"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, October 15, 2011

Lesson for the Day: Review Your Child's Homework Before She Turns it in to the Teacher

Here is a humorous lesson on why it is a good idea to review your child's homework before it is turned into the teacher. From businesspundit.com:

A first grade girl handed in the drawing below for a homework assignment.


After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I want to be very clear on my child’s illustration. It is NOT of me on a dance pole on a stage in a strip joint. I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This photo is of me selling a shovel.

Mrs. Harrington

Friday, October 14, 2011

Arne Duncan Searches for His True Calling?

Arne Duncan received bad press this past week regarding his poor speaking ability and rude behavior from LA Weekly:

Lydia Grant, a big education activist in SoCal, asked us to attend U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's two-hour-long town hall in Pico Rivera earlier this week. Duncan had promised big things for the Tuesday event:
The town hall is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and will include space for the public to ask questions and share their thoughts. The event is designed to engage community leaders from across the Los Angeles region in meeting President Barack Obama's challenge to lead the world in college completion by 2020.

Grant also invited about 200 parents -- and says over 1,000 showed up in total, some traveling all the way up from San Diego. But that didn't stop Duncan from walking out after 20 minutes.

"Everybody was just shocked," says Grant, because the town hall had been "pushed as if parents were going to be able to really tell their stories and get help."

And even for the short time Duncan was speaking and answering a couple questions in the brick El Rancho High School basketball court, according to Grant, the audience could barely hear what he was saying. The only words that really came through were "Jobs Act."

Oh, brother. A straightforward news piece from the Whittier Daily News reads like a campaign flyer:

El Ranch High School student John Barrios, 17, asked what could be done to help schools succeed.

Duncan said the passage of the Jobs Act "needs to happen" because the current economic situation has depleted school district budgets.

"It will keep teachers in the classroom, strengthen our schools and improve the local economy in communities across the country," he said.

If Obama's going to plant someone in east L.A. County -- because he's too scared to show his face outside a Hancock Park gala -- he could at least choose someone who's got the patience to pretend to listen to desperate parents for more than 20 minutes.

According to the Whittier newspaper, Duncan also took some time to praise California Governor Jerry Brown for his passage of the DREAM Act, in case everyone and their mother hadn't gotten word already, and let a couple congresswomen traveling with him talk about what a great job Duncan has been doing.

"It was awful," says Grant. "One-third of the audience got up and left."

Good for them. We would have done the same.

So Secretary Duncan mumbles, talks about the Jobs Act which would require more money (and additional stimulus) for school buildings (not education), and praises other Democratic officials. It's no wonder that even some of the legendary progressive California electorate chose to leave.

Maybe he'll have a better reception at the Obama fundraiser he is slated to host. From Politico:

Duncan raises cash for Obama

Education Secretary Arne Duncan may be the most bipartisan figure in the Obama administration, but that doesn't mean he's sitting on the sidelines during his boss's reelection campaign.

Duncan will headline a fundraiser for Obama in Brentwood, Calif., next week, according to an invitation a source passed along.

The event is $2,500 per person and is the first event in the "Obama Speaker Series."

Do any readers know of other Cabinet members hosting fundraisers for their boss, the President? Maybe Arne Duncan will be more comfortable among those donors who pay to see him, don't ask him tough questions and don't require him to stray off his scripted messages.

Could he not think of anything to talk about after 20 minutes? The townhall was to last 2 hours! Is the Secretary of Education so devoid of ideas other than political talking points for the Jobs Act and Dream Act that he couldn't answer serious education questions? He obviously doesn't have any answers for ".....parents (who) were going to be able to really tell their stories and get help." Maybe a job as a fundraiser among a friendly crowd would be much more fun and satisfying for the Secretary.

(Be sure to read this link to find out who is hosting this first "Obama Speakers Series").

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life Learning - The Lost Art

Professor Lois Weiner worries about the deprofessionalization of teaching. This is a new word that gets flagged by spellcheck every time, but I thought this was the best definition of it:

The process by which members of a high-status occupation lose the facility to have autonomous control over its internal affairs and the behaviour of its membership. Deprofessionalization also results in a loss of the monopoly of the members of the profession to have exclusive rights to do certain kinds of work and a loss of control over the expert knowledge that, before deprofessionalization, was not available to the general public. http://www.answers.com

Perhaps the greater tragedy of the 20th century (yes I meant 20th) was the professionalization of teaching. In the 19th century teachers were sometimes criminals who could find no other work. Back then, your family taught you the things they thought you should know and life taught you the rest. Now we have professionals telling your family what they think your children should know and convincing future generations of educated people that they are not qualified to pass knowledge on to their children.

