I meant to address this issue last week (MO Education Watchdog has more details) but I let it slip my mind and now it's the last day for you and me to do so. If you agree with this post, please send an email with the subject: "Principles expressed in the documents shaping the Republican Form of government of the United States.", to DESE's Sharon Helwig, to: [email protected]
This is what I sent today:
A year or two ago, I was asked to provide some research assistance in addressing an error in the MO Social Studies documents, regarding some anachronistic references to our form of government being a "constitutional democracy", when it is properly referred to, as per our government's defining document, as a Republic. See Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution for reference :
"Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."
It would be legitimate to expand upon that, such as referring to 'Constitutional Republics', or 'Constitutional Representative Republics', but it is not legitimate to formally refer to our form of government, especially in Educational materials, as a 'Democracy'.
It is true that in our founding era, the terms 'Democracy' and 'Republic' were often used almost interchangeably when referring informally to the general spirit of self governance, but when making more formal references, especially when proposing actual measures for government, the term 'Republic' was the term usually used. Obviously, as this was long before the creation of either of our current two political parties, there was no party politics behind the choice (nor should there be today), they made that choice because the actual meanings and failures of each form of government were well understood. It's a simple fact of record.
Even DESE seemed to acknowledge the fact, though perhaps a bit petulantly, as I've found that a number of our social studies curricular documents were in fact updated, though apparently none too carefully, by means of a mass 'Find & Replace', from 'Constitutional Democracy', to 'Republic'. The result of that change was that in our standards, educational standards mind you, our form of government is often currently referred to, ungrammatically, as 'Principles of Republic', or still as 'Constitutional Democracy'.
State Sen. Emery recently took the concern over the misuse of these terms a step further than we had, in a letter to DESE, insisting, properly, that,
"The term "constitutional democracy" is a flagrant misrepresentation of the principles of the constitutional republic in which we live."
He went on to note that:
"The differences between the structures of government are clear. In a constitutional democracy, the majority has complete control through democratic elections without any protection for the minority. Conversely, a constitutional republic consists of the people electing representatives to serve on their behalf ruled by law with checks and balances established to protect the rights of the minority. In order to provide clarity for educators that teach Missouri children and to ensure Missouri students are taught the proper governmental structure of the United States - a governmental structure that has made our nation exceptional - we urge you to correct this error in the Show-Me Standards."
DESE's response has been to propose making the change like this (the text within the brackets to be replaced by the bold text hat follows them):
"1. Principles expressed in the documents shaping [constitutional democracy in] the government of the United States;"
So... while they acknowledge that they had made an error, they want to correct that error in reference to a very specific form of govt, by changing it, from 'constitutional democracy', to -'government'.
From Democracy, to government.
This feels a bit like it might if after pointing out to a printer that they'd made an error in listing your address as, say, "#1 Riverbend Drive", when you actually live on "#1 Riverview Drive", and after pointing that out, they offered to make the following correction:
"Oh, we see our mistake, tell you what, we'll correct your address to show that: "you live in a house".
What would you say to that?
What sort of correction is this? It is difficult to see this correction as anything other than a rather blatant evasion. Republic is the correct word, please use it.
I had no problem accepting that an error had been made in using 'Democracy', though a careless (and probably ideological) error - it's still a mistake, understandable and forgivable. The fact that some efforts to correct it have been made shows that it has been recognized as an error. But to refuse to correct that error by naming it as it correctly, demonstrably, legally, is, a Republic (if you can keep it), is appalling.
To refer to the government of the United States as 'the government of the United States', as if that adds some educational clarity, is ridiculous. Democracy is the wrong term, Republic is the correct term, please, in the name of Education, use the correct term.
American Enterprise Institute’s Max Eden has written a post criticizing our Sentinel Brief on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). In it, Eden points to a number of perceived inconsistencies in our position.
Claim: On H.R. 5’s extension of NCLB mandates, A-PLUS itself requires “each State…[to] establish and implement a single system of academic standards and academic assessments.”
