Freedom versus Equality: what I think versus what the State School Board thinks   2 comments

I would never have imagined, a month ago, before I started to study Common Core, that there were members of the Utah State School Board and a top lawyer of the Utah State Office of Education who believed that genuinely high educational standards and actual freedom were unimportant in comparison to guaranteed equality of education.

The USOE lawyer, (responding to my question as to why Utah has adopted this educational system, Common Core, that won’t allow Utah a voice in amending its standards nor its common test,)  said:

“Why would there need to be? [an amendment process] The whole point is is to get to a place where there is a “common core” – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it. If the states had the freedom to “disagree” and “change” them, I guess they would no longer be “common”.”

This lawyer illustrates a key attitude happening at the USOE and Utah State School Board:  these people realize Utah has ceded our sovereignty and freedom.  They know lots of people don’t think the Common Core standards answer the legitimate question of “how do we help students truly succeed academically and truly become college-ready?”

Still, they push for Common Core because these educational leaders value being common more than they value being free.

A state school board member wrote to me yesterday, saying: ” I have always understood that it is the principle of “equality” not “freedom” that was the guiding principle of our constitution. Beginning with the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, etc. I have always understood the theme to be equality. It is that principle that sets us apart from other “free” nations like India and Mexico and the countless other free countries that don’t resemble us in any way.

Please explain why during my last tour of the Supreme Court in DC they expressed the same sentiment—not freedom but equality.

This is something I have never understood in your writings because you continue to reference freedom over equality and I have never heard that from a political scholar. Are you reading something other than these documents to draw your conclusion?

I understand perfectly that you might not agree with the tour guide’s script at the US Supreme Court but it is going to be a hard-sell to the people of this state to base this decision about the common core on principles that differ from those. How can I tell folks that your opinions about American values are better than theirs and we are going to base this decision on your minority views? What would the constitution say about that? I just need a good argument to take to them…what would it be? What should Brenda Hales say when the majority of folks do not agree with you? It is a hard place for her to be in when your views are a bit right of center and you are campaigning for ideology over substantive core standards. This is what I am struggling with and I need your help to answer this legitimate question.”  – from the state school board member.

I responded:

Dear ______,

The Constitution is … the centerpiece of all U.S. laws and remains the protector of its citizens.

If you study it you will see that over and over and over again, liberty is the key term.  Even in the very first line, in the Preamble to the Constitution, it says “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and  establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  It speaks of freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, over and over and over.  It delegates checks and balances so that no one arm can threaten the freedom of another, though currently our federal arm is attempting to usurp our state arm in educational  and other matters.

A tour guide’s script, of course, has no business being compared to the highest law of the land, our U.S. Constitution.

For fun, I just did a quick word check.  “Equality” never shows up at all in the Constitution.  The word “equal” does show up, but it comes in the context of equal numbers of votes (not a privilege we get under Common Core) and equal protection under the laws (not something I see happening with the adoption of common core).  The tour guide made that part up.

Equality can never be mandated.  The Communists tried it and look where it got them.  Inequality –also known as diversity, uniqueness, the power to innovate and to soar beyond that which is mediocre and common– is a good thing.

The push towards nationalized education is directly opposed in spirit and in letter to the laws of our landBesides the Constitution, three laws prohibit the direction, supervision or control in any way of standards, curricula and curricular materials and instructional practice.

The General Educational Provisions Act clearly states:

No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.

Read that, and then read the “Cooperative Agreement” between the SBAC consortium and the U.S. Dept. of Education with its telephone conferences, status updates, coordinating “across consortia,” making data available on an ongoing basis to the federal government…

It is simply not legally permissable.  And it matters.  Our ability to govern educational decisions in Utah, matters.  It affects our children and their families tremendously.

…I am campaigning for meaningful standards… it is meaningless to adopt un-amendable standards that are subject to change.  It is meaningless to adopt unpiloted, unproven, “undocumented-to-functionally-improve-student-outcomes” standards, just because someone claimed and never even validated, that they are “rigorous.”  Anyone can make claims, but we need evidence before we move forward.

The Common Core Initiative is multi-faceted.  Some of us focus on the educational standards; some of us focus on the cost of implementation as taxpayers already maxed out; some of us focus on the intrusions on parental rights via the data collection and the FERPA revisions; some of us focus on the ways in which it is a Constitutionally illegal initiative.

