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Hearings on New Academic Standards

October 21, 2003

The hearings across the state on the new academic standards will be complete this week. Wednesday, October 22nd in Albert Lea, is the last public hearing. Testimony may still be submitted on the Department website until Friday, the 24th: http://www.education.state.mn.us.

Last night the Forest Lake hearing continued the battle of worldviews. Once again the education cartel appeared in force with their pre-fab talking points. It is embarrassing to observe those charged with educating our children address their concerns with insults, personal attacks, and an attitude of condescending arrogance toward the public, the parents and the committee members. They act out their "civil government" philosophy, that is, unelected organizations drive public policy by shouting the loudest, drowning out the voice of elected representation.

One Liberian woman took to the microphone to express her surprise that American's would even consider NOT teaching what makes this country a beacon of freedom in the world. She suggested that people spend a month in most places of the world to discover the freedom that America represents.

The Profile of Learning was a highly politicized set of standards. The new Geography standards reflect that same agenda, unfortunately. "Sustainable development," for example, is an entire agenda of radically restructuring our country and our communities. And it's required in the geography standards. Only a small portion of the geography standards are physical geography. Most of them are written straight from the national standards, the Profile-type content.

The economic standards also come straight from the Profile-type national standards. They define "scarcity" as the core of economics. In fact, the free market system works because private entrepreneurs create resources and wealth.

But most of the standards are a substantial improvement. Geography standards excepted, they are knowledge based, not process based. They expect students to have knowledge and information that they can take with them into their futures. Those who denigrate knowledge call it "regurgitating facts." Those who don't want to teach national sovereignty and unalienable rights call the standards "Euro-centric."

Many Profile-believers want to stay with the old. They are speaking up to their legislators and to the committee. They are even collecting signatures on a petition to bring the process to a halt and put themselves in charge again.

The most exhaustive petition drive, however, is an election. Minnesota engages in elections every two years. That's why the Profile was repealed. There is a deliberate effort to undo that election, even the legislation that was passed. Some teachers have stated outright that they would not teach these kind of standards. Thankfully, while they may be the loudest, but they don't represent all teachers, many of whom are appalled at the behavior of their colleagues.

We encourage you to make your own views known to your own elected representatives. The Profile advocates are.

The following is a letter one parent wrote to voice the view of so many thousands who battled the Profile for five year in their local schools.

Dear Commissioner Yecke,

My husband and I are the parents of 3 children, two boys now in college and one daughter in the ninth grade. We have been unable to go to any of the hearings regarding the new social studies and science standards so I went to the Department of Education web page to look at the standards and have read some of the comments in the newspapers. The most recent article appeared in the Mankato Free Press and it prompted my letter.

According to the article, the Mankato area administrators and teachers are concerned that the new standards have too much memorization and not enough critical thinking. This amazes me.

How can a student think critically if he or she does not have the "facts" of the subject easily at hand? I still have facts in my head that were required to be memorized oh so many years ago. I thank my teachers for this. This is a life long gift that the student can use when reading, talking or watching a movie about history, civics and science, be it in college or as a parent down the road. Having these facts gives you a point of reference and a certain confidence that I see lacking in the students of today. The article in the Free Press calls memorization the lowest form of learning. Far from it -- it is the foundation for more learning.

The standards as written on the web page are user friendly for the parents, too. There is an educational jargon that does not make it easy for an equal partnership between teachers and parents to exist. The clarity of the new standards is very welcome.

Finally I must also comment on the Op-ed by Jim Davnie in the October 5, 2003 Star Tribune. I find it sad the Mr. Davnie is so critical of the standards, somehow finding in them a political agenda.

The previous standards were full of history as viewed by a particular group rather than simply following the path of our history and finding in the history of our country much to be proud of. If our children are not inculcated with a pride of country, what will become of our country? He worries that the drama and energy is squeezed out of history with these new standards. I think that this will always be dependant on the teacher. My concern is more that the teachers have strong knowledge in the content of the subject they teach and that the textbooks are not written with political correctness at the core. The job of the teacher is to find a way to convey that knowledge and some will be better at it than others.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. I sincerely hope you fight to keep these standards. I heard a national expert say that our new standards are among the best in the nation. I know that they are so much better than what we had. We have waited so long to get back on the right path. Don't let those that would like to keep the Profile of Learning in place under a different name have their way.

Kathleen Miller
Waseca, MN


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