A quick look at the comments coming from Occupy (insert City name here) is certainly no testament to the efficacy of the teaching profession. Self proclaimed anarchists are angry that random strangers are taking the food and clothing sent for the protestors. Do they not understand what anarchy means? Do they think anarchy recognizes anything like property rights that would prohibit someone else from taking what is yours?

They rail against both Wall Street and the Banks, yet clamor for jobs. The fastest track to a job is to start your own company. But if they want to start anything as simple as a muffin business, where do they think they will get the capital to make that business happen if it doesn't come from a bank loan or a stock offering? How much longer will it take them to save the necessary capital if their savings aren't earning them money through investment or interest? If they expect interest from the bank, where do they think the bank will get that money? It would appear that the wonderful professional teachers they had in school did not pass on to them these basics.

They are using Roberts Rules of Order and practicing a functional democracy with their consensus building technique for reaching decisions.  This will be a wonderful life lesson why direct or pure democracy doesn't work (or is at least mind numbingly cumbersome). They were taught we are a democracy in school (see yesterday's post) but never taught why, because this drawback to democracy would have been exposed.  I, for one, couldn't be happier that they are learning this lesson now.

Perhaps what is most insidious about compulsory education and the professionalization of teaching is that it offers generations of parents the false sense of security that someone is teaching their kids the valuable lessons they learned. How many of the protestor's parents are sitting home face palming themselves after seeing their offspring interviewed?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Social Studies Standards from Missouri DESE: "This is what Democracy (not a Republic) Looks Like!"

Is this what democracy looks like? From National Review Online youtube video:
Check Spelling

He states his college should be paid for because "it's what he wants". He believes he has every right to ask for stuff and say what he wants because that is what he thinks. He sees no problem with "putting it out there" like a Christmas list.

What is the definition of "democracy"? From Merriam-Webster:

plural de·moc·ra·cies

Definition of DEMOCRACY

a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
: a political unit that has a democratic government
capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the United States Democracy — C. M. Roberts>
: the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

Presented with multiple choice, this young man would probably pick definition number 4 to back up his actions and demands. Perhaps he believes he has political authority just because he is common? Definition number 1 probably wouldn't appeal to him in that the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised through a system of representation.

I wonder what form of government DESE is holding out as a standard to teach students in Social Studies? Do you remember a posting we had a few weeks ago from a concerned school board member after he read a Social Studies textbook and the word "republic" never appeared in the text?

Not long after that, I received a link from a concerned taxpayer about the standards taught in their school. The information is from Eaton Online and Eaton is used by several Missouri school districts:

Educational Alignment Tool Online

The Educational Alignment Tool Online (EATOnline) is a software package that enables Missouri school districts to create curriculum, and then align that curriculum to the Missouri state standards. Reports can be run on that aligned curriculum and compared to the results of standardized tests to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

The reader was concerned about some of the standards presented to students and after reviewing them, I was concerned as well. Reviewing the actual standards from the DESE site, the main objective for all grades was to learn:

Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States

The word "democracy" appears 12 times in this document. The word "republic" appears...0 times. It's no wonder the word "republic" doesn't appear in the Franklin County social studies textbook! It's not expected to be taught America is a constitutional republic by DESE. DESE's standards state schools should teach America is a constitutional democracy.

I spoke with Mr. Bill Gerling at DESE, Assistant Director of Assessment, on September 29, 2011. I was not at home and did not have access to the DESE site and we ended the phone conversation with the understanding I would pose my questions and concerns in a letter.

I wrote him on October 4 with these concerns (excerpted letter):

This list is from the DESE website social studies standards and lists the goals. Note the first goal:

1. principles expressed in the documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States

We were not founded nor shaped in "constitutional democracy", rather, our country was founded and shaped in a constitutional republican form of government. What is the distinction?

From lexrex.com:

These two forms of government: Democracy and Republic, are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between (a) The Majority Unlimited, in a Democracy, lacking any legal safeguard of the rights of The Individual and The Minority, and (b) The Majority Limited, in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of The Individual and The Minority

As I read the standards currently in effect for the state, I note the concept for Social Studies standards: "Principles of constitutional democracy in the United States". In fact, the heading on the form states the goal is for "Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States". This is false premise I would like to see addressed by DESE and corrected. To be historically correct, the goal should read: "Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping a Republican form of government (Article 4 Section 4 U.S. Constitution) in the United States".

