Monday, February 11, 2013

Common Core & Backdoors To Nationalized Education

My recent article and commentary about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and the overall call for a federally mandated Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) raised some discussion with education professionals.

During a discussion with a parochial school teacher, several points were made concerning  the CCSSI. She teachers in Cook County, Illinois, a very socialist leaning county of one of the country's most socialist leaning states. Her parochial (private) school recently adopted the CCSSI curricula and standards that Illinois has mandated for public schools. The mandate has not yet extended to charter or private schools, though that plan is in consideration. Her school voluntarily adopted these standards.

She works hard and cares deeply about providing the best service she can. I've known her for a few decades and have never known her as a "bare minimum" minded person in anything she does. So, her views, as an elementary educator in a parochial school, are worth considering. 

This educator told me that she likes CCSSI because it provides her tools to push the critical thinking and analytic abilities of students and gives her a plug-and-play curriculum that works well into her lesson plans. Basically, she likes it because it makes her job easier.

She also related that the standards she adopted are more clear-cut and understandable than the ones she previously worked under. One of the pros of the CCSSI, according to her, is that it provides a common metric that removes some of the subjective grading, making subjective assignments more fair in grading. In doing so, she states that it raises the perceived standards she worked under previously.

However, a teacher who produces a proper rubric to measure student progress and performance should already be doing this.

Another point she made is that the CCSSI is supposed to incorporate parents as partners in their children's education. It is sad that teachers feel the need to motivate parents to be better partners in education. For one thing, parents should never be partners to teachers. Teachers are employees. Parents are the employers. This applies in public schools. Parents pay the taxes that pay the teachers' salaries. In private and parochial schools, parents directly pay the schools in tuition. In addition, many parochial and private schools receive grants and funds through government grants, private donations, and, in many parochial schools, through religious tithing.

Since we are paying the teachers to perform a service, how are we their partners? Are they paying the parents to feed and clothe the children? Are they paying parents for staying up at night when a child is sick? Do they in any way pay parents for caring for the students during non-school hours? No, they do not. They should not. What they need to realize is that they are employees.

As employees, they should perform their duties to the expectations agreed upon in their contracts with the parents (not with the local school board, CCSSI, state government, or any national standard). However, there are limits. Parents have the ultimate responsibility of educating their children. It is not up to the village. It is not up to the school. It is up to the parents. Parents pay teachers to help but not to replace the education.

If you hire a maid to clean your house three days a week, she will quit if you trash it and never do anything for yourself. You have to do your own dishes. You have to do your own cooking. You have to do your own laundry. The list goes on dependent upon that agreement. If you expect the maid to handle your responsibilities, then expect to pay them for their time and efforts. If they quit or do the barest of minimums and your home becomes a threat to the health of your neighbors, the police will knock on your door, not the maid's.

The parochial school teacher made several good points in defense of the CCSSI. It does clarify standards that may be fuzzy. It could provide much clearer guidance for educators allowing them to set more realistic and comprehensible goals for students to strive towards.

She also admitted that it could be used for political purposes, though no good teacher as herself even considers the political ideology pushing the program, just the end-state as it applies to their job. She also admitted she does have some suspicions about the program due to some of its more outspoken, left-wing advocates. However, she says that politics should not get in the way of education reform.

She's right. Politics should not interfere with the education of our children. In other words, federal and state governments need to stop directing education policies and curricula. Those should be left to the local school districts as determined by the parents in those districts.

With that in mind, parents need to make sure their kids are taught the things they believe to be most important. If your child's school is not teaching cursive writing, then teach your kid yourself. If they fail to teach history and civics, then it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their own kids. Do it. Don't blame the teachers if they are not doing things you are not willing to do for your kids yourself. It's your kid, not the teacher's.

CCSSI does try to provide a backdoor path to a national education standard and a federal takeover of education. It needs to be kept in check. A national common core education standard is currently unconstitutional and a violation of the 10th Amendment. Many left-wing extremists advocate the CCSSI. Many teachers who like the CCSSI do not have the foresight to see to where it is meant to lead.

