Update on Utah education bills:
The short version and the good news must come first: HB 164 (a bill about no more opting out of SAGE tests) did not pass. HB 264 (a bill about common sex ed) did not pass.
Yesterday at the Capitol, the legislative education hearing was cram-packed with standing room only, and an overflow room was available for attendees. I’m so glad that so many came.
One of the first bills, HB201 –that would remove the Common Core SAGE test from being tied to teacher evaluations, a common sense bill– was clearly popular. Three “Teachers of the Year” spoke in favor of it. They said that it’s not fair to punish a teacher if a student rebels against a test and doesn’t do his/her best work. Some said that the test itself was not valid.
When the committee chair asked if anyone in the audience wanted to speak against it, parent Jared Carman volunteered, saying that while he definitely agrees with the idea behind the bill, he disagrees with the bigger picture. Carman pointed out that since, later in this same meeting, this committee would discuss whether to tie student passing or failing of a course to Common Core SAGE testing, the logic was flawed. If it’s unfair to base a teacher’s grade on this unreliable and unvalidated test, why is it not unfair to base a child’s grade on it?
Amen, Mr. Carman.
Next up was HB 164, the opt out-or-no-opt-out bill. Sponsor Kraig Powell summarized the three versions of the bill– not in the way I would have– but he did say that there were three different doors and that the committee could choose which door to open. True. They were each different, but each called 164. Someone on the committee pointed out that this is not a game show!
Someone else pointed out that the third substitute bill was only posted online a few minutes before the hearing, making it unfair to expect a vote on it, without a reading and without giving notice for people to know about it and to come to the hearing to speak to its (very different) issues.
Still, Representative Powell hoped to pass the bill anyway, saying (amid wild, enthusiastic cheers from the audience) that it’s high time we get rid of the SAGE test altogether. For your information, he has always fought the pro-liberty, anti-common core crowd, so it was very, very odd to hear him say those words.
And I wasn’t cheering.
I asked to be allowed to give public comment on substitute 3, since I had read it while sitting in the hearing. (I had noticed that it was utterly, completely different from substitutes one and two. It was about “backpack” digital data on every child; it was about labeling schools as “turnaround” schools; it was about getting rid of SAGE testing while relying on embedded, curricular [stealth] assessment.) I didn’t get the opportunity to speak because the committee wisely decided not to hear testimony and not to vote on it, since there had been no time for reading and analysis by the committee.
So why wasn’t I cheering that we’d get rid of SAGE? Why would I want to testify against the bill that supposedly spelled the end of SAGE/Common Core testing? Simply this: substitute 3 of HB164 gets rid of SAGE, but it also gets rid of any possibility for a parent to opt a child out of testing. And it totally relies on common core and common, SLDS/CEDS, data.
HB 164 sub 3 relies on a digital “backpack,” which is like an ever deepening, longitudinal fingerprint, to assess children constantly. The child would provide an I.V. drip of continuous data to the State Longitudinal Database System, via stealth assessment, which has been set up to happen by several previous bills, including this one.
See lines 590-591: “Every school district and public school shall develop and integrate programs integrating technology into the curriculum, instruction, and student assessment.”
That matches, perfectly, ed committee member Marie Poulson’s task force and resolution of last year, which aimed to minimize the negative effects of excessive testing. It sounds so good.
Yet, there is something even more sinister than excessive testing, using experimental standards and psychometric analysis of student responses. That is: stealth assessment; that means, using continuous assessment that is embedded in the curriculum so that no parent can opt a child out of the test– BECAUSE THE TEST NEVER ENDS.
I am not against integrating technology into learning. There is nothing wrong with technology; it’s a blessing! But there is something wrong with not applying basic principles of liberty and consent to the technology being used by children. There is something wrong with forcing students to be monitored all of the time, in all of their assignments, and then to be judged thereby.
Dr. Gary Thompson has been warning us for years that the trendy notion of stealth, or embedded, assessment, would show up here; it has. Jakell Sullivan has been warning us for years that SAGE was a red herring, or not the real point; the real point was controlling the data via the SLDS longitudinal database system; that’s in HB 164 sub 3, too.
