Archive for the ‘defending freedom’ Tag

Little Children and Freedom of Speech   2 comments

A few days ago, fifth grader Aaron Bencomo spoke to the Arizona Senate, explaining in his own words, using his own experience to express how bad the Common Core is.  He quoted the Declaration of Independence.  He talked about the pursuit of happiness.  He described the “one size does not fit all,” boring, wasteful reviews of last year’s math in this year’s math.  He talked about not every child being the same, but being treated as if they were the same, under Common Core. His speech was a beautiful example of how even a little child can be an agent for freedom and truth.  Watch from minute 1:20 to 4:05.

 

Children do have great power.

Aaron is not the first child to speak out powerfully against the Common Core agenda’s destruction of individual freedoms.  Teenager Patrick Richardson of Arkansas spoke out.   Ethan Young of Tennessee spoke out.  Sydney Lane of Connecticut spoke out.   Please watch and share these videos if you haven’t already!

Freedom of speech is, of course, closely tied to freedom of religion; both are versions of free exercise of conscience and of free thought.

Inspired by Dallin Oaks’ article in this month’s Ensign Magazine, I reminded my children this week that they are not government employees living under rules that constrain religious speech in a school setting.  In other words, children may say, write, report, and share their faith in God freely, including in a public school if they want to.

Elder Dallin Oaks reminded us that freedom of religion is not limited to the inside of a church.  He wrote:  “…oppose government officials and public policy advocates who suggest that the free exercise of religion is limited to “freedom of worship.” In the United States, for example, the guarantee of “free exercise” protects the right to come out of our private settings, including churches, synagogues, and mosques, to act upon our beliefs, subject only to the legitimate government powers necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Free exercise surely protects religious citizens in acting upon their beliefs in public policy debates...

I also reminded my children of a well-loved story in the Book of Mormon about the “Army of Helaman.” In the story, adults with histories of evil had made promises not to take up their swords to kill again, but their innocent children were under no such obligation; when attacked by an enemy, the boys took up their swords and defended their own lives and the lives of their families.  God preserved those young men, and helped their families, through them.  (See Alma 56-58)

I tell my children never to assume they are under the same obligation as their public school teachers are.  Children can speak positively about their religion.  Children have great freedom of speech.  If they feel they want to, they should speak and write about their beliefs, including belief in Constitutional liberty, and belief in God, wherever they are.

Hats off to those who are doing so.

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40 Questions for Common Core Debaters   8 comments

state school board picture photo utah

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Utah radio personality Jason Williams of KVNU’s “For the People” has asked the public to submit questions for next week’s Common Core debate, which will take place at Mount Logan Middle School on January 6th, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Logan, Utah, at 875 N. 200 E.

Submit questions to: jasonthe@gmail.com or kvnuftp@gmail.com.

Legislators have already committed to attend the debate. I hope thousands of teachers, parents, grandparents, students and reporters show up.

The debaters will be Alpine School Board member Wendy Hart and mother Alyson Williams (against Common Core) versus state school board members Dave Thomas and Tami Pyfer (for Common Core). The event will be moderated by radio personality Jason Williams.

I sat down to write a few questions and ended up with 40. Some are borrowed from Professors Yong Zhao, Professor Christopher Tienken, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Daniel Coupland and others. I hope Mr. Williams has time to ask them all.

40 COMMON CORE DEBATE QUESTIONS

1. Is Common Core constitutional? Why or why not?

2. How important is the defense of local autonomy and local control of schools, to you personally –and does Common Core affect local control in any way? Yes or no?

3. The Common Core itself calls itself a “living work” and it admits that the document will change. Does the Utah State School Board have authority over the copyrighted Common Core “document” to change the document itself? ( To clarify: this is not a question of adding 15% as the Common Core governance allows a state to add in-state, but we are asking about changing the national standards themselves.) Yes or No?

4. Can Utah voters remove from positions of power the people who hold copyright over Utah’s Common Core standards (Board of Directors of CCSSO/NGA) if we do not approve of the direction of Common Core? Yes or No?

