Archive for September 2016

Common Core’s Role in Hot State School Board Race   4 comments

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Senate President Niederhauser and House Speaker Hughes

The State School Board race has never drawn much attention before. But this year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, businesses and even top-tier elected officials are personally campaigning and fundraising for and against certain candidates.

Yesterday’s headline was: “Niederhauser and Hughes ask Business Leaders to Help Defeat UEA-Backed School Board Candidates“.  Yesterday, too, business organizations such as the Utah Technology Council and the School Improvement Association joined Niederhauser and Hughes in a fundraising webinar that promoted a slate of pro-Common Core candidates who happen to be not favored by or funded by national teacher’s unions.

I understand why someone with a conscience would campaign against out-of-state big UEA-NEA money buying Utah’s state board election.  So they should.

But I don’t understand why these groups have chosen to campaign against both the anti-Common Core candidates (in blue) as well as against the UEA-backed candidates (in red) as they showed in this slide at yesterday’s insider fundraising webinar:

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Nor do I understand why our House Speaker and Senate President don’t see the hypocrisy in speaking against big money buying votes (NEA) while both of them are personally funded by big business money (Education First).

But my bigger questions are: how do the Speaker and the Senate President dare to campaign for Common Core candidates, thus going directly against Governor Herbert’s call to end Common Core alignment in Utah?

How do they dare campaign against the resolution of their own Utah Republican Party that called for the repeal of the Common Core Initiative?

Have they forgotten the reasons that their party is strongly opposed to all that the Common Core Initiative entails?

Have they forgotten Governor Herbert’s letter that called for an end to Common Core and SAGE testing just four months ago? (See letter here.)  For all the talk about wanting to move toward local control and to move against the status quo, this seems odd.

Next to the governorship, there aren’t more powerful offices in the state than those held by House Speaker Hughes and Senate President Niederhauser. So what does this powerful endorsement of a certain slate of candidates signify?

First, it signifies what is probably a sincere concern for (partial) local control: In the fundraising webinar held yesterday (by Hughes, Niederhauser, the School Improvement Network and the Utah Technology Council) the following slide was displayed:  Out of $308,512 raised for the political action of the Utah UEA (teacher’s union) $300,000 of it came from out of state.  Hughes and Niederhauser are right in being alarmed at that money’s probable effect on local control.

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(What they didn’t highlight is this: all of the anti-Common Core candidates’ funding, combined, doesn’t come close to what even one of the UEA-funded candidates are spending because none of them are backed by corporate or political powers.)

Secondly, it signifies Utah leadership’s alignment with Obama’s vision for education, which among other things mandates sidelining certain subjects in favor of others. Niederhauser told the Tribune that he didn’t want any board member’s vision to “dominate the board” which, to  him, meant to “supplant business and technology representatives.”  So he wants to make sure that business and technology is at least as dominant as any other interest.   The School Improvement Network is of the same opinion.

We could ask why. Why, specifically, would legislators be endorsing the fields of business and technology over the fields of languages, medicine, history, social work, the arts or any other thing?  And where’s the idealogical division between what NEA wants and what Niederhauser-Hughes want?  Is it fair to speculate that NEA corporate funders are in competition against the Education First corporate funders, and all of this is just an economic struggle pretending to be a struggle for the children’s best interests?  Utah tax dollars are, after all, the passionate pursuit of multiple players in the now $2 Billion per year ed tech sales industry.

Many people know that both Hughes and Niederhauser’s political campaigns are heavily funded by Education First, a Utah political action committee for Prosperity 2020 that puts businesses first.

Not voters first.  Not education –broadly– first; this is education as defined by the ed-tech sales industry and by Obama’s 2020 vision. Read it in their own words.  In an Tribune op-ed taking credit for passing legislation that Education First had lobbied for, you’ll see little focus on funding for paper and pens, school basketballs, violins, gluesticks, old-fashioned books, or heaven forbid, large teachers’ salaries– no, ed funding to Education First means to fund the priorities that precisely (coincidentally?) match Obama’s 2020 vision:  early childhood education (which competes with free enterprise/private preschools), workforce development (China-styled central planning) “community schools” (Obama’s vision to integrate healthcare with academics and with socio-political movements “using government schools as a hub”) and standardized personalized learning (an oxymoron that cements Common Core academics and its data tags).

