"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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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dictatorship in the USA is Alive and Well. It is Giving Rise to a Viable Third Political Party.

This is a concise American Thinker article chronicling what's happening in America: soft dictatorship.

The author illustrates how this method of governing is affecting many Federal departments and erodes our personal freedom and states' rights. It's indicative of how the Department of Education is operating with Bill Gates funding the education revolution.

From an American Thinker reader:

A sobering piece. However, the genie is out of the bottle, I'm afraid, never to be put back. The larger government gets, the more tentacles it grows, transforming into roots, firmly anchoring itself into more and more areas once free. And now, many attempt to sever the roots and shrink it are met with screeching and howls of resistance unlike anything we've ever witnessed.

According to these statists, who will often agree that spending is out of control and unsustainable, there is not one whit that can be cut, not one program that can be eliminated, not one regulation that can be undone. And what are we to do? We elect "conservatives'' to at least try to stem the tide if not reduce the size and power of government, and they get consumed by it. They are unable to even get a ban on incandescent light bulbs overturned. How can we expect them to make any real change and reverse course? And government marches on, getting ever larger, ever more intrusive and controlling, and we get more and more impotent to stop it with each passing day.

Start paying attention to what your state and national legislators say and do about federal mandates, Race to the Top like programs, Common Core standards and data system expansion that will capture and track personal information on you and your child. Determine if your "conservative" or any legislator will answer the questions on why they support or don't support these Federal intrusions and mandates. (The graphic above does not only portray what's happening in DC, it's also alive in the halls of your state legislature).

If your legislator is not willing to push back on this "soft dictatorship" he/she is no supporter of the Constitution. If readers or politicians can explain to me why a legislator will not push back against this centralization of power in educational matters and is still considered a politician who upholds the Constitution, I'd be interested to hear that reasoning.

Why don't we just drop the Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal tag and name them for what they are? They are statists. They should start their own political party. That's it! Forget about the Tea Party and the Progressive Party, the American people are finally witnessing the formation of a viable third party: The Statism Party!

The practice or doctrine of giving a centralized government control over economic planning and policy.

statist adj. & n.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Successful Swedish For-Profit Schools and a Letter to Cato.

Cato has an interesting article today about successful Swedish for-profit schools. Andrew Coulson writes:

In 1992, Sweden introduced a nation-wide public and private school choice program. Private schools went from enrolling virtually no one to enrolling about 11 percent of the entire student population–a figure that continues to grow with each passing year. Moreover, recent research finds that these new private schools outperform the public schools. And which private schools are growing the fastest? The chains of for-profit schools that are in greatest demand, and that have an incentive to respond to that demand by opening new locations. The popular non-profit private schools tend not to expand much over time.

Given that Sweden is universally regarded as a liberal nation, and the U.S. is seen as a bastion of capitalism, one wonders why they got to the brass ring first, and why it is taking us so very long to get there now that they’ve shown us the way.

The results are promising but I was curious how Swedish schools were structured in terms of mandates and nationalized curriculum, and if for-profit schools could be successful in the United States as well.

Read the Cato article first and then my letter sent to Cato with questions on if this is something that could realistically be accomplished in the United States because of federal mandates and common core standards:


I am responding to the piece on the Cato blog by Andrew Coulson: "Sweden Profits from For-Profit Schools".

The statistics look promising for educational results for those students, and I am assuming the article was implying this would be a good alternative for American public educated students. I was curious on how exactly how Swedish for-profit schools operated in terms of mandates and nationalized assessments and curriculum.

It seems by reading this description of Swedish schools, they have quite a bit of autonomy in the upper grades in educating students, rather than the "one size fits all" plan touted by Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, NGA, CCSSO and others. However, in the lower grades, there is not much choice and there apparently have been critics of tailoring the curriculum to a "common" level as it seems to hold high achieving children back:

Students in Swedish primary schools have very limited choice in their education. For instance, advanced mathematics courses are available only during the spring term of the seventh grade (the year students will turn 13); until then, all students take the same basic mathematics courses. A similar situation applies to most other subjects. This is the result of a concerted effort to streamline education, in the hope that this will favor students from families with lower levels of educational attainment. Critics claim it has lowered results significantly among talented students without raising them within other groups.

