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Erica Galindo
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Last edited on: April 16, 2014.

The Home School Legal Defense Association released its highly anticipated documentary Building the Machine, a film that investigates the Common Core State Standards Initiative and how it will affect the American education system.

HSLDA has been opposing Common Core since 2009 and, as public concern over the standards grew, HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris decided that creating a film about the standards would be the best way to make information about Common Core widely available.

Mike Smith, president of HSLDA, says that this film is the first of its kind and will change the conversation. “Homeschooling has shown us that an individualized education is the best thing for a child,” he said. “Common Core is the complete opposite of that. Our hope is that the film will cause a ‘great awakening’ and that parents will question the one-size-fits-all education reform being implemented behind closed doors.”

The documentary posters sets the tone immediately; Image Courtesy of the HSLDA.

Over the last year, filmmaker Ian Reid traveled across the country and interviewed a number of education experts, including two Common Core Validation Committee members, to get their views on whether or not Common Core is an improvement on what is currently being taught in American schools.

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that our goal is not to produce a hit piece against the standards,” said Reid. “Rather, our goal has always been to explore the strongest arguments on both sides of the debate. In fact, we asked Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, an ardent supporter of Common Core, to fact check the film, and he thanked us for fairly and accurately presenting what he believes about the Common Core.”

Recent polling has shown that two-thirds of Americans would support politicians who favor Common Core, but half the polling participants had never heard of Common Core before reading the survey’s favorable description. “Many Americans don’t know what Common Core is,” said Will Estrada, HSLDA’s director of federal relations. “We believe this film will cause voters to think twice before they vote pro-Common Core.”


Director Ian Reid with his wife Yetta; Photo Courtesy of Patrick Henry College.

While many have anticipated the release, a recent leak of private emails between the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Fordham Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reveal that multiple big-name players in the education reform movement are mobilizing to fight against the expected blowback caused by the documentary.

An email from CCSSO Deputy Executive Director Carissa Miller gave advice on how to explain the alleged “misinformation” in the documentary as well as prepare recipients for the backlash that might come from the documentary, including tips on “positive messaging” and “steer[ing] clear of messages that fuel negative conversation.” Her email also states that a “pro-Common Core documentary” is in the works funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Fordham Institute.


A map showing which states have adopted Common Core curriculum; Image Courtesy of Core Standards.

“Sadly, this typifies the sort of debate we’ve seen from advocates of the Common Core,” Reid said. “They claim that we’re twisting the truth or misinforming the public, but they never pinpoint what our ‘deceit’ actually entails. And when you ask them to defend the reforms, they never respond. We asked many Common Core proponents to present their position in our film and all but two declined an interview. Many more experts are willing to talk about what’s wrong with Common Core than what’s right.”

Reid said he drew inspiration from groundbreaking documentaries like Kony 2012 and The Invisible War. “The way these films educated people on important issues and inspired them to take action helped guide me in the way I researched and created the film,” he said. “Ultimately, I want to encourage people who view the film to do their own research on Common Core and make informed decisions when it comes to changing education policy.”

Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. Visit them online at the HSLDA Official Website


Check out the documentary on its official website Building the Machine

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