As noted above, there is an important distinction and here is another explanation:
Our Constitution is thoroughly representative in nature and designed around balancing the powers of the Executive, against the Legislative against the Judicial, branches, each having some hand and say so in the operations of the other - keeping them honest by being jealous of the power each has in the other's realm - and all are designed around a hierarchy of powers and abilities. That structure was dealt a blow with the 17th amdt, but it still stands, and would collapse without it.

A Democracy, whether a Representative one (England's) or not,
cannot maintain that balance for long, in the end it has to give way to 'the will of the people', majority rule, and that will become the tool of those who can stir up popular emotion for one cause or another. Our system maintains multiple levels ('the House is the heat of popular demand, the Senate the saucer which cools it off', the Executive moderates, and is moderated by, the Legislative branch, and the Judicial sees to it that neither forgets the rule of law or their constitutional restraints upon their power). A democracy cannot maintain for long any constitutional restraints against the 'will of the people', they are supreme and will soon amend away anything in their way - and Individual Rights (probably unintentionally (to 'the people' anyway)) will vanish before that unrestrained majority will. The Individual, the Right to be an individual, believing what you do, possessing what you do and acting as you see fit, no matter the views of your fellows, is the imperiled minority in any form of Democracy, and the Founders did everything in their power to ensure that we would NEVER become a Democracy, in any way shape or form.

I am concerned DESE is setting the standard for Missouri students that America was formed as a constitutional democracy. It was not. The government of the United States of America republican in form if not specific name. A democracy is ruled by the majority. A republic safeguards the rights of the minority and the individual. Nowhere on the DESE site do I note the word "republic". You may think I am splitting hairs, but I assure you, I am not. The distinction between these two forms of government is fundamental and our students deserve to know America is under republic rule, not democratic rule.

Could you please advise me, if in fact, the Missouri standard IS to teach that America is a constitutional democracy or a constitutional republic? From a layman's viewpoint, I read it as DESE setting the standard for districts that the country is a constitutional democracy vs a constitutional republic. (the purple additions have been added for clarification)

I received this automated reply from Mr. Gerling: I will be out of the office on the afternoon of September 23rd and all day on September 24th. I will return on September 27th.

I thought that was an odd reply as my email was sent on October 4 and Mr. Gerling's response was dated after he was to return to his office.

I sent a followup email on October 7 with the same questions and as of today's date (October 12), he has not answered if Missouri standards are that America is indeed a republic or a democracy.

If students are indeed being taught we are a constitutional democracy, does it give them the right to espouse their wants (however silly and ridiculous they may be) as the young man in the OWS video and expect them to be fulfilled? This young man truly believes he should get what he wants because he wants it. He has every legal right to petition and protest. What he doesn't have the right to do is to take property from another because he believes he deserves it and wants it. But isn't this one of the goals of OWS?

"This is what democracy looks like!" What does a constitutional republic look like? Taxpayers and citizens might want to review their district textbooks and determine how the history their children are learning. Do you wonder if the Pledge of Allegiance will be amended to read..."and to the Democracy for which it stands?"

And I can't wait to see what the common core history/social studies standards will teach. If you think it's difficult to get answers from a state agency such as DESE, what will the odds be you'll receive any response from a 26-state consortium deciding standards for Missouri students?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vision For Missouri Public Schools Report - Just More of the Same

The News Leader reported today about the Vision for Missouri Public Schools project, which has just released their report that outlines a comprehensive plan for Missouri public education. From their website:

"The Missouri Association of School Administrators and the Missouri School Boards’ Association are undertaking a joint effort to develop a “Vision for Missouri Public Education.” This joint effort will involve school board members and school administrators across the state in developing a comprehensive vision for Missouri’s public schools.

MSBA and MASA represent those charged with legal responsibility for governance and executive leadership of Missouri public schools. The two groups each have developed positions for which we advocate each year, but the groups have not developed a comprehensive vision for public education. The shortfall of state and federal dollars has legislators and state leaders looking to our organizations for leadership and the financial support for public education likely will get worse before it gets better. In the absence of any vision and/or plan, proposals such as vouchers, open enrollment, tuition tax credits, etc. will be seen as alternatives."

