College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

A Progressive and a Conservative Find Common Ground Opposing the Common Core

By Anthony Cody — April 15, 2013 8 min read
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In recent months I have written about thegrowing opposition to the Common Core, from across the political spectrum. I recently connected with two citizens who embody this, and asked them to share their very divergent backgrounds, and the describe how they have found agreement in regards to the Common Core.

I am Paul Horton.
I am a life long Democrat who attended public schools and a public university, Texas at Austin. I come from an Alabama populist family descended from Quakers originally from the area around Nottingham. I am related to Judge James E. Horton (Scottsboro Boys) and Myles Horton (Highlander Folk School). My grandfather, a rural superintendent of schools, had a cross burned on his lawn for firing the county’s high school principal, the leader of the Klan in the county.

I am a Progressive Educator who has read all of his John Dewey and who has sought to live up to the idea of creating “a Laboratory for Democracy” in my classroom. I am a strong proponent of inquiry-based learning that requires students to read entire books, challenging articles, and produce analytical essays and research papers.

Although learning facts is a part of the process of teaching students to become historians, citizens who question authority, and adults who can work together to solve difficult problems; like Dewey, I believe that Education must be a part of building a larger vision of who we are and what we should become.

I have taught for thirty years in virtually every kind of school. I began my teaching career in a recently integrated rural Texas middle school. I then taught for five years in a large urban high school in San Antonio’s West side where the majority of young people were ESL. I have taught where I currently teach, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the country’s most diverse independent school founded by John Dewey, for fourteen years. Other shorter teaching stints have been at a clinical Laboratory School in Iowa where I taught pre service history students how to teach as I taught high school history students, and at an Episcopal School in Atlanta.

I became concerned with Education “Reform” as I began to notice that the voices of many experienced teachers were not being listened to by most Educational leaders. Ten years ago, I noticed that most schools were beginning to hire administrators who had little or no experience in the classroom. In fact, I have recently learned that 43% of public school administrators hired over the last ten years have come from other professions and have had no experience in classroom. Indeed, the Broad Foundation has encouraged this process by training potential administrators from other professions.

More recently, after our Laboratory Schools Community had worked so hard for the election of our native son, Barack Obama, I noticed that his administration appeared to have abandoned teachers as he and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, a Lab School grad, denigrated the teachers of a Rhode Island city who were being laid off. Things went downhill from there when the President allowed Mr. Duncan, Ms. Joanne Weiss, Mr. James Shelton III, Mr. Bill Gates, and Mr. David Coleman, none of whom had ever taught in a classroom, to formulate the Race to the Top Mandates and The Common Core Standards that required states to implement a standardized curriculum, administer a high-stakes standardized testing regime that would be tied to teacher assessments, and build a national database that required all schools to report information that appeared to violate the civil liberties of students and their families. All of the initiatives cut against my philosophy of education described above, so I have become an activist.

I started to research and publish my concerns and I have recently been working hard to network with many who are opposed to the implementation of RRRT and the Common Core Standards. I as I began to network, an amazing blogger in Utah put me in touch with my friend Heather. When we talked on the phone for the first time over a month ago, we realized that, although our experiences with Education and our political perspectives were very different, in fact polar opposites on many issues, when it came to Education, we saw that we had much in common with our opposition to the RTTT and the Common Core Standards.

We have been working together since: drafting letters, strategizing, networking, sharing links and research, and even connecting with Tea Party members and Progressives in Wisconsin to assist in building their movement against RTTT and the CCS.


My name is Heather Patenaude and I am a life long conservative. I believe in limited Government that is fiscally responsible and upholds the constitution. In 1985 my parents began to home-school my sisters and me. When we started our journey of homeschooling organizations were fighting to make it legal in all 50 states. I am grateful for the freedom to be homeschooled and now home-school my own children.

