The United States federal government should end federal requirements related to the Common Core State Standards Initiative

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The United States federal government should end federal requirements related to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The United States federal government should end surveillance in No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The United States Department of Education should end surveillance in No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The United States federal government should national educational tracking of students in the United States.

The United States Department of Education should remove the surveillance and database requirements from the Race to the Top grants.

The United States federal government should end the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The United States federal government should eliminate federal testing and data collection requirements from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.


1AC — Inherency

The most dangerous form of government surveillance is the federal education program known as “Common Core.” This program seems benign, but is actually an institutional tracking program that allows the government to control every aspect of the American public for decades into the future.

Cook 13 — Joshua Cook, MBA, reporter, writer for whose work has appeared on DrudgeReport, InfoWars,, Daily Caller and, 2013 (“Common Core is the Most Dangerous Domestic Spying Program,” Freedom Outpost, September 2nd, Available Online at, Accessed 06-22-2015)

Earlier this year, revelations about the Department of Justice spying on the Associated Press were quickly followed by revelations that the NSA was collecting phone data on all Verizon, and then all American cell phone users. Edward Snowden's whistleblowing drew yet more attention to the issue, and domestic surveillance programs have remained a top issue in people's minds ever since.

While Americans focus on institutions like the CIA and NSA, though, programs are being implemented which would lead to a much more institutional way of tracking citizens. Obamacare is one of these, but Common Core Standards – the federal educational program – is the most eyebrow-raising.

Bill Gates was one of the leaders of Common Core, putting his personal money into its development, implementation and promotion, so it's unsurprising that much of this data mining will occur via Microsoft's Cloud system.

Even the Department of Education, though, admits that privacy is a concern, and that some of the data gathered may be "of a sensitive nature." The information collected will be more than sensitive; much of it will also be completely unrelated to education. Data collected will not only include grades, test scores, name, date of birth and social security number, it will also include parents' political affiliations, individual or familial mental or psychological problems, beliefs, religious practices and income.

In addition, all activities, as well as those deemed demeaning, self-incriminating or anti-social, will be stored in students' school records. In other words, not only will permanently stored data reflect criminal activities, it will also reflect bullying or anything perceived as abnormal. The mere fact that the White House notes the program can be used to "automatically demonstrate proof of competency in a work setting" means such data is intended to affect students' futures.

Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that data collection will also include critical appraisals of individuals with whom students have close family relationships. The Common Core program has been heavily scrutinized recently for the fact that its curriculum teaches young children to use emotionally charged language to manipulate others and teaches students how to become community organizers and experts of the U.N.'s agenda 21.

Combined with this form of data collection, it's easy to envision truly disturbing untruths and distortions making their way into the permanent record.

Like Common Core, states were bribed with grant money from the federal government to implement data mining, and 47 states have now implemented some form of data mining from the educational system. Only 9 have implemented the full Common Core data mining program. Though there are restrictions which make storing data difficult on the federal level, states can easily store the data and allow the federal government to access it at its own discretion.

The government won't be the only organization with access to the information. School administrators have full control over student files, and they can choose who to share information with. Theoretically, the information could be sold, perhaps withholding identifying information. In addition, schools can share records with any "school official" without parental consent. The term "school official," however, includes private companies, which have contracts with the school.

NSA data mining is troubling because it could lead to intensely negative outcomes, because it opens up new avenues for control and because it is fundamentally wrong. Common Core data mining and tracking students with GPS devices is far, far scarier.

It gives the government the ability to completely control the futures of every student of public education, and that will soon extend to private and home schools. It provides a way to intimidate students – who already have a difficult time socially – into conforming to norms which are not only social, but also political and cultural.

1AC — Plan

[Insert a plan text.]

1AC — Corporate Control

Advantage One is Corporate Control:

Common Core serves to ensure that students are ignorant of their constitutional rights. It is fascism with a smile that ensures that future generations can be controlled by corporations and the government.

Whitehead 13 — John W. Whitehead, constitutional and human rights lawyer, founder of The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization, winner of the Hungarian Medal of Freedom, co-counsel in Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, co-counsel in several landmark Supreme Court cases and has law reviews published in Emory Law Journal, Pepperdine Law Review, Harvard Journal on Legislation, Washington and Lee Law Review, Cumberland Law Review, Tulsa Law Journal and the Temple University Civil Rights Law Review, 2013 (“Common Core: A Lesson Plan for Raising Up Compliant, Non-Thinking Citizens,” The Rutherford Institute, September 23rd, Available Online at, Accessed 06-22-2015)

As I point out in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, there are several methods for controlling a population. You can intimidate the citizenry into obedience through force, relying on military strength and weaponry such as SWAT team raids, militarized police, and a vast array of lethal and nonlethal weapons. You can manipulate them into marching in lockstep with your dictates through the use of propaganda and carefully timed fear tactics about threats to their safety, whether through the phantom menace of terrorist attacks or shooting sprees by solitary gunmen. Or you can indoctrinate them into compliance from an early age through the schools, discouraging them from thinking for themselves while rewarding them for regurgitating whatever the government, through its so-called educational standards, dictates they should be taught.

