Are You Kidding Me?
February 24th, 2014
A few months ago, I noted that liberals generally check to see if the latest news story about Republicans is actually satire, while conservatives tend not to check if the latest satire about Obama and Democrats is really news. This effect hit me today, hard, when I saw an article out of Arizona which I decided had to be satire. No way these guys could be so stupid. Then I checked the site: The Arizona Daily Star. Checked out the front page (there was no “about” page), then looked at some articles. Looked completely legit. So, maybe this one piece is in the “Entertainment” section? Nope; “Education” under “Local News .” I still couldn't believe it. I mean, I have seen some really stupid stuff in American politics, but this takes my breath away. It begins startlingly enough:
Ignoring pleas from business leaders, the Senate Education Committee voted 6-3 along party lines Thursday to bar Arizona from implementing the Common Core standards the state adopted four years ago.What is “Common Core”? It's an educational standard set by states to establish common expectations for English Language and Mathematics teaching in K-12. Only Virginia, Texas, and Alaska are not members, and only Nebraska has not adopted the standards yet. Arizona had adopted the standards, but now it looks like they might reject it. Why? Well, here's the good part:
“It got hijacked by Washington, by the federal government,” said Melvin, a candidate for governor, and “as a conservative Reagan Republican I’m suspect about the U.S. Department of Education in general, but also any standards that are coming out of that department.” Melvin’s comments led Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, to ask him whether he’s actually read the Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states. “I’ve been exposed to them,” Melvin responded. Pressed by Bradley for specifics, Melvin said he understands “some of the reading material is borderline pornographic.” And he said the program uses “fuzzy math,” substituting letters for numbers in some examples.Fuzzy math. Substituting letters for numbers in some examples. Are. You. Fracking. Kidding. Me. Okay, maybe this is just some imbecile speaking impromptu and said something completely idiotic by mistake. But even looked at that way, this still pushes the boundaries of “stupid” to pretty cutting-edge extremes. Variables in algebra as a reason for wanting to reject math standards. Wow. Another aspect to the explanation is that this guy most likely had very little understanding of even his own objections, and was just following a political campaign led by conservatives—another in a long line of attempts to make the Obama administration look evil in some way. The “pornographic” references are the real meat of the issue, as two titles in the list of suggested reading exemplars include Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Cristina Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban; the first is a story which involves a girl who is sexually abused as a young teen, and the second has a brief but fairly explicit description of sexual acts carried out by an adult couple. The readings are not required—only suggested as examples (ergo, the term “exemplar”) for readings by students in the 11th grade and higher—but have served as fuel for the conservative base to erupt in massive outrage at how Obama is pushing porn on children. Melvin's comments spring from that movement—garbage in, garbage out, I suppose would be one way of seeing it.