Privacy & Data Mining

Editor’s note: This is a personal essay from Oak Norton of Highland, a father of five.

Between the two sides of the Common Core debate, proponents of Common Core have consistently failed the first test of any new government program — follow the money.

If you had a great idea, would you spend the money to create a product and push it untested into a national market? No, you would pilot test it against similar products. Common Core was pushed into the states by the federal government’s Race to the Top grants, which are the equivalent of bribes. If you contractually agreed to adopt Common Core standards, database tracking and computer adaptive assessments, you had a chance at getting money from the feds.

So what’s the real agenda behind Common Core?

In 2004, Microsoft signed a contract with UNESCO, the U.N. education arm, to create a global education system. You can read that agreement at the UNESCO website here:

Bill Gates knew that education was a huge multibillion dollar industry and if he could be at the crest of that wave, he would make billions. All he needed to do was centralize education, and with publishing partners Pearson and McGraw-Hill began a multiprong process to standardize and eliminate local variances in education.

Gates put millions of dollars to the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to create Common Core standards. The federal government is barred by law from creating national standards, but these non-governmental organizations were able to create them and claim that it was a state-led effort. It never was state-led, it was Gates-led. The Utah State Office of Education didn’t even know who was on the drafting committee until the standards were completed.

Once the standards were completed, they were sent to a validation committee. Of the math reviewers, James Milgram from Stanford, well-versed in state and international standards, was the only professional mathematician on the committee and he refused to sign off on the standards. Milgram said in a letter to Utah parents opposed to Common Core: “I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least two years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by seventh grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in algebra I or geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.”

Sandra Stotsky helped create Massachusetts’ very high standards as their associate commissioner and was the most qualified reviewer on the validation committee for Common Core ELA standards. She refused to sign off on them, telling a Texas legislative hearing that “the standards which I have analyzed in detail many times over do not signify readiness or authentic college level work. At best they point to readiness for a high school diploma.” Of particular interest is the fact that Stotsky volunteered to come to Utah for free and help us create the best standards in the nation. The USOE has not accepted her offer. Common Core was not about high standards to them, it was a chance to comply in order to get federal money.

Gates’ money then flowed to dozens of organizations like the Fordham Foundation to positively review the standards, the National PTA to promote the standards in states and the American Legislative Exchange Council to squelch an anti-Common Core model legislation effort. In fact, in a July 23, 2011, interview in the Wall Street Journal, Bill Gates admitted he has spent $5 billion on education reforms.

The USOE had the option of adopting Common Core with integrated (blend algebra, geometry, trig, etc.) or discrete courses in upper math. One advantage of Common Core they touted was that it would allow portability of students between states. Then they made the bizarre decision to use integrated math along with Vermont, while the other 43 states chose discrete years. Unfortunately, what this meant for Utah children was that no textbooks were available, so the USOE made its own and rolled out Investigations-style constructivist math statewide.

There are many more concerns with the Common Core agenda such as data collection and behavioral testing. For decades, central planners have wanted to move society toward cradle-to-grave database tracking on citizens so they could more easily guide us toward “productive” ends.

As time goes on, more people are waking up to these issues as they affect them. Gary Thompson runs a child psychology practice in South Jordan. He examined the database tracking and behavioral testing requirements of Common Core and wrote a letter to the state superintendent of education, saying “with Common Core, we have not just the potential, but the very real threat of negligent loss of the most private data as well as no clear restrictions on private business use or dissemination, even for profit, of what was once your child’s most private, intimate information.”

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee unanimously adopted an anti-Common Core resolution. The Washington Times published this comment on April 18 from Solomon Yue, a committeeman from Oregon.

“Whatever we do as a party must reflect the wishes of the grass roots. As governors, they might take a position that will get them re-elected. As a party, we must take a principled position. If we believe in local control, then oppose Common Core. If we believe parents know better than governors, then oppose Common Core. If we believe we should not use one-standard-fits-all, then oppose Common Core.”

Some claim it is partisan opposition to Common Core, but they aren’t paying attention. Both the World Socialists Organization and Tea Partiers are up in arms because they know this is a corporate takeover of education, the end of local control and an immoral standardization of children. When these groups agree that Common Core is a bad idea, you know there is a problem.

I think it’s time the USOE and Legislature relinquished the top-down controls and let parents and teachers at the local level have the freedom to educate children according to their unique needs and high standards. Please learn more and sign the petition at

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