Don’t mistake this as a fight between tech lovers and tech haters.  None of the candidates for state school board are anti-technology, though the smart ones are pushing for improved laws governing student privacy in this modern age.

So what are Hughes and Niederhauser really saying when they say they’re for the pro-tech candidates?  What does that really mean?  That Utahns should sit back and let the ed tech sales industry, or businesses, sit in the driver’s seat for educational decision-making?  That’s the stated aim of Education First (in Utah) and of Obama’s 2020 (nationally) and, according to his Tribune quote above, it’s also the aim of President Niederhauser.

Education First doggedly, directly, lobbies citizens, governments, and school districts, to strong-arm their narrow vision, that businesses should “help” direct education.  They refer to my child and yours as the economy’s.  They call children “human capital” on their website.  This is, when ripe, the 1992 Hillary-Tucker dream coming true, with the collective economy dictating to the individual on the assembly line.

Education First wants a high “concentration of science and engineering occupations” in Utah, which you may or may not agree with; what I hope you do agree with is that this new, business – public ed partnershipping governance system, with business being handed power to influence schooling, when taken to the extreme, is fascism.  In fascism, there’s no distinction between government and business.  And the voter has no say.

Do we want to walk down that slippery slope?  Do we want the Education First business community to be given power in schools?

Whether promoting science and engineering at the expense of other subject and careers is the will of the people, or not, really doesn’t come in to the discussion. Prosperity 2020 has said that businesses will “provide a business oriented plan to improve results” for schools.

If Hughes or Niederhauser would respond to my emails to them, I would ask them this:  how is it any more helpful toward Constitutional local control–  if that is what you really want– to let businesses take over the driver’s seat for educators, as your financial backers aim to do, than for out of state (NEA) funding to call the same shots?  Either way, students and schools and voters lose personal freedoms to self-appointed experts who think they know best.

So when Niederhauser worries that “big money groups effectively buy the election,” he is right.  The hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in to NEA-UEA approved candidates’ purses should raise eyebrows.  But shouldn’t the same eyebrows rise too, seeing in-state big money groups like Education First and Prosperity 2020 now, as in the past, funding the pro-Common Core candidates –and funding Hughes and Niederhauser themselves– effectively buying the election in the very same way?

Meanwhile, none of the liberty-first, anti-Common Core candidates,  Alisa Ellis, Lisa Cummins, Michelle Boulter or Dr. Gary Thompson, are richly funded.   All they really have to stand on is true principles of liberty –and word of mouth.

Many voters know that Common Core is anti-local control.  The Governor almost lost in the primary to anti-Common Core challenger Jonathan Johnson because of this.  The Governor was repeatedly booed at political conventions this year because he had been such a promoter of the Common Core, prior to his turnaround.  What will the governor say about Niederhauser’s and Hughes’ current effort?  More importantly, what will voters say?

Dr. Gary Thompson, a district 10 candidate for state school board, said today:

“I was pleased the that the Speaker of the House and Senator Neiderhauser identified who the “anti common core” education candidates are in this election. I was pleased to be labeled as one of them. This provides a clear choice for members in the community to chose from as they please.  Comments made by the Speaker in regards to the UEA did not receive a prior endorsement by this campaign.  I look forward to having a professional, cordial discussion with my UEA endorsed opponent on September 28th regarding education issues that will affect our children in District 10″

For anyone wanting to watch the debates between state school board candidates, please check that schedule here. 

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Pictured below are the candidates for state school board that I endorse, whom the UEA, NEA, UTC, SIN, Senate President and House Speaker do not:

For true local control of education:

Alisa Ellis, Michelle Boulter, Lisa Cummins, Dr. Gary Thompson.

