Admittedly I’ve never paid much attention to Common Core. I’ve read about it sparsely and clicked the links on social media but it has never by all means been a cornerstone issue of focus. The reason why is it honestly has never affected my every day life as I do not have kids in the public school system. This is exactly the paradox that just about every young politico must eventually face as they come to terms with the consequences of getting older and hopefully wiser.
This was the case when the arguable reigning king of comedy in the country, Louis CK, took to Twitter to vent his frustrations regarding his 3rd grade daughter’s Common Core homework. Almost instantly Common Core was no longer just some federally implemented standardized testing curriculum (Supporters would take issue with the word curriculum, but I don’t care) that was being fought by parents in suburbs and away from the stage.
One of the most popular and recognizable comedians in the country was now asking questions about it and he wasn’t the only one. Indie songbird Regina Spektor joined CK in opposition to Common Core standardized testing. At the center of their argument is that Common Core robs teachers of the very able job of teaching and forces them to focus on federally implemented standards and tests. Common Core handcuffs teachers and impairs students. What Common Core is or isn’t, is something left to those who have better researched the subject. What’s fascinating is who has come out against CK in defense of Common Core.
It has now officially become a celebrity issue and Louis CK isn’t laughing. CK now finds himself standing face to face with the progressivism he has supported in the past. It’s almost a revelation. One almost wants to say to him “Why yes Mr. CK, why an overbearing federal government that you supported and voted for doing these things?” except for the fact that he’s being completely dead honest about how he feels about it. No snark is needed.
He’s just the latest in a recent line of celebrities accidentally arguing for common sense conservative solutions.The problem for Common Core defenders in the media here is Louis CK is not a Fox News personality or a conservative talk show radio host. He’s one of the most popular and highest selling stand up comedians in the country with a popular television show and a loyal fan base bordering on cult-like. He also just happens to really love Barack Obama. Most of CK’s best routines revolve around the frustrations of being a parent while desperately and ?simultaneously trying to love his kids.
It started with a generalized shot at Common Core and almost immediately the media push back started. ?Who is this stand up comic to criticize a federal standardized educational curriculum that we elitists fully support because of all the words and numbers it has, think he is???More importantly, why is this comedian whose stand up they love and whose politics they agree with suddenly turning on their precious?
Here’s the problem with the media taking Louis CK to task over his common core criticisms; none of his harshest critics have a kid in the public school system. CK isn’t making an observation from the St. Regis Hotel bar in Washington DC, he’s making it as a parent who looks at his daughter’s homework and feels like trying to flush his head down a toilet.
Libby Nelson from explanatory flashcard site Vox took her shots at CK with a piece titled “What Louis CK gets wrong on Common Core” and somehow manages to make it more about George W. Bush (shocking).
Nelson then attempts to walk CK through a Common Core problem?when CK’s entire argument is not about whether or not a writer for Vox can explain Common Core to him, but?that he can’t explain it to his daughter. This concept is apparently completely foreign to Nelson. CK doesn’t care about the steps of the problems, he cares that his 3rd grader doesn’t understand it and is losing the will to learn, a concept apparently completely alien to her. Nelson has nothing personally invested in Common Core except her argument and showing off her brain. Louis Ck has a daughter who has to do the actual work. Nelson graduated with her BA in 2009?according to her Linked-In profile?which presumably makes her still too young to have a child in the public school system. Her profile on muckrack.com even states she covers all different types of education.
But she doesn’t cover parents.
Alexander Nazaryan from Newsweek, and who doesn’t appear to have a child in public school either was so personally offended by CK’s parental inquisitiveness that he resulted to petty insults and concern trolling on Facebook?. When Nazaryan called CK “trite and shallow” for his parental observations, CK dispatched him just about as fast as he would a heckler at a club. Louis CK deals with insults like that for a living. What exactly did Nazaryan think he was going to accomplish besides embarrassing himself? He was no different then the asshole in the club shouting from the dark. Professional comedians are rarely caught off guard by this on stage much less when the very best of them have a few minutes to think about how to respond.