They claim to be doing this because there is a lack of such clear vision for the future of education and therefore the attainment and distribution of funding for education is at risk. The News Leader reported their plan was to develop "a proactive platform and make districts less vulnerable to contrary proposals that come up in the General Assembly."

We at the Watchdog do not believe there isn't a clear direction for public education, and from the looks of their report, The Missouri Vision Project didn't believe it either.  Read through their report and see if you don't see dozens of familiar terms, phrases and goals that have come from DOE, Bill Gates and others. From the preamble on their report:

“In order to perpetuate democracy for its citizenry and build a competitive workforce, the State of Missouri will engage every child in a rigorous, world class learning system to make each student career- and college-ready."  This could have been lifted directly from the UNESCO document. 

"The system will consist of effective teachers, school administrators, and boards of education who establish high expectations for students with the objective of developing a mastery of literacy and numeracy." Reading and math are currently the only subjects assessed by the Common Core Cooperatives.

"Common core standards, rooted in a culture of innovation and continuous improvement and technology, will be the foundation for learning." Common Core and a focus on STEM courses.  Nothing new here.

With parent support, every child will enter kindergarten ready to learn." This will be achieved first by optional early learner programs and eventually by compulsory preschool, just as compulsory education in general was introduced in this country. Note that parents only play a supporting role in this vision.

"Students will be accountable for their learning and demonstrate mastery of the curriculum as they progress through the learning system." And assessments will be modified until they do this.  Note that we no longer have an education system, but rather a learning system.

"Acting on behalf of the citizenry, school boards and local, state, and federal governments will be accountable for supporting every child’s learning.”  At least they recognize where their mandate comes from.

The Committees, which look at seven different areas, tell a similar story.
  • Teaching, Learning, And Assessment Committee
  • Early Learning And Student Success Committee
  • Climate, Culture, And Organizational Efficacy Committee
  • Human And Organizational Capital Committee
  • Governance, Leadership, And Accountability Committee
  • Physical Resources Committee
  • Financial Resources Committee
I can't help but also note that Lois Weiner, a professor of education at New Jersey City University, who spoke to Democracy Now, lamented that the current education reform movement was attempting to deprofessionalize the teaching profession. The Missouri Vision falls right in line with that critique as they continue to refer to teachers and staffers as "capital."

MSBA, MASA and DESE (who had an advisory role in the plans development) are going to try to make us all feel like local control is being fought for and held with this document. Knowing that it came from local education specialists makes statements like, "Missouri students must experience schools capable of equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and character traits required for their future," so much more comforting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Don't Pay Attention to the Organizers Behind the Curtain!

The word "tyranny" seems to be popping up these days when talking about education. Don Powers, an attorney reviewing how education operates these days, wrote:

“What we discovered is a transition to a tyrannical form of government. Sections of the USCA that supported local, states’ rights and local control of schools as well as sections that placed restrictions on the Federal DOEd were being repealed all together and in instances replaced by sections that grant more control to the federal level. We also checked other areas of the USCA and found this to be the rule, and not the exception. From the historical records, that we could check with our meager resources, it has apparently been going on since before the1960’s.”

Check out the heading on our blog and its reference to living in a totalitarian democracy, which could be considered as living in a tyrannical society.

Here's a blog by Mark Garrison about how common core standards equal tyranny. What is the theme running through Mr. Powers' assessments, living in a totalitarian democracy, and equating common core standards to tyranny?

Think of the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and company were helpless and powerless when their destiny and decisions were in the hands of the "all powerful Wizard of Oz". Remember when he was discovered and he plead: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" He knew he was all talk and could not provide Dorothy, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion and The Scarecrow what they needed. They had to find the answers themselves. By pretending he knew the answers when he was truly powerless made him a tyrant. He had no solutions but he had the power to bluster and scare folks into thinking he was the all powerful Wizard of Oz.

This is a description of the Federal Government and its current role in education: it has all the power and no answers. We don't even know who or which interests are writing the standards for our children. We are told "pay no attention to those who have the power over your childrens' education". Don't peek behind the curtain, otherwise the charade might be up.

The Common Core: Whose Standards Are They?
Posted on October 5, 2011

In the past decades, testing has played a central role in justifying and bringing about some of the most controversial reforms, such as school choice via charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and military academies for inner city youth. But possibly the most politically significant reform of all is the adoption of national standards and assessments. Whatever one may think of “choice” and “merit pay” and “boot strapping,” they are undoubtedly the legacy of Anglo-American political thought.

