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Rolly: Common Core fears fed by national conspiracy

By PAUL ROLLY

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jul 25 2014 04:00 pm • Last Updated Jul 25 2014 04:00 pm

I opined recently in a column that Gov. Gary Herbert’s call for an attorney general’s review of the Common Core academic standards was an appeasement to the Republican Party’s right wing as Herbert prepares for a re-election campaign in 2016.

I noted in the same column that some of the right-wing ideologues Herbert is courting use Common Core and other trumped-up "liberal" bogeymen as a fundraising tool for their own PACs, PICs and think tanks.

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I specified right-wing ideologues Cherilyn Eagar of the American Leadership Fund and Gayle Ruzicka of the Utah Eagle Forum and their rhetoric that Common Core is a government-led conspiracy designed to wrest control of education from the states and promote the "gay agenda."

I expressed concern that Herbert, who has supported Common Core in the past and was even targeted by the right wing for it at the 2012 Republican State Convention, now may become a tool of Ruzicka, Eagar, et al, to woo their support at the convention in 2016, especially if House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, challenges him for the nomination, as expected.

But there is more to this story.

Eagar, Ruzicka and the other anti-Common Core crusaders aren’t driving this bus, either.

There is some irony in the fact that while these alarmists chime about an Obama-led conspiracy to control the minds of our children, they themselves are part of a vast, controlling conspiracy.

The rhetoric employed by such groups as the American Leadership Fund and the Eagle Forum can be found all over the country, in churches, on select websites, at town hall meetings, in op-ed pages and conservative talk radio.

The message is the same. Common Core is a federal government program (even though it’s not). It promotes a socialist agenda (even though it doesn’t), and it wants to secretly creep pro-gay thoughts into school curricula (even though it doesn’t).

Common Core is a set of academic standards for math and language arts that students are expected to meet at each grade level in the 44 states that have signed on to the initiative.


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It was conceived and developed through the National Governors Association while Gary Herbert, a member of the NGA’s executive committee, has been a key voice in the association.

It was processed through education experts from the states, not the federal government.

So why the hysteria? Why the coordinated anti-Common Core campaign throughout the country?

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a report in May that finds the grass-roots campaign to derail the Common Core State Standards is anti-government extremists and fueled by corporate money tied to, among others, the billionaire Koch brothers and other moguls who want to replace public education with private schools.

Despite the obvious distortions about what Common Core really is, those promoting those ideas find an audience ready and willing to be duped because of their shared hatred of President Obama.

"To Christian Right, tea party and antigovernment activists, the state-driven effort to lift student achievement is actually ‘Obamacore,’ a nefarious, left-wing plot to wrest control of education from local school systems and parents," the report says. "Instead of the ‘death panels’ of Obamacare, the fear is government indoctrination camps."

The report, "Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards," was researched by SLPC’s Intelligence Project and its Teaching Tolerance program.

The anti-Common Core propaganda has been a coordinated effort, the report says, through radical antigovernment groups like the John Birch Society, which claims the standards are part of a global conspiracy to create a totalitarian "New World Order," along with talking heads like Glenn Beck, who describes the standards as "evil" and "communism."

And as the hysteria grows, and is joined by local groups like the American Leadership Fund and the Eagle Forum, relatively rational politicians like Herbert get sucked into the fray for fear of being swept off the deck by the fringes of their party.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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