Yes, there are many teachers, primarily those more active with their extreme-socialist-infiltrated unions, who support a national core curriculum and a federal government takeover of education. However, current trends indicate that the progressives are losing backing from within their own profession. The Association of American Educators (AAE) is a non-union professional organization. They conducted a recent survey that showed that more and more, the average teacher is opposing a national standard and is more in favor of school choice reforms. Among the more favored reforms are education vouchers that allow parents to place their kids in private, charter, and parochial schools if the local public school doesn't make the grade.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) also opposes nationalized common core standards such as the CCSSI and other "Race to the Top" programs and policies. The Goldwater Institute joined them by providing studies and offering alternative policies to bolster education reform and school choice. 

Here is an excerpt from their proposed alternate legislation based on those studies:
WHEREAS, local election officials, school leaders, teachers, and parents were not included in the discussion, evaluation and preparation of the CCSSI standards that would affect students in the state; and
WHEREAS, citizens had no opportunity to review and comment on the final version of CCSSI standards, and states were not offered an option to modify those standards before their adoption; and
WHEREAS, no empirical evidence indicates that centralized education standards result in higher student achievement; and
WHEREAS, adoption of the CCSSI standards would force several states to lower the rigor and quality of their standards; and
WHEREAS, the National Assessment of Educational Progress national test already exists and allows comparisons of academic achievement to be made across the states, without the necessity of imposing national standards, curricula, or assessments; and
WHEREAS, imposing a set of national standards is likely to lead to the imposition of a national curriculum and national assessment upon the various states, in violation of the General Education Provisions Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and the Department of Education Organization Act and
WHEREAS, claims from the Common Core Initiative that the CCSSI standards will not dictate what teachers teach in the classroom are refuted by language in the standards as written; and
WHEREAS, common standards will lesson the ability for local stakeholders to innovate and continue to make improvement over time.

Some may think that school vouchers and school choice programs promote a preference for a national standard. In reality, a good school choice program would avoid a national standard. Different parents have different values beyond the core "golden rule" morals. However, a national standard (or even the CCSSI) ignores what parents value and tells parents what the government has decided that society should value. That is dangerous and eliminates choice and will likely lead to your kids being taught a set of values that conflict with your own.

Another backdoor towards a nationalized standard built on moral ambiguity and moral relativity was recently uncovered in Texas. A group of rather left-leaning so-called educators created CSCOPE. It was intended to present lesson plans, rubrics, and curricula to push "critical thinking" to elementary students through "perception classes".

The folks over at CSCOPE recently reformed their program after "secret curricula" we unveiled to some conservative parents. They removed the majority of the more controversial and offending materials after the deluge of complaints flowed in. Among these offending lessons was one that referred to the Boston Tea Party as a violent terrorist attack. Another attempted to claim that Christianity in Roman times was a cult that practiced cannibalism.

CSCOPE rebutted the allegations and complaints stating that they used those statements to generate critical thinking discussions on perceptions from different points of view. However, these were not college classes. These were elementary classes where, according to Bloom's Taxonomy, students are meant to learn basic facts. Those facts are necessary for critical and analytical thinking later in life. Without them, kids learn ambiguity and moral relevance rather than facts.

Yes, King George and his loyalists more than likely considered the Boston Tea Party a form of terrorism. However, Guy Fawkes attempted to commit a much more grave act of terrorism than the impassioned protest against illegal taxation that the various Tea Parties were.

Yes, without knowing more about the tenets of Christianity, many more ignorant Romans did think that early Christians engaged in cannibalism. However, they did not. They used the same symbolism they use today -- bread and wine.

Those facts need to be clear before any critical thinking and varied perception experiments can take place.

CSCOPE considers itself to be Texas's alternative to the CCSSI. Texas is one of four states who have outright rejected the CCSSI agreement that 46 other state governors and state legislatures agreed to. It contains far too many left-wing propaganda elements and not enough education in facts, history, and civics.

Hopefully, with more American parents paying attention through involvement in organizations such as the TEA Party along with the trends of AAE member teachers will expose this dangerous trend of indoctrination. Hopefully, they will see the dangerous potential tyranny behind a national common core standard (CCSI) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). Hopefully they will push a path of liberty and prosperity that holds to the core principles of responsibility and accountability. Those responsibilities most important are the ones of the parents to do their jobs and direct the educations of their children.