A Left Critique of the Common Core from the Chicago Teachers Union
Michelle Gunderson: How Chicago Teachers Union Decided to Oppose Common Core
ANTHONY CODY -- http://mobile.edweek.org
MAY 10, 2014
Guest post by Michelle Gunderson.
evening I stood before my brothers and sisters at the Chicago Teachers
Union House of Delegates to speak in favor of our resolution opposing
the Common Core State Standards. When I finished speaking, there was a
call for the vote. It was unanimous. It was resounding - not a single
voice raised in opposition.
There are times when the Chicago
Teachers Union (CTU) seems like an engine; that we are able to
accomplish great and difficult work seemingly overnight. I would like to
pull back the curtain for a moment, and help others understand the
purposeful and deliberate process we take in order to form our decisions
and actions at CTU.
There are those in the media who contend we
are being reckless and blindly following Karen Lewis, the president of
our local. Nothing could be further from the actual case.Michelle.jpg
much as we admire Karen Lewis and are grateful for her talents, this
work was not generated from her. In fact, characterizing this event in
such simplistic terms denigrates the social justice transformation of
the Chicago Teachers Union, a long and hard-won struggle that involves
many. We do not act on Karen Lewis' behalf or her wishes. She acts on
ours, with our guidance, and we love her for it.
It is hard to
imagine a union in existence where a full democratic process is expected
by everyone involved - leadership, rank and file, and union staff. Yet,
in Chicago, we hold this ideal in such high regard we cannot imagine a
union working any other way.
Several months prior to the passing
of the resolution, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators began
discussing and debating the Common Core in our open meetings. We read
Diane Ravitch's book The Reign of Error in
small study groups. And many of us followed Anthony Cody's work on this
blog. Through conversations and study we came to a strong conclusion.
The authors of the Common Core view the purpose of education as college
and career readiness. We view the purpose of public education as a means
for educating a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of
shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and
With our philosophical underpinning so
drastically divergent from that of the Common Core we did not see any
room for common ground.
That is why we say no to Common Core.
union locals have asked for a longer roll out of Common Core
implementation. Others ask for the standards to be re-written. We say
no. We are not asking the Bill Gates and Rahm Emanuels of our world to
do a better job controlling the curriculum of our schools. We want them
gone from the process.
Once we decided that we could not support
Common Core Standards in any form, it was time to do the difficult work
of taking action. I made a motion at our caucus meeting that we prepare
a resolution fully opposing Common Core. It was approved after debate
and careful consideration.
I wrote the first draft, but there is
no way that I can be considered the author. It is crafted through
conversations with dozens of educators in Chicago. It is an outcome of a
movement among educators to countermand the negative impact of
corporate education reform.
After a general resolution was in
place, the tedious work of writing draft after draft, presenting the
resolution through several union committees, and bringing the finished
version before the CTU executive board and House of Delegates began.
This process took months.
And there we have it: RESOLVED that
the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and
the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning.
we move forward, we need to come together to fight for what we do
believe in. We have it in us to build a better education system for our
children. Let us all consider saying no to Common Core and reclaiming
What do you think? Are Chicago teachers right in their decision to oppose the Common Core?
Gunderson is a 27 year teaching veteran who teaches first grade in the
Chicago Public Schools. She is a doctoral student at Loyola University
in Curriculum and Instruction.
A Critique of the Far Right View of the Common Core