This reminds me of the common core standards being pushed through by Arne Duncan. The article then addresses the various options available to the students as they age:

At the age of 13 (sometimes even 12), more choices become available: the student is allowed to pick from a more demanding course in higher math, chemistry/physics, biology, art and music. However, this varies from school to school. Sometimes more practical courses are also available for students to elect, such as carpentry or electronics. All students between 12–15 years old take math, English, Swedish, foreign language, NO (physics, chemistry, biology, technology), SO (social studies, history, religion, geography), physical education, art, music, carpentry or sewing and a course in home economics.

After students graduate from the nine-year compulsory school, the selection of education, both private and state owned, becomes much broader. As all education is publicly funded, all students have a large selection of choices, which are quite different from some other western nations, where some education costs more money than others, thus limiting the choice for those with a less fortunate background.

The Swedish School Plan also highly encourages an individualistic education in which each student has their specific means met. The students are also encouraged not only to participate in student councils, but also to actually form the education they desire together with their teachers, choosing what books to read and how to balance practice with theory depending on which the individual students find most enjoyable to learn from.

Perhaps if our schools were allowed to teach children based on ability and interest, rather than a "common" educational plan, we could have successful for profit schools as well. If we are seriously interested in providing great education for American children and if the answer is to provide it through for-profit schools, then those schools cannot be operated under the same restrictive mandates as traditional public schools. Otherwise, the "choice" is false. The delivery of the services may be different, but the educational foundation is the same and real "reform" cannot be realized.

Why aren't politicians and the DOE putting plans into place that will truly educate children instead of trying to "privatize" education that is still under federal mandates which really makes it no different from a public school education? Who and what are they trying to serve? Students or for-profit schools that cannot operate in an autonomous manner? For-profit schools might just work in the United States, but maybe what would make them successful is they are not constricted with common core and Race to the Top like mandates.

And I'm just curious: Sweden does not allow homeschooling in most situations. Is that a bothersome law to you at Cato?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Do Presidential Candidates Believe About Education and Educational Reform?

Truth in American Education has linked Presidential candidates' views on education.

You may find a recap here.

There is additional information from Grumpy Educators on candidate viewpoints.

It may be time for state and US representatives and senators to also go on the record about their stance on education reform as well. Do you have a governor's race in your state this year? Governors should have opinions on education as it is a large percentage of their budgets. Determine their viewpoints on education.

Also ask your US House of Representatives candidate his/her viewpoint on if he/she believes RTTT, Common Core standards and a possible nationalized curriculum is constitutional. Determine how much these candidates know about education.

When you ask your elected officials questions, keep in mind two important issues when you are listening to their answers. Ask yourself, do these reforms:

  • increase local control
  • reduce federal spending
If their reforms don't accomplish these goals, it may be time to find a candidate who will work to see these goals are met.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This is a Fabulous Virtual Map of WWII. Students Might Just Become Interested in History After Watching this Map.

The current administration and Bill Gates believe our schools must become more technology dependent to regain a competitive edge in the world. Texbooks are in danger of becoming obsolete as Ipads are provided to school children. Cursive writing is not taught in many districts as educators believe it is a dying art in the age of keyboards.

If wired curriculum is our childrens' reality, this type of interactive map showing Germany's surge and then defeat in Europe, USSR, and Africa should certainly be used. It depicts Nazi Germany's takeover of Europe from 1942-1945. It is amazing to visually experience the huge grab of countries by Hitler and illustrates the enormous challenge of the Allies to liberate the occupied countries.

The map shows the Allies' response to Germany's takeover of Europe with generals' names and Army divisions responsible. It's accompanied by sounds which makes it even more interesting.

This type of virtual map can capture students' attention and want them to learn more about an issue. This map is an effective entry into garnering their curiosity about history that might well be dull in a history book. The next step is to use that technology for great teaching...by a real, live person who can challenge that interest. And maybe the teachers can urge the students to thank a WWII veteran for his/her service while they are still alive.

