The next time that a supporter of the Common Core standards says there are no critics on the left, tell them to read this post by Paul Horton.

Arne Duncan says that the opposition to the Common Core standards emanate from the Tea Party and other rightwing extremists. The media have bought that line, and in some states it is surely true.

But recently the media have noticed that the Common Core has outspoken critics on the left, even though they can’t understand why anyone on the left would oppose standards that allegedly produce equity, excellence, critical thinking, and everything good.

Paul Horton is one of the nation’s most articulate and eloquent opponents of the Common Core standards.  Paul Horton teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School. He is not a member of the Tea Party; he does not wear a tin foil hat. He is a serious and well-informed teacher.

In this post (which is behind an Education Week paywall), he argues that the purpose of the Common Core standards is to generate profits for business and deskill teachers. He argues that the Common Core standards are essential to the long-term strategy of leaders in business-industry-and-government to eliminate unions, to replace experienced teachers with Teach for America, and to hand public schools over to private management. The driving force, he maintains, is corporate greed.

He insists that the best thing to do with the CCSS is to eliminate it.

He writes:

It has become increasingly clear to me that the Common Core is not about the Common Core and that CBS is not a news network, but a new mindset created by corporate honchos who want to exploit Computer Business Systems to de-skill white- collar professions to break unions and lower wages.

To the extent that teaching and the medical professions, for example, can be scripted and digitalized in measurable units, efficiency targets can demand less human interaction and “time theft.”

This is the brave new world that Simon Head describes in his recently published, Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans. Can you guess? You got it, profit! We have been focusing on Common Core like lonely young men focus on Mona Lisa’s smile. Common Core is like the tip of the iceberg on the surface: it has become the reified image of a global crisis that most of us can not quite get our minds around.

He adds:

But while the corporate-funded technocrats of the Democratic party are pushing their education policies down the throats of as many Americans as they can, inspiring more mobilization from the right, what is left of the union-supported Populist wing of the party is steaming mad. The Tea Party has been successful in its Grover Norquist inspired strangulation of government at all levels, and the Democratic Party is cooperating with corporate-led attempts to break public unions. The Obama administration has gone after teacher unions with a vengeance.

According to Head, most Americans can’t see the big picture because “CBSs (Computer Business Systems) are the semi-discovered black holes of the contemporary economy.” (3) He argues that Information technology is creating income inequality by driving down wages in the white-collar professions that could not be previously “Taylorized.” “By making us dumber, smart machines also diminish our earning power.” (3) In other words my doctor and I face the same set of issues: as machines and algorithms take over, our work can be divided into units and our efficiency can be statistically measured. We are in the same boat as weavers who worked the “putting out” system in the late eighteenth century—they were paid for each piece produced. In other words, corporate bosses are trying to push teachers, doctors, and all white collar-service workers into a work structure that is increasingly deskilled to justify lowering salaries and benefits, busting unions and professional organizations, increase productivity, and forcing all white collar workers to compete through the use of digitalized efficiency reports and student and student test data banks. This data will be shared with consulting firms like McKinsey to evaluate potential and current employees world wide. Troublemakers, union organizers, and those with low productivity and test scores will be funneled into the lowest-paying service jobs.

And he concludes:

The reason Mr. Gates and Mr. Duncan become very upset when states want to drop the Common Core, PARCC, data collection, or standardized testing is that all of these components are required by CBS. Pearson Education, a British company that gave ninety-four percent of its campaign contributions to the Obama campaign, is working with Microsoft and InBloom to scale up data collection. All of these companies are scaling up the de-skilling of the education workplace and they are breaking what is considered learning down to discrete, easily measured units. The global teaching profession at the school and university levels is being set up for work speed-ups with productivity gains going to management and investors. Assessment data for all teachers will be stored to determine salaries based on effectiveness as measure by student test scores. Students will also have their data collected and evaluated at each stage of their academic and professional careers. Based on McKinsey’s model of employment disruption, CBS and data analysis will be used to force white-collar employees to compete with employees around the world. Layoffs will be frequent to motivate greater productivity….


The Common Core deskills the teaching profession by turning the teaching into a delivery machine. Relationships with students are to be ignored and replaced by the mechanical delivery of scripted lessons in a particular sequence. In effect, the teacher craftsman will be forced to work on an assembly line. Evaluations will be based on a standard Charlotte Danielson rubric that has its origins in Kaplan’s “Balanced Scorecard” and “Value Added Measures” based on student test scores….


Understanding Common Core is about seeing a much larger picture. That picture is a collage of the strategic plans of most multinational corporations that are increasingly managed or heavily influenced by the CBS approach to business and labor relations. What the Tea Party erroneously views as the socialistic overreach of the Obama Administration is in reality the administration’s acquiescence to the power of multi-nationals that are pushing the CBS imperative to de-skill and destroy what is left of the American and global skilled white-collar middle-class.

The corporate-owned major editorial boards and television media refuse to report the big picture. They will focus on Glenn Beck’s ignorant bloviating about the Common Core to throw “reasonable people” who read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal off the real story: corporate greed….

We need to discard every element of the Race to the Top including the Common Core because RTTT is a very different animal than state curriculum standards. The global economy has changed since the mid 80s when states were coordinating education policy reforms. RTTT is the handmaiden of multinational corporations that want to bust unions to capture productivity gains. This might be ok if they planned on sharing some of those gains with a hard-working workforce as Adam Smith believed should happen. The global reality of growing income inequality should serve as a wake-up call to our education unions.