| Chris Goudreau
WILBRAHAM – Dr. James “Duke” Pesta, a vocal opponent of Common Core, told a group of more than 50 people at Minnechaug Regional High School on Oct. 28 that he believes Common Core is an issue that conservatives and progressives could unite against.
Pesta – an English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh – is a published author, and the academic director of Freedom Project Academy, a K-12 accredited academy in Appleton, WI, that is free of Common Core standards and built on Judeo-Christian values. He has spoken publicly about the issue more than 500 times across 46 states and explained he didn’t initially plan on fighting against Common Core.
“I’ve been a university professor for 25 years,” he noted. “The University of Wisconsin system is considered a very good university system and yet kids were coming to my classes as freshman, juniors, sophomores, and seniors with seventh grade reading levels. My graduating senior English major had about an eighth grade reading level … Critical thinking is missing. So, I started to look around at what was going on in education before they got to me.”
He said he’s testified before 22 different state legislatures, Republicans and Democrats, and has also spoken to Tea Party groups and bi-partisan committees.
"This is not a Democrat problem; this is not a Republican problem – it’s bigger than that,” Pesta explained. “You will see many Republicans exposed in this talk and you will find many Democrats exposed in this talk. I like to refer to Common Core as a Washington Beltway versus the rest of us problem. The primary problem with Common Core is how much power it ultimately seeds in the federal government.”
Pesta said one of the main reasons why teachers unions oppose Common Core is because of how “it handcuffs teachers in their ability to teach.”
He added, “I’ve got 4,200 letters from teachers at home from all of these teachers at home telling me, ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t attend your talk. I believe what you say, but I will be fired if I attend.’ We’re not allowed to criticize Common Core. We’re not allowed to question it. What kind of paradigm starts from the premise that teachers will shut up and go along with it or be punished? That can’t start good. This was enforced on your teachers.”
Pesta said almost no teachers were consulted about the implementation of Common Core and there was not vote taken on the issue.
“It was put in your schools so thoroughly, before anyone knew it was there, there was no way to remove it,” he explained.
Westfield City Councilor Dan Allie, who also serves as Hampden County coordinator for End Common Core MA, stated, “Common Core and PARCC assessments are an illegal, crony capitalist takeover of the American educational system through funding, testing, data collection, student, teacher and district performance. Three federal laws prohibit the federal government from directing, supervising or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, instructional materials or standards. Yet, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a 350 million dollar no bid contract to Pearson, a British company to develop curriculum and assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards.”
Pesta said he believes Common Core creates a lower set of standards for students across the nation and doesn’t help high achieving students who would thrive with more challenging educational material.
“The goal of Common Core, these kinds of attitudes towards education, is collectivization,” he noted. “It’s not excellence … It’s not fair that Suzie’s really good at math and Johnny’s not. Rather than to allow Suzie to get ahead of her peers, which is socially unjust, we’re going to hold Suzie back a bit.”
He continued, “Look, your kids aren’t common. Your kids aren’t one-size fits all.”