Archive for the ‘freedom matters’ Tag

What’s Wrong With a Federal Unit Tracking System? Video Testimony From D.C. Hearing on Student Unit-Record Identifiers   8 comments

The brand-newly created federal Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking (CEP) held a public hearing in Washington, D.C. a few days ago.

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The testimony of Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project (APP) stood out from the other testimonies that were presented, and is posted in full below, with permission from APP.   Many of the other organizations whose representatives testified do financially benefit from the privacy-stomping, data-mining, gold rush, including the  Data Quality Campaign, American Institutes for Research, etc.  But APP does not.  APP exists to maintain local control, constitutional rights, and individual privacy rights.

On the video, Mr. Emmett McGroarty of APP testifies at about hour 2:45 to 3:07.  To see the agenda of who else was slated to testify at this hearing, click this link: final-cep-oct-21-agenda_updated-1

Testimony Abstract:

We urge the Commission to resist calls to repeal the statutory prohibition on the development, implementation, or maintenance of a federal student unit-record system. Such a system would curtail liberty interests of the individual, would invite the collection and use of ever-more data, and would fundamentally alter the relationship between the individual and government in a way that is incompatible with our constitutional republic.

Statement by Emmett J. McGroarty, JD

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was created to pursue a laudable goal: To improve analysis of the effectiveness of federal programs. But when such a pursuit is used to justify collecting, conglomerating, and tracking massive amounts of Americans’ personal data, as is certainly true in the realm of education, it’s necessary to examine the dangers and the tradeoffs. American Principles Project (APP) believes that such activities suppress the liberties of the people and pervert the relationship between the people and government. We urge the Commission to reject calls to establish a federal student unit-record system and to engage in such Orwellian activity.

Section 134 of the Higher Education Act wisely prohibits the development, implementation, or maintenance of a federal student unit-record system (one that would allow the government to collect personally identifiable information (PII) on individual higher-education students and link education data to workforce data). Recently, though, an orchestrated demand for repeal of this prohibition has been swelling. According to well-funded organizations with a vested interest in accessing that data for their own purposes, the federal government suffers from data-deprivation. Think how much more efficiently our nation could operate, and how much more the government could help people run their own lives, if it maintained a centralized repository tracking almost every conceivable data point about every citizen – where he attended school, what courses he took, what grades he earned, what extracurricular record (good or bad) he compiled, what jobs he applied for, what jobs he got, what salary he made, whether he was promoted, what salary he earned in his new position, whether he lost his job and why, whether he joined the military, what sort of military record he established, whether he was arrested and for what, whether he went to jail, and on and on ad infinitum.

This is not a description of a free and open United States of America. This is a description of a totalitarian society that keeps tabs on its own citizens – for their own good, of course. It’s also a description of what would inevitably happen with the establishment of a student unit-record system, all in the name of “better consumer information,” “accountability,” and “transparency.”

What’s wrong with a federal unit-tracking system?

First, it would compile students’ personally identifiable information (PII) without their consent – or even their knowledge that their data is being collected and disclosed. It’s one thing to collect data from a student who voluntarily (which of course presumes actual notice of the program) participates in a government program and understands that participation will expose his PII to program administrators; it’s quite another to forcibly suck every individual into a datacollection system simply because he enrolled in an institution of higher education. Telling that student that he must hand over his personal data to promote a greater good as defined by bureaucrats and lobbyists – or even worse, just dragooning him without telling him anything – is simply un-American.

Second, the purposes of the proposed system would be so open-ended that the repository is certain to be expanded over time to centralize data far beyond collegiate and employment data. In the creative bureaucratic mind, literally everything can be linked to education. So why stop with employment data? Why not see how one’s education affects his participation in the military? Or his health? Or his criminality? Or his housing patterns? Or the number of children he has? Or whether he purchases a gun? Or his political activity? Inquiring bureaucrats want to know, and every question can be justified by citing “better consumer information.”

And will this dossier created on every citizen become permanent? Presumably so. If the goal of providing maximum consumer information is to be achieved, both historical and current data – constantly updated and expanded – must be compiled and preserved.

Perhaps this expansion won’t happen. Perhaps the federal government, in stark contrast to its behavior over the last 100 years, will stay within its boundaries. But reality-based Americans know the government will push the envelope as far as it possibly can, as it always does. And they know that giving that government access to such a treasure trove of data is dangerous to privacy and to individual liberty.

