Archive for the ‘Essay Contest’ Tag

Stop Common Core Rally Report   6 comments


This week, and especially Tuesday night, the Common Core Initiative took some tough hits.  All on the same night,  Florida had a newsmaking Common Core protest while Missouri had its Stop Common Core event,  while here in Utah about 600 people gathered at the Capitol; on Wednesday, South Carolina was up to bat.   More and more, people are taking a stand for local control:  for the end of any involvement with Common Core.

Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune reporters attended the Utah rally; read their reports here  and here.

Here’s my shorter version of the events: photos first.


Siri Davidson, a Utah mother who began to home school her children because of  Common Core math

a rallyVolunteers explained to attendees how to opt out of Common Core tests.

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Attendance was strong at Salt Lake City’s rally to Stop Common Core on Tuesday night

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Judge Norman Jackson, who gave the prayer, in this photo is on the front row, left.

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After a prayer and a song, the rally began with Representative Brian Greene speaking about fairness and transparency in state school board elections.  His new bill –if it gets a chance to be heard– creates it: House Bill 228.   He asked Utahns to please write to the representatives and ask them to help push that bill out of committee so legislators may vote on it.


Representative Dana Layton spoke about her bill to restore local control of education, House Bill 342.    She quoted Diane Ravitch’s words about Common Core from the speech/article “Everything You Need To Know About Common Core.”

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State Senator Margaret Dayton spoke about the need for informed citizens and for a return to local control and away from Common Core.

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Psychotherapist Joan Landes spoke about the psychological devastation that the age-inappropriate Common Core and its experimental testing wreaks on students.

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Three essay winners read their essays and won boxes of Mrs. Cavanaugh’s chocolates:  Brian Halladay, a member of the Alpine School Board; Amy Mullins, a teacher; and Cami Isle, a teacher.  All the essays that were entered into the contest will be posted at Utahns Against Common Core.

I got to introduce these three writers, and got to explain why we held the essay contest.  In the spirit of restoring legitimate learning and the joy of reading and writing, Utahns Against Common Core aimed to model the practice of written human conversation and critical thought –which happens in personal essays.

Common Core doesn’t encourage personal writing.  It prefers technical writing and info-texts.  In fact, David Coleman, lead architect of Common Core, explained why he ditched personal writing:  ““As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a !% #*^ about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’ ”    Coleman mocks personal writing and slashed it, as he also slashed the allowable amounts of classic literature, starting in elementary grades at just 50%  but cutting more and more– until, as high school seniors, students must devote 70% of their readings to informational texts, allowing only 30% to be fictional stories, the stuff that makes us love reading in the first place.  (Excuse me while I pull out my hair and scream.)  So.  Since Coleman mocks the personal essay and  works to incrementally delete classical literature,  we must work to restore them.

This is why we held the essay contest.


After the essay readings, teacher and author Sinhue Noriega spoke about Common Core being much more than just standards, and also being –despite proponents’ claims to the contrary– a curriculum; and he spoke about the unconstitutionality of the Common Core.

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Attorney Ed Flint spoke about the Common Core-related law suit in which he is involved.  Details here.  

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Radio host Rod Arquette spoke passionately, telling the story of how the Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl this year in part because of the athlete who often asked the team, as his father had often asked him, “Why not you?  Why not us?”  Arquette turned the question to the audience.  Why can’t we change the course of the Common Core?  Why not us?

Representatives from the Left-Right Alliance, Libertas Institute, Utahns Against Common Core, FreedomWorks, and several other organizations spoke for just one minute apiece.


Dad Oak Norton and Mom Alisa Ellis closed the meeting with calls to action.

The words that stayed in my mind more than anything else from the evening were the words of retired Judge Norman Jackson’s opening prayer. These deserve to be remembered and pondered.

Judge Jackson prayed:

Dear God and Father of us all,

We express our Gratitude for the time, means and opportunity to gather this day at the seat of our Government. We acknowledge our firm reliance on Thy Divine protection and guidance in all the affairs of life. And ask Thy forgiveness of our trespasses as we forgive those of others.  Enable us to live with charity for all.

We thank Thee for the endowment of unalienable rights – including life, liberty and the education of our children.  May our land, schools and homes be places of light, liberty and learning.  Bless us and all citizens with the desire to be governed by correct principles. Bless those who govern with that same desire.