Eden has apparently not read the Walker-DeSantis A-PLUS amendment that is pending with the Rules Committee, hopefully to be offered to H.R. 5. There is no such requirement for states to set up a testing system.
Claim: On H.R. 5’s lack of program eliminations, A-PLUS itself does not eliminate programs and amounts to mere consolidation.
A-PLUS is a real block grant to states that allows them to bypass federal mandates. True, A-PLUS itself does not eliminate programs, although Heritage Action believes that is an important aspect of any comprehensive education bill, like H.R. 5. A-PLUS is one part of needed education reform.
Claim: On H.R. 5’s mandate of a statewide accountability system, A-PLUS itself has a mandated statewide accountability system of its own.
H.R. 5 requires a much different sort of statewide accountability system that is designed for “interventions to be implemented at the local level for Title I schools the state determines to be poorly performing.” A-PLUS envisions a different accountability system altogether that is simply designed to give parents information about the progress being made in academic achievement. It has nothing to do with intervening in local schools.
Eden then goes on to criticize our brief for “three misleading claims that Heritage cites and promptly confirms are actually true.” But in doing so, he picks and chooses from our analysis to make his points. The best response is to restate our full points.
Claim: “H.R. 5 eliminates the AYP requirement…”
FACT: H.R. 5 eliminates the AYP requirement, but the bill maintains requirements for states to develop their own “statewide accountability structure, a system of school improvement interventions to be implemented at the local level for…schools the state determines to be poorly performing.
Claim: “H.R. 5 empowers parents with more school choice options by allowing Title I funds to follow children to public or charter schools of their parent’s choice.”
FACT: Adequate portability would extend to private schools of choice, if a state chose. This was an amendment proposed by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) in committee before being withdrawn–it is a proposal that deserves inclusion in any NCLB reauthorization.
Claim: H.R. 5 protects against Common Core:
FACT: H.R. 5 prevents future federal government coercion of states into adopting Common Core standards. The bill includes language that prevents the Secretary of Education from imposing conditions on the states, including the adoption of Common Core, and prohibits federal funding from being used to “endorse, approve, develop, require, or sanction” Common Core. [Our point being that while H.R. 5 includes good language on Common Core, the bill does not repeal the standards because states must do that on their own.]
As a member of the Social Studies 6-12 Academic Standards Work Group constituted by HB 1490, I’d like to applaud Representative Swan’s recognition of the need for ensuring students in Missouri understand their history and responsibility as American citizens in our republican form of government; and offer a recommendation to achieve a better educated Missouri student without high stakes testing in citizenship.
HB 578 Section 170.345.3 states,
. . . “The test required under subsection 2 of this section shall use the same one
10 hundred questions used by the USCIS that are administered to applicants for United States
11 citizenship. In order to receive a passing score on the test, the student shall answer at least
12 sixty of the one hundred questions correctly.
As you are aware, Arizona passed a similar bill, and in fact, a national organization, Campaign for Civic Mission of Schools (CCMS), is promoting similar legislation throughout the country. CCMS is partnered with Pearson, a testing corporation that profits from increased testing in schools. The goal is worthy of your attention, however, you may not be aware of background information that, when explained, will support what should be a substantive, long-term alternative to a potentially expensive, high-stakes test.
(1) Please note the unintended negative effects of the testing approach to assuring good citizenship discussed by Peter Levine, associate dean for research at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service:
“Requiring students to pass the citizenship exam will reduce both the amount and the quality of civic education in our schools. The test is easy. You can see all the questions and answers in advance and just memorize the right choices. If passing this exam comes to be seen as adequate preparation for citizenship, schools will notice that their students can pass after cramming for a couple of hours. They will cut their semester-long civics courses as unnecessary preparation. They will prefer to dedicate that semester to math or science, which involve much more sophisticated and challenging tests.