Third, the idea that this massive repository of PII will be protected against unauthorized access and data breaches is quite simply delusional. Less than a year ago, a hearing of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform revealed the shocking lack of student-data security throughout the U.S. Department of Education (USED). The problems encompass both lax controls over the people allowed access to sensitive data, as well as outdated technology and inadequate security to prevent unauthorized access.

USED’s system contains over 139 million Social Security numbers (largely through its office of Financial Student Aid), along with sensitive borrower information about students and families contained in the National Student Loan Database. The findings of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the General Accounting Office were disturbing:

  •  Of the 97,000 account/users with access to this information (government employees and contractors), fewer than 20 percent have undergone a background check to receive a security clearance.
  • The security mechanisms protecting that data are grossly inadequate. As one OIG witness testified, “During our testing . . . OIG testers were able to gain full access to the Department’s network and our access went undetected by Dell [the vendor] and the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.”
  • USED ignored repeated warnings from OIG that its information systems are vulnerable to security threats.

That the federal government should now consider ballooning the sensitive data contained in these insecure systems is at best misguided and reckless.

Even if the data systems were secure, the Obama administration’s gutting of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) means that government education officials (federal, state, and local) now have enormous leeway to disclose PII on individual students without their consent. Pursuant to the recent FERPA regulations, these officials may share private PII with other government agencies, nonprofit entities, corporations, researchers, and literally anyone on the planet as long as the disclosure can be characterized as an audit or evaluation of a (broadly defined) “education program.”

Will the new conglomeration of student data be fair game for disclosure under these regulations? The danger is too real to dismiss.

The philosophical problem with a federal student unit-record system is that it treats free-born American citizens as objects of research and study. It assumes that the goal of benefitting others in society, in vague and theoretical ways, authorizes the powerful federal government to collect and disseminate millions of data points on individuals – without their consent. This fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. Collecting and holding massive amounts of data about an individual has an intimidating effect on the individual—even if the data is never used. This is even more so the case when the collector has the force of the law behind it. Our republic rests on the idea that the citizen will direct government. That cannot happen where government sits in a position of intimidation over the individual.

Submitted by:

Emmett J. McGroarty, Esq.

Senior Fellow

American Principles Project

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If you wish to testify, there will be additional public hearings in various places across the country.  You may also submit written testimony online.

 

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Here’s a P.S. to all of the above from me, Christel, because I am absolutely screeching and screaming over this and wish more people would get it, would speak up and would speak out.

It does not take a brilliant lawyer to understand how wrong this is– although it’s nice to have the brilliant Mr. Emmett McGroarty, and words cannot describe the debt that freedom lovers owe to APP and McGroarty.

But this unit-record identifier issue is not, at heart, complicated, nor should it be the least bit intimidating –to anyone in this country, of any age or occupation.  Get involved.  Say something.

Ask people to think:

Who holds the keys and drives education?  It should be those closest to each individual child: the parents, the teachers, and the principal.  They are the most accountable and care the most.

But today, because “We, the People” collectively have not been paying attention, corporations and governments have taken too much power over DATA  –and that’s daily increasing.  If CEP goes in the direction that it seems to be going, then soon, individual student record identifiers will track individuals so that governments and corporations can “see” and “help” us all. Heaven save us from that kind of help.

The federal and corporate push for ever more individual data is supposedly to improve education and workplaces for the children, but this agenda does not seem to serve children, but to treat them as “human capital” –experiments, worker bees and lab rats, while making certain groups unbelievably rich, meaning rich both in money itself, and also rich in data –which in our day equals money.

Our country went through the land rush, the gold rush, but now it’s the data rush.

Now it’s data mining instead of strip mining.

WE are the ones being mined—by BigGov-BigBiz-BigEd.

If the push for personally identifiable information sharing succeeds fully, we will not own ourselves.

The sweetest and most naiive among us are thinking, “It’s okay if the corporations and governments know everything about me, about my children, my finances, my religious beliefs, gun rights, sexual morality beliefs and more– because I don’t do anything wrong.

By whose definition do you not do anything wrong?  Do your values and beliefs match those of the government’s so perfectly that you can trust its judgment and its interventions over your own?

Think about what’s going on.

To the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, you are now labled WRONG if you believe in God, because religious doctrine of any kind is only a “pretext” to discriminate on the basis of racism, sexism, etc.  That’s your federal government judging your “social emotional learning” right there!