Those who founded America believed that an educated citizenry knowledgeable about their rights was the surest means of preserving freedom. If so, then the inverse should also hold true: that the surest way for a government to maintain its power and keep the citizenry in line is by rendering them ignorant of their rights and unable to think for themselves.

When viewed in light of the government’s ongoing attempts to amass power at great cost to Americans—in terms of free speech rights, privacy, due process, etc.—the debate over Common Core State Standards, which would transform and nationalize school curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, becomes that much more critical.

Essentially, these standards, which were developed through a partnership between big government and corporations, in the absence of any real input from parents or educators with practical, hands-on classroom experience, and are being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, will create a generation of test-takers capable of little else, molded and shaped by the federal government and its corporate allies into what it considers to be ideal citizens.

Moreover, as Valerie Strauss reports for the Washington Post: “The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year plus the computer platforms needed to administer and score them, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things. The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color. If, as proposed, the Common Core’s ‘college and career ready’ performance level becomes the standard for high school graduation, it will push more kids out of high school than it will prepare for college.”

With so much money to be made and so many questionable agendas at work, it is little wonder, then, that attempts are being made to squelch any and all opposition to these standards. For example, at a recent public forum to discuss the implementation of these standards in Baltimore County public schools, one parent, 46-year-old Robert Small, found himself “pulled out of the meeting, arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer” simply for daring to voice his discontent with the standards during a Q&A session with the superintendent.

Even calling this event a forum is disingenuous, given that attendees were not allowed to stand and ask questions. Instead, attendees were instructed to write their questions on a piece of paper, which the superintendent would then read and members of a panel would answer. In other words, there would be no time or room for debate, just a one-sided discussion. And this is what life in our so-called republic of the United States has been reduced to, a one-sided monologue by government officials who neither care about what “we the people” have to say, nor are they inclined to hear us out, just so long as we pay their taxes and abide by their laws.

“Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle,” shouted Robert Small to his fellow attendees as he was being dragged out of the “forum” on the Common Core standards. “Is this America?”

No, Mr. Small, this is no longer America. This is, instead, fascism with a smile, sold to us by our so-called representatives, calculating corporations, and an educational system that is marching in lockstep with the government’s agenda.

In this way, we are being conditioned to be slaves without knowing it. That way, we are easier to control. “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude,” writes Aldous Huxley. “To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers.”

The purpose of a pre-university education in early America was not to prepare young people to be doctors or lawyers but, as Thomas Jefferson believed, to make citizens knowledgeable about “their rights, interests, and duties as men and citizens.” As Jefferson observed, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is, not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Yet that’s where the problem arises for us today. Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights, largely due to an educational system that does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Many studies confirm this. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29% of respondents couldn’t name the current vice president of the United States. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why America fought the Cold War. More critically, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6% couldn’t even circle Independence Day (the Fourth of July) on a calendar.

A survey of American adults by the American Civic Literacy Program resulted in some equally disheartening findings. Seventy-one percent failed the test. Moreover, having a college education does very little to increase civic knowledge, as demonstrated by the abysmal 32% pass rate of people holding not just a bachelor’s degree but some sort of graduate-level degree.

That Americans are constitutionally illiterate is not a mere oversight on the part of government educators. And things will only get worse under Common Core, which as the Washington Post reports, is a not-so-subtle attempt “to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum.” One principal, a former proponent who is now leading the charge against Common Core, quickly realized that Common Core was not about educational reform as President Obama would have us believe. Rather, it’s about pushing a curriculum wrapped around incessant pre-testing, testing and test prep that teaches students how to take tests but not how to think, analyze or learn.

As with most “bright ideas” coming out of the federal government, once you follow the money trail, it all makes sense. And those who stand to profit are the companies creating both the tests that will drive the school curriculum, as well as the preparatory test materials, the computer and software industries, and the states, which will receive federal funds in exchange for their cooperation.

Putting aside the profit-driven motives of the corporations and the power-driven motives of the government, there is also an inherent arrogance in the implementation of these Common Core standards that speaks to the government’s view that parents essentially forfeit their rights when they send their children to a public school, and should have little to no say in what their kids are taught and how they are treated by school officials. This is evident in the transformation of the schools into quasi-prisons, complete with metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, and surveillance cameras. Equally arrogant are school zero tolerance policies that punish serious offenders of a school weapons policy the same as a child who draws a picture of a gun, no matter what the parents or students have to say about the matter. The result is a generation of young people browbeaten into believing that they have no true rights, while government authorities have total power and can violate constitutional rights whenever they see fit.

Common Core surveillance allows corporate access to student data to drive the education agenda.