A writer from Newsweek and an expert from Vox aren’t going to convince a single person that Louis CK isn’t funny or that he isn’t a parent. It is an absolute losing proposition for them to engage with him, yet they tried and will keep trying.
Louis CK is coming at Common Core from the POV of an uneducated parent and is fully admitting it. ?He his hiding absolutely nothing about his lack of knowledge regarding the program, except that he knows it’s hurting his child. Louis CK isn’t playing the part of an elitist with an ideology. He’s having to reconcile progressive ideologies he supports with his parental values.
Nazaryan and Nelson don’t have to make that choice.
The only answer those attacking him for it are people that are throwing years of statistics, numbers, percentages at him. No amount of Voxplaining will get a well balanced kid to suddenly understand something they don’t understand, which is the root of CK’s frustration. Here is a parent wondering why their kid is crying over their homework and Vox thinks a flashcard presentation will somehow make that all better.
Louis CK reminded them that he’s a parent and that’s where “the rubber meats the road”. And they simply don’t get it. It’s no different than CK’s routine about his 3 year old and “Pig Newtons”. It’s not that they aren’t allowed to their opinion, it’s the “fucking arrogance”. His daughter could be replaced with the name of any reporter at Voxdotcom and the routine would still play almost perfectly.
Louis CK has to actually voxplain what being a parent is like except there aren’t any amount of flashcards that can do that.
All they can do is kneel down and in passive voice explain why his kid and your kid just isn’t that smart, which is essentially what Obama admin Education Secretary Arne Duncan did in 2013 to concerned parents when he said, “It’s fascinating to me that some of the push back is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who all of a sudden their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were..” No one denies that education standards are failing in the US. No one wants to examine why that is, especially those in the Obama administration.
Louis CK isn’t a suburban mom. He is a moderately wealthy, born and raised, urban New Yorker, who does happen to really love being white.
Progressives don’t understand this. Progressive media especially doesn’t understand this. CK is not making a political ideological argument. His argument over his daughter’s public school curriculum isn’t rooted in OFA hashtag activism or Tea Party rallying. Progressive media’s politics have been so entwined with an activist culture of us versus them for so long, that when someone who is making a completely non political argument and does it in a frustratingly humorous way, they short circuit and shut down. CK wasn’t being combative. He was even contrite to average Twitter users who disagreed with him and defended them from a mob. CK was expressing his frustrations as a parent, nothing more and the only reaction Vox and other progressive media could muster was to look at him like he just stepped off a spaceship from another planet.
CK has to come to terms with his own accidental conservatism. The belief that states should control education and not a federally mandated word salad. No one is arguing that he will be marching to the polls in November with a Gadsden flag but this is how culture battles are won. Very rarely do culture swings happen because someone like CK gets yelled at on Twitter by someone with a Benghazi ribbon on their picture and suddenly the likes of Keanu Reeves has a “Whoa” moment. More people over night will examine the faults of Common Core because of Louis CK’s tweets than they will defend it over Jeb Bush’s comments. Celebrities and especially young celebrities with a social media microphone have to come to these realizations of their own, through their own experiences. Imagine if say public school advocate Matt Damon actually took his kids out of private school and subjected them to Common Core.
The problem for outlets like Vox, Politico and Newsweek is Common Core opponents now have a face they can apply to their campaigns, and it happens to be a face most parents can relate to, and millions other love to laugh with. It’s not Thomas Piketty or Paul Krugman sneering down their glasses at them. It’s an overweight, bald, self deprecating insecure comic that looks as miserable as any other every day parent. This is no longer a grassroots, ground swell the media can write off as a bunch of fringe white people. CK has put a light on Common Core, and all of it’s possible problems. Big problems. Louis CK has made a career out of getting up on stage and saying the things every parent thinks but wouldn’t dare say. Louis CK probably won’t be putting any of his thoughts on Common Core into any of his stand up routines.
But he may not have to.
– SM –