To gun control advocates at the state and federal levels, you are not concerned about “supporting nonviolence” if you own a gun.

To the federal political activists of the LGTB movement, you are either a discriminator or mentally unwell if you promote marriage between a man and a woman.

And now that SEL (Social Emotional Learning) standards for K-12 are being developed and promoted to track “non-cognitive” factors, starting on children and moving into the workplace, it seems not even our personal psychology is to be permitted to be private any longer.  What types of emotions or beliefs or traditions are mentally or socially “at-risk” and by whose definition?  When we give up power over our own data privacy, we give up at least some control over our own judgments of values.

What makes us certain that the world that federal SEL activists and the CEP Commission wants is the same world that I or you or other free people want?  Just look at what the federal activists are doing!  Don’t give them more power over us!

As Dr. Karen Effrem and Jane Robbins recently pointed out at The Federalist:

“The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) …requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors.  ESSA …  pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” … training school personnel on “when and how to refer… children with, or at risk of, mental illness,” and implementing programs for children… “at-risk” of academic or social problems, without ever defining “at-risk”  …ESSA language urges school officials to cast a wide net for special education in school-wide “intervention” and “support” programs, allowing schools to sidestep parental consent requirements. [There’s a] planned revision of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” to assess mindsets and school climate… [There’s] funding for federally controlled and funded “social emotional research” in the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA)—a bill supported by individuals and corporations that will profit handsomely from all this sensitive data to help them mold worker bees for the global economy…  A third federal initiative is USED’s bribery of states to promote SEL standards and data-gathering on preschool children via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants. These grants, along with the preschool grants in ESSA and Head Start, promote “Baby Common Core”-style SEL standards and data-collection.”

Please find a way to stand up and say no to the call for using “Unit-Record Identifiers,” no matter what the reasoning may be.  Say yes to personal privacy, personal responsibility, and to family-based, individual-based, local control of social and emotional and academic and religious values.

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Dr. Evers: Common Core Blocks Exit and Voice   10 comments

Dr. Evers’ article is published here with permission from the author.  It was also published at Education Week this  month.

 

THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS’ UNDEMOCRATIC PUSH

by Dr. Williamson M. Evers

“They forgot that the desire for a voice, the desire for political action, can become particularly intense when people are faced with the prospect of nowhere to exit to. They  forgot that hemming in parents and teachers would create a demand for alternatives and escape routes. Alternatives to the national common-core-aligned tests have arisen.”

One of the most influential books in social science in the last 50 years is economist Albert O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.

In this pivotal 1970 book, Hirschman discusses how individuals react when services they rely on deteriorate. The basic responses available to us are “exit” and “voice,” Hirschman points out, where exit means turning to a different provider or leaving the area, and voice means political participation.

We tend to think of these responses as stark alternatives. Hirschman, as a social scientist, wanted us to consider the interplay between them.

Exit usually has lower costs than voice for the individual. With exit, you can avoid the long slog of politics and simply turn to someone else or move somewhere else.

But there is a limiting case: Exit can have high costs when individuals are loyal to institutions—thus the third component in Hirschman’s trio of exit, voice, and loyalty.

In the 1830s, when Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States, he found Americans intensely loyal to their local schools. Americans saw schools as extensions of their families and neighborhoods. They viewed public schools as akin to voluntarily supported charities and as part of what social scientists today call civil society.

Tocqueville described township school committees that were deeply rooted in their local communities. State control of local public education took the form of an annual report sent by the township committee to the state capital. There was no national control.

Today, Americans retain much of the sentiment about local schools they had in Tocqueville’s day. But, increasingly, parents and taxpayers view the public schools as an unresponsive bureaucracy carrying out edicts from distant capitals. Today, we are dealing with a deteriorating situation in a declining institution, namely widespread ineffective instruction in the public schools.

The Common Core State Standards have come to the fore precisely at a time when civically active individuals care much more than they usually do about exit, voice, and loyalty. But the common core has denied voice and tried to block exit.

The common core’s designers have taken the existing bureaucracy and increased its centralization and uniformity. By creating the common-core content standards behind closed doors, the authors increased the alienation of the public from schools as institutions worthy of loyalty. The general public had no voice in creating or adopting the common core.

The other approach in times of a deteriorating public service is offering better exit options. But the common core’s proponents have created an almost inescapable national cartel.