So, despite the cheers of the audience members yesterday, when Representative Powell said, “SAGE needs to go!” I am certain sure that Powell has no intention of allowing any sort of parental opt out of testing. He simply sees that assessment can go underground, far out of the view of parents or teachers, in the form of stealth assessment: “integrating technology [common core standards-based technologies, and SLDS/CEDS data mining] into the curriculum, instruction, and assessment“.
The question at the core of this issue is: Which is worse– saving children from the wasteful, stressful, data-robbing SAGE tests now, while making their tests stealthy and continuous, with no parental opt out available, or: sticking with statewide SAGE, where at least those who are aware and informed, can opt out?
Both are bad, but one is clearly worse, in terms of parental judgment, control and liberty. But embedded assessment is what Poulson and Powell and the whole educational establishment appear to be favoring. Embedded tests certainly get rid of whiny parents and rebellious kids aiming to wreck their test scores with careless bubbling in of answers. But at what cost?!
(Please contact your legislators and tell them that you are opposed to stealth assessment and digital “backpacks” on children. This will show up in many bills, now and next year.)
The third bill from yesterday’s hearing that I want to review is Rep. King’s Comprehensive Sexuality Bill, HB 264. The committee allowed public comment, but only a very few people were given time. One of the first commenters arguing against passing the bill said that Rep. King’s opening line was false. (King had said that there was “misinformation” on the internet that said that this bill had something to do with Common Core.) The commenter said that Rep. King might not be aware of the national, common standards for sexuality education, but the promoters of the common standards sure are aware of Rep. King; just today, SIECUS had posted an article about Rep. King’s Utah bill promoting their standards.
I looked at that article. It was far more revealing about what the bill aimed to do than its testifiers seemed to be: “House Minority leader Rep. Brian S. King (D-Salt Lake City) is leading efforts to change Utah’s sex ed law… Utah’s current law, passed in 1988, mandates medically-accurate sex education classes in schools but requires the stressing of abstinence-only instruction. The law stipulates that health education teachers cannot discuss intercourse nor positively discuss homosexuality…. This bill removes the instruction prohibitions on homosexuality, sexual intercourse and contraceptive devices”.
Most of the testifiers for the bill who stood to speak overtly appeared to be LGTB, a point that stood out to me. It was not mentioned by the newspapers today, of course. But think about it. If the bill was just about giving additional, medically accurate knowledge, and not about altering “values, attitudes and beliefs” as the national sexuality standards movement requires; if there was no LGTB agenda being pushed on the children through HB 246, why were all the LGTB activists there to testify for it? Since when do they go out of their way to testify in hearings for the cause of “medically accurate knowledge”?
I am not hostile toward gays. Live and let live. But I am opposed to the LGTB agenda being pushed in public arenas as if it were the new, national religion. I am opposed to the minimizing of truth about what that lifestyles’ consequences are. The national common sexuality standards do push that lifestyle and political agenda on children, while calling it education. Altering beliefs is not what reproductive health classes are supposed to be for. Altering beliefs and attitudes is the job of the family and the church.
HB 264 did not pass.
The last update that I want to share is about HB 91, Hillyard and Eliason’s bill to change the power levers of the state school board. I am concerned about the apparent power grab that the state school board is taking in this bill:
“The board may delegate the board’s statutory duties and responsibilities to board employees.”
This is bad because we, the people, cannot elect or fire employees as we can elect and fire the board.
85 (ii) temporarily or permanently withhold state funds from the education entity;
86 (iii) require the education entity to pay a penalty;
This is bad because it overreaches into the localities, pushing the state board’s will onto the local boards, which is not in harmony with the constitution.
There are also audits of localities, new rules about how a local entity interacts with a third party, and other seeming power grabs that need attention from local boards and liberty-minded representatives. We don’t want to recreate the nightmare of the beastly federal Department of Education within our state, by allowing the State Department of Education to micromanage the localities, using money and unfire-ability as leverage.
Please continue to email, text, call or write to your representatives.
They need to hear what your thoughts and feelings are. Silence is acquiescence.
Currently in the Utah legislature, poised to become law, is HB 0246.
I read, in the Tribune, that Representative Brian King felt that the bill was important because, “Knowledge is power,” and “I don’t believe in keeping our kids ignorant.”
They certainly won’t be ignorant– nor innocent; not a chance.