Rugh 13 — Peter Rugh, Brooklyn-based reporter who contributes to and is a correspondent for, 2013 (“Exposed: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations are Data Mining our Schools,” Truthout, May 2nd, Available Online at, Accessed 06-22-2015)

Last week, students across New York finished a set of tests taken over a two week period designed to measure their proficiency at reading and math against new federal college readiness standards known as Common Core. Some parents opted their children out of the exams in protest against what they described as the school system's over-emphasis on testing and its use of data as the principle indicator of their children's achievement.

Starting next year, those scores, along with students' personal informationrace, economic background, report cards, discipline records and personal addresseswill be stored in a database designed by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

That's right, Rupert Murdoch can read your child's report card anytime he likes and he knows where your kid is sleeping. The database will be managed by inBloom inc, a non-profit outfit that, like Wireless Generation, is under the domain of billionaire Bill Gates – who, together with the Carnegie Corporation and other philanthropic organizations, set up the company via his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

inBloom is receiving $50 million for their services from the New York Education Department through a contract awarded last fall. Data analyzing firms, educational software designers and other third-party venders, both for and not-for-profit, will be granted access to student information.

New York is not alone in turning to student data tracking system to measure performance. Some 200,000 U.S. teachers use Wireless Generation software as part of a national trend in which education administrators are increasingly turning to data analysis to grasp why America's pupils are flunking when compared to the rest of the world.

I am a deep believer in the power of data to drive our decisions,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan shortly after his appointment to the post in 2008. “Data gives us the roadmap to reform. It tells us where we are, where we need to go, and who is most at risk.”

But the consolidation of individual student information has been raising eyebrows — and sparking a backlash. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is suing Duncan's Education Department for amending privacy regulations in 2011 that allow student data to be accessed for non-educational objectives without informing parents — a violation, EPIC contends, of the Family Educational Rights Privacy and Privacy Act.

According to inBloom's privacy policy, the company is not responsible for security breaches; though it will “use reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure student records are kept private,” inBloom “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

Last week, New York parents sent a letter to the Board of Regents, which oversees the state's public schools, decrying the “plan to share highly confidential, personally identifiable student data” with inBloom. They expressed fear that the company intends to share their children's information “with for-profit vendors without parental notification or consent.”

After parents in Louisiana raised similar concerns, plans to hand over student data to inBloom were put on hold two weeks ago. Contrary to statements from Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, the state has not cancelled its contract with the company, according to a spokesperson for inBloom.

The spokesperson also said it is up to inBloom's clients, not inBloom, to determine what data the company possesses and who is granted access. In Louisiana, that could include student social security numbers, which double as student ID digits in most districts.

Besides New York and Louisiana, inBloom has contracts with seven other states. All are part of the Shared Learning Collaborative, a pilot program set up by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to help implement Common Core standards through the tracking of student data. The Council of Chiefs, also a non-profit, is composed of the heads of America's state school systems who work together with corporations to collectively design education policy, in mold of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

CCSSO's corporate partners include Microsoft, Apple, Wireless Generation, IBM and Discovery Education – a spin-off of the television channel that gave us Amish Mafia. Then there are the big publishing houses: McGraw-Hill, Scholastic, and Pearson that design the standardized tests that produce the data which feeds inBloom, Wireless and others. Together, these tech, media and publishing corporations work with policymakers to integrate their products into curricula.

“I used to think there would be an uproar if I made this stuff public,” said one programmer who designs student tracking systems, and who wished to remain anonymous in order to protect his job. “Then, I discovered that it's all already public. They're devising extra-governmental systems to handle student learning right before our eyes. The state is using its monopoly on education to benefit certain corporations.”

Pearson, however, might have pushed its buddy-buddy relationship with education administrators a little too far. The publisher, which recently received a $32 million contract to design Common Core test prep materials for New York, is currently under investigation from the state Attorney General's office for using its nonprofit wing, the Pearson Foundation, to finance trips abroad taken by NYSED officials.

Yet, for the most part, by cloaking its aims in the guise of philanthropy the private sector has successfully nuzzled its way into the sphere of public education. And there are big bucks to be had.

“When it comes to K through 12 education,” Rupert Murdoch put it upon acquiring Wireless Generation in 2010, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.” To help ensure that News Corp. gets its share of the education pie (translation: "to extend the reach of great teaching"), the media baron tagged an industry insider to do his bidding, taking on former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as an adviser.

Government and for-profit education businesses are becoming ever more inextricably inter-connected,” commented Michael McGill, superintendent for schools in Scarsdale, New York, upon learning of the state's plan to house his students info with the Murdoch/Gates start-ups. “This is a development that merits public concern and close public scrutiny."

The Common Core is a neoliberal plan to create corporate control of American public education — deeply conservative corporations monopolize the content. This exacerbates poverty and inculcates students in neoliberal values.

