From Alaska with love.
Here’s a video that I hadn’t seen before, made last spring as Alaska legislators listened to expert testimony about Common Core. It’s long, but truly worth the time. My plan was to listen while I folded laundry but I kept throwing down the laundry to run over and replay a section, cheering for the vital testimonies being presented.
One of the jumping-and-cheering parts was Professor Anthony Esolen –on the ham-handed writing of the Common Core English standards– which starts at minute 19:00 and goes to about 27:00.
He vividly expressed how during this era of trash-literature, when it is more important than ever to bring students to great books, the Common Core fails us; it doesn’t even introduce students to their great literary heritage except in little fragments and shards; it fails to coherently teach grammar; it tragically kills any chance at kindling a deep love of reading, suffocating under information-text mandates the needed wide exposure to imaginative and classic literature.
It’s understated to say that the meeting grew a bit tense. Those gathered did not seem to agree even on whether or not Alaska’s standards are the same as Common Core standards. Key attendees appeared unmoved by the logical, passionate expressions given by testifiers, their minds likely having been made up prior to the testimonies.
At this link, watch the discussion, introduced by Representative Lora Reinbold. Testifiers include: Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College; Anthony Eselon of Providence College; Sandra Stotsky (ret.) University of Arkansas; Ze’ev Wurman, former Department of Education Official (Bush Admin.), NEA Ron Fuhrer President; Marty Van Diest, parent; Troy Carlock and Joe Alward, teachers; and Mike Hanley, Commissioner of Education.
An Idaho grandmother, Yvonne Hyer, recently wrote a letter to legislators. She didn’t just confront her own representatives about Common Core and student data mining; she signed, stamped, and mailed her letter to one hundred and five members of the Idaho legislature.
On this eve of her ninetieth birthday, Yvonne Hyer told Idaho legislators that she remembers what she was doing when America’s Pearl Harbor was bombed, on a day when the current Idaho legislators weren’t even born.
Her letter warns, “We had all better remember. If we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat the same horrible mistakes.“
(I have added some historical photos to illustrate Yvonne Hyer’s points.)
Yvonne’s letter explained that is was a mistake to give in –during a climate of dissatisfaction, unemployment and economic insecurity– to the comforting lies of collectivist power-grabbers, focused on transforming schools.
Actual illustrated children’s textbook from 1941 Germany (notice Hitler’s agenda embedded in curriculum)
The mistakes seem to be repeating themselves, wrote Yvonne Hyer: American leaders have begun to walk the school-transforming path sketched out by current elected officials and their corporate allies. This reminded Yvonne Hyer of how many listened to the then-heroic young leader of the 1940s, Adolph Hitler, and how nobody stopped him from taking over the schools.
“He gained control over the minds of the German children who became known as Hitler’s Youth. This he did in the school room…” she wrote.
Her letter further explains that one reason the German government mandated what went on in the classroom was to indoctrinate students with “politically correct” idealogy. But there was a second reason.
It was student (and family) data mining which took place in large part the German educational system:
“They were taught that it was their duty to report anyone who spoke against the government or its leaders, even their own parents….There was a lot of spying, to keep them in line… If Hitler had had access to Common Core’s data mining in that day, it would have been a snap to get what he wanted…”
“…Please don’t think I’ll believe you or anyone else who tells me that this data mining is strictly for educational purposes. As I told you in the beginning of this letter, I was not born yesterday…. Please do all you can to get us out of Common Core….the data mining of our children, by way of the State Longitudinal Database System, and the complete disregard for the child’s privacy (and their family’s privacy) are uppermost in my mind and heart“.
Yvonne is correct.
But will her legislators ponder the wisdom of this woman’s observations –and take action?
Are they aware that no student or family is permitted to opt out of the state longitudinal database system, which does collect massive amounts of student and family information without parental consent– and that this database system has been built in exactly the same, federally-prescribed, interoperable way, in every single one of the fifty states?
Do they realize that she’s completely correct– that Common Core is no different from the power grabbing that’s taken place throughout history, where always, the would-be elites have sought and gained access to and control over the school room?
Do they take a moment to think about the fact that the reason so many were successfully deceived and used as pawns in the widespread power-taking agendas of the past (not limited to Hitler’s Reich; including countless historical examples, past and present, around the world–) the reason for that success was that the official marketing lines sound so very, very appealing?
Will these legislators take a moment to fact check Yvonne’s claims and to fact check the claims about Common Core that gush forth, with exactly the same phrasing, from Boards of Education, federal grant application documents, official federal speeches, corporate educational sales speeches, poised-for-riches Chambers of Commerce and crony moneymakers’ speeches? Why doesn’t any legislature or state school board use its research team to fact-check and motivation-check?
This wise woman’s call for the legislators to wake up and stop the takeover of our schools and our students’ data privacy could not be more important.
