Core. But Shumway says he never said it was a government program.

So the Common Core still stands. And now legislators will be fed a diet of food and right-wing propaganda trying to rid the state of this multistate monster. —