With this bill, we meet its parent: the Common Sexuality Education Standards movement. Slightly more twisted than the other sets of common standards, it has hit Utah through HB 0246, Rep. Brian King’s bill– oddly titled “Reproductive Health Amendments”.
Now, along with CCSS (Common Core for English/Math) and along with NGSS (common science standards) and along with AP US History (common un-history standards) –here are common, national, sexuality education standards. Like the “common standards” predecessors, this set is twisted ethically, is “progressive” politically, and is anti-local-control.
Be clear, because I wasn’t until today: “Sexuality Education,” which this bill offers us, is not the same thing as “Sex Education”. At all. Old fashioned sex ed can be compared to a civics class that teaches kids that there is such a thing as voting, while “Sexuality Ed” is like a civics class that teaches kids which political party to join. National Sexuality Standards are here to change beliefs and values about sex, not to teach the biology or the consequences of sex.
The Sexuality Information and Education Council (SIECUS, co-promoter of common sexuality standards –as well as a top promoter of abortion) defines it thus:
“Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values.”
Sex ed was about the science of reproduction; legitimate, academically. Sexuality education is actually a new religion– it forms beliefs and values.
This bill gives Utah “comprehensive sexuality education” starting with children about nine years old.
Before we read what’s in the bill– first, let’s look at what was taken out of Utah’s previous sex education law.
You see a lot of
crossed out words. These used to be in the law and won’t be, if HB0246 passes. Read them.
Why were these struck out?
[(A) the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage, and fidelity
106 after marriage, as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and]
107 [(B) personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.]
108 [(ii) (A) At no time may instruction be provided, including responses to spontaneous
109 questions raised by students, regarding any means or methods that facilitate or encourage the
110 violation of any state or federal criminal law by a minor or an adult.]
Am I reading this correctly? Will Utah teachers be forbidden from teaching fidelity and abstinence as viable methods for preventing communicable diseases? And, are Utah teachers no longer forbidden from providing instruction that might encourage violation of laws?
What illegal acts will we be teaching, then? Are these words referring to abortion-related laws, or pedophilia, or what? There was some reason why were these lines were removed, and the law altered. I want to know what that was.
Here’s more that got removed from Utah’s previous standard:
156 abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage, and prohibiting instruction in:];
157 [(I) the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior;]
158 [(II) the advocacy of homosexuality;]
159 [(III) the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices;
161 [(IV) the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage;]
It appears that Utah teachers are no longer prohibited from teaching students the “intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior; the advocacy of homosexuality; the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices; or the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage“. They can “teach” all of it, if the bill passes; nothing says they can’t.
I have to say, with a grain of gratitude, that this bill does look slightly less horrific than the National Sexuality Standards in full, in one way: the Utah bill delays comprehensive sexuality classes until after third grade. The National Sex Standards begin several years earlier, in kindergarten.
Otherwise, they are in synch. The language and intent matches, and the Utah bill is patterned after the national sex standards, as part of the Future of Sex Education Initiative (FoSE). –For example, if you click on the FoSE link, as with the SIECUS link, it uses and defines “comprehensive sexuality education,” the term that the Utah bill also uses 12 times.
The Utah bill plans to start sex ed after grade three, so know this: the National Sexuality Education Standards for grades 3-5 include: being able to describe male and female reproductive anatomy and functions; being able to describe the changes of puberty; and being able to “define sexual orientation as the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender.”
Do you feel fine about forcing –on children as young as nine years old– “lessons” on genital anatomy, reproduction, puberty and both hetero- and homosexuality? At what point is this not science, not biology, not decent? At what young age do sexual education lessons cross the line, becoming something other than teaching truth?
At what point would any statement about sex be declared by decent people to be improper, perverted, deviant, and emotionally abusive? For me, that time is right now.
A term I see getting flashed around a lot in FoSE and HB0246 is “age-appropriate”. Age-appropriate– by whose definition? By whose values? ( Before you answer, before you research the people behind the national initiative, let me stop you: Laughably, the Utah bill prohibits political doctrine –as well as religious or other) from being taught. See lines 67, 205. So none of these lessons or standards are, in any way, political, we are to convince ourselves.)