Requiring the citizenship exam would make sense if our students didn’t already study civics or face tests. It would establish a floor, a minimal level of competence. But more than 90% of recent high school graduates have spent a semester in a civics course, and most have also spent a year on U.S. history. Their teachers gave them tests. In many states http://www.civicyouth.org/maps/state-civic-ed/index.html, they also faced a standardized test on civics or social studies. Then why do so many adults fail basic questions about the U.S. political system? Because we have forgotten what we learned in civics class. Too often, the subject wasn’t inspiring or challenging and didn’t build habits of following and discussing the news. The problem with civics is not that we fail to teach it. The problem is that civics is often viewed as a set of disconnected facts, not as a challenging and inspiring subject that will continue to interest us after high school. Arizona’s measure requiring that students pass the citizenship test will make that problem worse. The citizenship exam requires, for instance, that you know that “27 http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html” is the correct answer when you’re asked how many constitutional amendments have been passed. You don’t need to understand reasons for or against those amendments, or have any sense of why they were important. A month after students pass this test, they will forget the number 27. But they might retain the message that being a good citizen is a matter of memorizing some random information. That seems like an excellent way to turn people off. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/02/08/citizenship-civics-social-studies-editorials-debates/23088621/
(2) No Child Left Behind and it’s testing requirements for federal funding is at least partially responsible for emphasizing two academic subject areas, mathematics and English, while relegating knowledge and skills in history and government to the periphery of K-12 instruction. No state level legislation mandating a 100-question citizenship test will correct the neglect of teaching our children about their history and government in a meaningful way. (See Imperiling the Republic http://pioneerinstitute.org/download/imperiling-the-republic-the-fate-of-u-s-history-instruction-under-common-core/)
(3) Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Missourians have been misinformed about their government. When the social studies standards were developed, Marc Tucker’s National Center on Education and the Economy, a Carnegie-funded non-governmental organization in Washington, DC provided consultation. The Show-Me Social Studies Standards (See Appendix A attached) expect students to know that the U.S. is a constitutional democracy. Though familiarity with the U.S. Constitution is included in the body of the social studies standards, even teachers are not familiar with Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution that states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, . . . ” Thomas Jefferson said, our form of government was a democratical republic — the emphasis being a republic is representative form of government, rather than a democracy. A most disturbing cause for this misinformation and incorrect teaching of American students about American form of government can be traced to the Carnegie-funded publication of the American Historical Association. (See Report of the Commission of Social Studies (see highlighted sections), and Contrarians Chapter 1 attached). Similar misinformation is perpetuated in the College Board’s newly revised AP American History course. (See President of the National Association of Scholars, Peter Wood’s discussion of the misinformation in AP History http://www.nas.org/articles/the_new_ap_history_a_preliminary_reportandhttp://www.nas.org/articles/update_on_ap_us_history) Again, no state level legislation mandating a 100-question citizenship test will correct the neglect of teaching our children about their history and government in a truthful and meaningful way.
The Missouri State Board of Education is, at least partially, responsible for ongoing dissemination of misinformation and promulgating sub-standard social studies standards. I am aware of at least one former Missouri school board member who on three occasions contacted the state board of education to put a correction of the standards on the board agenda; however, the correction was never made. I am also aware of another Missouri citizen who contacted DESE about the error, but no remedy was offered. Only in 2015, due to pressure from legislators, instigated by questions from the academic standards work groups in social studies, has the state board made an effort to correct the error of identifying the American form of government as a constitutional democracy. (See January State Board of Ed. agenda — SocStudAcademicStandards attached)
Attached is a Thomas B. Fordham Institute report rating Missouri’s Show-Me Social Studies Standards with an F.(see SOSS MO attached) Although the method of review was not rigorous by research-method standards, competent professionals in history reviewing Missouri’s social studies standards gave them a very poor rating indeed. It should be evident that teaching Missouri’s students using high standards for knowledge and skills in history, government, and American citizenship throughout their K-12 education will produce more substantive and lasting competence for participation in America’s exceptional form of government than the test required in the bill.
