MASON, Ohio—Couples chatted on Tuesday evening as they carried large sodas into the darkened movie theater in Mason, Ohio, but they weren’t there for a typical date night. Many also carried a notepad or tablet, and groups discussing local politics clustered in the aisles. People in more than 700 theaters across America took their seats that night for a live streaming of Glenn Beck’s show We Will Not Conform, a program designed to develop action against Common Core and bring out crowds for a common cause.
Beck, a conservative media personality and author of Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education, met leaders in the movement against Common Core in a Dallas studio. They sat at tables to discuss how to take action against the national standards, which opponents say eliminates state control over education. From their theaters throughout the nation, audience members could use their cell phones to answer poll questions and tweet comments to the individual tables throughout the evening. Beck moved from table to table moderating the discussion.
Ann Becker was volunteering for Ohioans Against Common Core at the Mason theater, where more than 150 people bought tickets for the event. She is the president of the Cincinnati Tea Party, a mom of three school-age kids, and a former second grade teacher. She and others wore red T-shirts bearing an anti-Common Core message and handed audience members a pamphlet on the dangers of the standards and on political action against it in Ohio. They also gave out a yellow card with the message “ELIMINATE Common Core.” Becker yelled over the ads before the show to tell the people in the crowd they should mail the card to members of their education committee.
Toward the end of the program, Beck’s “Action Items” chalkboard bore basic, if not terribly innovative, advice: Get involved in the local school board; establish relationships with your legislature; spread the word about Common Core beyond your circle.
John Stevenot, 24, attended the event as a volunteer for Ohioans Against Common Core, and even though he has no children of his own, he has watched his younger brother struggle with Common Core math. He had a positive view of the event overall but said the action items discussed “are all very surface level.” The event lacked advice on how to actually get representatives elected who will fight Common Core, he said.
Another suggestion that came up throughout the evening was to boycott the tests important to Common Core. Other advice experts gave was less concrete: Know the issue; get organized; keep showing up. Despite the generalized nature of the action plan, Stevenot said, the event “was a great way to excite people into understanding they are not alone.”
At the start of the show, Beck looked into the camera and told audience members to say hello to their neighbors because they are allies. At the end, he told community leaders in the theaters to stand up and gave audience members the “homework” of getting to know those around them. The program ended at 10 p.m., so few stuck around to talk. But volunteers passed clipboards through the rows during the show so people could sign up for Ohioans Against Common Core emails.
“I left ready to press on,” Becker said.