Archive for the ‘Evidence That Utah Lost Educational Sovereignty Under Common Core Initiative’ Category

Video: NJ Symposium to Stop Common Core: Drs. Stotsky, Tienken, Pesta, Williams, Borelli and Borelli   3 comments

In September, Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey  held a symposium entitled “No More Common Core,” featuring:

  • Dr. Sandra Stotsky, emeritus professor and member of the original Common Core validation committee
  • Dr. Christopher Tienken, professor at Seton Hall University
  • Dr. Duke Pesta of Freedom Project Education
  • Dr. Tom Borelli, a molecular biologist
  • Deneen Borelli of FreedomWorks
  • Dr. Vern Williams of MathReasoning

The symposium was filmed and is posted here in three segments.

One of the event organizers, Janice Lenox, wrote an op-ed in the Cape May County Herald that succinctly explains why this symposium was so needed.

After a tremendous amount of grassroots labor, the Assembly bill against Common Core was read and voted on.  Lenox wrote:

“We were there for the vote and absolutely ecstatic when the vote 72-2 in our favor was called. Now, on to the Senate…  the Senate president passed over the bill without posting for a vote. We were told that the governor had a meeting with the Senate president and the Teachers Union president and cut a deal. “Regulation, not Legislation” –that’s what the governor wanted. He issued an executive order… He was to assemble a Study Commission to examine the PARCC testing and alleviate the teachers’ assessments for a year… and look at the Common Core…  That was July 19 of this year… As of this date, Nov. 1, no Commission of any kind has been named and no information has been forthcoming…  We urge Senator Steven Sweeney to do the people’s business and post Senate bill S2154 to the floor for a vote and let the peoples’ voices be heard….  Let teachers teach and parents parent.”

If the good people of New Jersey will simply watch, learn, and share these vital messages from the symposium speakers, and then firmly let Senator Sweeney and their other elected representatives exactly how important this is, maybe this mountain will move move.

Go, New Jersey!

 

Symposium Part One:

 

Symposium Part Two:

 

Symposium Part Three:

Common Core Kills Love of Reading: Anonymous UT Student Teacher’s Story   5 comments

by an anonymous Utah student teacher
————————————
Last semester I worked in a first grade classroom as part of a class I was I was taking at Utah Valley University.  The teacher said she could do more teaching if she didn’t have to do so much Common Core testing, so she had me do the testing.  These children have 4 packets, 20-25 pages each, they have to get through during the year.   Part of this is a list of 100 words, 400 for the year, they need to know by sight.  As I was testing, one little boy he stopped and said, “I don’t like words.  I don’t like reading.  I don’t like books.”
My heart broke.
apple books
I went to our library here in town and checked out as many books as I could.  I went back to school every day and pulled him out of class to read just one book to him.   At first he was hesitant because he thought he was going to have to read to me. Eventually he relaxed and started enjoying.  He got so he would even turn the pages on occasion. We read one book, “The Red Book,” which has no words in it.  You make up the story yourself. When we finished I asked him if he’d rather read a book like this or would he rather have a book with the words already there.
He preferred a book with words in it.  This went on for several weeks.
book and kite
Then they had a reading competition in the classroom. On Friday whoever read the most books that week got to wear the pirate hat.  I came in one Friday and he was wearing the pirate hat.
I was thrilled.pirate
Since then it has occurred to me that I should talk to the principal.  How would he feel if someone came into his office and tested him regularly, and often, to see whether he is making any progress, getting everything done that he should do, etc.?  He would probably quit his job if he was under such testing regulations, and still they put these little kids through all this stress.
Stress-at-work
This teacher has eighteen students.  Within a week I could tell which six children were working above grade level, which 6 children were working at grade level, and which 6 children were working below grade level.  This was simply from my observations, not from any testing I was doing.  Six children took the assignments and whizzed through them.  Six children took the assignments and worked through them, but eventually they got there.  Six children got very little of the assignments done without help, and in some cases a lot of help.  Obviously, Common Core upsets me.  I’m sure there is some good there, and there are good intentions, but they are way off base.

 

Reframing the Common Core Discussion: A Battle for our Freedom   4 comments

Educator Laurie Rogers has written “Reframing the Common Core Discussion: A Battle for our Freeedom” at her website, Betrayed.  It is published with permission here.  Even starting at its title it is brilliant and important.