(4) Also of note is that coursework in American history, government, and civics is not expected in the liberal arts education of postsecondary education program. If America is to cultivate well-educated leaders for future service in our government (which is the purpose of publically funded education as per our Missouri Constitution Article IX, Section 1a), state boards of education must ensure that a liberal arts education includes substantive study of the unique history and structure of our American government. (Losing America’s Memory attached).
Conclusion: Though HB 578 is well-intended, the requirement to make high school graduation contingent on a test for assessment knowledge of citizenship will not likely achieve the intended goal; and potentially has unknown costs to school districts as students take the test multiple times to get a passing score.
Recommendations for improving Missouri students’ knowledge and competence in citizenship are:
1. development of social studies standards that expect accurate and factual knowledge as well as competence in research skills from K through 12; and
2. work to reduce federal intrusion in state education testing and develop statewide testing that emphasizes history and civics throughout grades K-12 along with reading, math, and science;
3. exit from College Board’s AP course in American history which omits important information about events and values that are the foundation of American liberty and government;
4. postsecondary coursework in American history and government for a liberal arts education of all postsecondary undergraduates.
I am pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding my testimony. Thank you for your consideration of this information.
Mary Byrne, Ed.D.
Please be aware that Pearson, a testing and publishing corporation, is a major influence in promoting legislation that will increase testing (especially multiple opportunities of testing, which increases the cost to school districts)
To: Interested Parties From: Heritage Action for America Date: February 11, 2015
Subject: NCLB Reauthorization Proposals: Missed Opportunities for Conservatives
As the House and Senate consider a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, lawmakers should not let the opportunity pass to advance a bold conservative vision for education policy. For far too long, the federal government’s expansive reach into education has gone unchecked. Now is the time for Congress to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students instead of bureaucrats and unions, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all.
Moving forward, there are five principled criteria that Congress should meet in any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These include the following:
Regardless of the quantifiable data supporting its success, homeschooling, or as I and my friends like to call it, parent led education, isn’t really very well appreciated across the American culture. And because of that, homeschoolers face persecution of all sorts. I can personally attest to that as I home schooled my own children.
In yesterday's post I proposed taking a trip into the not so distant past, for two reasons. The second reason was the more traditional of the two, to more clearly see the troubles of our present. Has anyone ever fed you that line before? How is that supposed to help? Has anyone ever sat up in History Class (or the 'social studies' that passes for it), and asked
"Why? Why do I need to know what so & so did x hundred years ago?!"
If the answer they give you is only that it's for you to learn 'important and and useful cultural references', you might want to consider leaving. If their answer is 'to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past', you should probably go ahead and get up and start for the door. If their answer is 'to get an appreciation for diverse points of view', I suggest burning rubber to get out of there.
Not that those points, even the last one, aren't useful, and even necessary results of 'inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation' (the original Greek definition of History), they are, but they are not, in and of themselves, separately or combined, worth your wasting hours of your life every week to 'learn'. The purpose, the benefit, the value of studying history, aside from it being just plain interesting (and if yours isn't, then you are probably studying it from a... let me guess... 'textbook'? RUN!) is to gain a better understanding of yourself and your position in your life, and how to better your life, here and now. History enables you to identify and familiarize yourself with the tendencies that are common to men in society everywhere, meaning common not only to those of the past, present & future - but to that space between your own two ears as well,
History isn't for learning about dead people, but about the living, about yourself, so that you can understand something of, and develop the habit of reflecting upon, how people end up doing what they do - that is after all, what History is made of. If you aren't trying to put yourself in the minds of those you are reading about, if you aren't managing to, in some way, identify with the thinking of the slave holder as well as the slave, then you aren't learning any lessons worth the time you're spending on learning them.
Seriously. And if that isn't what you get out of history, or if it seems that those teaching it to you are intent on your not getting those valuables out of their lessons, then you should either figure out how to do it yourself, or get the heck out of there, or if that's not possible, at least do some serious daydreaming.
