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Building the Machine': The New Common Core Documentary That Will Start Arguments on Both Sides of the Debate

Image: CommonCoreMovie.com

The nonprofit Home School Legal Defense Association is out with a short documentary about the development of the Common Core educational standards.

The nearly 40-minute "Building the Machine" traces the history of Common Core, particularly the secrecy in which the standards were developed. Forty-four states, as well as the District of Columbia, have adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative that advocates say prepares students for achievement in life, and that detractors say amounts to a national curriculum because of the federal grants tied to its adoption.

Image: CommonCoreMovie.com Image source: CommonCoreMovie.com

Jim Stergios, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute, a research organization that has been active in opposing Common Core, said there were no public debates or hearings about the curriculum, as was common when states created similar standards in the past.

Stergios also said he believes Common Core is harmful to family structures.

"It takes power from the parents," he said, "it de-incentives parents from a deep and abiding interest in a child's education."

Michael Petrilli, executive vice president at the Fordham Institute, an education think tank, denied that Common Core was built secretly, and said all of its standards are available online.

Image: CommonCoreMovie.com Image: CommonCoreMovie.com

The documentary showcases President Barack Obama touting his Race to the Top federal funding initiative, and former Republican Govs. Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) endorsing Common Core standards.

"Building the Machine" also delves into Common Core's corporate connection, including how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave millions of dollars in grants to help push the program. Among the recipients of the reported $200 million the Gates Foundation donated in 2013 alone are the U.S. Department of Education, the National Governors Association, the Fordham Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The documentary features interviews with Sandra Stotsky, formerly of the Massachusetts Department of Education, and Jim Milgram, a professor at Stanford University. Both were part of the 30-member Common Core validation committee, yet neither said they approved of the standards.

They spoke about secrecy issues around Common Core as well as the problems with the standards.

“I think Common Core is more damaging than beneficial in English language arts," Stotsky said. "It’s diminishing literary study in the English curriculum.”

Milgram, who has taught at Stanford for more than 40 years, voice his opposition this way: “The result [is] … the 'dumbing down' of a system that is the only system that is giving us the long term economic support we require.”

A representative from the Home School Legal Defense Association said they wanted to create a "fair and balanced" presentation that would encourage people to look deeper into Common Core and to do their own research on the standards now working their way into the nation's schools.

You can see the entire documentary here.

Watch our discussion about this story from today's BlazeCast:

Follow Mike Opelka @stuntbrain on Twitter

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