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lisa cummins

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The Enemy Inside: How #GoOpen, The Federal Learning Registry, and the U.S. Internet Throwaway Threatens Student Speech, Religion and Privacy   4 comments

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Recently, a friend mentioned that she was happy that Common Core was finally gone, and that we could finally look toward something better.

Why did she think the Common Core Initiative was over?  It’s grown.

But it’s hidden, for the most part.  Feds and states don’t use the term anymore because it’s so unpopular; in my state, they call it “Utah Core Standards” –although, if pressed, state school boards will admit that these are Common Core: they have to be, or they wouldn’t get federal funding.  Also, the D.C. legislators were told that the new federal law, ESSA, had gotten rid of Common Core and had returned control to states. How untrue that line was; the Department of Ed had just renamed it “Challenging State Academic Standards”.  Common Core standards and data tags are still in the driver’s seat for all the new movements in ed reforms:  from the #GoOpen Initiative, Open Educational Resources movment, and the Learning Registry to federal SETRA which is being voted on right now. Read on.

(Don’t get depressed.  We can take bold action to reclaim many of our lost freedoms.  We  know that pretending that everything is fine, or pretending that it’s too late or too difficult to change things, is wrong.  So choose the right.)

First, remember this: Common Core academics and data mining are utterly married. 

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The most “commonizing” thing about the Common Core Initiative was never the set of academic standards (“Common Core State Standards”- which have recently been federally renamed “Challenging State Academic Standards”.  We can call them anything we want as long as the feds can see that they still align to the data and testing programs so that we can be tracked.)

The most commonizing thing was the implementation of federal data standards, known as “Common Educational Data Standards” (CEDS).

In the screenshot below, we read that CEDS is a partnership that includes the federal Department of Education and the CCSSO (private co-copyright holders over the Common Core academic standards).  Whether you think the capacity for government to monitor free citizens over the course of our whole lives is good or bad, you can’t deny that that was and is the agenda of CEDS and SLDS.

This screenshot is the reason that I’ve never understood why so many say that Common Core has nothing to do with data collection, and  that saying so is a conspiracy theory; these are clearly conspiracy facts: the government conspired with the private trade group CCSSO to standardize educational data nationally –without allowing legislatures or voters to vote on the matter, simply by calling the initiatives voluntary and by using cash incentives to make the standardization initiatives  happen.  Money for both the academic standards and the data standards came from two main sources: unelected philanthropist Bill Gates, who profits wildly from the initiatives, and from the federal Dept. of Education.  Follow the money trails if you want to know what’s being built.

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Federally approved academic standards, bad as they are, can still be interpreted locally to some extent. Federal data standards, though, are like matching keys in matching locks: there’s only one way they’ll work, and that’s if they are exactly, precisely the same.

So CEDS standards are used in all fifty states’ database systems because the funding and instructions for construction of those systems using CEDS came from the feds.  CEDS standards are also used in the federal EdFacts Data Exchange.  They’re also used in the digital testing, whether it’s end of the year testing or embedded curricular testing, in every state.  They’re also mandated every time your state gets a new federal cash infusion for its State Longitudinal Database System.  If your state moves toward embedded tests in an effort to get rid of over high-stakes testing, as my state is, then CEDS will still be used and your child will still be tracked.  Now with the federal push for “Community Schools” that must share students’ medical and mental health data, combined with academic data, common data standards across agencies has become the federal “must”.

CEDS interoperability and standardization are the height of fashion and efficiency, but are also the death of individual flexibility and local control and citizen data privacy. Worse, the education reformers, both political and corporate, are not content to just standardize academic standards, testing, and data mining tags between states.  They also want to standardize these things globally.