There has long been a monopoly problem in public education, which was why economist Milton Friedman called for opportunity scholarships (also known as vouchers) to create a powerful exit option. But even in the absence of opportunity scholarships and charter schools, we had some exit options in the past because of competitive federalism, meaning horizontal competition among jurisdictions.

Economist Caroline Hoxby studied metropolitan areas with many school districts (like Boston) and metropolitan areas contained within one large district (like Miami or Los Angeles). She found that student performance is better in areas with competing multiple districts, where parents at the same income level can move to another locality, in search of a better education.

We have also seen competitive federalism work in education at the interstate level. Back in the 1950s, education in Mississippi and North Carolina performed at the same low level. North Carolina tried a number of educational experiments and moved ahead of Mississippi. Likewise, Massachusetts moved up over the years from mediocre to stellar.

The common core’s promoters are endeavoring to suppress competitive federalism. The common core’s rules and its curriculum guidance are the governing rules of a cartel. The common core’s promoters and their federal facilitators wanted a cartel that would override competitive federalism and shut down the curriculum alternatives that federalism would allow.

The new common-core-aligned tests, whose development was supported with federal funds, function to police the cartel. All long-lasting cartels must have a mechanism for policing and punishing those seen as shirkers and chiselers, or, in other words, those who want to escape the cartel’s strictures or who want increased flexibility so they can succeed.

The new leadership of the College Board by David Coleman, one of the common core’s chief architects, is being used to corral Catholic schools, other private schools, and home-schooling parents into the cartel. The proponents of the common core have now established a clearinghouse for authorized teaching materials to try to close off any remaining possible avenue of escaping the cartel.

What was the rationale for the common core? The name given to the Obama administration’s signature school reform effort, the Race to the Top program, promotes the idea that the federal government needs to step in and lead a race. Central to this rhetoric is the idea that state performance standards were already on a downward slide and that, without nationalization, standards would inexorably continue on a “race to the bottom.”

I would disagree. While providers of public education certainly face the temptation to do what might look like taking the easy way out by letting academic standards decline, there is also countervailing pressure in the direction of higher standards.

If state policymakers and education officials let content standards slip, low standards will damage a state’s reputation for having a trained workforce. Such a drop in standards will even damage the policymakers’ own reputations.

In 2007, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute looked empirically at state performance standards over time in a study called “The Proficiency Illusion.” The study showed that, while states had a variety of performance standards (as would be expected in a federal system), the supposed “race to the bottom” was not happening. The proponents of the common core are wrong in their claims that state performance standards were inevitably on a downward slide.

The common core, in fact, provided relief from competitive pressure from other states. Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia at the time that the common core was created (the initiative was launched in 2009, and the standards were released in 2010), did not like it when the low-performing students of his state were compared with students in other states with standards different from Georgia’s. He became the lead governor in bringing the National Governors Association into the national standards effort. Nationalizing standards and tests eliminated them as differentiated school reform instruments that could be used by states in competition over educational attainment among the states.

The common core undermines citizens’ exit option and competitive federalism. It was designed to do so. It likewise evades and negates the voice option. But the makers of this malign utopia have forgotten a few things.

They forgot that the desire for a voice, the desire for political action, can become particularly intense when people are faced with the prospect of nowhere to exit to. They forgot that hemming in parents and teachers would create a demand for alternatives and escape routes. Alternatives to the national common-core-aligned tests have arisen. States are dropping these national tests. States are also struggling to escape the common-core cartel itself. Parents are opting out of common-core testing.

By trying to block exit and voice, the designers and proponents of the Common Core State Standards have caused blowback: A large parent-, teacher-, and community-based movement has arisen to oppose the common core and its national tests.

 

Video: Common Core Panelists: Kurtz, Evers, McClusky, Estrada, Rebarber   1 comment

Heritage Foundation hosted a panel this month to inform and update the public about Common Core.   The introduction by Lindsey Burke of Heritage Foundation includes her story of New Jersey homeschoolers who are being told by the state that they must conform to Common Core, even in home school.   Burke also cites the rapid decline of teacher support for the Common Core, from 76% down to only 46% according to the latest poll.  Enjoy.

