Social Studies Standards from Missouri DESE: "This is what Democracy (not a Republic) Looks Like!"

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 @ 5:30PM

Is this what democracy looks like? From National Review Online youtube video:
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He states his college should be paid for because “it’s what he wants”. He believes he has every right to ask for stuff and say what he wants because that is what he thinks. He sees no problem with “putting it out there” like a Christmas list.

What is the definition of “democracy”? From Merriam-Webster:

plural de·moc·ra·cies

Definition of DEMOCRACY

1
a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2
: a political unit that has a democratic government
3
capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the United States Democracy — C. M. Roberts>
4
: the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5
: the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

Presented with multiple choice, this young man would probably pick definition number 4 to back up his actions and demands. Perhaps he believes he has political authority just because he is common? Definition number 1 probably wouldn’t appeal to him in that the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised through a system of representation.

I wonder what form of government DESE is holding out as a standard to teach students in Social Studies? Do you remember a posting we had a few weeks ago from a concerned school board member after he read a Social Studies textbook and the word “republic” never appeared in the text?

Not long after that, I received a link from a concerned taxpayer about the standards taught in their school. The information is from Eaton Online and Eaton is used by several Missouri school districts:


Educational Alignment Tool Online

The Educational Alignment Tool Online (EATOnline) is a software package that enables Missouri school districts to create curriculum, and then align that curriculum to the Missouri state standards. Reports can be run on that aligned curriculum and compared to the results of standardized tests to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

The reader was concerned about some of the standards presented to students and after reviewing them, I was concerned as well. Reviewing the actual standards from the DESE site, the main objective for all grades was to learn:

Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States

The word “democracy” appears 12 times in this document. The word “republic” appears…0 times. It’s no wonder the word “republic” doesn’t appear in the Franklin County social studies textbook! It’s not expected to be taught America is a constitutional republic by DESE. DESE’s standards state schools should teach America is a constitutional democracy.

I spoke with Mr. Bill Gerling at DESE, Assistant Director of Assessment, on September 29, 2011. I was not at home and did not have access to the DESE site and we ended the phone conversation with the understanding I would pose my questions and concerns in a letter.

I wrote him on October 4 with these concerns (excerpted letter):

This list is from the DESE website social studies standards and lists the goals. Note the first goal:

1. principles expressed in the documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States

We were not founded nor shaped in “constitutional democracy”, rather, our country was founded and shaped in a constitutional republican form of government. What is the distinction?

From lexrex.com:

>These two forms of government: Democracy and Republic, are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between (a) The Majority Unlimited, in a Democracy, lacking any legal safeguard of the rights of The Individual and The Minority, and (b) The Majority Limited, in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of The Individual and The Minority

As I read the standards currently in effect for the state, I note the concept for Social Studies standards: “Principles of constitutional democracy in the United States”. In fact, the heading on the form states the goal is for “Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States”. This is false premise I would like to see addressed by DESE and corrected. To be historically correct, the goal should read: “Knowledge of the principles expressed in documents shaping a Republican form of government (Article 4 Section 4 U.S. Constitution) in the United States”.

As noted above, there is an important distinction and here is another explanation: Our Constitution is thoroughly representative in nature and designed around balancing the powers of the Executive, against the Legislative against the Judicial, branches, each having some hand and say so in the operations of the other – keeping them honest by being jealous of the power each has in the other’s realm – and all are designed around a hierarchy of powers and abilities. That structure was dealt a blow with the 17th amdt, but it still stands, and would collapse without it.

A Democracy, whether a Representative one (England’s) or not, cannot maintain that balance for long, in the end it has to give way to ‘the will of the people’, majority rule, and that will become the tool of those who can stir up popular emotion for one cause or another. Our system maintains multiple levels (‘the House is the heat of popular demand, the Senate the saucer which cools it off’, the Executive moderates, and is moderated by, the Legislative branch, and the Judicial sees to it that neither forgets the rule of law or their constitutional restraints upon their power). A democracy cannot maintain for long any constitutional restraints against the ‘will of the people’, they are supreme and will soon amend away anything in their way – and Individual Rights (probably unintentionally (to ‘the people’ anyway)) will vanish before that unrestrained majority will. The Individual, the Right to be an individual, believing what you do, possessing what you do and acting as you see fit, no matter the views of your fellows, is the imperiled minority in any form of Democracy, and the Founders did everything in their power to ensure that we would NEVER become a Democracy, in any way shape or form.

I am concerned DESE is setting the standard for Missouri students that America was formed as a constitutional democracy. It was not. The government of the United States of America republican in form if not specific name. A democracy is ruled by the majority. A republic safeguards the rights of the minority and the individual. Nowhere on the DESE site do I note the word “republic”. You may think I am splitting hairs, but I assure you, I am not. The distinction between these two forms of government is fundamental and our students deserve to know America is under republic rule, not democratic rule.

Could you please advise me, if in fact, the Missouri standard IS to teach that America is a constitutional democracy or a constitutional republic? From a layman’s viewpoint, I read it as DESE setting the standard for districts that the country is a constitutional democracy vs a constitutional republic. (the purple additions have been added for clarification)

I received this automated reply from Mr. Gerling: I will be out of the office on the afternoon of September 23rd and all day on September 24th. I will return on September 27th.

I thought that was an odd reply as my email was sent on October 4 and Mr. Gerling’s response was dated after he was to return to his office.

I sent a followup email on October 7 with the same questions and as of today’s date (October 12), he has not answered if Missouri standards are that America is indeed a republic or a democracy.

If students are indeed being taught we are a constitutional democracy, does it give them the right to espouse their wants (however silly and ridiculous they may be) as the young man in the OWS video and expect them to be fulfilled? This young man truly believes he should get what he wants because he wants it. He has every legal right to petition and protest. What he doesn’t have the right to do is to take property from another because he believes he deserves it and wants it. But isn’t this one of the goals of OWS?

“This is what democracy looks like!” What does a constitutional republic look like? Taxpayers and citizens might want to review their district textbooks and determine how the history their children are learning. Do you wonder if the Pledge of Allegiance will be amended to read…”and to the Democracy for which it stands?”

And I can’t wait to see what the common core history/social studies standards will teach. If you think it’s difficult to get answers from a state agency such as DESE, what will the odds be you’ll receive any response from a 26-state consortium deciding standards for Missouri students?

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