As we know, last week Alabama lost its national treasure with the death of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. In the few days since the Anniston Star recalls the occasion two years ago when the Talladega County Republican Party claimed (inaccurately) that the Common Core standards were going to force our young people to read this book (hardly a bad thing to do) and that the county GOP chair thought Harper Lee was “The fellow from Montgomery.”
With this in mind, the Star’s editors authored the following editorial:
“The fellow from Montgomery” is no longer with us.
Last Friday, after the initial shock of Harper Lee’s death had passed, we were reminded of the above description of Alabama’s most famous novelist and author of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Let us explain.
In 2014, The Star’s Tim Lockette took a close look at opponents of Common Core. What he generally found were exaggerations, tall tales and outright lies about what the public education program would and would not do in classrooms across the state.
To activists, Common Core was a devious plot hatched by President Barack Obama and his liberal henchmen, a scheme to indoctrinate children. Never mind that Common Core was created by a bipartisan coalition of governors whose main aim was setting up baseline standards from state to state. The program’s goals are broadly defined. States join voluntarily. And the federal government was not present at its birth and is disconnected from oversight of its day-to-day operation, which is left for states to work out on their own.
Chalk up Common Core’s greatest liability to something out of the control of its creators — timing. Its rise happened at about the same time that Obama won the presidency. For the conspiracy-minded blindly opposed to Obama, it was no stretch to see a conspiracy where none existed.
The Talladega County Republican Party website offered titles it claimed were promoted by Common Core, including Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to learn that no such reading list exists in the description of Common Core’s aims.
When pressed for an explanation, the then-chairman of the Talladega County Republican Party, Danny Hubbard, responded, “I don’t think anybody’s opposed to To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a classic. I believe it’s written by a fellow from Montgomery.”
Close, sort of, except that Nelle Harper Lee was a woman and a native of Monroeville, a place she fictionalized as “Maycomb” in her 1960 book To Kill a Mockingbird. The book made her internationally famous. A film version produced a few years later spread her acclaim even wider.
A serious reader can spend days pondering answers to the questions Lee raised in Mockingbird.
Why was the lynch mob of angry white men so anxious to take justice into their own hands against Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of raping a woman, when the system was clearly rigged in their favor?
What so blinded the Maycomb jury that it refused to acquit Robinson?
How could so many in the fictional Maycomb (and the very real Alabama of the time) sit by and ignore injustice?
For that matter, why do Common Core activists persist in protesting a minimum-standards education policy? Why do so many in the state Legislature waste their time entertaining this nonsense?
If you can come up with an answer, please let the rest of us know.”
Sure enough, a few days ago HB 264 was assigned to the Education Policy Committee in the Alabama House of Representatives. It has 20 sponsors. These good folks say Alabama should abolish the Alabama College & Career Ready standards and go back to our former standards.
One of the 20 is my own friend and House member, Dimitri Polizos. I sent him an email asking that as long as we want to turn back the clock in this state, why don’t we also ban the use of cell phones since land lines worked just fine once upon a time. I am still waiting on his response.
As to the answer to the Star’s question above, we all know the answer. Once again we prefer to play politics with the lives of our children and court the votes of some very vocal anti-Common Core voters instead of listening to educators who support the more rigorous standards.
In other words, it is simply business as usual at the Alabama Statehouse.