This is the last sentence of this posting:

This should be "required reading" in every school.

Do you think this will make it in a common core curriculum?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Do Public Radio Stations and Public Education Have in Common? One Possibility: Taxpayer Anger

Public radio stations routinely ask listeners for money, but lately are finding their fund raising abilities are diminishing. Why is money drying up for public radio? Is it the economy? Is it the perceived programming bias of public radio stations causing listeners not to contribute?

I received the following two letters from a reader in Jacksonville, Florida stating his belief on what public radio does well and what it fails to do. These letters were in response to a fund raising plea from WJCT in Jacksonville. As you read them, ask yourself how the radio programming issues he raises might relate to public education issues:

Dear WJCT :

I realize you are in need of funding. My wife and I enjoy some of your programming, but some of it I find so disheartening and troublesome that we don’t give to NPR in any fashion.

When you are ready to dump Diane Rehm (who seems to despise the America I love – or at least us conservatives), Michelle Martin (who recently highlighted and gushed over a father’s day story about two gay fathers adopting) and “Being” with Krista ?? Tippet (a vapid program that she seems to enjoy hosting immensely), then I’ll start writing checks. . Garrison Keillor was good when he stayed out of politics, which he can’t seem to do anymore. He is leaving none too soon. The news also has a liberal bias, but I usually learn something from it. However I always assume it tells the story from a progressive perspective. On the other hand, while I occasionally disagree with some things said, I don’t feel the same disdain from the hosts or for the content of This American life, Car Talk, What do you Know and others. Locally, Melissa Ross seems to try to be balanced. Far cry better than Rehm. And Florida History is excellent.

The other story that really scorched me recently was the ancestry Prof. from Brown (Lannie something with either Diane Rehm or Martin) who decided it best not to have children learn about their family trees anymore (in 4th and 8th grade) because they are all so complex and fouled up. She felt it might upset their little minds. She also concluded that family genealogy really doesn’t matter anyway – we are all raised by each other without boundaries. Just Lovely. I have the exact opposite view - it would be a valuable teachable moment to let all children see their family trees – and the more disastrous they are the more likely a child will make a commitment never to create one like it of their own. Why didn’t anyone on the program bother to make such a central point?

The view of the world by programming execs at NPR is not aligned with mine. If ever it becomes such – or at least includes hosts and writers who have respect for those of us who are apparently behind the times - then I’ll start writing checks. I am a believer in the exceptional nature of the American experiment in spite of our flaws and in the principle that one very simple family structure is the ideal. These are the difference between the American experiment succeeding or failing. Most NPR folks seem to see nothing special about America and the critical importance of the traditional family to its endurance. All of our institutions and us as people have warts, but if we lose site of the ideals for which we stand, we deteriorate and people stand for nothing of significance. NPR doesn’t stand for the ideals that I do and seems intent on making them irrelevant under the banner of providing insight and intelligent discussion.

The best thing that might ever happen to WJCT (and NPR nationally) is to have to cut some programming. Should you decide to do so, you might find a lot more Jacksonville people willing to give.

The next day, I received another email from the reader regarding the response he received from WJCT:

Mike – thank you for a quick and thoughtful response. I really appreciate your willingness to take the time to write to me. I didn’t expect to hear back at all. I have counterpoints to many that you raise and will make a couple, but it probably isn’t productive to get into all of them.

You say public radio is intended to be provocative and “challenge popular thinking”. You and I are together to this point. The problem is your definition and mine of “popular thinking” are different. I think in your definition, popular really means conservative. I don’t hear any programming guests that criticize, as an example, the gay marriage movement (which I would argue is quite popular these days) and instead propose traditional marriage as better for our society. Where are those guests? It sounds intellectually enlightened to “challenge popular thinking”. The way we define the words makes a difference.

It is not intellectually honest to promote only one view of a central societal issue. In the case of gay marriage/fatherhood, I think public radio does. If you can point out any public radio programming/guests in the past year that promoted the importance of the traditional family as opposed to gay marriage/parenting (without being ostracized in the process), point me to it.