After I graduated home-school in 1992, I went on to a community college where I served as Student Body President. From there I transferred to the University of Illinois, where I was one of their first home-school students. I graduated in 1996 with a degree in Social Work.

Since my faith drives all of what I do, I spent seven years in ministry after college. I worked with trouble teens, authored a book geared to Christian singles (Emotional Purity), worked with our state home-school organization, and a variety of other ministries. After I got married I became a full-time homemaker and eventually a mother of three. Not only do I home-school my own boys, my husband and I have a newlywed ministry at our church, and I am a blog-manger of “Beyond Bath Time”, a blog for Christian moms.

As a teacher my goal is to give my children a deep love of learning, the ability to think critically, articulate themselves, and have a passion for God. Because this is my philosophy, home educating is the best route for our family.

When I began to research Common Core the massive overreach of government and private companies to all schools was alarming to me. When home-school curriculum began to align to Common Core my fight really began! My passion to see educational freedom has fueled my desire to stop common core!

I have found it refreshing to work with Paul, who is polar opposite of me. What we have found is we do have more in common than what is on the surface! For example, his Grandpa was a target of hate when he stood against the Klan, my great-great Grandparents were kicked out of Mississippi for having a black family over for a meal. They moved to Zion, IL, where my children are 6th generation Zionites. We both come from a rich history and heritage! Everyone has a story and if we took time to get to know each other, we may find more talking across the “aisle”.

What follows is a joint statement from Paul Horton and Heather Patenaude reflecting their mutual concerns about the Common Core.

There are many voices coming together across the state of Illinois to oppose the Race To The Top Mandates and the Common Core State Standards. We are two unlikely allies in this fight against Common Core, but wanted to present to you a united front in our desire to stop Common Core in Illinois.

In normal life our paths would not cross, but we have joined forces to stop Common Core in our state. We are seeing liberals and conservatives opposing different aspects of the Race To The Top Mandates and the Common Core Curriculum.

Here are our joint concerns:

1) We see the RTTT mandates and the Common Core Curriculum as a complete loss of state control of standards and want to see the control of standards brought back to the state and local levels.

2) We want all state and Federal mandates associated with NCLB and RTTT repealed at all levels! We want repeal legislation introduced in the Illinois legislature. Twelve other states have already done this in addition to the five that refused to endorse the mandates.

3) We would like to see empirical data produced by independent educational researchers who take no money from foundations and individuals who support RTTT and the Common Core Standards that demonstrates the effectiveness of the standards. At this point these standards remain untested, so their empirical viability can not be proven.

4) There are many other aspects of the RTTT mandates and the Common Core Curriculum that are alarming: data tracking (P20), no solid cost analysis at a time when every district is struggling financially, a “teach to the test” mentality that denigrates authentic assessment in favor of multiple choice tests and computer grading of essay, high stakes testing, corruption on many levels as huge corporate vendors like Pearson Education drive out competition and create “imperfect” market conditions, the “one size” fits all education mentality that devalues creativity and imagination, and the “back door” method that the RTTT mandates and the Common Core Standards were ushered into our state. All of these issues need to be examined carefully in public hearings that were never a part of the writing or the state adoption of RTTT and the Common Core Standards.

Please understand that this is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans are reaching across the aisle in Illinois and other states to fight side by side against the RTTT mandates and the Common Core Standards in the same way that Democrats and Republicans worked together to create NCLB and RTTT. The corporate middle of both parties has driven these mandates, it is up to the non corporate elements of the Democratic and Republican parties to join together in the true spirit of “we the people” to reject a national curriculum that has been mandated without constitutional due process or the consent of “the governed.

Would you be willing to consider opting Illinois out of these standards to bring state and local control of Education back to the people of Illinois?


Heather Patenaude, Stop Common Core in Illinois
Paul Horton, Citizens Against Corporate Collusion in Education

You can watch a You Tube Interview on these issues here.

What do you think of the viewpoints of these two individuals? What is your own view on the Common Core?

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.