When Governor Herbert and others say that they want to “take another look” at Common Core, that only means a narrow discussion of Common Core math and English standards.  It doesn’t mean to look at the entire monstrous machine, from standards to tests to test-score-driven teacher evaluation to student data mining without parental consent to corporate-political knots that remove the voter from the decision-making table.  It pretends that it’s about nothing but academics (and great ones– that fit all needs).

But the parent-led Stop Common Core movement is barely even about academics –kind of like the Revolutionary War was kind of about tea.  It’s beautifully clear in Rogers’ essay:  it’s all about your freedom and mine.  It’s local control.  It’s autonomy.  It’s not having our hands tied and decisions made for us by people we never elected and cannot vote out or fire.  It’s valuing individuals– not prioritizing a centrally controlled “collective workforce.”  This is what we are fighting for.

 

 

 

REFRAMING THE COMMON CORE DISCUSSION:  A BATTLE FOR OUR FREEDOM

by Laurie Rogers

 

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”Voltaire

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”George Orwell

If I were to build a list of the worst systemic problems in public education, the Common Core State Standards would not be at the top of the list. The Common Core (CCSS) is a huge problem, to be sure. It’s dictatorial, inadequate, experimental, expensive, developmentally inappropriate, politically infused – it’s nearly everything critics have said it is. But it isn’t the worst problem we face.

That dishonor goes to The Network, a moniker I’ve given to the conglomeration of corporate and government interests (and their allies) that have seized control of America’s classrooms. The Network is huge – containing most of the K-12 education mob, plus its allies in the Department of Education; colleges of education; unions; media; government agencies, associations and legal teams; foundations; corporations; legislatures; fundraising groups; colleges and universities; business; and even the courts.

The Network prefers to operate quietly, promoting supposedly good intentions. Its hallmark phrase: “It’s all about the kids.” But try opposing The Network on behalf of a child – yours or anyone else’s. If you can’t be put off, persuaded, ignored, bullied or bought out, The Network has no problem getting nasty. The more honest and honorable you are, the nastier The Network becomes.

This isn’t about left or right, Democrat or Republican. It’s about “in” and “out”; money and power; agenda and ideology. The Network spends a lot of taxpayer money growing itself, feeding itself and shielding itself from accountability. The bigger it is, the more power it has. The more power it has, the more friends it gains. The more friends it gains, the more money it gets. The more money it gets, the bigger it grows – even as it completely fails our children. Allies of all stripes play along.

In Washington State, legislators and judges now tout the additional billions they’ll rip from taxpayers for failed school districts. They don’t say how much is spent currently or what it buys. They don’t hold districts accountable. Education already is a bottomless pit of wasted dollars; they don’t seem to care.

Parents must understand: The Network will never properly educate our children. A) It doesn’t know how. Its power structure has lost any sense of how to teach academics sufficiently, efficiently and effectively. B) It doesn’t care. The agenda is to gain money and power; push a particular political view onto the next generation; maintain position and income; and avoid accountability and transparency. Some allies work agreeably with The Network; others accept the benefits of looking the other way.

This is how we were stuck with the CCSS. They claim it will raise the bar and foster international competitiveness, but unless they mean to foster competitiveness IN our competitors, their claim is easily disproved by a comparison of what they’ve done versus what happens in the classrooms of our competitors. The CCSS is designed to deliver the agenda in such a way that it cannot be overcome.

The Network wants freedom, choices and privacy for itself, not for us. If it’s successful, it will have replaced the light constraints of a free people with the ropes and chains of the subjugated. To have what it wants in education, The Network must have it all – K-12, secondary education, early learning, preschools, private and faith-based schools – and someday – mark my words – homeschooling. Dissenters spend time and energy fighting off the CCSS but almost none fighting off The Network. Thus, they can’t defeat the agenda, and The Network knows it.

A few in The Network believe they’re doing right by children, but most deceive themselves and us about their level of independence — as they accept money, votes or benefits or do The Network’s bidding. You can establish who’s “in” by: following the money; speaking up publicly; or asking for help in opposing the agenda. The players and sycophants will undermine your message or crush it.

The Network will not tell the truth about the CCSS, for example. It was destined to be authoritarian and politically useful – not academically excellent. Nationalizing systems can work well for widgets, but not for children, learning, individuality or freedom. Politically biased, uninformed by what works elsewhere, and academically counterproductive, the CCSS is a national experiment on children and dangerous to the nation. The people who control it and push it aren’t accountable for it. It’s a lesser product than what many states had. It was deceitful from its inception in its adoption, writing, content, promotion and implementation. This was a bipartisan deceit – Republicans are as guilty as Democrats.