But I digress. Back to why we're here.
The first reason I'd given was a fairly tangible one: to begin to identify a 'societal baseline', a recognizable point which any sound claims of progress should be clearly moving your society away from, rather than back towards.
And again, what's past isn't the point of studying history, escaping it is - and that requires, as best as you are able, ignoring the differences between your world today, and theirs then, and even whether or not you even live in different times from that being studied. There is nothing preventing, and much to recommend, looking at your own world from an historical perspective.
History provides many examples of this baseline, and by inquiring into the history of societies as separated in time and space as those whose beginnings can be traced from Sumer, Babylon, ancient Egypt, to the modern primitive stone age tribes of the Amazon or New Guinea, as well as the haunts of modernity, they will provide you with plenty of examples of men descending to our sought after zero point on the progress meter. The hope I have here, is that by identifying our baseline Progress point – whether measuring against our past, present or future - we'll have a point to begin measuring real progress, and regress, from.
Without that, how can claims of progress have any real meaning?
Savages are every bit as savage in tweed jackets, as they are in grass skirts I know of one example that is especially well suited to quickly tying together Cave Men, Philosophers, modernity and academics, and doing so quickly. In 1964, an anthropologist went looking to study a primitive, technologically undeveloped society, where he, shocker, found their society to be one that had not developed civilized behaviors. That anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, prior to his expedition, seemingly put little or no thought into the thoughts that went into (or never did) those behaviors he thought of as civilized, and so it took their absence to finally begin to make an impression upon him.
"Napoleon Chagnon’s Noble Savages is the remarkable memoir of a life dedicated to science—and a revealing account of the clash between science and political activism.
When Napoleon Chagnon arrived in Venezuela’s Amazon region in 1964 to study the Yanomamö Indians, he expected to find Rousseau’s “noble savage.” Instead he found a shockingly violent society. He spent years living among the Yanomamö, observing their often tyrannical headmen, learning to survive under primitive and dangerous conditions. When he published his observations, a firestorm of controversy swept through anthropology departments. Chagnon was vilified by other anthropologists, condemned by his professional association (which subsequently rescinded its reprimand), and ultimately forced to give up his fieldwork. Throughout his ordeal, he never wavered in his defense of science. In 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences."
He expected to find a Noble Savage? Really? In a place he thought of as not having a developed civilization, he expected to find one of the finest fruits of civilization? Would you?
My first question on reading this was how much thought he could have given to the concepts of either nobility or savagery, much less the requirements of either?
My second question was, how prepared was he by his own education and study of History, for the reception his studies received back home in Academia?
Well if he studied the sort of 'History' in college, that was similar to the sort I mentioned in an earlier post, and coming from an anthropology department that was almost certainly the case, then the answer to both of my questions is: little or nothing at all.
[Hey kids, what is the value of an education that tells you so little about your fellow man or even about your own self? Same answer: little or nothing at all.]
More evidence of this can be found in what it was that Chagnon considered to be such a noteworthy discovery: finding that in his observations of the stone age Yanomamö, and soon afterwards with the technologically advanced tribes of Academia, that,
“I discovered that maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human, social and cultural evolution. My observation is based not only on what we have thus far learned from political science and anthropological field reports, but also on a lifetime of experience living with native Amazonian tribesmen who chronically live in what Hobbes called in his major treatise, Leviathan (1651), a condition of war. He likened war to foul weather - not just a shower or two, but a persistent condition for extended periods of time, something chronic. The Yanomamo among whom I lived were constantly worried about attacks from their neighbors and constantly live in fear of this possibility.
