Sen. Hank Sanders

Number 1454 - April 22, 2015






           It was a war of words.  Words shot, words slung, words dropped, words parried, words cutting and more.  The war of words was all about two words:  Common and Core.  By themselves, neither means a lot.  Together, they are fighting words.  It was a war of words.

            The bill before the Education and Youth Affairs Committee was Senate Bill 101.  The bill would repeal what is commonly known as Common Core. The official name of Common Core is Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.  We were there for a public hearing on the bill.  Others were there to shoot words, sling words, deflect words, parry words, cut with words, drop words like bombs, etc.  Some were also there to lift, educate, enlighten, etc.  But it was a war of words.

            The war of words started well before the public hearing.  I received many e-mails, letters and other missives well before the hearing. Many were for Common Core.  Many were against Common Core.  It was a war of words.  Common Core was conceived and promoted by the National Governors Association and State School Superintendents across the country.  Some falsely asserted that it was an Obama initiative.  Others denied the truth of that assertion.  It was a war of words.

            Back in 2008, the State Department of Education commenced a process to improve public education in Alabama.  The challenge was to increase standards, expectations and performance; to prepare our children for college and/or the workforce; to propel our children toward excellence.  It seems like this ought to be a common sense approach but as someone said, “common sense is not common.”   It is certainly not common in the discussion about Common Core.  It was a war of words.

            There was a time when we were educated and remained to live and work in our local communities or native states.  In today’s world, however, we are very much on the move from state to state and beyond. We move all over the place.  It makes sense to have certain common standards and common measurements on core subjects among willing states.  But others feel so differently and so strongly.  So we have a war of words.

            The Common Core standards generally apply to just two core courses, mathematics and English.  We all have math and English in common.  That’s why it’s called Common Core.  I believe that 44 states have signed on to Common Core.  Each decision was voluntarily made by education leaders within their respective states.  It was not a common decision but a state by state decision.  The war of words blinds us to these individual voluntary decisions.

With all the academic courses available in a public school curriculum, one would think that there would not be such controversy over two core subjects, math and English.  Math is math wherever it’s taught and learned.  English is English wherever it’s taught and learned.  It’s not like history or other social sciences.  Math and English beg for common standards and common measurements.  Where we should have a common understanding, we have an uncommon war of words.

Those against Common Core appear to be in a common alliance on the same side of the political spectrum.  However, those supporting Common Core appear to be in an uncommon alliance:  Republicans and Democrats; business and labor leaders; leaders of K-12 public education and leaders of colleges and universities.  But we still have a war of words.

The public hearing on Senate Bill 101 drew so many that the Committee had to move to a much larger room.  The Committee Chair was even handed, calling a speaker from one side and then the other.  Except for the initial speaker on each side, which was given five minutes each to frame the issues, the chair gave each speaker three minutes.  The same facts were viewed so differently.  The same facts were emphasized so differently.  The same facts produced heat on one side and light on the other.  The hearing was so filled with words that it was extended an extra hour.  Even then many did not get a chance to speak.  It was a war of words. 

I asked myself this question: If we repeal Common Core, will we just go back to that which was so greatly inadequate?  I thought about the biblical story of how many of the Hebrew children who had escaped slavery preferred to go back to slavery rather than go forward in the uncertainty of the Promised Land.  The unknown is too often populated with common and uncommon fears.  I could not help but think that this is not about the education of our children but about our politics clothed in concern for our children.  It was a war of words.

The Education Committee reported Senate Bill 101 to the full Senate last Tuesday.  I have not counted the votes in the full Senate, but I would be surprised if Common Core is repealed by the Alabama Legislature.  However, I am certain that the war of words will continue regardless of what happens.  That’s how it is with war, even a war of words.