 

Panelists:

Stanley Kurtz, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, and contributing editor, National Review Online

Ted Rebarber
CEO and Founder, AccountabilityWorks

Neal McCluskey, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Center for Educational Freedom, The Cato Institute

William Estrada
Director of Federal Relations, Home School Legal Defense Association

Williamson M. Evers
Research fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Civil Disobedience   2 comments

I wrote this essay for the Libertas Institute essay contest. If you like it, please click on “like” at the Libertas link before August 22nd 2014, and share it so that I have a shot at the prize for the most “like”s. Thank you. Also, thanks to Libertas for asking Utah citizens to think and write about this important subject.

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CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Queen Esther of the Bible modeled the proper role of civil disobedience when she chose to break the law to free her people from the sentence of death. She did not shrink from personal consequences that her act of agency would bring. She said, “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther illustrated the justification for civil disobedience: we break a law only when lawful appeals cannot overcome threats to life, liberty, property, or free exercise of conscience; when it’s the only honorable course. Esther’s selfless act contrasts with the self-indulgence of others who break laws without being willing to shoulder the consequences.

Martin Luther King wrote about that willingness: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Thoreau explained that governments were only able to commit wrongdoings, to “crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels,” because individuals upheld bad governments by their failure to exercise agency, who “serve the state…as machines.” He pressed every individual not to “resign his conscience” to a government, and asked, “Why has every man a conscience then?”

Utah’s predominant religion teaches “We believe… in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12) and warns: “sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected ” (D&C 134). But further study of D&C 134 reveals that “thus protected” means “protected in their inherent and inalienable rights” –defined as “free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” “Thus protected” is key: we honor government as long as we are protected in our inalienable rights. When laws fail to protect, when foul oppressions are enacted, people of conscience recognize the duty –of lawful pushback when possible, and of civil disobedience when regular appeals fail.

Pondering heroic acts of civil disobedience helps to clarify the difference between noble and ignoble disobedience.

1. 150 B.C. – Abinadi of the Book of Mormon defied the rule against freedom of speech and willingly faced the consequence of death by fire. 2. 1500′s – English protestants by the hundreds were burned at the stake or beheaded for breaking the law in refusing to follow the state religion under Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”). 3. 1776 – Many signers of the Declaration of Independence were punished or killed for signing, which was an act of civil disobedience under British law. 4. 1850′s – Harriet Tubman traveled between Northern and Southern states, illegally freeing 300 slaves. 5. 1940′s – Sweden’s diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, jumped on top of trainloads of Jews on their way to death camps; ignoring governing protocol and soldiers’ warning bullets, Wallenberg gave out illegal passports and ordered captives to exit the trains. He saved thousands and then lost his own life in a Russian prison. 6. 1940′s – Holland’s Caspar Ten Boom illegally hid Jews during World War II. He responded to those who criticized him: “You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.” 7. 1950′s – Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking segregation laws by deliberately sitting “illegally” on a bus. 8. 1989 – China’s “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square deliberately walked straight into communist tanks aimed to quell all freedom-seeking demonstrators. He was seized; it’s unknown whether he was executed. 9. 1990′s – Mongolia’s Oyun Altangarel, a state librarian, was fired for seeking freedom of religion and speech, but her organization’s hunger strike moved her country toward freedom.

Oppression is not only found in distant times and countries. It’s happening under our noses in 2014 in Utah –as are corresponding heroes of civil disobedience. Consider three stories.

1. In 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune published teacher Ann Florence’s op-ed, in which Florence wrote about “an avalanche” of counter-productive mandates which did not benefit students and did cause teacher demoralization. She lamented standardized tests and Common Core. She wrote, “We are tired of the threats and disrespect… tired of having our dedication reduced to a number. Educating children is… a life’s work that deserves the highest honor.”

In 2014, when Florence openly criticized computer-adapted standardized tests as “a waste of time and irrelevant,” refused to grade them, and spoke out to news media, the honors English teacher was fired by Granite School District for “a pattern of noncompliance”.

Florence told ABC4 news, “I am challenged constantly to teach my students to consider their own opinions, to examine their opinions …but when I try to employ critical thinking as a teacher and I have the support of hundreds of other teachers, I’m silenced and I’m fired.”

2. When Stuart Harper, St. George High School Physics Teacher, spoke out against the Common Core “reform,” he was threatened with job loss.  Harper had stated that he didn’t like Common Core being “pushed upon us [teachers],” nor could he tolerate the “lack of control we have over its content.” He criticized the “awful quality of its math core,” an “over-emphasis on testing,” “burdens on schools for curriculum changes and data collection” and said that “its focus drives schools deeper into the political realm and further from real education.”