Neither Hobbes nor Rousseau ever saw people like Yanomamo tribesmen living in a "state of nature." Their philosophical positions about Man in a state of nature were derived entirely from speculation. It is therefore astonishing that some cultural anthropologists cling to the Nobel Savage view of human nature when ours is the profession that collected almost all of the empirical data on tribesmen and what social life was like under "pristine" or "Stone Age" conditions. Thus anthropologists should be the most likely people to arrive at a highly informed, empirically defensible view of human nature using the evidence from generations of anthropological research. ”
While it's good that he realized that Hobbes missed a few points and Rousseau was whacked, he shouldn't have needed to take such a long, dangerous expedition to discover what he could have, should have, learned from a basic study of Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy & Tacitus in the comforts of a classroom under a teacher who already understood both them and the common errors students make, before ever having graduated from college. That he didn't, that should tell you something of the historical wasteland of wacademia, and that was from back before the storm of the 1960's broke upon us.
Not too surprisingly, at least for those who aren't delusional enough to expect to find a 'Noble Savage' in a society where the rulers rule because they're strong and others follow because they have to, the strong become the emblems of political security, and personal security depends upon your not being seen as threats to the strong. Savagery without nobility is going to be the norm in such a place.
But also note that his own tribe of anthropologists, although not only thoroughly exposed, in many cases first hand, to the evidence of savagery without nobility, they still refused to acknowledge the evidence of their own experience. Instead they abide by, unquestioningly, parroting, chanting, that which the tribe identifies its security with, and as 'the strong' always do, they say it is for 'the greater good'. Translation: In the absence of any higher aspirations, maximizing political and personal security is the overwhelming driving force in human affairs.
Question: Where do those higher aspirations come from?
Both of Chagnon's tribes, in the Amazon and Academe, IMHO, demonstrated many of the essentials of the societal baseline we're looking for, and whatever the superficial appearances might be, if understood, then we can use it to identify a life which bears more than a passing resemblance to Hobbes' image of life living red in tooth and claw, and in one way or another, of being nasty, brutish and short.
However, the picture of 'living red in tooth and claw' which Hobbes painted (and Rousseau romanticized and painted over), makes it appear that such societies must be a place where people are wandering about in loin clothes or grass skirts in solitary brutishness, lone wolves hunting a kill in nature; but the fact is that the people of the baseline, more than any other, tend to congregate together with the like minded, as the good political animals they are, within the societies that have developed around them. The only real relevance Rousseau's idea of a 'Noble Savage' still has, is the near talismanic powers it assumes in the hands of the wacademic left. There it's useful primarily for defending the security of those political structures they've built within their academic departments, for utilizing their own hunter-gatherer approach to reaping govt grants of non-taxable income from our public colleges. And you'd better believe that they'll defend their tribal gains every bit as savagely - though without visible bloodshed - as the Yanomamö would.
At this point we should be getting a better picture of what the absence of progress looks like, but little yet about what makes Progress possible. Patience, we'll get there within a few more posts.
The lesson to take away from this post is NOT that undeveloped societies behave savagely, but that,
Firstly, that savagery is normal - or at least easy - for human beings,
Secondly, that it is not only natural, but deeply tempting for people seek to use, and to excuse, the use of power to maximize their political and personal security,
Thirdly, that neither primitive mud huts, modern campuses nor royal palaces are reliable indicators of whether or not the people living within them are savages themselves.
and Fourth, that there is something which some societies do develop, which lifts them above that baseline; What that is should be a constant question for anyone who doesn't wish to remain a savage
Just because a society develops more efficient technologies and stylized habits of dress, shelter and customs, that does not prevent them from behaving just as savagely as the Yanomamö; technology, social norms and a modern fashion sense, aren't key to what makes the difference between nobility and savagery, and if you do make the mistake of thinking that tweed jackets & mahogany libraries either make someone noble or rid one them of their savagery, then you too will be in for a surprise every bit as large as Chagnon's was, when he found the behaviors of the Yanomamö reflected in his fellows of Academe.
The other lesson to learn from this, is that that surprise Chagnon received, is the sort of surprise which is the very thing that a decent Education - which you should have had by High School, let alone by College - is supposed to inure you against.
His didn't. Has yours? Will the education your children are, or will likely receive, prepare them better than Chagnon's did? Does that education even recognize the Fourth point, let alone focus upon it? If your education installs illusions, rather than strives to rid you of them, you might want to question what value it really has.