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday, April 11, 2015 – I walked, took  care of some home duties, handled many other matters, had a leadership lunch with my daughter, made a presentation at the Twenty First Century Youth Leadership Movement (21C) Boys Camp, traveled to Montgomery with my daughter, Malika, and my granddaughter, Ayanna where I handled certain matters and returned to Selma to work into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Lowndes County Commissioner Carnell McCalpine; Askhari Little of Selma; Hale County  Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins; Dr. Carol P. Zippert of Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC); Greene County Commissioner Lester Brown; Sharon Wheeler of the Alabama Education Association (AEA); and Carolyn Wheeler of Signal Mountain, TN.

Sunday – I walked and did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy and Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard.  I met with a Jefferson County businessman concerning legislation, communicated with various persons and worked into the night.

Monday – I walked, read Sketches on Faya’s Fire Radio Program, handled many matters, traveled to Greene County, handled several matters, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Representative John Knight; Gloria Pompey and Veronica Williams of Selma; Greene County Commissioners Michael Williams and Allen Turner, Jr.,  and Green County School Board member Carrie Dancy.

Tuesday – I walked, handled various matters, participated in two conference calls, traveled to Montgomery for an Alabama Black Legislative Caucus meeting, a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting, a Senate Session and a press conference.  I participated in two conference calls before returning to Selma to work into the night on various matters including an ANSC (Alabama New South Coalition) conference call.  I communicated with the following:  former Interim Selma City School Superintendent Dr. Larry DiChirra, new Selma City School Superintendent Dr. Angela Mangum; Jim Blackshear of Birmingham; Nancy Pack of the Alabama Public Library; Montgomery Businessman Frank Jenkins; Elouise Robinson of Bay Minette; Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery; Ola Morrow of Maplesville; Senator Vivian Davis Figures; Senator Rodger Smitherman; Senator Priscilla Dunn; Senator Billy Beasley; Holly Caraway of the Senate Minority Leader Office; former State Senator Roger Bedford; and Shonda Stallworth of the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO).

Wednesday – I walked, handled various matters, traveled to Montgomery for a Finance and Taxation Education (F&TE) Committee meeting, Education and Youth Affairs Committee meeting where legislation to repeal Common Core received a favorable report, Banking and Insurance Committee meeting and other meetings.  I returned to Selma to host Law Lessons on the radio, chair a meeting and work into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Judge John England of Tuscaloosa; Joe Espy of Montgomery; Joe Fine of Montgomery; Representative Thad McClammy; Senator Trip Pittman; David Gamble of Birmingham; District Attorney Spencer Walker of Monroe/Conecuh counties; Wallace Community College Selma (WCCS) President Dr. James Mitchell; Jerria Martin of 21C; Franklin Fortier of Z105.3 Radio; Ainka Jackson of Nashville, TN; Kadijah Hall of Selma; and Senator Greg Albritton.

Thursday – I walked, traveled to Montgomery for a Transportation and Energy Committee meeting, a Senate Session, a SOS conference call, several other meetings and returned to Selma to work into the evening.  I communicated with the following:  Melodie Ellis of Montgomery whose father died; Barbara Brown of Selma; Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative; Dr. Wil Baker of Mobile; Senator Bobby Singleton; Senator Quinton Ross; Allen Reeves of Selma; Rev. Albert Love of Atlanta; Catrena Norris Carter of Women of Will; Lowndes County Banker Dorothy Hullett; and Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford.

Friday – I walked, traveled to Lowndes County, returned to Selma, handled many matters and worked deep into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Faya Rose Toure who was in Chicago; Reporter Blake Deshazzo of the Selma Times Journal; Television Reporter George McDonald; Donna Kee of Selma; Cherry Mobley of Wilcox County; Sheyann Webb Christburg of Montgomery whose father died; Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas; Dr. Roberta Watts; David Sandoval of California; Selma Banker Liz Rutledge; Lowndes County Commissioner Robert Harris; and Lowndes County Banker Frank Kummel.

EPILOGUE - Words are powerful.  Words are powerful in matters of love.  Words are powerful in matters of hate.  Words are powerful in matters of peace.  Words are powerful in matters of war.  Even in a war of words, there are casualties.  I pray that our children are not casualties.