You also intimate that I am asking for the programming to say “what I want to hear”. I did not and am not. I don’t know where you saw that in my note. What I do want (and what I did not see you respond to) is for my perspective to be represented in discussions on public broadcasting, for my views to be appreciated as legitimate alternatives, and for them to be represented by leading alternative (my definition for alternative being “more conservative”) thinkers in their field.

Mike, one of the reasons I wrote was the recent plea I have heard on WJCT for money. Only 6% of Jacksonville listeners give while 14% give nationally and you challenge us to step up. You are seeking more givers as is public radio nationally. The problem is the same here and nationally, just more concentrated here because we are a more conservative community.

I wrote to tell you why I and many people refuse to give. Nothing you wrote seemed to indicate you are inclined to change as a result of my feedback. You spent most of your response justifying why you do what you do, why it is the right thing to do and trying to convince me to reconsider the way I think. From a product marketing view, you have told me that I should like your product just as it is and buy it. I didn’t hear anything in your response indicating how interested you are in trying to serve this customer’s product needs. Do you see the irony in that as I do?

One thing that would help me would be to see the specific mission/charter that defines what WJCT is and what its mission is. Also – something that defines the criteria used when deciding which programs WJCT purchases for broadcast. Could you point me to where I could see this info? Perhaps it is on the website. The root of this issue for me is to better understand how WJCT makes decisions. Maybe I’d be presently surprised and become a contributor. But with what I know right now, I can’t support you.

Thanks again for writing.

I posted these letters because the same arguments he makes to a public radio station are the same arguments being made about the lack of local control of schools. Public radio stations use taxpayer dollars and the taxpayers have little to no input on programming. The Federal Government, state governments and local school districts take taxpayer money, and similar to this NPR/public radio fund mode of operation, the taxpayers have little to no input on standards, curriculum, or how their money is spent to educate their children.

Taxpayers are becoming frustrated paying into systems that reflect little to none of their values. Taxpayers are beginning to ask "why should we be supporting public radio stations or public school districts that don't speak to our needs or beliefs?"

Michelle Obama Could Not Eat This Meal in Most Public Schools.

This must be an example of "do as I say, not as I do".

I don't care what Michelle Obama eats. She is an adult and can make her own food decisions. This does not hold true for public school students. Children buying lunch at many schools now have food choices dictated by the Federal government. They do not have the chance to make a "good" food decision or an "unhealthy" food decision. It has been made for them by various Federal departments such as the Interior, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Education agencies.

If Mrs. Obama wants to indulge in a 1,700 calorie meal every once in a while, she should have that right. Conversely, if a school student wants to have chocolate milk at school, he/she should be able to make that choice for themselves. That's a choice that has been pulled from many school cafeterias.

And a carton of chocolate milk is 1/10 the calories of the meal Mrs. Obama enjoyed at the Shake Shack.

Read more from HotAir on the issue of making personal choices and why Mrs. Obama's actions in terms of her rhetoric on dictating childrens' menus seem a bit disingenuous:

The First Lady — and the four agencies tapped by Congress to create the new guidelines (the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department) – might like to pin the blame for the nation’s shocking rates of childhood obesity (one in three kids!) on the food and beverage industry and the $2 billion the industry spends annually to market its products to kids but, until parents and guardians (and, at a certain age, the children themselves) take responsibility for what kids eat, weight problems will persist.

In the Washington Post article, one proponent of the new guidelines said, “We allow companies into our homes to manipulate children to want food that will make them sick.” But that’s the catch: We allow. If parents don’t want their kids to see that Happy Meal commercial, they can mute the TV or turn the channel or, better yet, turn off the TV entirely and go play with their kids outside.

In the meantime, one economic analysis suggested the government’s guidelines would kill 75,000 jobs annually, which, to me, makes opposition to their proposal a no-brainer at a time of 9.2 percent unemployment. (emphasis added)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Can Parents Set Curriculum in Common Core Standards?

We are pleased to have a guest blogger on Missouri Education Watchdog today. Karen Schroeder, founder of Advocates of Academic Freedom, has written an article informing parents how they can demand Common Core standards reflect local and state values. She provides information and links for parents to impact state legislation regarding Common Core standards. Please visit the website listed below for more information.