5. Are those who hold copyright over Common Core subject to transparency (“sunshine” laws) –so that the Utah State School Board can supervise the decisions which affect and govern Utahns? Yes or No?

6. Where can I read for myself how the states-led (inter-state) amendment process will work when we want to change something in the Common Core standards, if a process exists?

7. Where can I see for myself the evidence that Common Core standards have been field tested prior to implementation, so they were proven to be of superior academic quality, if testing evidence exists?

8. Professor Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University has called Common Core “educational malpractice.” Regardless of how you feel about Common Core, how would you recognize educational malpractice if you saw it; what would be its hallmarks?

9. Would widespread mandating of experimental, untested standards constitute educational malpractice?

10. Where can I see for myself the specific countries and specific standards to which the Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked” if such benchmarking exists?

11. Where is the American process of representation of individuals in the Common Core education and assessments system, if it exists?

12. Where can I see for myself empirical, researched evidence (not opinion) that Common Core’s increasing informational text and decreasing classic literature will benefit children, if it exists?

13. Where can I see for myself empirical, researched evidence that Common Core’s move away from traditional math toward constructivist math will benefit our children, if it exists?

14. Many mathematicians and math experts, even including Common Core architect and advocate Jason Zimba, have pointed out that students who want to take Calculus in college will need to take more math than Common Core math courses in high school. What should the Utah State School Board do to make sure Utah students are truly prepared for STEM careers despite Common Core’s low math standards?

15. A mathematician is one who has an advanced degree in advanced mathematics; a math educator is one who has an advanced degree in educating students on any level of math. How do you feel about the fact that there was only one actual mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, Dr. James Milgram, and that he refused to sign off because he said the standards were not legitimate math for college preparation?

16. Several official documents show that there is a 15% cap on a state adding to the Core; we also from Common Core architect Jason Zimba and validation committee member James Milgram that Common Core math does not prepare students for STEM math careers; then how are Utahns to prepare for STEM careers?

17. If local Utahns break through the common core academic ceiling and add more than the allowable 15% to their local standards, how will that 15% be taught using common core aligned math and English tests and texts?

18. Although we have been told that Common Core was state-led, no citizen in this state received an invitation to discuss this, before math and English standards were decided. To make sure this does not happen again, please explain the vetting process for Utah teachers and parents, before we add upcoming national science, national social studies, and national sex ed standards.

19. Which element played a larger role in Utah’s decision to adopt Common Core: the chance to win Race to the Top grant money, or a thorough review of the Common Core academically? Please give evidence for your answer.

20. Where can I read our state’s cost analysis for implementing Common Core standards, tests and professional development costs?

21. Does the Common Core essentially discriminate against talents and interests that are not consistent with their prescribed knowledge and skills?

22. What roles does the Utah State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS)play in reporting to the federal Edfacts Exchange and to the national E.I.M.A.C./CCSSO data collection machines?

23. How do you respond to the question asked by Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University? He said:
“This is not data-driven decision making… Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the Common Core standards?”
24. Do you see Common Core’s emphasis on testing as potentially harming American creativity and entrepreneurial fields in which U.S. graduate have historically led the world– or do you see this emphasis on standardization and testing as simply creating more individuals who are very good at taking tests– like students in some Asian countries– without any harm being done to creativity or love of learning?

25. The Constitution assigns education to the states, not to the federal government. Also, the federal General Educational Provisons Act (GEPA) states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system …“ In light of this, please explain why our state has partnered with those who agree to micromanagement by the federal department of education such as the CCSSO.

26. Which portions of local autonomy have been traded for federally-lauded Common Core standards and tests?
27. What types of legal protections does student data have in writing that can protect us from the federal government and vendors and researchers– in light of recent changes to FERPA privacy regulations, and in light of the federally funded and federally-reporting State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) that is partnered with the CCSSO (and PESC) under Utah’s SLDS grant agreement?

28. Why has the Utah State School Board not stood up against federally-partnered and SBAC-partnered Common Core tests to defend local control?

