WHAT IS COMMON CORE?
New Copyright Precedent. In this excerpt from chapter 2 of What is Common Core?, Darcy Pattison explains how the Common Core has set new copyright precedent by creating a privately copyrighted document, then asking State Departments of Education to accept the document as a public policy document. To our knowledge, there’s never before been a public policy document that is privately copyrighted. This misuse of copyright law–intended to make sure that the standards are not modified at a local level–is a startling political development.
WHAT IS COMMON CORE?
By Darcy Pattison
Sample Chapter – Chapter 2
Private Control of National Curriculum
We can’t leave the topic of how the Common Core was adopted though, without considering one other issue. Why are the standards not included in this book? Normally, when discussing a public policy, it is possible to include the actual law or policy documents because they are a matter of public record and are in the public domain. However, the Common Core State Standards are privately copyrighted by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), therefore protected by federal law. This means that no one may copy it, reprint it, modify it, etc. In order for a developer of curriculum material to use the information, they must obtain permission to reprint parts of the document.
“This website and all content on this website, including in particu-lar the Common Core State Standards, are the property of NGA Cen-ter and CCSSO, and NGA Center and CCSSO retain all right, title, and interest in and to the same.”
There is a generous public license that allows for the display and use of the materials ; however, note the qualifier highlighted in bold:
“The NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hereby grant a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to copy, publish, distribute, and display the Common Core State Standards for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These uses may involve the Common Core State Standards as a whole or selected excerpts or portions.” (Emphasis added.)
According to these terms, those who oppose the Common Core, cannot quote any of the standards beyond a Fair Use, which is generally 5% or less of the given document. Also, notice that while selected excerpts or portions may be used, they cannot be changed or modified; they must be used word for word.
Further, the public license states that those states that have adopted the Common Core are exempt from the requirement to display the copyright notice, but again note the qualifier I have included in bold:
“States and territories of the United States as well as the District of Columbia that have adopted the Common Core State Standards in whole are exempt from this provision of the License.” (Emphasis add-ed.)
There is no partial acceptance: it is all or nothing. By copyrighting the standards, the NGA Center and CCSSO have ensured that every state will have the same standards. States must adopt the entire Common Core State Standards, without changing or modifying anything—because that is forbidden by copyright law.
No modifications are allowed. States either take the whole thing as is, or nothing. Nowhere are there provisions or procedures for modifying, clarifying, customizing, or otherwise changing the standards. States can-not change a single thing to fit the needs of their students specifically. They can add to the document (the Common Core restricts this to only adding 15%, and discourages even this ), but they cannot change any-thing. Only the copyright holders can do that.
It is a brilliant use of copyright law to make sure that education standards are accepted without any change. Perfectly legal; morally questionable.
Why would any state department of education agree to the use of a privately copyrighted document as the basis of public policy?
A public policy document that is tied to copyright in such a way is amazingly ingenious, but it subverts democracy in its execution. One of the rallying cries of those opposed to the Common Core State Standards is “Education without Representation.” When you consider this subversion of copyright law for a public policy document—it’s hard not to agree.
We cannot reprint the standards here because they are copyrighted; instead, you must download and read them for yourself at http://corestandards.org/the-standards.
Does America Want a National Curriculum?
We said that the education reformers faced three problems:
- How do you define an “educated person”?
- What education theory would result in a rigorous education?
- How could the federal ban against a national education curriculum be ignored?
By detailing the story of how the standards were adopted, we touched on all three questions, but in future chapters, we’ll look more at the education theories, and then look at other concerns about the Common Core.
Before we leave the process of implementing the standards, though, it is important to note one result of the Common Core. Implementation of the Common Core has changed the discussion about education in drastic ways. Because it was adopted through a political back door, and are a fait accompli, they have bypassed the basic question: Does America need or want national standards?
Again, the Common Core is not a national standard, rather, it is a set of Common Core standards that state departments of education have adopted. But they are de facto national standards, and everyone involved knows this.
The discussion about whether or not we need and/or want a national curriculum standard is almost non-existent. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards by the state departments of education, aided by the rapid timeline of the Race to the Top grants incentive program, has effectively undercut this question; in this sense, the Common Core has already succeeded in its purpose: The Common Core State Standards are the United State’s national curriculum.
Instead, I would urge a real discussion and debate about this basic question: Does the United States need and want a national curriculum?
And we should discuss these related questions:
- Who should control education, local or national officials?
- What is the purpose of education? The Common Core holds to a utilitarian purpose, preparing students for college and career. Traditional education said the purpose of education was to broadly prepare students for life.
- Is there a common set of knowledge required for high school graduates?
- Is there a common set of skills required for high school graduates?
- What educational philosophies will govern how we teach certain types of knowledge?
- How can the U.S. establish a system to test new education theories, so that only effective strategies are employed?