But the idea — let alone the adoption of — a national curriculum appears as a sharp break with the foundation of the American Republic, the commitment to “state’s rights,” to decentralization and a relatively weak central government.

Thus begins the introduction of my forthcoming book, Testing for Tyranny: The Political Significance of a National Curriculum and Testing Regime in the United States.

At present, the push to implement the so-called Common Core Standards (not federal, not national, as Diane Ravitch would have it, but “common,” and so the choice of language is significant) represents a turning point in American history. There are many questions that must be answered about this initiative, the most important one being this: Whose standards are they? Whose interests do they serve?

This question is being posed from a variety of perspectives. For example, a Tea Party activist noted this:

The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (collectively, NGA Center/CCSSO), as the owners of the Common Core State Standards (College- and Career-Readiness Standards and K-12 Standards in English Language Arts and Math), grant this license to the Licensee identified below, subject to the terms set forth herein. The Common Core State Standards are protected by copyright and/or other applicable law, and any use of the Common Core State Standards other than as authorized under this License is prohibited.

And so:

As a parent, where will you go if you feel a change should be made to the ELA or math content to be taught to the students in your neighborhood and community schools? To the school? the local school board? to the state education dept or the state school board? to the federal government? Sorry, it is out of their hands. They no longer have control over the content for ELA and math that is to be taught to the students in the states that have adopted the CCSS.

This line of questioning might help explain the choice of language and the administrative mechanisms used to push the standards. If they were national, this notion of ownership would seem counter productive (who owns the American Flag)? If they were federal, clearly they are in the control of the federal government, owned by it, but presumably on behalf of the people as a whole.. But they are merely “common” — ushered in and controlled by an “association” of associations that is neither federally constituted nor bound to a state, a “public/private partnership” of government leaders and business interests; an entity that does not report to a legislature or even a defined constituency.

And now the Schlechty Center releases, Whose Standards Are They?

Offering a broad minded and thoughtful presentation of standards and their role in education, the paper is particularly significant for the guidance it provides school personnel in organizing discussions about the Common Core Standards in their schools and communities. It offers a concrete guide for evaluating the Common Core Standards, affirming the right of communities to have a say over the nature and function of the education provided to their youth.

Asking the “who decides” question is by far the most important question to ask when examining the Common Core initiative. Discussions narrowly fixated on implementation, or even concerns about whether national standards and tests will improve education, serve to veil consideration of how contemporary education reform (such as the Common Core) serves to re-articulate governing arrangements such that the vast majority — parents, teachers, administrators, local school boards, and youth — are excluded from involvement in decisions that directly affect their lives, and their future.

Related Posts:

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One point I'd like to make. Garrison writes:

Asking the “who decides” question is by far the most important question to ask when examining the Common Core initiative. Discussions narrowly fixated on implementation, or even concerns about whether national standards and tests will improve education, serve to veil consideration of how contemporary education reform (such as the Common Core) serves to re-articulate governing arrangements such that the vast majority — parents, teachers, administrators, local school boards, and youth — are excluded from involvement in decisions that directly affect their lives, and their future.

This is how the original 800 page Race to the Top document was produced as well...parents, taxpayers and youth are excluded from involvement in decisions that directly affect their lives, and their future.

It is time to cast aside the curtain and expose this bluster for what it is: Nonsense.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader: 10.09.11

Welcome to the Sunday Weekly Reader for October 9. We are sharing articles about the global education report card, information on IB schools, spirituality being taught in Arizona schools and a video that should be shown in every school about economics and the peril of debt.


Here's one post with many, many links on the global education report card as put together by Jay P. Greene. We are honored to have one of our articles reprinted in his blog.


Here is an article from myinclinevillage.com informing you what you need to know about International Baccalaureate (IB) schools. There are extensive links about teaching practices, theories and costs. Many thanks to our contact in Ozark who has been covering the IB school in that town for this link.

Why is Aztec spirituality allowed to be studied in classes K-5 but other spirituality concerns are not appropriate? This article explains new curriculum in Arizona.


This 3 minute youtube video from governmentgonewild.org is a must view for students. It is entitled, "Brother, Can you Spare a Trillion"? The information on the DEBT the USA owes is truly staggering. Check out the other videos on their site. The speaker makes a great point on debt vs deficit at about 2:20.


Educational quote for the week:

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. Albert Einstein
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