Brand 13 — Candice Brand, Assistant Editor and Reporter for Truthout, a progressive news organization that works to broaden and diversify the political discussion by introducing independent voices, co-writer and producer of Don't Frack With Denton, a documentary chronicling fracking in Texas. Truthout has featured content from Paul Krugman, Henry Giroux, Bill Moyers, Andy Worthington, Kathy Kelly, Dean Baker and Noam Chomsky, 2013 (“Flow Chart Exposes Common Core's Myriad Corporate Connections,” Truthout, September 6th, Available Online at, Accessed 06-22-2015)

Morna McDermott mapped the Common Core State Standard Initiative's corporate connections in a new flow chart, which reveals how corporations and organizations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have funded and perpetuated Common Core standards throughout the states.

ALEC has been funded for decades in large part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, about 98 percent of ALEC's funds come from corporations such as Exxon Mobil and corporate foundations like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

The Common Core State Standard Initiative is part of the larger Race to the Top educational policy announced by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2009. It seeks to implement new Common Core educational benchmarks to replace varying educational standards from state to state by awarding grants to states that comply with the initiative. The standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The chart illuminates a larger corporate agenda that seeks market-based education reforms and increased influence over public education in the United States. With defense and security expenditures slowing, corporations are looking to profit from new cloud-based software used to collect and mine information from student records to create individualized education programs designed by third-party companies.

McDermott is a teacher-educator with more than 20 years of experience working in and with public schools. McDermott also serves as a section editor for the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy and recently published a book titled "The Left Handed Curriculum: Creative Experiences for Empowering Teachers" with Information Age Publishing. She is an administrator with United Opt Out National, a nonprofit created by parents, educators and students who are dedicated to the elimination of high-stakes testing in public education.

She researched and produced the information on her own, but the work is endorsed and supported by the United Opt Out National network. McDermott told Truthout she used a systems-based approach in her research to show the concepts in relationship to one another, and that it's just another example of a different method of teaching and learning.

McDermott says she works to fight standards and testing because they divert funds and attention away from the real issue in education, which is poverty. "The whole thing about better tests and if we had better standards is like a bait-and-switchso nobody pays attention to the real issues," she said.

McDermott mentions a number of corporations and organizations prying for influence over the Common Core standards. Among them is Achieve Inc., a company widely funded by ALEC members, including Boeing and State Farm, among others.

McDermott also points to peer-reviewed academic research originally published in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation by Fenwick English titled "The Ten Most Wanted Enemies of American Public Education's School Leadership." In his research English looks at many of the players involved in the same network that McDermott maps with clarity, writing of the Eli Broad Foundation that:

Broad money is sloshed behind the scenes to elect or select candidates who "buy" the Broad corporate agenda in education. ... Broad's enemies are teacher unions, school boards, and schools of education. What all three have in common is that they eschew corporate, top-down control required in the Broad business model.

According to McDermott, America's Choice, another part of Common Core's corporate web, originally was founded as a program of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. But in 2004, the group was reorganized as a for-profit subsidiary of NCEE.

McDermott cites a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, Jay Greene, who writes:

NCEE's scheme was originally financed by a $1,500,000 pilot grant from the Gates Foundation. It will now benefit from a sweetheart deal of $30,000,000 - all taxpayers' money. Having Gates pay for both NCEE's start-up and the development of Common Core standards certainly helped America's Choice to put its key people on Common Core's [English Language Arts] and mathematics standards development and draft-writing committees to ensure that they came up with the readiness standards Gates had paid for and wanted NCEE to use.

It's all part-and-parcel to the larger neoliberal plan to "reform" public education.

"What Race to the Top is doing to exacerbate the issues of poverty, for one thing, in terms of school funding is it's even elevating the amount of money that is funneled right through schools, like a sieve, and channeling it more directly into the hands of testing companies, computer companies, online companies and other corporate interests," McDermott said. "So for a state or a district to say, 'Oh, we need the money,' my reaction would be, 'You're not going to see a dime of it. They're going to hand you a check that's basically a coupon to buy Pearson products.' "

Corporate control risks extinctionglobal warming and nuclear war.

Chomsky 14 — Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania 2014 (“America’s corporate doctrine of power a grave threat to humanity,” Salon — originally published on TomDispatch, July 1st, Available Online at, Accessed 07-09-2015)

The Final Century of Human Civilization?

There are other examples too numerous to mention, facts that are well-established and would be taught in elementary schools in free societies.

There is, in other words, ample evidence that securing state power from the domestic population and securing concentrated private power are driving forces in policy formation. Of course, it is not quite that simple. There are interesting cases, some quite current, where these commitments conflict, but consider this a good first approximation and radically opposed to the received standard doctrine.

Let us turn to another question: What about the security of the population? It is easy to demonstrate that this is a marginal concern of policy planners. Take two prominent current examples, global warming and nuclear weapons. As any literate person is doubtless aware, these are dire threats to the security of the population. Turning to state policy, we find that it is committed to accelerating each of those threats — in the interests of the primary concerns, protection of state power and of the concentrated private power that largely determines state policy.