Here’s the letter:
Dear Senator ________________,
In just four months, I will be 90 years old. Why is that important and why do I mention it to you? It’s important because I remember World War II.
Most of you serving in the legislature at this time had not even been born then. I remember what I was doing on Dec. 7th 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor! Most of us living then, still remember, just as all of us living now remember what we were doing on Sept. 11th 2001, the morning the Twin Towers were attacked. We had all better remember! If we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat the same horrible experiences. I see many things going on in our country today, not identical, but reminiscent of an earlier time in a different part of the world.
After World War I, much of Europe was in shambles. Millions of men had died in the trenches and open battle fields. As those who survived returned home, they found the additional human cost was staggering. The length of the war, four long years, brought all kinds of problems, starvation not the least among them, along with unemployment, industry having almost shut down, with so many men at the front. In this climate of dissatisfaction, a group calling themselves the “Workers’ Party” was formed.
A young corporal was sent by his superiors to a meeting of the group to investigate. Dressed as a civilian, he blended in and heard a speaker convincingly describe how to get rid of capitalism. He was given a pamphlet called “My Political Awakening” which resonated with his own feelings. In challenging a statement made by own of the workers, he learned that he had a voice and passion that could sway his listeners. He joined the Worker’s party and advanced in its ranks, learned how to work a crowd and thus he entered into politics and in time became one of the most infamous world figures. He used whatever means and schemes, regardless of morality or legality, to achieve his objectives.
Adolph Hitler! What a hey-day he would have had with Common Core’s data mining! He gained control over the minds of German children who became known as “Hitler’s Youth”. This he did in the school room.
They were taught that the Third Reich was supreme and that its leaders had unquestioned authority; this was drilled into them from the earliest grades up. They were taught that it was their duty to report anyone they heard talking against the government or its leaders, even their own parents, and they did; it was so ingrained in them. There was a lot of spying then to find information on people, to keep them in line. If Hitler had had access to Common Core’s data mining in that day, it would have been a snap to get the information he wanted.
I know this sounds paranoid because this would never happen in America, but lots of things have happened in our country that we would never have dreamed of.
Of what possible use is all that data that is being gathered through Common Core tests or assessments, and to whom is it important? Ask yourself that question, and while doing so, let the fact cross your mind, that some of the items of information from your child or grandchild’s “data back pack” might just end up biting you. Please don’t think I’ll believe you or anyone else who tells me that this data mining is strictly for educational purposes. As I told you in the beginning of this letter, I was not born yesterday.
Please do all you can to get us out of Common Core. There are many other things about this program that I am deeply concerned about, but the data mining of our children, by way of the State Longitudinal Database Systems and the complete disregard for the child’s privacy (and their family’s privacy) are uppermost in my mind and heart at this time.
We know that changing the name to Idaho Core didn’t change anything! We want out!
Those of you not on the Education Committee may not be aware that Common Core is a package deal. It’s either take all of it, or none. It is copyrighted by two private trade groups, “The National Governors Association” and “The Council of Chief State School Officers” the NGA and the CCSSO (check: http://www.corestandards.org/public-license ).
We can add a little of what we would like to the program, 15%, but none of that will be included in the assessments. So if an inquisitive student should choose to study some “outside material” on his own time, none of the knowledge he acquired, regardless of how much effort he put in, or the accuracy or the importance of what he learned, will be counted toward his grade, because it will not be on the prescribed assessment. When I went to school and even when my children went, students were encouraged to reach out and expand their minds, we even got extra credit. We were taught that that was the way people got ahead in the world.
If the teachers’ job and salary and the ranking of their school is dependent on how well his or her students perform on the assessment, who can blame them for “teaching to the test”? Many fine teachers in this awful predicament are disheartened. This was not why they chose a teaching career. Few of them dare to speak up against Common Core because they need to provide for their families.
Common Core is and will be more far reaching and intrusive in our lives than any of us can foresee at the present time. Loss of local control is frightening to me, not just in education, but particularly in education, because of the effect on the minds and hearts of our precious children, the future leaders of our Republic.
Can you please tell me, Senator, why an issue as important as almost completely changing our education system, did not come before the whole legislative body for discussion and debate– time and again? Is not your opinion on this subject, vital as it is to each of us, as important as that of those on the Education Committee? Were you not also elected to uphold Idaho conservative values? You were probably as much in the dark about this as the rest of us; the more people in the dark about it, the more likely it was to be passed, and I think that was planned.
As Common Core is actually being implemented in the classroom and as more people are becoming aware of what this program really is, you will see it becoming more of an issue.
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” -Abraham Lincoln
Since Common Core affects all Idahoans, I’m sending this letter to each of you legislators, with my earnest plea that you will consider the ramifications inherent in such power and control as this program gives “somebody”.