We'll begin to take a closer look at what separates the appearances of, from the reality of, Progress, in the next post, tomorrow.
Show Me MO Shame! I spent two days last week in our state capital of Jefferson City, becoming a member of one of the work groups tasked with rewriting our states educational curriculum standards over the course of the next year. While I was there I learned a nice lesson in self governance, and the consequences of its abandonment, a lesson that was willingly taught by DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). Their lesson was very instructive, in one part teaching how to use chaos to control the sale, and in the other part how it is just as important what you do not to do, and not allow to be done, as is what you offer to and intend to do.
If you want to understand this lesson yourself, as well as how you and your children's education is being sold down the river by it, then there are five key issues that need to be addressed:
Why do we have work groups to write our curriculum standards.
Were the work groups convened with an eye towards success.
If not, why.
What does DESE need for a win.
What does Missouri need for a win.
1) The issue here is that the state of Missouri recently passed a law, HB1490, to undertake the significant task of rewriting our educational curriculum standards.The sole reason why this law was passed, was because of DESE's ham-fisted and incompetent attempts over the last several years to roll-out their pet Common Core standards by steam rolling them over any and all questions, debates, and opposition. That behavior infuriated both parents and teachers alike and caused the Missouri Legislature, Left and Right, to pass HB1490 into law, stating that our curriculum standards will be written by representatives from across the state of Missouri, selected from experienced teaching professionals and parents selected by Missouri's Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tempore.
2) To successfully lead large numbers of people, departments, divisions and other entities who may have either no history of working together, or worse, a history of working poorly together, there's a common practice to follow. To getting all members working towards a unified goal, the formula would be to,
Kick it off by gathering all parties together in one place for a launch meeting,
giving leaders from the various stake holders involved an opportunity to set the general tone and key points for the project;
clarify your project's purpose and getting understanding and buy in from the various departments and people involved.
let participants know who they'll be working with and making them aware of any slots yet to be filled,
establish clear channels for coordinating efforts and preserving communication between the several groups,
informing all of who will be attending meetings, who to contact with questions,
, and so forth.
It's not rocket science, it's just common sense. So much so that when such a project does not start off in that way, or when major pieces of it are ignored or misunderstandings are spread or even inflamed, people don't just suspect incompetence upon the part of those organizing the project, but a hidden agenda and even deliberate sabotage of the project.
That hidden agenda was not so hidden, even weeks before it was to begin, and when a number of us complained that the upcoming meetings were clearly being organized for DESE's benefit, rather than for the success of the project and compliance with the law, the Speaker's office, and that of the Senate Pro Tem President, reminded DESE of their position and of the intent of the law, and the Thursday prior, they agreed to revise their plans so as to proceed more as above; to include a plenary kickoff meeting, and to arrange for all the work groups to meet in the capital building. However, by Monday morning they'd reneged on their deal and reverted to scattering us around the capital with no meetings or communications established.
IOW, not only did DESE not approach the start of this project in such a way that was likely to lead to success, but they did quite the opposite:
they refused to have a plenary 'kick off' meeting,
they refused to allow the meetings to be convened in a manner conducive to unity and success,
most of those involved were given last minute notification - if at all - that they were being called together from across the state of Missouri to attend two days of meetings in Jefferson City (The MO House & Senate leadership deserves heavy criticism for their lack of leadership in this area as well).
there were no clarifying speeches or discussions,
there were no introductions of the different teams to each other,
there were no clear explanations of what it was we were to accomplish,
the posted meeting places were in multiple buildings around the capital and were even moved, without notice or note, at the last minute, leaving the members to track down the correct meeting room after having been directed to the wrong one.
3) We don't need to turn the clock back very far to figure out why they might not want HB1490 to proceed according to the intent of the law. Try looking at the 'talking tour' they conducted across the state last year, this format of 'permitting' people to speak under very controlled circumstances, and breaking people up into groups without allowing the comparing of notes or receiving direct answers to questions, was and is standard fare for DESE: to divide, to take control of communication and so conquer, which is the same strategy they employed last week, and show every sign of intending to continue.