Protect parents, children and teachers from the designs of conspiring men and women. And from the pretensions of those who occupy high places. Preserve the sanctity of our homes from the decay of individual responsibility and religion. Stay the hands of those who would harm and offend our children. Grant us and all citizens the strength to be eternally vigilant in this great cause.

Bless the proceedings and participants of this gathering with Thy guiding influence and sustaining care.  Bless us and our children with Thy holy light – we humbly pray in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.”


Essay Contest for Utah Stop Common Core State Capitol Event February 18th   1 comment

On the 18th of Feburary at 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., hundreds of Utahns will gather at the State Capitol to take a stand against Common Core.  As part of that event, Utahns Against Common Core has announced an essay contest.  Three essays will be chosen and read by their authors at this event.   Here’s the announcement:
What’s the powerful reason that you’ve taken a stand against Common Core?  Why do you want the restoration of high quality, time-tested education standards and local control in Utah?  Do you have a great story?  Utahns Against Common Core wants to hear it!
Submit your essay to Utahns Against Common Core at by the deadline:  midnight on February 15th.  Three essays will be selected to be read at the State Capitol Common Core Event on February 18th  from 6:30 to 8:00.  Winners will be notified on February 17th and winners will be announced at the public meeting.  Winning and non-winning essays will be posted at Utahns Against Common Core.  If you do not want your essay made public, please let us know.
Topic:  Why I oppose the Common Core Initiative
Length:  Essay must be readable in less than three minutes.
Deadline:  12:00 midnight on February 15th, 2014
Prize:  You get to share your story/essay at the State Capitol Common Core Event
Capitol common core meeting

Wasatch County Republican Party Essay Contest   Leave a comment

The Wasatch County Republican Party has invited citizens to write essays answering the question:

How do conservative principles impact the happiness and prosperity of all Americans?”

The winning essay will be presented at next week’s Lincoln Day breakfast, where Utah’s Governor Herbert, Senator Van Tassel, Senator Chaffetz, Representative Powell and many others will be in attendance and/or will be speaking.  The deadline for entries is tomorrow.

I’m posting my essay here. Because the conservative principles that touch me most are “consent of the governed” and “local

control” (especially, of course, of children’s education)

The Consent of the Governed/ Local Control

A University of Utah exhibit recently displayed original letters, newspapers and books that had been written by colonial American freedom fighters such as Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. On display also were original documents written by British loyalists.
Never before had I read both the freedom fighters’ side of the argument and the other side’s articulate point of view. A heated argument ran through the documents. It boiled down to this: either you stood for local freedom, or you stood for remaining a managed colony under England’s non-representative system.
The arguments illustrated the conflict that exists between conservative principles– government by the consent of the governed and local control– versus opposing principles: rule assumed by the will of others, (such as rule by a king) or top-down, unrepresentative, distant control.
In retrospect, it feels obvious that the freedom fighters’ side of the issue was right.

But during the debates of the 1770’s it was not so clear. Both sides had reasoning that made some sense.

Similar, confusing battles about freedom go on in America today– battles for local control, independence, and real representation. These battles continue because some Americans think –or hope– that we live in a top-down kingdom, with the President like a Pharaoh ruling over the states. But our nation is a Constitutional Republic, ruled by laws and by a separation of powers into three branches, each of which is equal– the Supreme Court, Congress, and the Executive Branch. There is a balance of roles for the states and the federal government to play. There is no Pharaoh.

Because I’ve been a teacher most of my life, my freedom-focus is on the ongoing battle for local educational freedom. This is a Constitutional right I wish to preserve. But it will not be, unless enough people: a) realize that we’ve recently given away that right, by adopting Common Core standards and tests, and: b) realize the strength of our position to reclaim our educational sovereignty, because of the Constitution.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution gives states the sole right to set education policy. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States…or to the people.” States should never have given that power away to a federal agency nor to any out-of-state test writing consortia, regardless of any federal incentives, but many did.

An additional law, the General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) states that the federal government is forbidden to “exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…”

Yet the Common Core State Standards, which were incentivized and promoted by the Department of Education, lured Utah and many other states from their previously held educational autonomy.

How did Common Core take over? It slid under the public radar, wearing the sheep’s clothing of a grant opportunity called Race to the Top (RTTT). When Utah applied for the lottery-styled RTTT grant, one condition the federal agency had set to improve a state’s chances of winning was that states would agree to adopt Common Core. Although Utahns hadn’t read it, the school board agreed to it without public vetting. The board wanted the funds and the deadline was short.