Mrs. Yvonne Hyer
Thank you to Yvonne Hyer.
Read this week’s powerful letter by Oregon State Representative Dennis Richardson.
Rep. Richardson’s Newsletter August 20, 2014
Common Core. The Answer to Oregon’s Failed Education System?
I flew helicopters for the Army in Vietnam. In flight school it was commonly known that one-third of us Warrant Officer Candidates would “wash-out” and not graduate. While a one-third wash-out rate may have been acceptable there, it is not acceptable for one-third of Oregon high school students to drop-out before graduation.
There are hard questions about Oregon’s education system that deserve to be answered. What will be the costs to individuals, families and society of having one-third of our students dropping out of high school? How are they going to perform in the competitive 21st century global job market? What is Governor John Kitzhaber and Oregon’s state education leaders doing to stop the race to the bottom, where Oregon currently has the second lowest graduation rate in the country, and the highest rate of chronic student absenteeism?
As families get their school supplies in order and make other preparations to help their students start the new school year on the right foot, many are questioning Oregon’s latest endeavor to fix our failed education system and wondering if it will pass the test. Today’s newsletter will address the misguided solution enacted by the Governor and state education leaders to the abysmal condition of Oregon’s public education system, by implementing the newest in a list of federally-promoted educational programs known as Common Core. To put this discussion into perspective, consider the following scenario: For years, the dilapidated Sellwood Bridge in SE Portland has been a source of concern. Out-of-date and unsafe, it needed to be completely rebuilt to remain functional, a project that is currently underway. Now imagine that because of the dilapidated condition of the Sellwood Bridge, every bridge in the state is to be torn down and rebuilt– all at the same time. Think of the cost, the disruption, the waste. Of course the idea would be ridiculous, but in a way it is exactly what is being foisted on the entire Oregon education system by mandating implementation of the Common Core, and the silence from the Legislature is deafening.
What is Common Core?
Starting this academic year, all Oregon public schools (as well as those in many other states) are scheduled to abandon previously established academic standards and implement a new and untried nationalized set of learning goals called Common Core. The performance of these standards will be measured by new standardized tests. At Common Core’s outset, when the federal government offered “stimulus” money to the state Governors that accepted Common Core, the standards and tests involved had not even been written. In other words, the Governor and state education leaders unilaterally committed all Oregon’s school districts to adopting a new statewide curriculum before it had even been developed, and Oregon was committed without Legislative consideration or approval.
Since then, Common Core’s standards and tests have been created by a group of people with very limited classroom experience, and in many cases NO classroom experience at all. Now, Common Core’s standards are being implemented without any legislative or public involvement, and still have not been fully tested. (The implementation of Common Core sounds to me like our national health plan, which was passed by Congress before any of our Congressional representatives had the opportunity to read it.) Currently many states are seeking to repeal or delay implementation of Common Core, and a great deal of legislation has been proposed across the nation to address this issue. The American Federation of Teachers union, called for a midcourse moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core. The Oregon teachers’ union (O.E.A.) has also called for a moratorium. Even Common Core’s biggest supporter, the Gates Foundation, has called for a two-year delay. Concern over prematurely implementing Common Core crosses political party lines. People who would normally be on opposite sides of the issues are banding together to speak out against Common Core.
Why is opposition to Common Core so widespread and impassioned?
Let’s ask the teachers, those who work in the ‘trenches,’ in Oregon’s classrooms, those who often spend more time with our children than anyone else. The best teachers will tell you that regardless of low pay or long hours, they are teachers because they are passionate about the subjects they teach, about learning, and about being able to make a difference in childrens’ lives. I can only imagine what it will do to the state of our classrooms if, when summer vacation ends, our teachers must throw out the lesson plans they adjust to meet their students’ needs and instead teach to Common Core’s new standardized tests—replacing curriculum with test preparation activities. The ‘heart’ and the passion that connects our best teachers to their students will be missing when they are relegated to class monitors, provided scripted materials written by bureaucrats and other non-educators. Certainly Oregon’s educational system needs to be overhauled, but Common Core is not ready to solve the systemic needs of Oregon’s failed educational system. Veteran teachers are reporting morale is at an all-time low and it’s attributed to the confusion and sterility of Common Core State Standard’s (CCSS) approach to learning and testing. This concerns me greatly, for if passion and creativity are forced out of teaching, we will lose our passionate and creative teachers.