The CCSS is a godsend for district leaders, however. Many lack the knowledge necessary to identify a solid curriculum. They habitually adopt programs that are unproved or proved to be failures. The failures of the CCSS won’t be known for generations, so they’ll have lots of time to retire in comfort.

In math, the CCSS is cementing processes proved over three decades to be failures. Nationalization of education is how extreme constructivists plan to ultimately win the “math wars” – by using the CCSS to mandate their stupid methods across the country. They will destroy more generations of students and further endanger the country.

In English, the CCSS is allowing districts to eliminate great literature, replacing it with “informational” (pro-government, pro-extremist) material. Much of the history, culture, context, and factual information that would help to inform a student’s “critical thinking” has been or is being removed or minimized. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, once presciently noted: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” The CCSS is doing that.

In history and civics, the new themes are content-light and opinion-heavy, pro-victimization, anti-Christian and anti-patriot. America is to be portrayed as bigoted, imperialistic, genocidal, misogynistic and anti-immigrant. Great historical figures and much daring and innovative history are to be eliminated, criticized or minimized. (This is what happens when those who view America with contempt are given free reign over academic standards.)

If the CCSS was ever about helping students academically, its promoters would have had proof of its efficacy – a track record of success. They don’t have it. The CCSS is an unproved product. Unfortunately, as bad as it is, the CCSS is just one tentacle of the monster. The Network remains largely hidden as its agenda oozes out around us, like a nasty sludge. It’s difficult to confront and defeat what we can’t see. It’s an ongoing challenge to explain this to people who would rather not believe it.

Another tentacle is the privacy-destroying longitudinal data systems. Another is the flawed testing, all online. Another is teacher evaluations, based on the faulty premise that good teachers can overcome bad curriculum, policy and administration. Another is the de facto federal takeover, now seeping into private schools, preschools, daycares and colleges. Another is the creepy technology: emails for children (that disallow parental access); scanning of driver’s licenses; and biometric intrusions on children.

We try to put all of this under the umbrella of the CCSS, and we can’t, because the CCSS is not the umbrella. We struggle because we’re missing the point. These are tentacles of the same monster. They’re separate – related but independent. It’s fascist, it’s corporatist, it’s dictatorial, selfish, larcenous… Call it what you like, but The Network is in charge and not accountable to anyone.

This is how national tyrannies are born.

The Network’s strengths are in its size, money, and near-sociopathic ability and willingness to lie on a daily basis and with impunity. It benefits from our ignorance and passivity. It’s easy, safe and pleasant for us to believe that government/corporate “partnerships” are benevolent and that the government is still on our side. We are failing to recognize our new reality.

It’s almost too late. The Network now determines problems, makes decisions and provides solutions. It essentially has oversight over itself, and it’s rapidly gaining power over the rest of us. It cares less about the children or our rights than it does about protecting its interests. The finer details of the content of the CCSS were always immaterial – a distraction. The CCSS will be whatever The Network wants it to be. The goal was that we lose our power as individuals. Graduates won’t know they’ve been manipulated. The Network wants to be the decider; we are to be the obeyers. Hop to it.

It’s risky to draw this picture for the public. Network allies will kick into gear to mock and undermine the message. Since 2009, I’ve watched this come to fruition, hearing lie after lie about it, even as the dark truth blossomed right there in front of our face. We asked for help from legislators, board directors, government watchdogs, and the media — only to find out that most are part of The Network.

Sometimes a conspiracy “theory” isn’t a theory.

Fighting it off requires a certain mindset about freedom, knowledge, the law, the Constitution, and individuality – hence The Network’s attacks on those things. The Network is self-regenerating, with a long institutional memory. If it loses a tentacle to a determined group of dissenters, it grows another and renames it. In math, it can be Outcome-Based Education; New Math; Reform Math; inquiry-based math; student-centered learning; or constructivism. If a state rejects the CCSS, The Network can keep it in place under a different name. The Network isn’t worried. It intends to win. For the kiddoes, of course.

This is grim, so I hate to leave it here. This is America, and in America, it’s never over. But we’re now in a battle for our freedom, and most of us appear to not know it. It isn’t going to be a walk in the daffodils. The battle cannot be won by a few of us while the rest wait to hear how it went.

More citizens must become motivated, questioning, informed and involved. We must learn, vote, dissent, and inform others (including the few in The Network who will listen). We must stop supporting powerful people who demand that we acquiesce to The Network. We must vote against legislators who vote for The Network. We must walk away from schools run by well-heeled administrators and board directors who express solemn concern over students they never actually help. The Network prefers that we remain uninformed and obedient. As we wait in vain for it to do the right thing for our children, it advances the agenda. It’s symbiotic to itself but parasitic to the rest of us.

