A Common-Sense Case Against Common Core

Published February 19, 2015

Review of The Story-Killers:A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core, by Terrence O. Moore, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 292 pages, $6.99, 2013

In his new, clearly written 262-page book, Terrence Moore dissects every aspect of the Common Core standards. Moore is a former Marine with a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh who teaches at Hillsdale College and has founded numerous charter schools. He dissects the K-12 math and English standards not in a cursory manner but by tearing Common Core apart with detailed explanations of why it is a terrible way to go about educating our children.

Anyone who has children should read this book, and not just to understand what is wrong with Common Core. Parents should read it to learn how young people should be taught. It is a book on the philosophy of education.

Moore is so thorough in explaining his teaching methodology. I recommend you first read the six-page conclusion, which is a calm assessment of where we are and where we should be going. In the next to last chapter, Moore offers a complete reading list for high school courses in literature, history, government, and economics.

Bribing States for Support

Much of the book constitutes unrelenting but excellent criticism of nearly every aspect of Common Core. The book details the federal government having spent 18 billion dollars developing Common Core. Moore and his colleagues could no doubt have done better for a fraction of the cost. After the government’s paid consultants finished their work on Common Core, states adopted the standards through bribery: state officials signed on because it gave them a chance of winning Race to the Top money.

The standards were then implemented without a single test of the curriculum at any school for any length of time. We are subjecting our children to the Common Core for seven hours a day for years on end with no testing of possible outcomes.

Moore tells the reader the outcome will be students politically indoctrinated in the fashion of the great dystopian novels Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and 1984, by George Orwell. Common Core proponents have at least one clear objective: to defeat the advance of charter schools and school choice in general.

According to Common Core supporters, the standards will prepare students for their role in the 21st century global economy. Moore writes, “Though college and career readiness are a byproduct of a solid education, they are not the primary motivation.”

Moore writes about wondering what happened to the earlier intentions of the Massachusetts School Law of 1879, which stated the need to teach “principles of piety, justice and a sacred regard to truth, love to their country, humanity, universal benevolence, sobriety, industry and frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance and those other virtues which are the ornament of a human society.” 

Teaching to a Test

Moore gives countless examples of classic literature taught not for its beauty and humanity but instead to dissect stories for their alleged politics, something K-12 teachers should not be teaching. Essentially, because Common Core require teaching to a test, the standards force teachers to sacrifice the stories and characters in all their rich variety and individuality and impose the meanings decided by government bureaucrats. 

Moore does, I would say he provides too much detail, however, in his analysis of how Common Core treats great novels such as those by Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and dozens of others. The reader may not always agree with his points of view, which are both erudite and vitriolic. A reader could skim over some of Moore’s reviews quickly without missing the essence of the book.

Moore notes Benjamin Franklin, one of our greatest Americans, is all but absent from Common Core. Moore theorizes this is because Franklin’s success was completely without the help of government, which runs counter to what Common Core supporters think to be important.­

Bias for Progressive Politics

Similarly, the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Thomas Jefferson used in Common Core are chosen from those least offensive to “progressive government.” Moore astutely criticizes Common Core and its proponents for claiming the Declaration of Independence can mean different things to different people. What is important is what the Founders meant by it.

Moore says every lesson plan in the study of history has a bias intended to create a political position among the students.

Nearly every book in the curriculum comes with a teacher’s edition, which Moore says makes life too easy for the teacher while ensuring students will receive the intended message from the curriculum. Moore says Common Core has the “transparent aim of promoting radical multiculturalism to the detriment of the universal principles of right and wrong, of liberty and happiness, on which our great nation was founded. It was already a trend in textbook publishing for 20 years, now it has an official imprimatur being followed by 45 states.”

This indoctrination, Moore writes, kills the dreams “of young men and women precisely at the moment of their lives when they ought to be building their dreams and figuring out how to pursue them.” The Common Core standards seem to have been designed to strip children of any sense of self-reliance and make them dependent on government. Little wonder the more parents learn about Common Core, the more they dislike it.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director at The Heartland Institute.

Image by woodleywonderworks.