Consider global warming. There is now much exuberance in the United States about100 years of energy independenceas we becomethe Saudi Arabia of the next century— perhaps the final century of human civilization if current policies persist.

That illustrates very clearly the nature of the concern for security, certainly not for the population. It also illustrates the moral calculus of contemporary Anglo-American state capitalism: the fate of our grandchildren counts as nothing when compared with the imperative of higher profits tomorrow.

These conclusions are fortified by a closer look at the propaganda system. There is a huge public relations campaign in the U.S., organized quite openly by Big Energy and the business world, to try to convince the public that global warming is either unreal or not a result of human activity. And it has had some impact. The U.S. ranks lower than other countries in public concern about global warming and the results are stratified: among Republicans, the party more fully dedicated to the interests of wealth and corporate power, it ranks far lower than the global norm.

The current issue of the premier journal of media criticism, the Columbia Journalism Review, has an interesting article on this subject, attributing this outcome to the media doctrine of “fair and balanced.” In other words, if a journal publishes an opinion piece reflecting the conclusions of 97% of scientists, it must also run a counter-piece expressing the viewpoint of the energy corporations.

That indeed is what happens, but there certainly is no “fair and balanced” doctrine. Thus, if a journal runs an opinion piece denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for the criminal act of taking over the Crimea, it surely does not have to run a piece pointing out that, while the act is indeed criminal, Russia has a far stronger case today than the U.S. did more than a century ago in taking over southeastern Cuba, including the country’s major port — and rejecting the Cuban demand since independence to have it returned. And the same is true of many other cases. The actual media doctrine is “fair and balanced” when the concerns of concentrated private power are involved, but surely not elsewhere.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, the record is similarly interesting — and frightening. It reveals very clearly that, from the earliest days, the security of the population was a non-issue, and remains so. There is no time here to run through the shocking record, but there is little doubt that it strongly supports the lament of General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons. In his words, we have so far survived the nuclear ageby some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” And we can hardly count on continued divine intervention as policymakers play roulette with the fate of the species in pursuit of the driving factors in policy formation.

As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history. There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war. For the first time in history, we face the possibility of destroying the prospects for decent existence — and not in the distant future. For this reason alone, it is imperative to sweep away the ideological clouds and face honestly and realistically the question of how policy decisions are made, and what we can do to alter them before it is too late.

1AC — Critical Thinking

Advantage Two is Critical Thinking:

The Common Core curriculum is the root of reducing teaching and learning to instrumental rationality divorced from critical thinking and social responsibility.

Giroux 14 — Henry A. Giroux, Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department & Chair in Critical Pedagogy at The McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, member of Truthout's Board of Directors, author of dozens of books on learning and pedagogy including Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future, America's Educational Deficit and the War on Youth, Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education, 2014 (“Data Storms and the Tyranny of Manufactured Forgetting,” Truthout, June 24th, Available Online at, Accessed 06-25-2015)

It does not seem unreasonable to conclude at this point that critical thinking as a mode of reasoning is nearing extinction in both the wider society and the sphere of public schooling and higher education in the United States. Stanley Aronowitz has written that critical thought has lost its contemplative character and "has been debased to the level of technical intelligence, subordinate to meeting operational problems."[27] Nowhere is this more obvious than in the reactionary reforms being pushed on public schooling. President Obama's educational policies along with the Common Core curriculum created by Bill Gates-funded consultants are devoid of any critical content and reduce pedagogy to the dictates of instrumental standards alone. Education subjected to endless empirical assessment results only in a high-stakes testing mania - a boon, of course, for the test industries, but a devastating loss for teacher and student autonomy. In this instance, student achievement and learning are reduced to data that are completely divorced from "the inequalities of race, class and educational opportunity reflected in . . . test scores."[28]

Under the auspices of quality control, the cult of data and high-stakes testing becomes a signpost for empirical madness and number crunching run amok. "Teaching to the test" more often than not results in miseducating students while undermining any possibility of expanding their sense of wonder, imagination, critique and social responsibility. Left unchecked, instrumental rationality parading as educational reform will homogenize all knowledge and meaning, as it becomes a machine for proliferating forms of civic and social death, deadening the spirit with the weight of dead time and a graveyard of useless testing pedagogies. What does this have to do with the suppression of historical consciousness and the death of politics in the broader culture? The answer becomes clearer when we analyze the relationships among critical thinking, historical consciousness, and the notions of social and self-emancipation.

When literacy becomes about test scores and history becomes about memorization, we lose the ability to challenge the state and address social problems. No one is immune to the reign of neoliberal ideological tyranny that pushes the marginalized out of the social sphere. We celebrate our own authoritarian domination.

