When Facts No Longer Matter

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

I was scanning Facebook last week when I came upon a nice graphic that featured pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.  It included the banner “Banned by Common Core” and the logo of one of Georgia’s largest Tea Party Organizations.  The person who posted – a leader of one of suburban Atlanta’s Tea Party chapters, added that if you wanted your children to learn about the Founders, “don’t count on Common Core – they’re left out of the curriculum.”

There are a few problems with that.  Common Core standards only include those for Math and English.  There are no Common Core Standards for Social Studies which would include American History.  Thus, it’s quite impossible for Common Core to have excluded – much less banned – the study of our Founding Fathers from our history classrooms.

Then, of course, there’s the frequent yet fundamental error of confusing the Common Core standards with a curriculum.  The curriculum that determines how the students will be taught to meet the goals expressed in any standards is approved locally.  It’s one of the most misunderstood facets of Common Core.  Given that the first error that Common Core doesn’t deal with Social Studies at all, this makes the compounding of error irrelevant in this example.

Georgia’s performance standards for 9th-12th grade American History include the following:

The student will analyze the natural rights philosophy and the nature of government expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

A)     Compare and contrast the Declaration of Independence and the Social Contract Theory.

B)      Evaluate the Declaration of Independence as a persuasive argument.

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the United States Constitution.

a)      Explain the main ideas in debate over ratification; include those in The Federalist.

b)      Analyze the purpose of government stated in the Preamble of the US Constituion.

c)       Explain the fundamental principles upon which the US Constitution is based; include the rule of law, popular sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism.

These are the standards currently being taught in Georgia’s classrooms.  It’s difficult if not impossible to create a curriculum around those that does not include the Founding Fathers, specifically when referring to “the main ideas in debate over ratification” and The Federalist Papers.

Because nothing that is on the internet should ever go unchallenged (a fact I’ve learned from everyone who likes to post on my Facebook page), I decided to note on this person’s Facebook page the two items above.  The responses caused more concern than the distribution of the original false premise.

Another Tea Party leader posted under my comment that “It may not be part of Common Core, but it’s about to be part of A.P. (Advanced Placement History).  All posts opposing Common Core are in the best interests of America.”  Another gentleman posted “Regardless of who or what is responsible, the FACT is that far too many kids are entirely ignorant about history…Every child age 12 or over should be fully versed in American History as well as the founding documents…”

Therein lies one of the most fundamental problems with conservatism today.  To many of us, what we believe to be righteous is now more important than what is right.

But like with many other complex problems, we have leaders and followers who have broken down their frustrations of complex problems into “it’s just that simple” bumper sticker solutions.  The problem is that most of these solutions aren’t solutions at all, but merely outlets to vent frustration and disperse anger at the status quo.

Ronald Reagan used to love to say that “the trouble with our liberal friends isn’t that they’re ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.”  We now have approached a tipping point with conservatism where we reject anything that displeases us as the thinking of a “low information voter”, with complete disregard for facts when they do not align with what we have internalized to be correct.

While I do not personally know the men posting in the above exchange their reputations are those of serious, concerned citizens.  They are doing what they believe to be best in order to change the direction of a country they feel is rapidly headed in the wrong direction.

In order to win over the voters needed to secure legislative majorities and eventually the White House, we will need to base our arguments on sound logic, reason, and fact.  Allowing facts to get in the way of our otherwise strong arguments is a recipe for continued failure.

Republicans like to claim we are the party of ideas.  It would be helpful if our ambassadors of these ideas knew that in order to sell government from the right, we must be able to defend our facts as right.


  1. Ed says:

    The good news is that this problem is not unique to conservatives/Republicans.

    The bad news is that to virtually all partisans, facts don’t matter.

  2. Lawton Sack says:

    Another issue is the so called label of “Common Core Math.” When I was a Math Education major at Georgia Southern many years ago, we were introduced to a new methodology of mathematics called “New Math,” which is now being called “Common Core Math.” This methodology was built upon feedback from Universities and Colleges that the students attending their institutions could calculate answers to problems, but they lacked the understanding of why and how the calculations worked and also show a deficiency in the area of logical thinking. It was a call for less rote memorization and more teaching of mathematical concepts and logical thinking, especially at a younger age. It also addressed the need to resist teaching just material covered by the standardized tests. It was not a conspiracy, but simply an idea that children needed to have higher levels of thinking before entering college. It was controversial then and it is today, but I think that most would agree that the concept is valid.

  3. John Konop says:

    As a parent with a kid who took AP and joint enrollment classes I am not sure what they mean by ““It may not be part of Common Core, but it’s about to be part of A.P. (Advanced Placement History).”? AP class credit is based on the score of an end of year test for public and private colleges. General rule is a 4 or 5 is good for high level academic colleges and a 3 works for average colleges. The test is not political, it is subject knowledge based created by members of private and public colleges for credit. The test are better than end of year test proposed by either side of the CC debate…..Just facts…

    …….Advanced Placement (AP) is a program in the United States and Canada, created by the College Board, which offers college-level curricula and examinations to high school students. American colleges and universities often grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high scores on the examinations. The AP curriculum for each of the various subjects is created for the College Board by a panel of experts and college-level educators in that field of study. For a high school course to have the AP designation, the course must be audited by the College Board to ascertain that it satisfies the AP curriculum. If the course is approved, the school may use the AP designation and the course will be publicly listed on the AP Course Ledger.[1]….

    ……After the end of World War II, the Ford Foundation created a fund that supported committees studying education.[3] The program, which was then referred to as the “Kenyon Plan,”[4] was founded and pioneered at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, by the then college president Gordon Chalmers. The first study was conducted by three prep schools—the Lawrenceville School, Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy—and three universities—Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University. In 1952 they issued the report General Education in School and College: A Committee Report which recommended allowing high school seniors to study college level material and to take achievement exams that allowed them to attain college credit for this work.[5] The second committee, the Committee on Admission with Advanced Standing, developed and implemented the plan to choose a curriculum. A pilot program was run in 1952 which covered eleven disciplines……..


    • Jon Richards says:

      Google [AP History Standards Common Core] and you’ll see a boatload of posts that talk about how the AP curriculum is being revised. I can’t vouch for the credibility of what they are claiming, though.

      • John Konop says:


        The bizarre part is the colleges set the curriculum and test for credit. Since they give the credit who else should do it? You really think Georgia Tech, Harvard…..are going to let a local school board set standards for what they give credit for? This is the problem when you have people blindly caught up in ideology over even understanding the system.

        • Mike Stucka says:

          I saw a Tea Party protest letter that suggested AP History’s proposed changes wouldn’t coordinate well with most states’ curriculum.

          You know, because apparently the Tea Party wants coordination with states on standards. A common core, if you will.

    • Will Durant says:

      The Common Core State Standards have become popular to bash with all of the media outlets owned by Salem Communications, a self described for-profit “Christian” media corporation which includes townhall.com. They own a hundred or so Christian radio stations, Christian music and book publishing, even a few “conservative” websites like townhall, hotair.com, and of course, redstate.com. How do you increase listeners/viewers and therefore your ad rates? You create a boogeyman. The Hearst Syndicate and the yellow journalism they were known for as the media of their era proved how successful this strategy can boost the bottom line. The fact that there are no facts in the misinformation disseminated is immaterial.

  4. FranInAtlanta says:

    Jonah Goldberg wrote that we were moving toward blaming everything we don’t like about pre-college education will be blamed on Common Core just as everything wrong with our medical care is now blamed on Obamacare.

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