In so many ways, we have put the cart before the horse on adopting the Common Core Initiative.  We need to back up, slow down, identify reality, and identify which parts of the Common Core claims can be validated.

I don’t think you can correctly identify what I am doing as “campaigning for idealogy.”  I want tangible answers.  I want to know this thing is educationally legitimate, and the jury is still out on that.  I want to know this thing is cost-effective, and the cost analysis hasn’t even been started yet in Utah.  Other states have done cost analyses and based on that, have rejected it.  I want to know this thing is not taking away parental rights over student data via FERPA changes and longitudinal database creation that is now legally perusable by everyone and anyone.  I want to know that our state retained its rights under the Constitution so that we can amend anything we adopt.

That’s the truckload of reality that needs to be faced, which doesn’t fit neatly under the label “ideology”.

Christel

 

WE THE PEOPLE VIDEO:

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=JVAhr4hZDJE&vq=medium#t=19

 

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2 responses to “Freedom versus Equality: what I think versus what the State School Board thinks

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  1. Wow! That’s remarkable! And disturbing.

    We have at least one individual on the State School Board who thinks our country was founded on “equality”, not freedom, and she has the power – in concert with just 11 other individuals who may share her odd view of history and politics – to override my wishes for what my children are taught in the public schools. Her political scholar associates are limited indeed. I could point her in the direction of several who could explain how freedom was the founding principle of this country. And I’m still scrunching up my face trying to figure out what basis she uses to label Mexico and India “free”.

    Can you imagine the war cry, “That we all may be equal!!” (only the French did that, and we can see how THAT turned out) or the talk among soldiers about how all they really want is to be equal to their neighbors, and how they’re sick of Britain preventing it? No, indeed. “Freedom!” is the only cry that could inspire hundreds of thousands to fight for six and a half years. They wanted to be free of government oppression, free to pursue their own happiness; and that’s why they wrote protections from government into the Constitution.

    I don’t know where she gets the idea that most Utahns think they have a “right to equality”, but they don’t think they have a “right to freedom”. I’ve never heard one of my fellow Utahns state that they are grateful to live in a land that is equal, but I’ve heard dozens say they are grateful to live in a land that is free.

    The fact that government, including the USOE, is now trying to oppress people (that is, take away their choices) “for our own good” does not make it any less offensive than the oppression of the taxes and the forced quartering of soldiers that inspired the colonists.

    There IS a thread of truth in what the Board member says. Equality WAS part of the founding. But that equality was equality before the law, a law under which everyone was equally free to pursue his or her own choices in life. But enforced equality of outcomes? Only the truly underachieving can get excited about enforced equality.

    Thank you, Christel, for your reading of the Constitution, and for your persistent, clear voice on this issue.

    Autumn F. Cook
  2. Wow! That’s remarkable! And disturbing.

    It’s disturbing that a State School Board member thinks our country was founded on “equality”, not freedom. She has the power to influence what children are taught in the public schools, and that view of history is not only plainly incorrect, but widespread embrace of it would be the end of our American way of life.

    When I try to imagine how one can picture this nation being founded on “equality”, I try to imagine those hundreds of thousands of soldiers who fought over the course of six and a half years rallying to the cry, “That we all may be equal!!” Or can you imagine the soldiers of the Revolutionary War talking about how all they really want is to be equal to their neighbors, and how they’re sick of Britain preventing it?

    No, indeed! “Freedom!” is the only cry that could inspire such an effort. They wanted to be free from government oppression, free to pursue their own happiness; and that’s why they wrote protections from government into the Constitution. The equality they sought was equality before the law, so that government officials were no more privileged than farmers or tradesmen, rich men no more privileged than poor men. They sought equality of liberty under a law which left everyone equally free to pursue his or her own choices in life, equally free to succeed or fail. They did not seek enforced equality of outcomes, as the Common Core’s proponents do. Only the truly underachieving can get excited about enforced equality.

    I’m struggling to understand where this School Board member gets the idea that most Utahns think they have a “right to equality”, but don’t think they have a “right to freedom.” I’ve never heard one of my fellow Utahns state that they are grateful to live in a land that is equal; but I’ve heard dozens say they are grateful to live in a land that is free.

    The fact that government, including the USOE, is now trying to oppress people (that is, take away their choices) “for our own good” does not make it any less offensive than the blatant oppression of the taxes and the forced quartering of soldiers that inspired the colonists.

    Thank you, Christel, for your persistent, clear voice on this issue.

    Autumn F. Cook

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