Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable: Borg Enablers

Remember the Borg? You know, the Star Trek cyborgs who would encounter a ship, tell its occupants “resistance is futile,” then turn them all into Borg? Of course the Enterprise always resisted, and always survived. But what if Captain Picard had instead ordered, “Surrender. Then they’ll leave us alone.”

The crew response to that would certainly have been, “ol’ Jean-Luc is losing it!” At least, it would have been for the few seconds before everyone was converted into mindless drones. Yet that is just the sort of order a group calling itself the “Higher State Standards Partnership” is trying to issue to conservatives and libertarians when it comes to the Common Core. Yesterday, the Partnership – a front for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable – wrote in the Daily Caller that opponents of the Core should stop resisting if they want to keep schools from being assimilated by the federal government.

You read that right: After blaming the Obama administration for using the Race to the Top to meddle “in a clearly state-led, locally controlled education initiative,” the Partnership counseled Core opponents to end their resistance. Defeating the Core, they wrote, “would only bolster the hand of the Administration and invite federal control into our schools.”

That is absurd. But perhaps it’s easier to write if you utterly ignore basic facts about the effect of federal force, and the coercive role Core supporters intended for the feds to have all along. The Partnership blames the Obama administration for overstepping while neglecting to mention that in the 2008 report Benchmarking for Success the Core’s creators said Washington’s job was to incentivize standards adoption. The creators later repeated the call on the Common Core State Standards Initiative website. And Core supporters quite likely lobbied the administration to make adopting the Core a de facto RTTT requirement.

Sadly, the Partnership chose not only to ignore that Core supporters absolutely called for federal coercion, but it offered a laughable fiction that what federal influence there was basically meant nothing:

Despite the Administration’s attempt to capitalize on a state and local effort, it does not change the facts; a diverse group of local stakeholders with an interest in seeing children succeed – parents, teachers, education experts, policymakers and business people – came together in each of the states to debate and discuss how the standards would make sense for their classrooms. They decided locally whether higher standards made sense for their students. The federal government did not play a role – and had no place – in making that decision.

To continue the Trek theme, what planet do these people come from? First off, none of the decision to follow the Core is local: Even if you believe there was no federal coercion, it’s still states – not districts – that select standards. And there absolutely was federal force, both through Race to the Top and the offer of waivers out of the hated No Child Left Behind Act if states, among other things, adopted federally approved “college- and career-ready standards.” And don’t pretend there was much “democratic” debate about Core implementation. Indeed, if states wanted to compete for RTTT money they had to promise to adopt the Core before the final version had even been published!

If the Partnership really wants states and districts to avoid federal control, why deny the truth about federal power? Why act like states and districts are still in control of the ship when the Borg controls the engine room, the communications system, life support, etc? Are states and districts really in charge just because they’re on the bridge pressing inert buttons and barking meaningless orders?  Of course not. Which makes it hard not to conclude: The Partnership’s concern isn’t staving off federal control. It’s ending not-so-futile resistance to national standardization.