Parents, political groups take aim at curriculum issue

Rob Saxton, Oregon’s deputy superintendent of public instruction, has stirred up a hornet’s nest with recent comments he made about a new statewide initiative.

Saxton spoke to a group of administrators at an Oct. 5 forum about the upcoming implementation of the statewide P20W initiative. P20W stands for “prenatal to year 20 in school; W stands for workplace). The plan accompanies the state’s Common Core curriculum.

In a YouTube video that’s gone viral (landing on a Libertarian blog called the Patriot Action Network, among other sites), Saxton gives the audience his take on enforcing the plan in every school building: “I really and truly am kind of an S.O.B. when it comes to the expectation about what people are gonna do,” he says.

Saxton goes on, instructing the administrators to take a hard line even in the face of questioning from teachers.

“Now I can be really nice about it, and in fact as an educators if you’re not really nice about it, you can’t really get there,” Saxton says.

Parent activists take offense to Saxton’s tone and words.

“I found his braggadocio obnoxious,” says Bruce Scherer, who recently spoke out against the Common Core to the Portland School Board. “That he was boasting about these solutions and programs that haven’t been proven to work. Striking an attitude that will work just as a matter of willpower seems unfounded to me.”

Many parents and educators have been protesting the Common Core for several reasons.

They say lower-grade classroom teachers were not part of the process to develop the standards. They reject the notion of the federal government imposing a national curriculum, relating it to “high-stakes testing” and Race to the Top funds (which critics here also rejected). They don’t like that big businesses and foundations, rather than educators, seem to be pushing it.

As a progressive policy wonk, Scherer says, it’s been interesting to find common ground on this issue with unlikely bedfellows.”When neo-conservatives, Libertarians and Tea Partiers start criticizing the Common Core for intrusion in our schools, as much as I oppose them on everything, I do agree with them on this.”

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