Glenn Beck wants to bring down Common Core, and wants his followers to pull out all the stops to do it.
On Tuesday evening, a special town hall event, “We Will Not Conform,” was broadcast live to nearly 700 theaters across the United States.
It follows up on over a year of anti-Common Core rhetoric by the conservative firebrand, which includes the May release of a book, “Conform,” focused on attacking Common Core. Tuesday’s event primarily served to rally those already opposed to the standards, but also spent time reiterating what Beck sees as most objectionable about Common Core.
A centerpiece of the anti-Core position by Beck, along with other participants in the town hall such as conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, was a fierce hostility to the use of high-stakes standardized tests they said are integral to the new standards.
Standardized tests, they argued, are part of a plot engineered by billionaire Bill Gates and a “cabal” of corporate interests to make money off of schoolchildren. They furthered this claim by saying the tests are exceptionally difficult in order to make large numbers of students fail, forcing them to take them repeatedly or repeat entire grades. This will allow corporate interests to reap a windfall.
In addition to warning about Common Core’s efforts to enrich corporations through widespread test failures, Beck also argued that Common Core’s standards were less rigorous than those of the past.
“The high-stakes assessments that your kids are being given do not measure what they know. They only measure what they don’t know,” said former teacher and ConversationED founder Kathleen Jasper, who spoke frequently during the event.
Parents opposed to Common Core were urged to fight back by considering homeschooling their children to escape the curriculum, which is used not only in public schools but also by many private ones. Those unable or unwilling to leave public schooling were urged to join together in a mass boycott of standardized tests. While speakers during the event said that in most cases boycotting should be legal, Beck said parents must be ready to act even with strong state opposition.
“The day we’re all willing to peacefully go to jail for our children, like Martin Luther King did, is the day we win,” Beck said. “Somebody is waiting for you to stand up.”
Interviews with some of the 30 attendees at a showing in Arlington, Va. revealed that many found this argument to be persuasive. While Virginia is one of a handful of states to never adopt Common Core, several said they believe the state school system was attempting to gradually assimilate its edicts.
One mother, who wished not to be identified, said she planned to try pulling her three children out of Virginia’s standardized tests.
“It causes tremendous stress for both the teachers and the students…and it’s only getting worse because they’re adding more [tests,],” she told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s getting out of hand in certain subjects.” She said she believed she could boycott because Virginia does not require students to pass tests to advance grades, only to graduate high school.
Despite the heavy focus on standardized tests, Common Core does not mandate the use of any additional standardized tests. However, as states have adopted Common Core they have begun revising existing standardized tests en masse to bring them in line with the new standards, putting extensive focus on the standardized testing regimen mandated by No Child Left Behind.
The event involved a significant amount of interaction with viewers, who were asked to use their cell phones to send tweets, emails, and texts to the event to pose questions or participate in polls. One such poll, for instance, found that viewers considered Texas Republican Sen. and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul to be the top national politicians when it came to opposing Common Core.
The last part of the town hall had Beck and his fellow broadcasters suggesting communication tactics in undermining Common Core. Several members of a panel urged opponents to eschew partisan rhetoric when attacking the Core, and to avoid references to President Obama or terms like “communist takeover” and “brainwashing.”
Many potential opponents of Common Core are moderates or liberals, Beck said, and could be alienated by putting the issue in partisan terms.
“Don’t use Glenn Beck!” Beck quipped, in reference to his own divisive persona.
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