Giroux 14 — Henry A. Giroux, Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department & Chair in Critical Pedagogy at The McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, member of Truthout's Board of Directors, author of dozens of books on learning and pedagogy including Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future, America's Educational Deficit and the War on Youth, Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education, 2014 (“Data Storms and the Tyranny of Manufactured Forgetting,” Truthout, June 24th, Available Online at, Accessed 06-25-2015)

Clearly, the attack on reason, evidence, science and critical thought has reached perilous proportions in the United States. A number of political, economic, social and technological forces now work to distort reality and keep people passive, unthinking and unable to act in a critically engaged manner. Politicians, right-wing pundits and large swaths of the American public embrace positions that support Creationism, capital punishment, torture and the denial of human-engineered climate change, any one of which not only defies human reason but stands in stark opposition to evidence-based scientific arguments. Reason now collapses into opinion, as thinking itself appears to be both dangerous and antithetical to understanding ourselves, our relations to others and the larger state of world affairs. Under such circumstances, literacy disappears not just as the practice of learning skills, but also as the foundation for taking informed action. Divorced from any sense of critical understanding and agency, the meaning of literacy is narrowed to completing basic reading, writing and numeracy tasks assigned in schools. Literacy education is similarly reduced to strictly methodological considerations and standardized assessment, rooted in test taking and deadening forms of memorization, and becomes far removed from forms of literacy that would impart an ability to raise questions about historical and social contexts.

Literacy, in a critical sense, should always ask what it might mean to use knowledge and theory as a resource to address social problems and events in ways that are meaningful and expand democratic relations. I have commented on the decline of critical literacy elsewhere and it is worth repeating:

I don't mean illiterate in the sense of not being able to read, though we have far too many people who are functionally illiterate in a so-called advanced democracy, a point that writers such as Chris Hedges, Susan Jacoby, and the late Richard Hofstadter made clear in their informative books on the rise of anti-intellectualism in American life. I am talking about a different species of ignorance and anti-intellectualism. It is a form of illiteracy that points less to the lack of technical skills and the absence of certain competencies than to a deficit in the realms of politics - one that subverts both critical thinking and the notion of literacy as both critical interpretation and the possibility of intervention in the world. This type of illiteracy is not only incapable of dealing with complex and contested questions; it is also an excuse for glorifying the principle of self-interest as a paradigm for understanding politics. This is a form of illiteracy marked by the inability to see outside of the realm of the privatized self, an illiteracy in which the act of translation withers, reduced to a relic of another age. The United States is a country that is increasingly defined by [an educational] deficit, a chronic and deadly form of civic illiteracy that points to the failure of both its education­al system and the growing ability of anti-democratic forces to use the educational force of the culture to promote the new illiteracy. As this widespread illiteracy has come to dominate American culture, we have moved from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting and in doing so have restaged politics and power in both unproductive and anti-democratic ways.[11]

Needless to say, as John Pilger has pointed out, what is at work in the death of literacy and the promotion of ignorance as a civic virtue is a "confidence trick" in which "the powerful would like us to believe that we live in an eternal present in which reflection is limited to Facebook, and historical narrative is the preserve of Hollywood."[12] Among the “materialized shocks” of the ever-present spectacles of violence, the expanding states of precarity and the production of the atomized, repressed and disconnected individual, narcissism reigns supreme. "Personal communication tends to all meaning," even as moral decency and the "agency of conscience" wither.[13]

How else to explain the endless celebration of an unchecked self-interest, a culture that accepts cruelty toward others as a necessary survival strategy, a growing “economics of contempt” that maligns and blames the poor for their condition rather than acknowledging injustices in the social order, or the paucity of even the most rudimentary knowledge among the American public about history, politics, civil rights, the Constitution, public affairs, politics and other cultures, countries and political systems?[14] Political ignorance now exists in the United States on a scale that seems inconceivable: for example, "only 40 percent of adults know that there are 100 Senators in the U.S. Congress," and a significant number of Americans believe that the Constitution designated English as the country’s official language and Christianity as its official religion.[15]

What is particularly disturbing is the way in which there has been a resurgence of a poisonous form of technical rationality in American culture, or what I call the return of data storms that uncritically amass metrics, statistics and empirical evidence at the expense of knowledge that signals the need for contextualization and interpretation in support of public values, the common good and the ethical imagination. Data storms make an appeal to a decontextualized and allegedly pure description of facts, and what Herbert Marcuse called a "misplaced concreteness," one that was particularly "prevalent in the social sciences, a pseudo-empiricism which . . . tended to make the objectivity of the social sciences a vehicle of apologetics and defense of the status quo."[16]

This obsession with metrics feeds an insatiable desire for control and lives in an eternal present, removed from matters of justice and historical memory. The novelist, Anne Lamott, is right in arguing that the "headlong rush into data is overshadowing 'everything great and exciting that someone like me would dare to call grace. What this stuff steals is our aliveness . . . Grids, spreadsheets and algorithms take away the sensory connection to our lives, where our feet are, what we're seeing, all the raw materials of life, which by their very nature are disorganized.' Metrics, she said, rob individuals of the sense that they can choose their own path, 'because if you’re going by the data and the formula, there’s only one way.'"[17]

Not only is this mode of rationality antithetical to other modes of reasoning that recognize and value what cannot be measured as being essential to life as well as democratic values and social relations, but it also carries the weight of a deadly form of masculine logic wedded to toxic notions of control, violence and ideological purity.[18] It is a form of rationality that serves the interests of the rich and obscures modes of thinking that are more capacious and reflective in their capacity to address broader conceptions of identity, citizenship and non-market values such as love, trust and fidelity.