29. For students in the United States to be globally competitive, they must offer something different, that is, something that cannot be obtained at a lower cost in developing countries. High test scores in a few subjects can be achieved in most developing countries, so how could Common Core increase global competitiveness for U.S. students?

30. How can any test predict global competiveness or economic growth?

31. What empirical evidence do you have that high Common Core test scores could result in higher levels of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship?

32. If countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Vietnam, Latvia, and Poland routinely outscore the U.S. on standardized tests such as PISA, why isn’t their per capita gross domestic product or other personal economic indicators equal to those in the U.S. (World Bank, 2013)? In other words, what evidence do we have that pressuring students to focus on standardized testing will improve the U.S. economy?

33. Are you aware, that when you disaggregate the data by percentages of poverty in a school, the U.S. scores at the top of all the international PISA tests? (see Riddle, 2009) In other words, why are we pushing Common Core when our previous system of local control and freedom worked better academically than other countries’ governmentally standardized systems?

34. Companies like Boeing and GE are allowed to give their technology, utility patents, and know-how to the Chinese in return for being able to sell their products in China (Prestowitz, 2012). Can U.S. emphasis on standardized test scores create global competitiveness, really, or is it more likely that we should change the policy of allowing U.S. multinationals to give away our technological advantages, to increase our global competitiveness?

35. Are you aware that 81% of U.S. engineers are qualified to work in multinational corporations – the highest percentage in the world (Kiwana, 2012) while only 10% of Chinese engineering graduates and 25% of Indian engineers are prepared to work in multinational corporations or corporations outside of China or India (Gereffi, et al., 2006; Kiwana, 2012)?

36. Are you aware that the U.S. produces the largest numbers of utility patents (innovation patents) per year and has produced over 100,000 a year for at least the last 45 years? No other country comes close (USPTO, 2012).

37. Are you aware that adults in the U.S. rank at the top of the world in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship –and that those adults were educated during a time of NO state or national standards (Tienken, 2013)?

38. To what extent do you agree with this statement? “Common Core is a standardized education philosophy that transmits prescribed content via nationally aligned standards, aligned tests and aligned texts; the previous system was less organized, more loosely monitored, less unified, but spent more time on creativity, individual exploration and innovation.”

39. How do you feel about the funding of the Common Core: one unelected businessman– Bill Gates— funded the Common Core initiative, paid the PTA and the pro-Common Core think tanks (Fordham Institute, Manhattan Institute, Foundation for Educational Excellence) that advocate for it, he partnered with Pearson, the largest educational text sales company in the world to market it, that he publically calls American schools his “uniform customer base”, and that he has said that his goal is for Common Core tests, curriculum and standards to align? See Gates’ public speech here.

40. How do you feel about Secretary Arne Duncan’s stated goals for national Common Core Educational Standards and Common Data Standards? To summarize, a few of Duncan’s stated goals are:

–1) to have the federal government take more control over American schools than ever before,
–2) to make schools (not families) be the community centers, open 6-7 days a week, 12 months a year, 14 hours per day; and
–3) to partner the federal department of education with the copyrighters of the Common Core (CCSSO) for both education standards AND for data collection standards.

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THE CONTINUAL WEARYING a.k.a. THE SQUEAKY WHEEL

(More thoughts on the ongoing Common Core debate:)

If you aren’t going to attend the debate, please use these questions or your own to create more strong pushback from the Common Core disaster.

This is America! We are the people with the power to make things right when we see that they are wrong. This is not a land of centralized power, dictatorship, socialism. This is a land of liberty, where the local people self-govern. We have to wake people up to see that freedom matters– and that Common Core surely takes it away from our children.

We can use the beautiful American processes of debate, of real representation, and of constitutional balances of powers that are supposed to defend freedom and local autonomy.

If everyone who cared deeply about the damages of Common Core were to weary the school boards and governors with questions —repeatedly, weekly, persistently, patiently, unceasinglyCommon Core could not stand.

