New Utah Bill Shows Common Core Still Alive and Dangerous

March 3, 2017

by Karen R. Effrem, MD


In researching the psychologically manipulative aspects of the Common Core standards and aligned tests in 2014 and 2015, I came across this very alarming statement:

ASCA [American School Counselors Association] Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level. [Emphasis added]

To carry this out, ASCA has an interactive database website of mindsets and behaviors that contains such vague, subjective and hard to accurately measure psychological parameters as the following:

Belief in development of the whole self

How does a counselor or teacher accurately and objectively determine if a kindergartner or early elementary student possesses such a belief? How are kindergarten through second grade students (5-8 year olds) supposed to then achieve a related “competency” such as the following example of Orwellian groupthink that is Common Core standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1, when the youngest ones are first entering school and just learning to hold a pencil?

Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

As stated in comments for several states, such as California and Florida (before its pulled its infamous Jeb Bush-approved re-brand), “Asking children this young to behave like little adult corporate board members is completely inappropriate, especially when many adults have not mastered these non-cognitive workforce based competencies.”

And as if the Common Core English standards, such as the one just quoted, were not bad enough, the website allows counselors to make up their own vague, subjective psychobabble competencies and submit them to the site. Here is one example for grades K-2 based on the Common Core standard quoted above:

Participate in collaborative conversations (one-on-one, in groups, and counselor-led) with diverse partners about anger management with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

It now appears that the ASCA is working to impose this system in Utah. H.B. 223, the Elementary School Counselor Pilot Program, funds grants and contains mandate language that school counselors in K-6 elementary schools “…shall provide emotional and social support to students;” and that they “may provide college and career readiness counseling.”

This bill is extremely vague and has many problems. Here are a few:

  1. Although having counselors work with students on SEL issues is better than untrained teachers, it is not clear if even guidance counselors have the requisite training for SEL/mental health work, especially for younger children in the early elementary grades. Many expert individuals and organizations with extensive training in children’s mental health speak of how difficult it is to accurately diagnose and properly treat younger children. For example, the World Health Organization, hardly a conservative group, has said, “Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.” The bill does not define the training necessary for counselors to deal with social emotional issues, and leaves it up to bureaucratic rulemaking.
  2. The bill does not define “social emotional support” at all and does not even leave it up to rulemaking. It seems quite likely that the counselors will be urged, if not mandated, to use this list of fuzzy competencies described above. Given that there is no real agreement on what constitutes SEL and the experts do not even agree on assessment or what efforts really improve SEL/mental health, this seems quite difficult to implement.
  3. Since they do not define what the standards are for SEL, they cannot really define how “improvements” would be measured in order to keep the grants. They will have to do all sorts of subjective SEL assessments that will require all sorts of invasive data collection that will follow a child in their government data dossier for life, regardless of accuracy. This seems like a big waste of taxpayer money that could be better spent on incentivizing two-parent families via welfare and divorce law reform or teaching intensive systematic phonics in K-3 that really close the achievement gap.
  4. Supporting mindsets and SEL does not seem to work, at least according to one significant study. The researchers found “no support for the idea that fixed beliefs about basic ability are harmful, or that implicit theories of intelligence play any significant role in development of cognitive ability, response to challenge, or educational attainment.” Translation: Spending lots of money to have counselors use mindsets at the risk of psychological or data privacy or freedom of conscience to provide social emotional support will probably not improve outcomes.
  5. There are also problems with the supporting “college and career readiness” aspect of this bill. Aside from it being code for Common Core, this effort also seems to be steering children towards deciding on their career path far too early — by 6th grade. This is the Rex Tillerson, children-are-“products”-or-links-in-the-labor-market-supply-chain view, which believes children must be tracked into their futures based on the needs of business and government as early as possible. Additionally, there is a direct link to competency-based education (CBE) that substitutes computers for teachers, still pushes Common Core, and does constant assessment and data mining, including of SEL parameters.

Although a state-level bill, the psychological manipulation and tracking via Common Core and CBE are nationwide and dangerous. Parents across the nation were originally told by Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, and their minions that Common Core was nothing but a set of “high” academic standards in English and math. Moms and dads are furious when they learn that schools and the corporate/big government establishment are using their children as guinea pigs and see them merely as chattel for the global labor force.

Please pay attention to this bill and ones like it in your own states. The freedom and futures of our children and the nation depend on our vigilance and willingness to take a stand.


Dr. Karen Effrem is trained as a pediatrician and serves as president of Education Liberty Watch and the executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.

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