"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Vietnam POW Bracelets and American Exceptionalism

This is a post about education the teachers can't teach from a book. It's about the lessons learned about the courage and strength of a Vietnam POW, and a civilian determined not to forget a particular soldier.

This story caught my eye in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about a man wearing a bracelet since 1972 with the name of a MIA/POW:


CW Mustone got the bracelet when he was in high school, and it was inscribed with the name of a serviceman and the date he went missing: Capt James Steadman 11-26-71. Steadman was a pilot from Colorado who never returned from his mission. Mustone explained, "The deal was that you were supposed to wear it until they found them and brought them home".

I had a similar bracelet in high school and it was inscribed Cmdr Cole Black 06-21-66. Commander Black was a pilot of an F8E that was shot down just north of Hanoi. He had the unfortunate experience of being a POW in the Hanoi Hilton and was not released until 1973. I remember reading his name in the Florida Times-Union as one of the prisoners released. It actually was a bit stunning to see his name in the paper as being released; for the first time I was able to connect the name on the bracelet with a real person.

What a joyful time it was when I could remove my bracelet and retire it forever! That was long before the days of the Internet and being able to find someone at the touch of a button. I've wondered through the years what happened to Commander Black since his release and the Post Dispatch article brought back those memories of Vietnam and the POW bracelets.

I googled Commander Black's name and this was the first site listed:


This site contains Commander Black's military history and his own accounting of his seven year imprisonment as a POW. It also tells of his death in 2007 in a plane crash as he was returning from speaking at a high school about his POW experiences. There are testimonies from people who knew him, and from their descriptions, his photos, and his own words, I know I was honored to have worn a bracelet with his name.

The history lesson Commander Cole wrote about his imprisonment and subsequent release is invaluable for students: the bravery of a young soldier, the will to survive even in the most difficult of circumstances, and the gratefulness he felt when he came back to the United States. These are the lessons that can't be mandated or formulated or tested.

Commander Black, Captain James Steadman, CW Mustone and I have been connected by bracelets, prayers, hope, and loss. But really, we are all connected by our shared American values. THAT is the history we should be teaching. THAT is the exceptionalism of America.

When did Proselytization Become Part of Social Studies Curriculum?

I wrote a previous post about Al Sharpton's "Reclaim the Dream" rally, scheduled as a protest against Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally, and Arne Duncan's involvement with Sharpton:


I find it ironic that Duncan, Department of Education secretary, took churches to task for not opening up churches during the week and helping students. It is my contention then, and it is now, that if you want churches to become an integral factor in children's lives, they should not be eviscerated by this same department. How is religious behavior in schools frowned on by the government? Stories have been published in the last few years of children not being allowed to read the Bible in free reading time:


Here's a story about a school district backtracking its initial decision banning a student from bringing a Bible to school and reading it in private time:


School officials confirmed he was not allowed to read his Bible during reading time, as the church and state must remain separate in the classroom. I am proposing this theory we've heard from school districts doesn't extend to field trips. Apparently, the separation of church and state doesn't extend to "protect" students from proselytizing at field trips.

Link to the excellent coverage of a Massachusetts school trip to a mosque. A watchdog mother interested in how information was to be covered attended as a chaperon and filmed the presentation:


Nothing in the permission slip included students taking part in the worship service. The mother believed the history presented by the speaker was distorted and the presentation became a proselytizing speech. How would parents feel if their students participated in a Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist, worship service? Would parents think this was a valid function of a school curriculum? Are other religions going to be visited on field trips to worship in other religious buildings? When did schools start allowing and condoning religious worship opportunities for students?

School districts espouse the belief in the separation of church and state. When the teachers saw what was occurring in this mosque, that the "history" lesson had become a "worship service", the students should have been escorted to the school buses right then and there. By not stepping in and prohibiting students from joining in the worship service, this district gave its tacit approval for children to participate in a religious ceremony. I wonder if teachers would allow students to participate in Christian, Hindu, and Jewish ceremonies.

If students are being told they cannot read their Bibles during private reading time at school, then why is it permissible to allow proselytizing of students on a field trip?

Is this what Arne Duncan has in mind when he said he wants churches to open their doors to children during the week? Does he want the churches to provide space solely for academic and social purposes or is he comfortable for public school children receiving religious teaching and worship opportunities? Why does he want religious organizations to provide activities for children during the week, and then when they might want to bring their Bibles to school to read in private time, the children are told this practice is not allowed?

I can imagine the outcry from the ACLU if this field trip had happened in a non-Muslim building. This story underlines the necessity for parents to be aware of the curriculum being presented to their children. Parents need to once again take the responsibility of knowing what their children are being taught. Is this field trip educational or indoctrinational?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Abigail Adams Project in Missouri is a Citizen Watchdog Organization

We are honored to be highlighted as the "link of the month" to the Abigail Adams Project website in Missouri. The Abigail Adams Project is an excellent resource for citizens to use when researching ballot propositions, initiatives, and candidates. It is a national organization with state chapters.

