"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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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Minnesota Needs Your Help

A good magician, or a progressive, pulls off most magic tricks using slight of hand which diverts your attention to one hand while the other hand makes the switch. It looks like the Minnesota Department of Education is working its own slight of hand conveniently using the elections to distract the public from noticing the terrible Social Studies Standards they are trying to pass into law. We have written about these standards before. Interestingly, these standards were panned by both conservative and liberal groups alike, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. These standards are headed into permanent rule without a public hearing because the notice for requesting a hearing was snuck out in the heat of the election cycle. Education Liberty Watch has been ringing the alarm bell about these standards for a little over a year, and now they really need your support.

You can help by requesting a public hearing by November 30th. You do not need to attend the hearing or be a MN resident to request the hearing.  The rest of this post is from an Education Liberty Watch mailing.

Karen R. Effrem, MD - President, Education Liberty Watch

The Minnesota Department of Education is about to complete the "extreme makeover social studies standards edition" process of the well rated 2004 version. Instead of following the law which says to "revise and align" the standards, there has been a top to bottom rewriting with alarming changes in emphasis.  This process began in 2011 and we have endeavored to keep you informed:

Comments Submitted for Final Draft of Minnesota Social Studies Standards
Comments on US History Standards from an Attorney and Teacher of the Constitution 
National Association of Scholars Review of MN Social Studies Standards  
John Fonte Review of Minnesota Social Studies Standards
Southern Poverty Law Center Review  
 Please Comment!! Social Studies Standards Continue Disastrous Course in Final Draft!  
 Alert! New PC Social Studies Standards are a Disaster!! 

The 2011 version, (official rule version available here and standards with benchmarks available here), is about to be put into permanent rule.  The only way to have a hope of any more influence on the final outcome is for at least 25 people to request a hearing by November 30, 2012. The actual hearing itself is scheduled for December 20th but will be cancelled if there are not enough requests.

The full details to request a hearing and or to comment on the standards are contained in the Dual Use notice.  Here are the important highlights:

What:  Request a public hearing before the social studies standards are cemented into rule and submit comments on the social studies standards.

Deadline: 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30, 2012 

Hearing Time, Date, & Location if 25 Requests Received: 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, December 20, 2012 in room CC-15, Minnesota Department of Education, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, Minnesota, 55113

Submit Hearing requests to: Kerstin Forsythe Hahn at the Department of Education, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, Minnesota, 55113, email: Kerstin.forsythe@state.mn.us. Phone (for questions):phone: 651-582-8583. TTY users may call the Department of Education at 651-582-8201.  [Please forward a copy to office@edlibertywatch.org so that we may know if there are enough requests for a hearing. Also after discussions with the administrative law judge, the agency contact, and MN Senate staff, there is no requirement that hearing requests be from Minnesota residents exclusively.]

Parameters for Hearing Request: "You must make your request for a public hearing in writing, which the agency contact person must receive by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30, 2012. You must include your name and address in your written request. In addition, you must identify the portion of the proposed rules that you object to or state that you oppose the entire set of rules. Any request that does not comply with these requirements is not valid and the agency cannot count it when determining whether it must hold a public hearing. You are also encouraged to state the reason for the request and any changes you want made to the proposed rules." NOTE: PLEASE at a minimum, request a hearing and whether you oppose all of the standards or a certain part along with your name and address all in writing. You do not need to be a Minnesota resident to do this.

Parameters for Comment Submission: "You are encouraged to propose any change that you desire. You must also make any comments about the legality of the proposed rules during this comment period.  You have until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30, 2012, to submit written comment in support of or in opposition to the proposed rules or any part or subpart of the rules. Your comment must be in writing and received by the agency contact person by the due date.Comments are encouraged. Your comments should identify the portion of the proposed rules addressed, the reason for the comment, and any change proposed." NOTE: If, after you have requested a hearing, you want to submit comments, please do so. You do not have to submit extensive comments on every single standard and benchmark. You may certainly choose as few as one standard in one grade level in one subject, but PLEASE do something.

The Department's justification for this wholesale rewrite of the standards is in a document called the Statement of Need & Reasonableness (SONAR).  A more detailed analysis of this will be coming soon with our comments.

The reasons to oppose these standards are myriad and may be found at the links above and within the SONAR.  Here are a few important ones:

  • There is no discussion of the distinction between unalienable (God-given, inherent) rights as defined in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the Constitution  and rights that are given and taken away via the whims of man and government as described in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which receives almost as much emphasis in the standards and benchmarks as the Declaration of Independence. Unalienable rights is mentioned once in the examples, but not in the standards or benchmarks that are actually tested. 
  • Substitution of content knowledge in history and civics for civic activism that is not politically neutral, according to the National Association of Scholars.
  • The standards focus inordinately on skills in stead of content knowledge and there are glaring omissions including the Global War on Terror, the genocide of Communism, the benefits of Western Civilization and free market capitalism,and the significant scientific and other innovations from the US.  This was pointed out by John Fonte of the Hudson Institute, who is also a member of the NAEP steering committee in civics and  member of CIVITAS.
  • The historical discussions are incredibly biased towards everything the nation has done wrong regarding slavery and the treatment of indigenous peoples, but little to nothing about the things this nation has done well to have made it the freest, most generous, most prosperous, and most liberating country in the history of the world.  In other words there is no discussion of American exceptionalism, patriotism, etc. This was discussed by both Fonte, as well as attorney Holsten. Even the very liberal Southern Poverty Law Center gave the new standards an "F" grade because there is not enough content and specificity about the civil rights movement. They also admitted that the 2004 version contained excellent content on this subject and was highly rated by the Fordham Foundation
  • Not previously discussed is the whole issue of linking the new social studies standards to the English standards which are now the Common Core national standards in English. In fact, the full name of the English standards is the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. These English standards have been described by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a member of the original Common Core validation committee, as culture and content free skills with the so called "college ready" high school standards being at the 6th to 8th grade level. They were so bad that she refused to sign off on them. This speaks poorly to the likely rigor and content of the new social studies standards as already indicated by the reviews mentioned here. 
Although Minnesota and the nation are rapidly approaching the point of no return, beyond which it will be very difficult to have our children in public schools learn the principles of freedom and economic success that have made the United States the most exceptional  nation in the history of the world and to preserve that status, we have a chance to change or at least slow down the implementation of these seriously flawed standards. For sake of the future for both our children and our nation, please do what you can. THANK YOU!!!

MEW Readers: It might be tempting to consider this Minnesota's problem alone or rationalize that non-residents have no business getting involved, but keep in mind that every time a set of standards like this becomes enshrined into law somewhere, it is used in the development of and justification for Common Core Standards. If we do not believe this is the version of history we want taught to our children and future generations, we need to make sure it does not stand anywhere in this country. Please consider requesting a hearing in Minnesota. You can use the points in the links provided as justification.

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