Reading the bill and reading the national sex standards initiative’s documents, I think: never have I understood more clearly the idea that there are no such thing as age appropriate standards. Every child is different. Every developmental stage is different. What one child asks about, and is ready to learn at an early age, another child is horrified to speak of until a decade later. Being insensitive to that fact, by promoting one-sized set of national standards, top-down, on a topic as sensitive and potentially damaging to a child as personal morality and sexuality, is child abuse.
By 6th-8th grade, the national sex standards have children defining sexual intercourse; differentiating between gender identity, sexual expression, and gender expression; explaining “the range of gender roles”; and defining sexual abstinence only as it relates to pregnancy prevention.
In the Utah bill, “abstinence” is explained using words that I find to be pornographic, especially in the context of having a sixth grader (eleven year old) read it. See line 95-96.
95 (f) “Sexual abstinence” means not engaging in oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse or
96 genital skin-to-skin contact.
There should be a whole bill written prohibiting the exposure of an innocent mind to that sentence. That’s not the curriculum or the test; that’s just the legislation about it. And it seems at cross-purposes to define the term that is no longer to be part of the message. (Abstinence is out, they said.)
The National Sex Standards have high school students analyzing the influences that impact when and whether they engage in sexual behaviors; differentiating between biological sex and sexual orientation; demonstrating ways to communicate about when and whether to engage in sexual behaviors; oddly, at this point there is little to no scientific or reproductive aspect of sex education– it’s about activity and engagement.
Notice, in HB 0246, that students will be:
129 reducing the number of sexual partners
The bill also pushes “day-after” contraception/abortion:
138 (ix) provide instruction about the health benefits and potential side effects of using
139 contraceptives and barrier methods to prevent pregnancy, including instruction regarding
140 emergency contraception and the availability of contraceptive methods.
That’s all I’m going to say about the bill itself. Read it, and tell your legislators what you think about it.
Some people are afraid of being labeled as conservatives, as believers in God, or as morally strict. Please don’t let the promoters of this bill intimidate you by calling you a backwoodsy, out of touch, prudish, fearful, religious, whatever. This bill, and these standards, are way beyond anything academically or ethically reasonable.
This fight in front of us, Utahns, is about protecting our children, unmuddied by SIECUS’s extreme political agenda.
It is an agenda of zero morality.
Pretending that sexuality education can be taught without reference to conscience, modesty, or morality, is a lie. There is such a thing as human conscience, and right and wrong, especially where sexuality is concerned.
(I keep thinking about the lesson from last Sunday, in church: “The Body is a Temple“. The body is so much more than an object for pleasure. Every body is holy, housing a spirit child of God. Procreation is how God’s millions of beautiful children form physical families. That matters– how it happens, when and with whom it happens, all matters– almost more than anything else that the body can do. Yes, human sexuality is good and right, but steering it is not a free-for-all. It is not without a governing morality.)
That’s where the national sex standards, and HB 0246, are wrong. They pretend that human beings are without morality, without a sense of right and wrong, and that there is no unhappy consequence beyond disease or unplanned pregnancy that could result from acting out sexually, in any way, and at any age. Those are lies.
One of the main tests of life is “Will my body rule over my spirit, or will my spirit rule over my body? Will I yield to the natural or to the eternal?” We get to choose. These standards say that, in essence, there is only a body, no spirit; and there is no reason to restrain whims.
I’m not suggesting that Utah–or any state– should teach denominational religious doctrine in public schools. Of course not.
I am saying that it is wrong to promote and teach a prescribed, “new” morality (in my mind, the same, old fashioned, immorality). It is so wrong to teach little ones, nine years old, heterosexuality and homosexuality, in a school setting. It is wrong to teach that there is no such thing as perversion, nor anything wrong with sex obsession, or gender reversals. It is wrong to include so many teachings about deviant and degrading sexual behaviors as if they were normal and good, while excluding fidelity and chastity from the conversation.
(For future reference, some organizations, listed as promoting the National Sexuality Education Standards, are: the National Education Association, the American School Health Association, the American Association of Health Education, the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, the Future of Sex Education Initiative, The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) and Advocates for Youth. Consultants listed include: Planned Parenthood; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Netword (GLSEN) and many more. Utah’s standardized test provider, American Institutes for Research, (AIR) is openly on board with the National Sexuality Education Standards and its values, too.)