Wake Up and Smell The Oil: Big Oil Attempts to Make Clones

STORY BY James Sullivan

Published: December 10, 2013

You’ve probably seen the Exxon commercials defending the implementation of Common Core standards across the country. Perhaps appropriately, it drew the ire of many, fearing that big businesses were now pushing their agenda on schools. Exxon-Valdez is perhaps among the most guilty when it comes to promoting climate change denial, if not one of the companies that stands the most to gain if the government sits back and does nothing about regulating CO2 emissions. Ironically, they recently complained about the poor quality of American education, the number of students who don’t have a command of basic algebra. This is perhaps one of the primary consequences of global warming denialism itself. As Exxon continues to spread disinformation, it does so at the risk of losing potential engineers and scientists that it needs in order to function.  

For those who haven’t been following, the Common Core is a set of English and Math standards to be implemented across the country, a national set of expectations to be met at each grade level, and will mark the first time that such has been done in the United States. Although the standards have been adopted by 45 out of 50 states, the infamous Tea Party is determined to exercise their influence to at least delay enactment of these standards, many of which were adopted back in 2010. New guidelines towards strengthening science education are also on their way. Yet again, the battle cry is “Indoctrination!” citing a Texas lesson plan about the teachings of Islam and claiming that these standards are nothing more than an outright attack on traditional American values.


In reality, the Common Core Standards are not some Marxist plot or Mussolini-esque propaganda scheme to keep the ruling class in power, but actually a joined state effort, a plan that emerged among a meeting of state governors who sought to standardize expectations of students across the country, and developed by consulting with educators. This is about as far from federal or totalitarian regime planning as you can get. President Obama merely gave an approval of these standards, which are actually expectations of what skills should be emphasized in which grade, as well as recommending significant literary works to be exposed to (and no, despite whatever claims you may have read to the contrary, The Grapes of Wrath is not being recommended at the second grade level.) Requirements of teaching literary non-fiction are all the fuel for the Tea Party et al to be alarmed, as it’s the perfect place to fit in the Communist Manifesto or Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

For indoctrination to work, Common Core would have to have a very rigid system of what to teach and how to teach – although expectations are set, the very specifics are still up to debate. With mathematics, they place an emphasis on answers to the perpetual question “When will we need to know this?” To apply the skills they learned to the real world, in one California middle school classroom, students were asked to graph test scores and salary data.  In the past several decades, non-fiction has become a widely read, emerging genre with literary depth and resonance and boasts quite a few impressive works – hence its incorporation under these new standards. Although having local boards decide everything may not seem like a bad idea, these expectations were drawn not only out of the need to maintain a competitive edge nationwide, but also to counter ideas that some lobbies proposed, like euphemisms for slavery in history textbooks, Phyllis Schlafly as a key figure of American history, or completely glossing over the establishment clause. It seems ironic then, that the Tea Party speaks out against teaching Howard Zinn, but you’ll hear plenty of suggestions for what they’d like to see in schools instead, particularly in the local districts. While Common Core’s vagueness may not prove to be helpful after all, at least it’s a start, and a sign that states are capable of working together. At the same time, the debate gives us a look at the true colors of those who oppose it, as several state governors have been intimidated into delaying the input of these new standards. Is the opposition really concerned about the country’s well-being, or only looking to further advance their agenda by any means necessary?


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