by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the 45 states, adoption of the standards, which typically required just a public meeting and approval by the state education board, stirred little notice. “Zero,” recalls Tony Bennett, the elected superintendent of public instruction in Indiana when the state signed on. “No controversy. No criticism.”
Victory in hand, Common Core advocates turned their energies toward the task of implementation. They didn’t foresee that a deep well of opposition was about to erupt. “In a sense the early days almost went too easy for us,” Gates would later say. “Everything seemed to be on track?…?We didn’t realize the issue would be confounded.”
The “confounders” would turn out to be just the sort of people who today cause fits for billionaires and CEOs used to exercising power through traditional channels: passionate regular folks linked to activist networks with a firm grasp on how to maximize the power of the Internet and social media. Gayle Ruzicka, who volunteers as Utah state president for Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, had long been battling to preserve local control of schools. Indeed, Ruzicka takes “local control” far beyond where most parents would: She homeschooled all 12 of her children. Ruzicka was deeply concerned by what, in late 2010, she began to hear about Common Core. To her it sounded like, as she puts it, “a backdoor way in to national standards.”
States had adopted Common Core, Ruzicka says, “before parents even knew what happened.” In retrospect, approving an education transformation without building parental support would turn out to be a huge mistake. It meant that the opposition would mass and organize before many potential allies of the standards even realized they needed to be defended. Ruzicka began gearing up to fight it. She coined a phrase that crystallized her view of the problem with devastating rhetorical force: “Obamacore.”
Ruzicka wasn’t alone. In the fall of 2011, an Indiana mom named Heather Crossin became alarmed about changes in how her 8-year-old daughter was being taught math. Her third-grade homework didn’t ask her just to solve three times nine—it demanded that she explain the reasoning behind her answer. Crossin was at a loss to help. The principal at her child’s school blamed the changes on Common Core.