Thanks to Karen detailing procedures on how to regain some local control of state standards. We hope you find this helpful in having a voice in your state's curriculum. Local school control is disappearing rapidly and districts are overwhelmed with mandates set by the Federal government or a consortia of states. We appreciate her suggestions and constructive ways to regain control of our educational systems we pay into and currently have little to no input.

LOCAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS IS SACRED IN AMERICA--Karen Schroeder, Advocates for Academic Freedom

In Wisconsin, and most states in the United States, local control of schools is considered sacred; but too few parents exercise their influence on school policy. State legislators influence the standards provided by the state departments of education, but state departments of education have little influence on school policy. Many conservative parents are hopeful that the election of conservative legislators will result in the educational system returning to traditional American values and high academic and behavioral standards. This is NOT necessarily true. The pendulum will swing in education when the parents organize and demand that the schools adopt the academic and behavioral policies that have historically made our schools successful.

If a legislator passes a law requiring that all schools teach students that America is a Constitutional Republic, for example, the state department of education must include that requirement in the Common Core State Standards. (These standards may have different names in each state and can be found on the website for each state department of education). Adding new legislative standards occurs when new standards are written by state departments of education.
The last time the Wisconsin Department of Education wrote standards for social studies was during the late 1990s. Therefore, any new law would become part of updated standards if the law is viable when the new standards are written. Legislators must demand that Common Core State Standards are updated annually as legislation is passed.
A state department of education cannot require any text book company to include state standards in their social studies text books. Individual school districts are not required to adopt the standards created by the state department of education. Each school district has a choice to adopt the Common Core State Standards or write their own. For example, schools that cannot afford new text books may write their own standards based on the content of their current text book.

Too many parents believe that the state departments of education have more power than they really do because school boards feign responsibility to the Common Core State Standards in an effort to discourage any changes to their current policies. Conservative legislation can have a positive impact on school change at this point. If that legislation becomes part of the Common Core State Standards, the parent has “state support” for his requested changes. When parents are unaware of the process, they often surrender their influence because they are frustrated, confused, and intimidated. Advocates for Academic Freedom was created to help provide parents with the necessary information to push back effectively. Once parents are successful, they must be willing to support a local referendum to cover the cost of updated textbooks which include the new standards.

Many parents simply choose to run from the public education process rather than spend precious time standing up to the process. But many of the alternative learning environments have already been infiltrated by liberal propaganda. Some conservative parents have indicated that in this case they will just find another private school or learning option for their child. When children begin to make friends and become involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities, they will protest bouncing among schools. Then what will the parent do? Finally surrender? The time for change is now.

Real change in education requires parental involvement. The Advocates for Academic Freedom website has everything a parent needs to begin the process. The button entitled Educational Goals provides resolutions that can be presented to legislators. Simply change the word BECAUSE to WHEREAS and change the word THEREFORE to BE IT RESOLVED. Parents may ask their legislators to turn these resolutions into law.

Advocates for Academic Freedom has a petition that visitors to the site may sign. Signed petitions will be sent to the representative of the signee. The more petitions each representative receives, the more support he expects for each change. This is very important for the successful passage of legislation. When Obama Care was being debated on the floor of the house and senate, legislators rolled out dollies stacked with huge boxes filled with signed petitions requesting government-provided health care. This action was persuasive.

Parents need to visit school libraries to make sure conservative principles are represented. Advocates for Academic Freedom provides a step-by-step process for accomplishing this task. Let school leadership know that your child feels censored and bullied when his ideas are not represented. Protect your child from being “punished” because you have become an advocate.

To protect their child, parents have a right to demand that teachers provide specific standards for each grade option for each assignment. This is easy for teachers to do. When I began teaching, this was a required practice. It helped the teacher and the child focus on the mastery of basic facts and the development of specific skills while discouraging personal ideologies from infiltrating the lessons. If the child meets the standards described for an “A”, then he earns an “A”. If he meets the standards for a “D”, he earns a “D”. Parents must be willing to accept this consequence gracefully. Grading standards have become very flexible and often meaningless because of parental demands for easy grades!!!
The schools have become what they are because of the demands made by some parents and the indifference of many.
Too few parents recognize this fact. Parents have the greatest level of influence on their local schools. GET INVOLVED AND ENCOURAGE OTHER PARENTS TO JOIN YOU. Help in organizing neighborhood parents can be found at: advocatesforacademicfreedom.org or click on the hotlink below.