The district told Harper he’d created rebellion and insubordination. They insisted that he accept their claims about Common Core– as if seeking verification was not scientific; as if truth cannot hold up under scrutiny; as if freedom of thought equals insubordination; as if debate equals unethical conduct.

Harper reasoned with officials, saying, “my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told, ‘Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply’ … I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign…”

Harper would not be silenced, though he knew that the system “expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions… and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. ” In his resignation letter, he wrote, “Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas…” He revealed that the system hurts not only teachers’ freedom of conscience but also students’ freedom of conscience: it “no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think.”

Harper was pressured to resign and did resign– not just over academically inferior standards, but over “an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech.”

3. When Utah high school student Hannah Smith (not her real name) saw, during the state’s Common Core (SAGE) test, that an objectionable test question should be viewed by parents, she captured screen shots of the question with her cell phone. She sent them to her mother, and they were shared, published and viewed nationally.

Smith was threatened by administrators with possible loss of graduation and was told that she was a cheater. The teacher who had been in the room was also threatened with professional action. State education leader Judy Park was quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune, threatening, “Any licensed educator that has been involved, I will report to UPPAC (Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission of the state Board of Education), because they have now violated the obligation to follow ethics.” Park added, “[A]ll this concern about Common Core and SAGE has led us to the point that parents are encouraging students to break the law.”

Utah’s government uses multiple methods to stifle debate and freedom of thought in education. Utah teachers and school staff report (anonymously) that they must conform to education and data reforms without discussion. They’re told that they may not inform parents nor students of legal rights to opt out of SAGE testing, nor speak out against the Common Core without punishment for insubordination.

Key to the coffle is the state school board’s selection procedure, which narrows the candidate pool before voters get a chance to vote. The selection procedure starts with a survey that asks whether candidates support Utah Core/Common Core. It is further narrowed by insider committees and narrowed again by the governor to two pre-selected candidates. From these, voters may choose one. A rejected candidate recently sued the governor, calling this selection procedure “viewpoint discrimination.”

Why must we reclaim the sacred freedom to disagree and debate? Benjamin Franklin explained: “Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions. if these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions?”

Speaking against inappropriate education reforms now ranks as civil disobedience for Utah educators. Utah parents who opt children out of SAGE tests are sometimes chided by school administrators as “unsupportive” of schools despite the law upholding the parental right to opt out of the tests.

Utah’s predominant religion says that we “do not believe that human law has a right to…… bind the consciences of men” (D & C 134). It states that the “magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” The chapter teaches “that the commission of crime should be punished… all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment” (D&C 134). I think Thoreau would agree: he called government’s harm to conscience a “sort of bloodshed” and said, “through this wound a man’s real manhood” flows out. He wrote: “we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”

Although Utahans are witnessing the lack of freedom being put into place by the Common Core tests and Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) –most fail to step forward.

Why?

In part this may be because there is controversy over whether new standards harm or help, but it’s unarguable that the oppressive nature of implementation harms free exercise of parent/teacher conscience and that the tests and data collection systems make students unwitting guinea pigs of D.C.’s experiment. These things should matter; even those who believe Common Core’s claim to improve education may recall that the Declaration of Independence speaks of “consent by the governed” which Common Core can’t claim since it wasn’t vetted by teachers, parents or taxpayers prior to adoption.

Fact: Utah’s government oppresses exercise of conscience by threatening job loss to educators who exercise it. Teachers governed thus are not protected in their inalienable rights. Fact: because the government creates no allowance for parents to opt children out of its federal-state database tracking system (State Longitudinal Database System) it also violates parental “right and control of property”–privacy being personal property. Fact: for at least two years the state school board (collectively) has rejected every plea for relief from parents and teachers on this matter, and the legislature has not succeeded in righting the wrong.

The choice then has become to behave as silent property, as governed as cooped chickens, or to rise to the scary, defining moment of Common Core. Stand-up actions (parents opting students out of testing, administrators claiming the right to say no) may result in ridicule or job loss but may be the only way we can defend the Constitutional right to local control of education, the only way to do the right thing.

Consider Thoreau’s words: “under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

For the sake of our American liberties and for the sake of our children, it is time for those who share the spirit of Queen Esther to echo her example: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

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