To make matters worse, the future of our teachers are at risk. The new system will tie teacher evaluations to student success on Common Core tests without provisions made for those who teach our more “high-risk” learners, such as low-income students and those with learning disabilities. It seems an almost foregone conclusion that our at-risk learners will fail and the jobs of their teachers are jeopardized since pro-Common Core State Deputy School Superintendent Ron Saxton expects only 35% of Oregon students will pass the Common Core tests. The Oregon Department of Education has requested the U.S. Department of Education to temporarily let teachers off the hook for expected low test scores of Oregon students, but the schools and school districts will be ranked. Who then will teach our most challenged students, when teachers know their reputations or professional futures could be jeopardized if they work with at-risk students? Add the fact that teachers have been given little or no training on these new standards, and it becomes very evident that there are serious flaws with Common Core. Should we really be implementing something we are expecting students to fail? Who will flourish in this setting? Gifted students will be bored, students who already dislike school will be even more inclined to skip, and students with obstacles to learning will simply be unable to succeed. Teachers in schools that have already begun implementing Common Core tell me how struggling students are being pulled from electives in order to pass early implementation Common Core tests. These teachers are witnessing the marginalization of students whose strengths lie outside of the areas being tested. Many teachers are agonizing that Common Core’s mandate will do more harm than good, and will only compound Oregon’s problems with absenteeism and lack of on-time graduation. Is this really what we want for Oregon’s children? Of course not.
When it comes to enacting these new standards, we have more unanswered questions. How much will it cost to train teachers to implement Common Core? How much to purchase new learning materials and to acquire the technology necessary to administer and track the tests? And, who will pay? With schools already in dire financial straits, where will the money come from to implement yet another federal educational experiment on Oregon’s rising generation? Finally, it concerns me to see that many of the people behind these standards and the requirements of these tests are affiliated with multi-billion dollar companies with financial conflicts of interest.
These are companies that have near monopolies on the contracts to provide the tests and corresponding curriculum. There is a glaring conflict of interest in having mandatory materials designed by those who are positioned to profit from them. And even if profits to its originators didn’t taint this new system, even if good intentions were the sole impetus behind this top-down policy, national control of state education policies is still a bad idea.
Decisions about the education of our children should not be dictated by a select, distant few. Educational decisions are best made by those closest to the students—parents, teachers and local school boards—not far away state and federal bureaucrats and large, conflicted corporate representatives. Oregon’s education standards need local control with rational state oversight and evidence-based practices learned from Oregon’s most successful schools. Currently, Oregon’s on-time graduation rate is second worst in the nation and our student absentee rate higher than every other state. I believe in educational equality for all students and that every student deserves three things—a mentor, a reason to stay in school and an opportunity for a decent job after graduation. I believe action to fix Oregon’s failing schools system must be taken, but it should be based on what is working in Oregon’s most successful schools, not untried educational experiments fomented by national “educrats” and funded with federal largess.
Solutions for Oregon educational system’s tragic failure. Rather than fret over the dismal state of Oregon’s statewide educational system and rather than pathetic attempts by Governor Kitzhaber and his appointed education leaders to address it by implementing Common Core, let’s look to Oregon’s home-grown examples of success. Let’s look to the many stories of exemplary teaching and learning that are setting the standard for academic achievement in Oregon. At Riverdale High School in SW Portland, students in Mark Wechter’s physics class are ranked among the best national and international young bridge engineers today. At Summit High School in Bend, more than 40% of the students take AP classes prior to graduation. Students in the Portland School District have won more National Constitution Team championships than any other city in the nation. Singers in Sue Schriener’s vocal ensemble, “Souled Out” at Wilsonville High have competed nationally and are strong enough musicians to share the spotlight with professional ensembles. And there are many more stories like these. In fact, 77 Oregon public schools were exemplary according to the US News and World Report 2014 list of America’s best high schools.
The list of Oregon schools included four with gold medals (Beaverton’s International School ranked #26 out of more than 19,000 public schools nationwide), 22 with silver medals and 51 with bronze medals. With answers and examples of excellence right here in Oregon, why on earth should we diminish these rich learning environments by focusing on untried, one-size-fits-all nationalized experiments like Common Core? We shouldn’t. I believe it’s in the best interests of our students to stop implementing Common Core. It’s a remotely managed reform measure fraught with problems. Let’s look to model programs in Oregon’s own commendable schools for guidance on how to improve the performance of schools and students that are struggling. We should halt Common Core’s race to the middle and allow local schools who best understand their students to engage in creating Oregon’s educational solutions. We should focus on what it is that engages students and keeps them interested and in school, rather than on high stakes educational experiments written by “educrats” who don’t have an understanding of our children. Simply put, I strongly recommend we join the ranks of states that require “evidence-based” practices and have turned down Common Core.
Since our students are returning to class in less than a month, our Governor and state education leaders should immediately put a moratorium on Common Core. If they fail to take the initiative, our Legislative leaders should be unified in demanding an immediate moratorium on Common Core. We only have one chance to educate a child and all our children deserve better than what they’ll get from Common Core.
Representative Dennis Richardson