You can find their Missouri website here:


Missouri Education Watchdog is honored to have been highlighted this month by this organization! It understands the enormous challenges facing us in the educational realm in terms of Federal control, lack of school choice and unfunded mandates. The Project lists ramifications of the agendas being pushed through by the Department of Education.

Visit the Project's website often and if you don't live in Missouri, here's the link for the national organization and you can find your specific state:


Thanks to Abigail Adams Project for keeping the citizens informed on the issues and candidates. We'll do our best to keep readers up to date on what's happening educationally in Missouri and the nation.

Watchdog Citizens at Work in the Kirkwood School District

This is a shining example of citizens taking matters into their own hands. Many Americans are concerned about rising taxes. They create financial burdens on a household budget and decisions have to be made how to pare that budget. Americans are facing tax increases on the local, state, and federal levels. Many people believe politicians are not listening to those concerns. Questions regarding how our taxes are being used and why rates are rising are not being answered. One huge frustration from citizens is continuing and escalating governmental spending in a time of diminishing funding.

The Kirkwood School District is floating two bond proposals in the midst of a terrible recession. The district contends these bonds will not create new taxes; however, it is a reasonable assumption to believe taxes will ultimately rise to pay for the new staff and maintenance required. This would necessitate a rise in the operating levy next year, as associated operating costs are not addressed in bond issues.

The district deficit spending in 2008-09 was over $4,000,000 and this is expected to increase over the next few years. The current deficit spending amount for this current school year is projected to reach $6.5 Million.
The district does not seem interested in seriously cutting the budget or determining "wants" vs "needs". Instead, it has proposed huge expansions and an aquatic center in these lean economic times. Citizens in the district have been concerned for many years about the spending habits of this school board. A PAC has been established to disseminate information to KSD citizens about the economic status of the school board and the spending:

Thank you to "Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility" for explaining these issues. Thank you to the group for publishing facts about the financial health of the district so citizens can make informed decisions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

KMOV Wants to Know if Your School "Makes the Grade"

Watch Channel 4, KMOV in St. Louis this week for its reporting on wasteful school spending. If you are out of the area or miss the broadcast, check the website.

Here is the first installment:


KMOV is using data comparing superintendent's salaries and perks compiled by Audrey Spaulding of ShowMe Institute:


Compare not only the superintendents' salaries from around the states, also read the full policy study or summary as well. Spaulding concludes there should be a more open discussion about superintendent compensation, how it is determined, and whether district residents are receiving sufficient benefits for the costs.

The reporter asks the Kirkwood School Board president why its superintendent "makes so much money for a district like this". Tune in this week for the answer. All Missouri taxpayers should ask how dollars are being spent, how the spending was calculated, and if the spending is justified. We then deserve an honest answer from our school boards. It's OUR money.

This is the type of transparency taxpayers deserve.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Core Teaching vs. Common Core Standards. Which Mode Do YOU Think Empowers Students?

We're gearing up for our trip to Jefferson City to meet with legislators regarding the common core standards our State Board recently signed. We will meet with them before the veto session to educate them on what the adoption of common core standards mean to our students and loss of school control. We hope they will overturn Governor Nixon's veto of the bill granting legislative control of any federal education money coming into the state.

We were extremely fortunate this past weekend to meet with Neal McCluskey, CATO educational writer who has been following the adoption of national standards the last few years. We attended speeches and breakout sessions with school board members from around the country to hear about their stories about RTTT and the ramifications of common core standards.

Mr. McCluskey confirmed what we had been writing about on this blog the last several months--it is a complete federal takeover of the public school education system. Common core standards mean state and local school boards will have no authority to set curriculum and content. What do you say, as a taxpayer, when you realize your tax dollars are going to support a system in which your local community has no input? Do we work for the government or does the government work for us? Is education a state's right or a Federal responsibility? I wonder if the Legislature might want to peek at the Constitution for an answer to that last question.

Pay attention to these states who have adopted common core standards even before they were written. Isn't that unbelievable? If you operated a private company like the Federal government is running education (or health care), you would be bankrupt for your poor decisions.

Now read the article sent to me by a watchdog. This concerns educating students by core teaching (developed by a parent) vs teaching via common core standards (developed by bureaucrats):


Now, which method do YOU believe prepares students more thoroughly? The "factory" method in which "one size fits all" or the "ideal that education prepares mankind for freedom"? Why are we heading toward common core standards? Why are we insisting our children be measured at the same levels? By doing so, this government is denying the individualism of students and their particular talents. Why are allowing the Federal government control of our children's education?
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