The cult of the measurable is enthralled by instant evaluation, and fervently believes that data hold the key to our collective fate.

It bears repeating: reality is now shaped by the culture’s infatuation with a narrow, depoliticizing rationality, or what Frankfurt School theorist Max Horkheimer called instrumental reason. Bruce Feiler, writing in The New York Times, argues that not only are we awash in data, but words and "unquantifiable arenas like history, literature, religion, and the arts are receding from public life, replaced by technology, statistics, science, and math. Even the most elemental form of communication, the story, is being pushed aside by the list."[19] Historical memory and public space are indeed the first casualties in this reign of ideological tyranny, which models agency only on consumerism and value only on exchange value. The cult of the measurable is enthralled by instant evaluation, and fervently believes that data hold the key to our collective fate. John Steppling sums up the authoritarian nature of this ideological colonization and monopoly of the present. He writes:

Today, the erasure of space is linked to the constant hum of data information, of social networking, and of the compulsive repetition of the same. There is no space for accumulation in narrative. Emotional or intellectual accumulation is destroyed by the hyper-branded reality of the Spectacle. So, the poor are stigmatized for sleep. It is a sign of laziness and sloth. Of lassitude and torpor. The ideal citizen is one at work all the time. Industrious and attentive to the screen image or the sound of command. Diligence has come to mean a readiness to obey. A culture of shaming and reprimand is based on a model of reality in which there is no history to reflect upon. Today’s mass culture only reinforces this. The "real" is a never changing present. Plots revolve around the idea of disrupting this present, and then returning to this present. Actual tragedy, Chernobyl or Bhopal or Katrina, are simply ignored in terms of their material consequences. What matters are events that disrupt the Empire's carefully constructed present reality.[20]

It gets worse. Within this reality, endlessly hawked by a neoliberal brand of authoritarianism, people are turned into nothing more than "statistical units." Individuals and marginalized groups are all but stripped of their humanity, thereby clearing the way for the growth of a formative culture that allows individuals to ignore the suffering of others and to "escape from unbearable human dilemmas . . . . Statistics become more important than real human life."[21]

Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyons have connected the philosophical implications of experiencing a reality defined by constant measurement to how most people now allow their private expressions and activities to be monitored by the authoritarian security-surveillance state.[22] No one is left unscathed. In the current historical conjuncture, neoliberalism’s theater of cruelty joins forces with new technologies that can easily "colonize the private" even as it holds sacrosanct the notion that any "refusal to participate in the technological innovations and social networks (so indispensable for the exercise of social and political control) . . . becomes sufficient grounds to remove all those who lag behind in the globalization process (or have disavowed its sanctified idea) to the margins of society."[23] Inured to data gathering and number crunching, the country’s slide into authoritarianism has become not only permissible, but participatory - bolstered by a general ignorance of how a market-driven culture induces all of us to sacrifice our secrets, private lives and very identities to social media, corporations and the surveillance state.[24]

This aggression toward critical thinking in schools enables the deadly combination of anti-intellectualism and historical amnesia that produced terrorism, the war in Iraq, and the modern authoritarian state.

Giroux 14 — Henry A. Giroux, Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department & Chair in Critical Pedagogy at The McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, member of Truthout's Board of Directors, author of dozens of books on learning and pedagogy including Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future, America's Educational Deficit and the War on Youth, Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education, 2014 (“Data Storms and the Tyranny of Manufactured Forgetting,” Truthout, June 24th, Available Online at, Accessed 06-25-2015)

The current mainstream debate regarding the crisis in Iraq and Syria offers a near perfect example of both the death of historical memory and the collapse of critical thinking in the United States. It also signifies the emergence of a profoundly anti-democratic culture of manufactured ignorance and social indifference. Surely, historical memory is under assault when the dominant media give airtime to the incessant war mongering of politicians such as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and retro pundits such as Bill Kristol, Douglas Feith, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz - not one of whom has any credibility given how they have worked to legitimate the unremitting web of lies and deceit that provided cover for the disastrous US invasion of Iraq under the Bush/Cheney administration.

History repeats itself in the recent resurgence of calls for US military interventions in Syria and Iraq. Such repetitions of history undoubtedly shift from tragedy to farce as former Vice President Dick Cheney once again becomes a leading pundit calling for military solutions to the current crises in the Middle East, in spite of his established reputation for hypocrisy, lies, corporate cronyism, defending torture and abysmal policymaking under the Bush administration. The resurrection of Dick Cheney, the Darth Vader of the 21st century, as a legitimate source on the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is a truly monumental display of historical amnesia and moral dissipation. As Thom Hartman observes, Cheney bears a large responsibility for the Iraq War, which "was the single biggest foreign policy disaster in recent - or maybe even all - of American history. It cost the country around $4 trillion, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, left 4,500 Americans dead, and turned what was once one of the more developed countries in the Arab World into a slaughterhouse.[3] What room is there for historical memory in an age "when the twin presiding deities are irony and violence"?[4]

A resurrection of historical memory in this moment could provide important lessons regarding the present crisis.

