Archive for the ‘I’ Tag

Utah Legislator Sparks Debate on US Education: To Reform or Restore?   7 comments

This week, a Utah legislator posted his views about education reform on his Facebook wall. The following post was compiled from that wall, by a Utah mother, Alyson Williams.

(Names have been replaced with generic titles.)

Thank you, Alyson.

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U.S. Education: to Reform or Restore?

Guest post by Utah Mother Alyson Williams

While we wish that these kinds of exchanges were happening in our state halls rather than just social media platforms, this exchange between a parent, a teacher, and a legislator as excerpted from the Utah legislator’s Facebook wall introduces an important question: should we be expanding and advancing centralized education reform or be seeking to restore ideals that have been lost? Do we know our own history well enough to discern the difference?

Parent: [Teacher], you seem to be talking just about the [Common Core] standards while [parent activist] has raised a warning about a bigger issue. Every state that adopted the standards did so in conjunction with a number of other reforms, the combination of which shift governance of education in significant ways. I hope this overview helps clarify that: http://prezi.com/icbma_8t5snu/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

I appreciate [Representative] taking the time to attend a presentation I did on this subject in [City.]

Teacher: I did watch your presentation. I commend you for your activism and I understand your viewpoint. I have done my own extensive research. I even interviewed people from the Gates Foundation. I just don’t agree with your view point. Best wishes.

Parent: [Teacher], one way of demonstrating that we understand one another’s viewpoint is to restate it in our own words as I have attempted above. Apparently my understanding of your viewpoint being based on the standards alone is not complete. Would you be willing to share your research? What did you learn in speaking to the Gates Foundation? The goal of the reforms has been clearly stated as making kids “college and career ready,” or as the Governor explains it, “education for the workforce demands of the marketplace.” The reforms ensure a more coordinated and central role for state and federal government in this workforce oriented goal. Am I correctly understanding that you support that outcome?

Teacher: Yes that is correct and I think it is reasonable to believe that no matter what I share, you and I will still be of the same opinion still:) I have only replied to a few of [Representative’s] points as he is my representative and someone I have a great deal of respect for. You and I also know we could spend hours exchanging research-hours of which I do not have. I have a family, a full time teaching job and a personal life. I wish you well on your own path.

Parent: I can certainly identify with how busy you are [Teacher.] Thank you for confirming your viewpoint. I think it will be helpful to those following this thread to see more clearly both sides. As you say, I simply have a different viewpoint and value the way that education in our country was, for a long time, unique. For much of our history the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. Government-coordinated education for the workforce is an imported philosophy. Our Founding Fathers and other great thinkers were who they were because they studied the great works, not work itself. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a broadly educated and free people pursuing their own dreams works better than centrally planned education for efficiently trained workers.

Representative: … this is a good discussion. As a taxpayer, I don’t want my dollars going to public schools unless those schools are focusing on getting kids ready for jobs and the work force. Most of our country’s founders were not products of a public education system and they had different goals for their own classical education, and leisure time to pursue those goals (philosophy, government, law). I want the schools in my world to do everything they can to train the students to be ready to get a job in the modern workplace, and to expose them to those career and job skills now. Most of the skills that need to be taught in K-12 public schools to prepare students for the work force are essentially just literacy and numeracy, and those can and will continue to be taught by studying classical works (as my own kids are doing to the hilt now under Utah’s Common Core standards, based on my own personal experience reading The Scarlet Letter and other works together with them this year). But if we don’t make sure that these foundational language and math classes are aligned to the workplace and producing the skills needed in the work force, then I think we are wasting precious taxpayer dollars. By using terms such as “centrally planned economy,” many critics of Common Core make it sound like our U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by endorsing Common Core, is advocating moving our country to socialism. But of course that is not the case. Private businesses recognize that a large reason for the success and ascendancy of the United States on the world stage in the past century has been careful government planning and regulation (roads and transportation infrastructure, banking systems, stock market regulation, etc.). Central government planning is not inconsistent with free-market capitalism — in fact, I would argue it is essential for its endurance, if the U.S. wants to continue to be the leader on the world stage. For me, it is all about finding the right balance between government management and individual liberty. I think the minimal educational guidelines being implemented as Utah’s Common Core strike that proper balance and do not in any way endanger an individual’s liberties to pursue in this great country whatever she or he wishes to in life — in fact, the standards are an aid to help individuals more fully exercise and realize those individual freedoms of self-expression. Thanks for weighing in.