Americans have been asleep for too long. This battle is necessary to our children’s future as free Americans. If we don’t save them now from The Network, we risk losing them to it forever.

—————————————————————

Rogers, L. (September 2014). “Reframing the Common Core: A battle for our freedom.” Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com

Passed: Utah County Republican Resolution Against Common Core   3 comments

Below is the full text of the resolution that Utah County Republicans voted to pass, in opposition to Common Core this week. 

It will be interesting to see what Governor Herbert does with the mounting evidence that Utahns oppose Common Core.  Despite publically taking a second look at the academics, he has not taken any steps to get a second look at state  and federal data mining done in Utah, nor has he taken a second look at the actual governance structure of Common Core which seems far, far more important than the academic snapshot.  The governor’s still moving full steam on with the Common Core-promoting Prosperity 2020 and SLDS systems in this state, and has not resigned from his Common Core-promoting role in the  National Governors Association (that unelected, private trade group which created and copyrighted the Common Core.) 

Governor, is it time to start listening more closely to voters?

Utah County Republican Resolution

 utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, The Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core”), adopted as part of the “Utah
Core,” is not a Utah state standards initiative, but rather a set of nationally-based standards and tests
developed through a collaboration between two NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and
unelected boards and consortia from outside the state of Utah; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, Common Core binds us to an established copyright over standards, limiting our ability to
create or improve education standards that we deem best for our own children; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
 
WHEREAS, the General Educational Provisions Act prohibits federal authority over curriculum and
testing, yet the U.S. Department of Education’s “Cooperative Agreements” confirm Common Core’s test-
building and data collection is federally managed; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, “student behavior indicators” – which include testing for mental health, social and cultural
(i.e. religious) habits and attitudes and family status – are now being used for Common Core tests and
assessments; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, Common Core promotes the storage and sharing of private student and family data without
consent; using a pre-school through post-graduate (P-20) tracking system and a federally-funded State
Longitudinal Database (SLDS), creating substantial opportunities for invasion of privacy; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, Common Core intrudes on the constitutional authority of the states over education by
pressuring states to adopt the standards with financial incentives tied to President Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’, and if not adopted, penalties include loss of funds and, just as Oklahoma experienced a loss of
their ESEA waiver; and
 utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, the Republican National Committee and Utah State Republican Convention recently passed a
resolution opposing Common Core State Standards;
utahns against Common Core
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we call on the Governor and the Utah State School Board to withdraw
from, and we ask the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with, the
Common Core State Standards Initiative/Utah’s Core and any other similar alliance, and;
utahns against Common Core
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution shall be delivered to the Governor
and the State legislature requesting executive and legislative action.

Video: Utah Teacher Speaks Out in Detail About Problematic Common Core   Leave a comment

This Utah teacher is the dedicated, experienced and compassionate kind we all want for our children. She has a genuine passion for teaching and a sincere interest in the growth of each unique student.  What makes her even more special is her willingness to voice concerns about current education reforms –in spite of the negative consequences she has already and will continue to face as a result. She is not willing to say things are perfect or working well when she can see they are not.

The specifics she shares in this video, about how her teaching has been affected and particularly about the professional development, offer insights I hadn’t heard before.

Agree or disagree, can any policy be so perfect to be above discussion or dissent?

Let’s help her voice be heard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq2uNDxHoMA

 

Vanderbilt Law Review: Duncan’s Waivers Illegal   1 comment

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Peter Greene, teacher, blogger and Huffington Post writer, has written another funny and fascinating ed reform article.  In this one, he highlights the findings of University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black.  Black’s soon-to-be-published findings include the following:

Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB…. As a practical matter, he federalized education in just a few short months.”

Peter Greene divides the law journal article into four simple, easy-to-digest segments, and explains them.  You will laugh as you learn.

For example, under “Part I:  No Changing the Rules” Greene writes:  “When the feds pass a law, they have to lay out all the rules that do and will apply to that law. You can’t pass a law, start folks working under it, and then years later announce, ‘Oh, yeah, and by the way, we’ve changed this law about making cheese sandwiches so that it also covers sloppy joes, and also, if you don’t go along with us on this, we get to take your car.”Also, you can’t suddenly say, ‘We’ve given my brother-in-law the power to judge your sloppy joes.’  Conditions for receiving federal fund must be “unambiguous” and non-coercive.”