Karen Schroeder is President of Advocates for Academic Freedom. With 36 years of experience teaching at the elementary school and the middle school levels, she retired and became an educational consultant for local political candidates. Karen provides seminars about educational issues for the general public. More information about Advocates for Academic Freedom and the seminars may be found at: www. advocatesforacademicfreedom.org.

Karen formed Advocates for Academic Freedom because she and fellow conservative teachers often wondered, “Why do conservative parents surrender their children and tax dollars to progressive ideologies when they could actively support the teacher who is trying to retain high academic and behavioral standards, critical thinking skills, and mastery of basic facts?”

Karen believes that improving educational opportunities for our children is also a battle to save the soul of our nation from a growing number of citizens who no longer value a Constitutional Republic and who see our constitution as a “living” document, outdated and in need of change to reflect their values. Karen is motivated by Abraham Lincoln’s statement that the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will become the philosophy of the government of the next generation.

Karen has Masters’ degrees in special education and learning disabilities from the College of St. Thomas. She negotiated teacher contracts in the early 1980s. The president of KPT’s and a property management company, Karen is also the current President of the Barron County Republican Women.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The State of Wyoming Receives Educational Settlement from Pearson. Computers aren't as Nifty as Bill Gates Wants Us to Believe.

If you've been following the education reform currently offered by the DOE, this news is troublesome in believing Common Core standards and assessment testing will streamline and improve educational knowledge and procedures:

A testing company will pay $5.1 million to compensate Wyoming for technical problems with the state's 2010 public school student assessment exam, state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill said Friday.

The state and NCS Pearson Inc., of Bloomington, Minn., reached an agreement this week after months of negotiations, Hill said. Gov. Matt Mead also approved the settlement, she said.

Why should this cause concern in the educational community? Pearson, the testing company having to pay Wyoming a settlement, states on its website:

Only Pearson offers complete and cohesive support to implement the new Common Core State Standards and provide the easiest possible transition. We combine the resources and expertise of the world’s leading assessment company with evolving and continually improving instructional materials, content experts, and professional development to help you, your teachers, and your students succeed at every step along the way.

Pearson is set to make a huge amount of money in the implementation of these standards. According to this blog:

Education Week is reporting that the Gates Foundation and Pearson (Yes, the company that makes and scores the TAKS), is now offering complete curricula and professional development for teachers that is aligned with the common core standards. So, the Gates Foundation uses its money and influence to push through Common Core Standards and testing, then within a year, partners with Pearson so that Pearson can make a profit off of the Common Core Standards.

Now, districts will not be FORCED to purchase the products. But, since many districts had to cut their central office curriculum specialists as part of the budget crises around the country, districts will essentially be forced to purchase this new curriculum since it will be cheaper than employing curriculum specialists who, you know, actually interact and collaborate with real live teachers.

Now, the Gates Foundation has enough money to provide the curricula and PD to every school in the nation for free. If they are such a strong believer in Common Core Standards, why don’t they provide it for free? Why should ANY school have to pay for curricula? (emphasis added)

Excellent points. Taxpayers still have to pay for resources mandated by a consortia via reforms funded by the Gates Foundation, and Gates will receive a financial windfall for the computers needed for the assessments. I would suggest the reason that schools have to pay for curricula is because this will make a few companies quite wealthy.

So, private companies are using taxpayer dollars for plans and educational policy set forth by "philanthropists" who are 'deeply concerned' about the American educational system. I guess the concern must arise from the thought there was money to be made in education these crony capitalists weren't accessing.

So much for high tech and promises from Pearson. According to Superintendent Hill:

This year's test returned to pencil-and-paper format, and Hill said the 2012 test will be similar.

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