RTTT money went to a some states, but not to Utah. Still, states who applied had agreed to adopt Common Core regardless of the money. States adopting Common Core “sold their educational birthrights without even getting the mess of pottage,” observed S.C. Senator Mike Fair.

But who noticed? With Common Core came loud promises of grandeur. Common Core claimed it would increase college readiness and would promote international competitiveness, and it was said to be “state-led”–without federal strings attached. Sadly, the claims were the opposite of what Common Core would actually do.

Along with questions of the Common Core harming quality education, creating huge data privacy invasions and gouging taxpayers, the bigger issue, which newspapers seemed to miss, was an irreparable concern –beyond the educational standards themselves. It was the principle of local control; educational free agency. Standards and tests would no longer be set by states.

Nationwide, debate about Common Core asks: Is student-centered or teacher-directed learning more effective; is cursive important; is common core math an increase in rigor or a dumbing down?

Calling the Common Core an improvement seems unreasonable, since its deletes cursive, minimizes narrative writing, eliminates a majority of classic literature and stunts math teaching. But even if the Common Core standards were actually good, the debaters miss a much bigger picture: they have given up local control over changing the standards; have given up the right to meaningfully argue about standards anymore.

Common Core standards are tightly controlled. First, they are under copyright by the CCCSSO/NGA, groups which claim to be the “sole developers”; second, there is no amendment process, thus no way citizens can vote out those who write the standards; and last, the federal government has put an additional 15% cap on top of the copyright, so no state may add anything to the standards.

But the standards don’t need federal police enforcement or the 15% cap; the tests themselves will motivate compliance. Teachers, prodded by the knowledge that their jobs are at stake if students test poorly on the tests, will naturally teach only the Common Core standards and will use the model curriculum being created by the federally funded test writers.

Where’s the freedom in that? Where’s the local control?

Common Core proponents say, “We can exit Common Core anytime we like.” That’s like a 1770’s colonist saying, “We can toss tea into the ocean any time,” while deliberately investing their personal fortunes and their children’s apprenticeships in British tea.

It is true that states may withdraw from Common Core, but it is unlikely to happen. The public has been led –by falsehood– to believe that the standards are good for our children, and the public has been denied a truthful taxpayers’ cost analysis of the implementation price tag of Common Core.

Now, with every Common Core textbook we purchase, with every Common Core teacher development seminar we fund, with every day that brings us closer to the Common Core national tests of 2014, we incrementally give up the likelihood that we will ever again govern education locally. The academic and financial costs are inestimable.

The Department of Education is poised to encroach further. After providing funds to make longitudinal database systems for all states to be interoperable with other states’ agencies, the Department made sure its system (via the National Center for Educational Statistics model and via alterations to FERPA privacy regulations) would have access to personal, nonacademic student data and academic data without parental consent.

The Department has made sure it can view the state-collected student data via the Common tests. The Department signed “Cooperative Agreements” with consortia representatives which bound states to share testing ideas and results with other testing consortia, under the eye of the Department of Education.

One of America’s strengths has long been its educated people; the world has flocked to American universities; we have had one of the most intellectually diverse education systems in the world. But an additional, painful cost to American freedom will be the loss of diversity and excellence to come soon to American universities. Common Core’s rigid K-12 tests, and also the new college entrance tests, will force everyone, from preschool through college, to march to the same dreary tune: governmentally-capped standards and tests.

The new president of the U.S. College Board, David Coleman, who also led the writing of the ELA Common Core, is aligning college entrance exams (SAT) with Common Core. So universities, via the common tests, will necessarily cater to the Common Core, which will do them significant harm. (Remember, Common Core minimizes literature, deletes cursive, reverts Algebra II from 8th to 9th grade, and reverts Calculus from high school to college level. –Among other damages.)

What can be done?

South Carolina, Indiana and Missouri have written legislation to withdraw their states from Common Core. If Utah does not follow suit, and declare independence from Common Core, the state will be increasingly managed as an educational colony under federal and CCSSO/NGA rules, with no say in testing, standards or over the privacy of students. Our founding fathers gave states the responsibility to educate in our Constitutional Republic. Unless we remember and use this privilege, it’s gone.

Thomas Paine described the 1776 opportunity to depart from England’s rule: “like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak, the wound would enlarge with the tree, and posterity read in it full grown characters.”

Our current opportunity to declare independence by withdrawing from a national Common Core is just as real.

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