Both the funny and easy-to-understand analysis of Duncan’s illegal waiver-waving, and the official law journal publication by Dr. Derek Black, as soon as it becomes available to the public, must be read and shared.

Let’s stop the Department of Education’s lawless disrespect for constitutional local control of education –and protect our children– by learning and then sharing these facts widely.

Civil Disobedience   2 comments

I wrote this essay for the Libertas Institute essay contest. If you like it, please click on “like” at the Libertas link before August 22nd 2014, and share it so that I have a shot at the prize for the most “like”s. Thank you. Also, thanks to Libertas for asking Utah citizens to think and write about this important subject.

esther

 

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Queen Esther of the Bible modeled the proper role of civil disobedience when she chose to break the law to free her people from the sentence of death. She did not shrink from personal consequences that her act of agency would bring. She said, “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther illustrated the justification for civil disobedience: we break a law only when lawful appeals cannot overcome threats to life, liberty, property, or free exercise of conscience; when it’s the only honorable course. Esther’s selfless act contrasts with the self-indulgence of others who break laws without being willing to shoulder the consequences.

Martin Luther King wrote about that willingness: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Thoreau explained that governments were only able to commit wrongdoings, to “crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels,” because individuals upheld bad governments by their failure to exercise agency, who “serve the state…as machines.” He pressed every individual not to “resign his conscience” to a government, and asked, “Why has every man a conscience then?”

Utah’s predominant religion teaches “We believe… in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12) and warns: “sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected ” (D&C 134). But further study of D&C 134 reveals that “thus protected” means “protected in their inherent and inalienable rights” –defined as “free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” “Thus protected” is key: we honor government as long as we are protected in our inalienable rights. When laws fail to protect, when foul oppressions are enacted, people of conscience recognize the duty –of lawful pushback when possible, and of civil disobedience when regular appeals fail.

Pondering heroic acts of civil disobedience helps to clarify the difference between noble and ignoble disobedience.

1. 150 B.C. – Abinadi of the Book of Mormon defied the rule against freedom of speech and willingly faced the consequence of death by fire. 2. 1500′s – English protestants by the hundreds were burned at the stake or beheaded for breaking the law in refusing to follow the state religion under Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”). 3. 1776 – Many signers of the Declaration of Independence were punished or killed for signing, which was an act of civil disobedience under British law. 4. 1850′s – Harriet Tubman traveled between Northern and Southern states, illegally freeing 300 slaves. 5. 1940′s – Sweden’s diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, jumped on top of trainloads of Jews on their way to death camps; ignoring governing protocol and soldiers’ warning bullets, Wallenberg gave out illegal passports and ordered captives to exit the trains. He saved thousands and then lost his own life in a Russian prison. 6. 1940′s – Holland’s Caspar Ten Boom illegally hid Jews during World War II. He responded to those who criticized him: “You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.” 7. 1950′s – Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking segregation laws by deliberately sitting “illegally” on a bus. 8. 1989 – China’s “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square deliberately walked straight into communist tanks aimed to quell all freedom-seeking demonstrators. He was seized; it’s unknown whether he was executed. 9. 1990′s – Mongolia’s Oyun Altangarel, a state librarian, was fired for seeking freedom of religion and speech, but her organization’s hunger strike moved her country toward freedom.

Oppression is not only found in distant times and countries. It’s happening under our noses in 2014 in Utah –as are corresponding heroes of civil disobedience. Consider three stories.

1. In 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune published teacher Ann Florence’s op-ed, in which Florence wrote about “an avalanche” of counter-productive mandates which did not benefit students and did cause teacher demoralization. She lamented standardized tests and Common Core. She wrote, “We are tired of the threats and disrespect… tired of having our dedication reduced to a number. Educating children is… a life’s work that deserves the highest honor.”

In 2014, when Florence openly criticized computer-adapted standardized tests as “a waste of time and irrelevant,” refused to grade them, and spoke out to news media, the honors English teacher was fired by Granite School District for “a pattern of noncompliance”.

Florence told ABC4 news, “I am challenged constantly to teach my students to consider their own opinions, to examine their opinions …but when I try to employ critical thinking as a teacher and I have the support of hundreds of other teachers, I’m silenced and I’m fired.”