Parent: [Representative], I hope you, and the parents reading that last entry can recognize the false dichotomy implicit in your opening assertion. Current education reform is not about whether students should be well educated and prepared for professional success or not. The conflict is about whether that desirable goal is best achieved under local governance or if we should disregard the wisdom of history (and current federal statute) and allow for greater federal or otherwise centralized control. “Education for the workforce demands of the marketplace” does not just mean that we want our kids to be able to get a good job. It means policy, funding, programs etc. are prioritized for assessing and predicting what skills will be most useful to the workforce by the time our kids reach the workforce, and who has those skills – predictions that are notoriously inaccurate. Instead of fitting education to the aptitudes and interests of the individual, giving each his best shot, this system attempts to guide the individual to the education deemed best for the “greater common good.” The emphasis on the child as an investment of the collective, not an agent unto himself, is a principle of socialism and this, not the shortsighted endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is what liberty-minded people are criticizing. You mention your objective of finding a balance between government management and individual liberty. The bedrock principle for conservatives in identifying this balance is to only assign to the higher level of government what cannot be accomplished by a more local level. Thomas Jefferson explained it this way, “… the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.” You specifically praise the federal role in transportation infrastructure. That is a good example of something that might best be accomplished through the cooperation of states working through Congress (the body we elect to make these kinds of collective decisions, as opposed to that one club for Governors who’ve taken this role upon themselves recently.) This happens to be President Obama’s favorite example as well. [Ironically, he used it often when promoting the Stimulus which proved the catalyst for advancing these education reforms.] If I had a dollar for every speech in which he mentions “roads and bridges” (and how they’re crumbling, necessitating more spending) while touting the benevolence of an increasingly powerful and indebted federal government! It is clear that you like the standards which are under the jurisdiction of the State School Board. The rest, and the bulk of the reforms, are under the jurisdiction of the State Legislature. As an elected representative in that body I hope you’ll continue to familiarize yourself with the impact of those policies as well. Thank YOU for weighing in. It is so important to constituents to understand the positions of their representatives.

Parent again: As long winded as that was, I forgot to respond to one point you made. The founding fathers were indeed, for the most part, more fortunate in their opportunities for education because of their wealth and privilege. One notable exception is of course Benjamin Franklin, the youngest son of a mixed family that included something like 16 total siblings and step siblings. (There’s a fantastic study of a self-taught, self-made man.) What many of these men seemed to understand about the sustainability of their newly-formed Republic was that in order to have a self-governing people education had to become more than training for a trade like the privately arranged apprenticeships of the day – that the domains such as history, philosophy and law previously accessible only to the elite must be accessible to all. Our abandonment of this ideal in favor of skills rewarded in the workforce, especially over the past half-century, has resulted in our current situation where key protections of liberty established by the Constitution are systematically eroded and erased while too many sit idly by in apathy or ignorance. Meanwhile we continue to saddle the upcoming generations with the servitude of an outrageously unsustainable debt all the while professing to have their future financial success and the desire for a robust economy at heart. (We never did get a cost analysis on these reforms.)

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I want to add two things to what Alyson compiled.

1. “Combination of education with industrial production” is a direct goal, point #10, of the Communist Manifesto.. The push to align workforce with education goes directly against free agency and toward central planning. Do American legislators realize they’re enabling socialism/communism when they support “finding the right balance between government management and individual liberty?” You can’t balance the human tendency toward controlling others very easily; hence, the limitations outlined to keep the government very, very small and the people’s power big. The individual should have full control over his/her life.

