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Building the Common Core: An Interview with Director Ian Reid

April 7–11, 2014   |   Vol. 119, Programs 16–20

This week on Home School Heartbeat, film director Ian Reid joins host Mike Smith to discuss the importance of Building the Machine, HSLDA’s documentary about the Common Core.

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Are you wondering what’s wrong with the Common Core Curriculum Standards? Isn’t high achievement a good goal for students? Join your host Mike Smith and HSLDA’s director of film and visual media, Ian Reid, today on Home School Heartbeat, as they talk about HSLDA’s new documentary about Common Core called Building the Machine.

Mike Smith: Our guest today is Ian Reid, a Patrick Henry College graduate and director of HSLDA’s film and visual media department. Welcome to our program, Ian.

Ian: Thanks, Mike. It’s my pleasure.

Mike Smith: Ian, you recently completed a documentary film about the development of the Common Core Curriculum Standards aptly titled Building the Machine. Now, why produce this film when the majority of states have already accepted it?

Ian: Well, very few people in the country know what the common core standards actually do or how they impact children. In fact, according to a recent poll, a widely respected poll, more than 65% of Americans, as of 2013, had no idea what the Common Core standards actually were. And so, we think there’s a disconnect between what the states have done and what American citizens know about what the states have done.

Mike Smith: Why did HSLDA think this project was critical at this time?

Ian: Mainly because there’s so little known about the Common Core by Americans in general. And we think it’s important that parents understand how the Common Core affects not only public school children, not only public school parents, but really parents and children who homeschool, private school, and really the Common Core standards affect education across the entire country.

Mike Smith: Okay, Ian, that’s great and certainly we know that federal overreach in education will never achieve excellent results for individual students. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Ian, arguments against the Common Core standards gain credence when shared by a broad spectrum of people. How did you select this diverse list of people to participate in the Building the Machine documentary?

Ian: Well, when we were putting together the list of experts who we wanted to hear from in the documentary, we really had a few things that we were going for. One, we wanted to have experts who represented a broad array of the views and interests in the United States. So we don’t just hear from, you know, conservatives or liberals, we hear from people across the political spectrum. We also wanted to hear from experts both in the math fields, the English language arts fields, and we wanted to hear people on, kind of, all sides of the educational issues that are involved in the Common Core standards to hear what different experts had to say on the Common Core.

Mike Smith: Ian, how would you summarize their concerns?

Ian: Well, I think that that’s how I would summarize it. They’re concerned, very concerned. They see something that the vast majority of Americans don’t know about, the Common Core standards, that’s really what we want to address with this documentary. Why are they so unknown, and what are the implications of that?

Mike Smith: Well, Ian, thank you so much, and as you’ve indicated, true education reform needs to happen in the open where ideas can be vetted and analyzed by the families they affect, and it hasn’t happened here. So until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Ian, you interviewed a number of key players involved in the development process for Common Core who now express serious reservations about it. What were some of their concerns?

Ian: Well, I think there are a few concerns. The first is that there is so little known about the Common Core that many people, even experts, don’t know the full impact that the standards will have on education. In fact, some of the people who are most advocating the standards don’t have very much evidence, if any evidence, to back up their claims that the standards are good for American school children. Secondly, what we actually find is, people who were on the validation committee itself, the committee that approved the standards ostensibly, there are people who couldn’t sign on to those standards and actually dropped off the validation committee. And yet, when you talk with some of the people who were there on the ground level and couldn’t sign on to the standards behind closed doors, they say that, in some cases, the standards put children behind as much as two years by the time they’re in high school.

Mike Smith: Well, Ian, some people would say, this only impacts public school students. Why should homeschoolers be concerned?

Ian: Well, large testing conglomerates are all realigning the tests, the curriculum, and everything that relates to education to be aligned to these Common Core standards. And sooner or later, everyone needs to be tested if they want to get into college, and the Common Core is going to impact those aims.

Mike Smith: Well, Ian, we know that every taxpayer should have the right to object to this and have their money well spent. So thanks for sharing that with us today, and until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Building the Machine includes interviews with several public school teachers. What did they have to say about Common Core, Ian?

Ian: Well, we talked to some of the most respected public school teachers in the country. Schoolteachers who’ve won several awards, teachers from schools like the Chicago Laboratory School, and they have a big concern about the systemization, the standardization, and the way that, in their own words, they would describe education becoming an assembly-line approach.

Mike: So you’re saying that the teachers are concerned that they’re not being able to address the individual needs of the children, is that right?

Ian: Yeah, the teachers we talked to have a large concern that the Common Core is going to pigeonhole teachers into a very specific specified way of teaching children and will not allow them to have creativity in the classroom, will not allow them to specifically tailor training to the children in the classroom, and that’s a large concern.

Mike: Ian, that’s good information because we homeschool leaders would agree with these teachers. We need to be addressing the individual needs of the student. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: So, Ian, who is your target audience for the Building the Machine documentary?

Ian: Our target audience is parents. We want to reach parents who have children in the public schools, children in the private schools, parents who homeschool their children, because the issue affects them all.

Mike Smith: What’s your goal for the documentary with these parents?

Ian: We would like people to walk away with a much deeper understanding of what their states are doing, what the influence of the federal government and corporate interest have been on education, and, ultimately, be able to join the debate about what their children should be learning and how the education system should be developing in the United States.

Mike Smith: Well, I’m sure our audience now is asking, “Where can we see this film?”

Ian: Well, the easiest way for people to watch this documentary is by going to the website. They’ll find the full video on the site, and then they can take action after they’ve watched it.

Mike Smith: Listeners, we hope you’ll take the time to watch Building the Machine. The quality of American education demands all of us to be involved. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Ian Reid

As director of film and visual media at HSLDA, Ian Reid led the development of Building the Machine from inception and early research to final cut.

His past credits include working on multiple feature films and documentaries and directing national television and online spots for numerous organizations including the Heritage Foundation, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Convention of States project. His work has taken him from the inner offices of Washington, D.C., to the glacial slopes of Mt. Rainier to the ancient corridors of old Jerusalem.

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