Missing from the commentaries by the mainstream media regarding the current situation in Iraq is any historical context that would offer a critical account of the disorder plaguing the Middle East. A resurrection of historical memory in this moment could provide important lessons regarding the present crisis. What is clear in this case is that a widespread avoidance of the past has become not only a sign of the appalling lack of historical knowledge in contemporary American culture, but a deliberate political weapon used by the powerful to keep people passive and blind to the truth. Of course, there are many factors currently contributing to this production of ignorance and the lobotomizing of individual and collective agency.

Such factors extend from the idiocy of celebrity and popular culture and the dumbing down of American schools to the transformation of the mainstream media into a deadly mix of propaganda, violence and entertainment. The latter is particularly crucial as the collapse of journalistic standards that could inform the onslaught of information finds its counterpart in an unrelenting rise of political and civic illiteracy. The knowledge and value deficits that produce such detrimental forms of ignorance not only crush the imagination, critical modes of social interaction, and political dissent, but also destroy those public spheres and spaces that promote thoughtfulness, thinking, critical dialogue and serve as "guardians of truths as facts," as Hannah Arendt once put it.[5]

The blight of rampant consumerism, unregulated finance capital and weakened communal bonds is directly related to the culture’s production of atomized, isolated and utterly privatized individuals who have lost sight of the fact that "humanity is never acquired in solitude."[6] This retreat into private silos has resulted in the inability of individuals to connect their personal suffering with larger public issues. Thus detached from any concept of the common good or viable vestige of the public realm, they are left to face alone a world of increasing precarity and uncertainty in which it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than how to survive. Under such circumstances, there is little room for thinking critically and acting collectively in ways that are imaginative and courageous.

Surely, the celebration and widespread prevalence of ignorance in American culture does more than merely testify "to human backwardness or stupidity"; it also "indicates human weakness and the fear that it is unbearably difficult to live beset by continuous doubts."[7] Yet, what is often missed in analysis of political and civic illiteracy as the new normal is the degree to which these new forms of illiteracy not only result in an unconscious flight from politics, but also produce a moral coma that supports modern systems of terror and authoritarianism. Civic illiteracy is about more than the glorification and manufacture of ignorance on an individual scale: it is producing a nationwide crisis of agency, memory and thinking itself.

The future depends on the ability of today’s students to solve problems like endless war, mass incarceration and climate change — the Common Core curriculum guarantees they’ll be unprepared. This is the civil rights issue of our time.

Rugh 13 — Peter Rugh, Brooklyn-based reporter who contributes to and is a correspondent for, 2013 (“Exposed: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations are Data Mining our Schools,” Truthout, May 2nd, Available Online at, Accessed 06-22-2015)

What some critics find most troubling is not simply that corporate interests are collecting student personal information, but how that information is being used. As the anonymous programmer put it, “I don't think a lot these products are going to work. Teachers aren't going to like them, but that doesn't matter. These are essentially accountability systems.”

Some school districts have released statistical teacher evaluations as a way of holding teachers' feet to the fire and to justify layoffs. In Los Angeles, one teacher committed suicide after the city paper published his score. In New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere, data standardized tests results have been used to shutter schools and replace them with charters, often sponsored by hedge funds.

There are other ways, of course, to improve schools, says the programmer. Rather than shutting them down, giving teachers the slip and hiring corporate data tracking firms, policy makers could invest in improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding schools. Also, “they could just hire more teachers.” He insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliation from his employer, because such comments could cripple the programmer's entire profession, if heeded.

Increasingly, parents are refusing to feed the statistical machine. Over the last two weeks, several hundred in New York opted their children out of Common Core tests. In Chicago last week, parents also refused to allow their children to be tested. These boycotts were inspired by a school-wide refusal by teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington, to administer standardized exams to students.

“Arne Duncan has called education in America today 'the civil rights issue of our time',” said Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield teacher who helped initiate the school-wide test refusal last fall. “And I agree with him. Only I think his methodology is flawed. Because I know what the actual Civil Rights Movement was built on.

Just as a bus boycott helped launch the Civil Right's Movement, Hagopian hopes that a test boycott will help launch a grassroots education reform movement.

“Parents, students and teachers need to band together,” he says, “and boycott tests that are designed to rank and sort our children and label them failures rather than provide them educational equity. These tests can't measure leadership, civic courage, creativity, the things we're going to need to solve the problems in the world today like endless war, mass incarceration and climate change.”

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