2. In a book called “Free Agency: A Divine Gift,” a Utahn, David O. McKay, who was also a former teacher, wrote: “Let us, by exercising our privileges under the Constitution… Preserve our right to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience, preserve the right to work when and where we choose. . . Feel free to plan and to reap without the handicap of bureaucratic interference, Devote our time, means, and life if necessary, to hold inviolate those laws which will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience.”

The wonder of individual, unfettered freedom and the absurd lie (that society needs central planners) is debunked in a great short film called “I, Pencil.” Worth watching.

The Importance of Individual Freedom   Leave a comment

The song goes, “I am a child of God.”

Not, “We are a group of children of God.”

Why?

Why does the individual and his/her power to choose, matter so much?

I have been thinking a lot about what individual liberty and responsibility mean, since this Nov. 6th election, and have come to the conclusion that many Americans must fear individual freedom.  And I’ve been thinking about Ayn Rand.  Did you ever read “Anthem” –the novel in which people don’t know the word “I” anymore?

For all the positive effects of having a united society and a cooperative spirit, there is a dark side to collective and cooperative movements.  But some fear the responsibility that comes with freedom, so much that they choose to give away their own autonomy in the attempt to gain security (in the form of government handouts, whether of money or of “we know best” life planning handouts, such as the managed workforce that our education system is becoming).  They choose the collective responsibility over the individual responsibility.  But this ultimately crushes the individual.  People need freedom like they need air to breathe, but they are also afraid to be free because they don’t want to be responsible for the consequences of their own decisions.  They willingly give up this precious, hard-won prize, believing the lies of those who hope to control them.

It’s like a prisoner who is released from jail but returns deliberately, because he fears the unknown more than he fears jail.  It’s like the abused wife who returns to her control freak husband because she fears the emotional or financial realities of independence.  They should be stronger than this!  They should shoulder the burden and the joy of freedom from oppression and overregulation!

By buying into socialism, collectivism, communism (and even the educational movement of nationalizing education, common core)  we reject choice and local accountability; we are giving up true America.

   Ayn Rand’s book, Anthem tells of a world in which the concept of individuality and the word “I” do not exist.

Everything is “we” and everything is common.  The individual does not matter; only the collective matters.

Here is a quote from Anthem.

“The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.

What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?

But I am done with this creed of corruption.

I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.

This god, this one word:

“I.” 

―    Ayn Rand

What does this quote from this book have to do with Common Core?

Everything. When education is nationalized, when local control over schools is lost, when all major tests are standardized and nationalized, when standards must match from village to village and state to state (and from nation to nation, if the globalists get their way) then there is no individuality.  Freedom is lost.

And why are we buying it?  Why do we want to have common education rather than local autonomy and the freedom to set our own standards and innovate according to our local needs and desires?

Is freedom really so scary?  Scarier than losing it?

Consider these words on the subject, from another great man, Howard W. Hunter:

“What is the real cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? In the last analysis, in my judgment, it is personal unrighteousness. When people do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually lose these freedoms. . . .

If man will not recognize the inequalities around him and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, he will find that through “a democratic process” he will be forced to come to the aid of his brother. The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” Both have last their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not,” lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift.

Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost. Speeches of the Year 1965-1966, pp. 1-11, “The Law of the Harvest”, Devotional Address, Brigham Young University, 8 March 1966

“From my own experience in business and as a lawyer and church worker, and from my firsthand observations in this country and other countries of the world, there appears to me to be a trend to shift responsibility for life and its processes from the individual to the state. In this shift there is a basic violation of the law of the harvest, or the law of justice. The attitude of “something for nothing” is encouraged. The government is often looked to as the source of wealth. There is a feeling that the government should step in and take care of one’s needs, one’s emergencies, and one’s future. Just as my friend actually became a slave to his own ignorance and bad habits by refusing to accept the responsibility for his own education and moral growth, so, also, can an entire people be imperceptibly transferred from individuals, families, and communities to the federal government.”

Speeches of the Year 1965-1966, pp. 1-11, “The Law of the Harvest.” Devotional Address, Brigham Young University, 8 March 1966
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