2. When Stuart Harper, St. George High School Physics Teacher, spoke out against the Common Core “reform,” he was threatened with job loss.  Harper had stated that he didn’t like Common Core being “pushed upon us [teachers],” nor could he tolerate the “lack of control we have over its content.” He criticized the “awful quality of its math core,” an “over-emphasis on testing,” “burdens on schools for curriculum changes and data collection” and said that “its focus drives schools deeper into the political realm and further from real education.”

The district told Harper he’d created rebellion and insubordination. They insisted that he accept their claims about Common Core– as if seeking verification was not scientific; as if truth cannot hold up under scrutiny; as if freedom of thought equals insubordination; as if debate equals unethical conduct.

Harper reasoned with officials, saying, “my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told, ‘Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply’ … I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign…”

Harper would not be silenced, though he knew that the system “expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions… and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. ” In his resignation letter, he wrote, “Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas…” He revealed that the system hurts not only teachers’ freedom of conscience but also students’ freedom of conscience: it “no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think.”

Harper was pressured to resign and did resign– not just over academically inferior standards, but over “an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech.”

3. When Utah high school student Hannah Smith (not her real name) saw, during the state’s Common Core (SAGE) test, that an objectionable test question should be viewed by parents, she captured screen shots of the question with her cell phone. She sent them to her mother, and they were shared, published and viewed nationally.

Smith was threatened by administrators with possible loss of graduation and was told that she was a cheater. The teacher who had been in the room was also threatened with professional action. State education leader Judy Park was quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune, threatening, “Any licensed educator that has been involved, I will report to UPPAC (Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission of the state Board of Education), because they have now violated the obligation to follow ethics.” Park added, “[A]ll this concern about Common Core and SAGE has led us to the point that parents are encouraging students to break the law.”

Utah’s government uses multiple methods to stifle debate and freedom of thought in education. Utah teachers and school staff report (anonymously) that they must conform to education and data reforms without discussion. They’re told that they may not inform parents nor students of legal rights to opt out of SAGE testing, nor speak out against the Common Core without punishment for insubordination.

Key to the coffle is the state school board’s selection procedure, which narrows the candidate pool before voters get a chance to vote. The selection procedure starts with a survey that asks whether candidates support Utah Core/Common Core. It is further narrowed by insider committees and narrowed again by the governor to two pre-selected candidates. From these, voters may choose one. A rejected candidate recently sued the governor, calling this selection procedure “viewpoint discrimination.”

Why must we reclaim the sacred freedom to disagree and debate? Benjamin Franklin explained: “Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions. if these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions?”

Speaking against inappropriate education reforms now ranks as civil disobedience for Utah educators. Utah parents who opt children out of SAGE tests are sometimes chided by school administrators as “unsupportive” of schools despite the law upholding the parental right to opt out of the tests.

Utah’s predominant religion says that we “do not believe that human law has a right to…… bind the consciences of men” (D & C 134). It states that the “magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” The chapter teaches “that the commission of crime should be punished… all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment” (D&C 134). I think Thoreau would agree: he called government’s harm to conscience a “sort of bloodshed” and said, “through this wound a man’s real manhood” flows out. He wrote: “we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”

Although Utahans are witnessing the lack of freedom being put into place by the Common Core tests and Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) –most fail to step forward.

Why?

In part this may be because there is controversy over whether new standards harm or help, but it’s unarguable that the oppressive nature of implementation harms free exercise of parent/teacher conscience and that the tests and data collection systems make students unwitting guinea pigs of D.C.’s experiment. These things should matter; even those who believe Common Core’s claim to improve education may recall that the Declaration of Independence speaks of “consent by the governed” which Common Core can’t claim since it wasn’t vetted by teachers, parents or taxpayers prior to adoption.

Fact: Utah’s government oppresses exercise of conscience by threatening job loss to educators who exercise it. Teachers governed thus are not protected in their inalienable rights. Fact: because the government creates no allowance for parents to opt children out of its federal-state database tracking system (State Longitudinal Database System) it also violates parental “right and control of property”–privacy being personal property. Fact: for at least two years the state school board (collectively) has rejected every plea for relief from parents and teachers on this matter, and the legislature has not succeeded in righting the wrong.

The choice then has become to behave as silent property, as governed as cooped chickens, or to rise to the scary, defining moment of Common Core. Stand-up actions (parents opting students out of testing, administrators claiming the right to say no) may result in ridicule or job loss but may be the only way we can defend the Constitutional right to local control of education, the only way to do the right thing.

Consider Thoreau’s words: “under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

For the sake of our American liberties and for the sake of our children, it is time for those who share the spirit of Queen Esther to echo her example: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

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