North Dakota's Common Core Debate Gets Ugly


Advocates looking to stop common core in North Dakota recently invited Dr. Duke Pesta, a homeschooling advocate, to the state to talk about the issue.

Update: Superintendent Baesler called me this evening to say that her office has not sent out anything critical of Pesta from DPI and that her department deals with facts and policy not people. Legislative sources have told me otherwise, but I’ll take Baesler’s word for it. The post has been changed to reflect that. As you can hear in the audio above, DPI spokesman Dale Wetzel was pretty direct in his criticism of Pesta.

Yesterday, DPI spokesman Dale Wetzel appeared on the Jay Thomas show to address Pesta’s criticisms of Common Core and was…something less than civil to opponents of the policy. Not content to merely rebut the arguments against Common Core, Wetzel was dismissive to the point of belittlement to the policy’s detractors.

You can listen to it above.

To be fair, many of the communications I’ve been privy to from Common Core critics to DPI personnel have been pretty nasty as well.

I have to admit that I’m something of a skeptic of Common Core. I don’t think it’s the catastrophe some of its critics make it out to be, but I also think it sounds like yet another dopey, one-size-fits-all national education policy that is all the rage now but will be replaced by yet another shiny new national policy in five years or so.

That seems to be how we do education policy in America. It’s all fads and political campaigns.

But the sheer intensity of the Common Core pushback is surprising. I think it speaks to the something less than transparent way it was implemented in North Dakota. This sort of sweeping policy change should be implemented only with significant buy-in from the public, which the state’s leaders failed to get.

They’re paying for it now. And it could become a political issue for Republicans. Some conservatives were pretty skeptical of Baesler when she was seeking the NDGOP’s endorsement to run for Superintendent in 2012, and now those conservatives are pointing to the Common Core imbroglio as evidence that their skepticism was well-founded. You can bet that there will be an effort to repeal Common Core during the legislative session next year, and it’s likely to prove a divisive issue for Republicans.

All the more so if Wetzel’s handling of Common Core criticisms becomes the norm for DPI.

Pesta sent out the response to Wetzel’s criticism post below which also lists the times, dates and locations that he’ll be speaking here in North Dakota. You can find out more about the North Dakota Stop Common Core group on their Facebook page.

You can find out more about DPI’s case for Common Core on their website.

A response from Dr. Duke Pesta on
Dale Wetzel’s Department of Public Instruction “Hit Piece”
• Dr. Pesta backs up everything he says with documentation, and he provides the websites for people to check out the facts for themselves.
• Dr Pesta does not charge a speaking fee; he is reimbursed for travel expenses by the parents who invited him to come on behalf of Stop Common Core ND.
• Far from using his speech to advertise his educational materials, Dr. Pesta says Common Core is the single best advertisement to come down the road for homeschooling in the past 50 years.

The truth about Common Core that Dale Wetzel and the Department of Public Instruction don’t want you to know:
• Common Core was put together behind closed doors by an unholy alliance between the federal government and crony capitalists.
• Common Core is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education that will decrease learning and ultimately rob North Dakota moms and dads of local control of their schools.
• Common Core joins weak pedagogy with blatant sociological indoctrination to separate children from their families.
• Liberal organizations across the country, including the New York state teachers union, the National Education Association, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, have joined with numerous conservative voices to oppose Common Core.
• In those states that have had Common Core two years longer than North Dakota, a concerted effort is being made to remove it.
• Currently there are 300 pieces of legislation pending in 46 states to remove Common Core in whole or in part, and there will be legislation introduced in North Dakota to do so next session.

Come and hear the truth for yourself.

Private Legislative Meeting
Thursday, 4 p.m., Humpback Sally’s on Main in Bismarck
Friday, 3:30 p.m., Expressway Suites in Fargo

Public Meeting of Stop Common Core ND
Thursday, 7 p.m., Ramada Hotel, Bismarck
Friday, 7 p.m., Kelly Inn on Main in Fargo