Thursday, September 4, 2014

Common Core Repeal Is...Political?

Since the repeal of Common Core in Oklahoma, I have noticed a spate of articles/editorials advancing the talking point that its demise was POLITICAL.

Here is a favorite - "Politics Are Crushing The Standards" by Dave Powell, a professor at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

My guess is that they fear the common core not because it represents a "federal takeover" of education, but because it might allow us to draw true comparisons between the educational performance of students in different states—comparisons that cannot be so easily explained away....For all their limitations, standards at least hold the promise of bringing real accountability to the people who, for too long, have made rules and regulations about education without ever being held responsible for providing the resources needed to make their endless pronouncements a reality.

And another favorite - this time from the Chamber of Commerce Foundation - "Oklahoma Puts Politics Before Students".  This one is really rich because it is attached to a 'pledge' that you can sign to 'pledge' your support for "college- and career-ready standards".  It's also a perfect example of the Pot Calling the Kettle Black.  Yes, Chamber, we realize YOU have not used Bill Gates money to put pressure on the Oklahoma legislature and Governor to get them to PASS AND KEEP Common Core; it's only us poor parents that are engaging in a political battle.

These articles got my blood up and made me want to know exactly how politics is defined.  So what is politics?  I looked up the definition in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary.  The first subset of definitions was:

a :  the art or science of government
b :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
c :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

Though I was surprised at how many forms of politics there have been invented (identity politics, power politics, party politics…), after looking at the entire page of definitions, I began to wonder if something hadn’t been overlooked.  The government of the United States was created by the Constitution.  The first line of the Constitution reads,

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”

Every shot fired in the “War against the Core” has been fired by regular, plain old, “we the people” citizenry.  The parents crowding into forums on Common Core lead by citizens themselves, or staying up half the night researching the initiative on their own because they are dealing with kids crying over math homework for which they can provide no help, are not power brokers who can afford lobbyists, three color mailers or 30 second spots on CNN.  These are ‘We the People’.  If these are ‘We the People’, how do they become ‘political’ simply for entering the political arena – defined as the art/science of government.

I guess this is where I disagree with good old Mirriam-Webster.  Citizens can’t ‘guide’ or ‘influence’ governmental policy – THEY ARE THE GOVERNMENT.  “We the People” ARE the government.  How can you influence yourself or win and/or hold control over a government when you ARE the government.

The Chamber of Commerce is NOT the government.  They, like so many organizations of the same ilk, are a body formed to DILUTE the effect of ‘We the People’.  Instead of accepting that each ‘People’ is the government (through their elected representation) and that individuals have the power of the government as stated in the Constitution, they have found that influencing government ‘People’ through large sums of money provides greater results.  This is the influencing and controlling of government officials that has come to be called politics.

Sadly, because we call a thing something, it becomes that thing it is called.  Today, people truly believe they have no power in their own government because they don’t understand the concept of “We the People”.  In fact, it’s almost bizarre to some folks that individuals can influence their government.

Some months ago I was interviewed by Motoko Rich of the New York Times.  Our initial conversation went something like this:

MR: So, Jenni, how do you support ROPE?
JW: Out of our own pockets.
MR: Oh, so you have corporate sponsors.
JW: No, we use our own personal funds.
MR: Ohhh, so you get grants and loans.
JW: No, whatever we have in our personal bank accounts we spend.
MR: I see, so you have private donors.
JW: Yes, his name is David White.

After I said that, Rich gave a sort of forced laugh and set out on the quest for another answer, but I felt like I’d been waterboarded.  It was entirely clear Motoko Rich had no idea what it meant to be a “We the People”.  She only related to ‘politics’ as the process of money and power influencing the course of government.

I hope that the three very large fights won this year in Oklahoma (passing HB3399 and repealing Common Core, electing a new superintendent and winning a lawsuit against the bill) – not with the help of lobbyists or money or influence other than being “We the People” – will allow people to believe in the concept.  I hope “We the People” will now rise and commit to the jobs we’ve neglected for so long, BEING THE GOVERNMENT.