(If humans were angels, this might not pose any problem.  The history of the human race, however, tells a sad tale of bullying and tyranny that has been significantly interrupted only by America’s noble founders.  Since we cannot trust human nature generally, the U.S. Constitution logically placed checks on human power, and placed balances against human ambition, so that individual freedom would not be deleted by the noble-or-not initiatives of bullies. Humans are not angels, and giving so much power to governmental– especially globally governed– entitites, is flat-out stupid. Where are your rights to freedom of speech, of religion, of conscience, when the Constitutional rights have been demoted in the move toward global citizenship, and global data mining?)

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The twin movements (of global content regulation over education and of global data standardization) are quickly apparent in these three things:

  1.  THE LEARNING REGISTRY  – a gateway for “approved” federal data and lessons, partnered with global data and ed systems; this is the main tool of the #GoOpen initiative.  The Learning Registry defines itself as “a new approach” to “sharing data” that aggregates information about the “publisher, location, content area, standards alignment, ratings, reviews, and more.”  It claims that finding educational resources and assessing their quality is a “burden” on educators.  That responsibility will be taken over, to unburden educators– by the federal dept. of ed working with the federal dept. of defense.  As much as I love to give and receive, I don’t want to share or have shared with me, educational content under the moral and educational “guidance” of the department of defense and of education.  Appealing to my sense of altruism is not going to help.   Ironically, Midgely admits that the love of money is the root of #GoOpen.  At minute 13:52 in that video, he says, “to be honest, there’s a lot of money to be made as well”.  He says that digital badges will be the common currency of K-20 and adult, corporate education.  Although Midgely says that “you don’t have to conform your data sets,” and “we accept native formats” and that the system is peer-based, not censored, I think: but it’s run by the federal government.  How is that peer-based?  Who runs the show? What happens, down the road, when an educational resource hasn’t been run through the registry filter?  Is it the orphaned, unusable resource?  This registry was designed by the Dept. of Education, by federal Deputy Director of Ed Tech, Steve Midgely (whose video about the registry is here. ) Is it not weird that this learning registry is co-created by the Department of Defense and the Department of Education?   And that its global partners include the “federated community” of the Soros-partnered Ariadne in Europe; the Global Grid for Learning, a Gates baby; the U.N.’s OER and more?  Is this registry going to marginalize traditional, classical books and lessons even further than Common Core’s glorification of “informational text” did to English literature?  Remember:  Common Core never outlawed Shakespeare, but it endorsed informational text reading in the English classrooms to the point that many public schools today have no room for much Shakespeare.  The endorsement of whatever the Learning Registry finds endorsable, will likely marginalize other content, if and when the registry becomes the new pink.  Endorsement means the feds are picking winners and losers.  go-open-oer-used
  2. THE #GoOPEN INITIATIVE – the name of the federal campaign serving the learning registry.  For it, the federal Dept. of Ed is proposing a regulation to make it impossible to receive federal funds for any curriculum building that doesn’t fit in with the registry and #GoOpen.  Local ideas for public education will not be funded if not in line with the registry and the campaign to #GoOpen.  (Utah is one of the main guinea pigging states in #GoOpen. Not proud of that claim to fame.)godi-800
  3. TRANSFER OF THE INTERNET FROM THE U.S. TO THE GLOBALISTS – Sept. 30, 2016 is Obama’s date to make that reality. Have you read the letter from a tiny handful of Republican legislators that exposes the huge mistake this transfer will be for liberty?   The internet is now used by the whole world, but it is an American national treasure, and its key operating functions were funded by U.S. taxpayers.  Why give authority over the Internet away?  The letter points out that transferring power over the Internet away from the U.S. will “greatly endanger Internet freedom” (look at how countries like China and Iraq censor the writings of their citizens online.) It points out that it will “significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the internet.”  It also points out that U.S. taxpayers funded the key operating functions of the internet.  The supreme law of our land, that upholds freedom from censorship and freedom of religion, can not exist in the soon to be globally-governed internet future.  What will happen to the ways in which we learn, if the Internet is to be controlled by countries who do not prize free thought?

 

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