Common Core has no legs –except expensive marketing legs and lies– to stand on.

It has no academic pilot testing, no written amendment process for states to retain local control, no privacy protections for its tests’ data collection processes, no wisdom, no international benchmarking, no chance of improving “global competitiveness,” no heart, no state-led history, no commitment to local control; no hope to develop any real love of learning; no common sense.

What it does have is millions upon millions of dollars gambled on this takeover of American schools as a “uniform customer base” and many more millions spent on marketing its unsupportable talking points.

But it lacks the important stuff.

Parents (and teachers) can win back local control. We care more deeply about our children and about legitimate education than the proponents care about our children or Common Core.

We just have to be the squeaky wheel.

unrighteous judge parable

Remember the parable of Jesus from Luke 18:

“There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

Weary them, weary them.

We can write or call newspapers and t.v. stations.

We can politely and persistently pester our governor: 801-538-1000 or 800-705-2464 (Utah’s Governor Herbert’s number).

We can politely and persistently pester the principal and others in the school districts and especially make sure to pester state and local school board members, who are supposed to REPRESENT US, not Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, or Sir Michael Barber.

Here is the Utah State School Board’s address: board@schools.utah.gov

Here is the state superintendent’s address: martell.menlove@schools.utah.gov

Here is the governor’s education counselor’s address: ckearl@utah.gov

If you want to get 2 minutes to testify about these things at the monthly state school board meeting, contact secretary Lorraine at: Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov

Translating Obama’s Four Pillars of Education Reform: JaKell Sullivan   5 comments

Yesterday’s excellent editorial in the Deseret News by JaKell Sullivan translates the four innocent-sounding pillars of Obama’s education reforms into plain English.

The article points out: (The electronic links are mine)

“The US Department of Education’s website details the four federal education reforms that 46 states are almost done implementing:

1 Adopt College-and-Career Ready standards and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students.
2 Develop and use pre-K through post-secondary and career data systems.
3 Increase teacher effectiveness and ensure equitable distribution of qualified teachers.
4 Turn around the lowest-performing schools.

These reforms sound somewhat innocuous until one starts reading… original source documents. The translation of the reforms appears to be:

1. Adopt 2-year college and job-ready national standards to ensure that college diplomas are “equitable” and more attainable to the masses through a Common Core that is not internationally benchmarked.

Use federally-required Computer Adaptive Tests that will not be accessible to local teachers or administrators — or parents at a set point after they are given. Meanwhile, federal reformers are remaking America’s entire testing system by aligning all K-12 testing — including the GED, SAT and ACT — to Common Core so that subjective questions can assess real world knowledge as the means for social change. This overhaul is being orchestrated by the new head of the College Board, David Coleman, who is considered the architect of Common Core.

2. Develop interoperable data systems to track students from “cradle to career.”

The federal executive branch revised regulations within FERPA —privacy law — so that data tracking could occur without Congressional approval and so student identifiable data can be shared with stakeholders without parental consent. According to the Data Quality Campaign, student data should be linked with health, social services and criminal justice data systems.

3. Tie teacher pay to student test scores on Common Core tests and redistribute “highly effective” teachers by federal mandate.

The federal government’s idea of “highly effective” teachers means people who complete 5 weeks of training through Teach for America, or teachers who are accredited in programs dedicated to equit, diversity and social justice — not student achievement.)

4. Create new school grading systems to enforce the federal government’s equity measures on schools.

This explains why West High and other outstanding schools recently received failing grades. They are “underperforming” in equity measures. The system is not set up to evaluate the student achievement that local parents value, but rather the equity measures that social justice reformers demand.

The article also points out that since governors were directed by the White House to spend the stimulus funds quickly, the directive “has allowed the federal government to remake K-12 education in three years time without public knowledge, without using our representative form of government and without vetting the ongoing costs to states.”

Read the whole article here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865589745/Education-reforms-Obamacare-destabilize-state-budgets.html

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THANK YOU, JAKELL SULLIVAN.

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