4) DESE has made clear what standards they would like for Missouri, and that's Common Core, and they've invested a great deal of time, money (yours) and prestige into imposing them. Is it likely then that DESE will see it to be in their interest to have independent work groups successfully writing their own standards?
As one of the legislative assistants sent round during our 1st day of contentious meetings pointed out, if these work groups fail, then Missouri's curriculum standards will fall to DESE to choose what will be used and implement. Is it ever seen as being in the interests of a political body to have others revise or rewrite their core material? No! So why would the legislative leadership permit DESE to have any involvement in re-writing what they have a stake in remaining unchanged? Who's governing who?
What does DESE need to do for a win? Nothing. And they need as much of nothing as they can possibly get. They don't even have to 'get a sale' - they've already purchased their preferred product - Common Core - they only need to be able to retain it. So what do they need from these work group meetings? They only need to:
control the narrative,
make the objections and those objecting seem unreasonable,
control the presentation of how the standards are discussed, enabling them to retain as much of the Common Core standards as possible,
If the standards work groups fail, DESE will implement the standards they choose - Common Core.
To accomplish that, and subvert HB1490, DESE took immediate control of the narrative with their first 'press release' for the upcoming work groups, securing a controlling role for themselves, while minimizing the perception of the power those in the work groups would have, in relation to DESE. This line in particular sums it up:
"The meetings are open to the public; however, seating is very limited. Spectators will be provided comment cards if they wish to leave feedback. Only members of the work groups will be given the opportunity to speak during the meetings."[emphasis mine]
Members of the work groups were to be 'Given', the opportunity to speak?In our own meetings? So you tell me, reading that, does it seem to you that DESE's intention is to see to it that autonomous work groups will be convened so as to define the standards that DESE would then have the job of implementing? Or does it seem more as if DESE intends to see these groups as working under the control and guidance of DESE? Add to that the fact that they scheduled the eight work groups in different buildings around the capital, keeping the members as far apart as possible and with as little awareness of each other and those they would be working with, of who and what to expect, and who best to ask questions of, other than DESE themselves, and it's clear that they mean to be the only ones in control of the process.
They've been masterful at minimizing objections and at making those with objections seem unreasonable, and by the end of the first day of meetings it became apparent just how well they'd done so. By convincing some of the legislative leadership to 'be fair' in appointing members (how could it be 'fair' to place people on committees that are opposed to the intent and spirit of the committees and the law which formed them, is something only a politician comfortable with losing, could comprehend), those interested in rewriting our curriculum standards were out numbered on their own work groups - most of which were only half filled (shame on you Missouri!) - and on top of that, DESE took it upon themselves to install their own facilitators to run the meetings, hamper dissent, and limit unwanted discussion from taking place.
But don't let my wording conjure up images of frothing Drill Sargent's shouting down and riding rough shod over their work groups, if you do, you'll not only miss what they're doing, and risk being controlled yourself.
For example, on hearing how they had their objections cast aside. I, and a few of those from our work group, History grades 6-12, which had a somewhat better go of it, assuming that this group hadn't been forceful enough, we offered up our oh-so wise words of wisdom:
"Well you should have done what we did, we said ___"
, and they stared at us in annoyance and answered "We did!". And to each additional
"Oh, well then did you ___?"
of ours, they answered "We did!"
How could this be? How could they not have succeeded if they'd done the same thing? What made the difference? I found the answer on reviewing the recordings from the morning sessions of the other work groups. They did indeed make most of the same points that we did in our meeting, and in some cases they made them better than we did. The only real difference between what we did, and what they did, was what happened in the first few seconds of the meeting. They politely waited for the meeting to get underway before making their points, while we, somewhat rudely, refused to allow the DESE facilitators to begin their presentation, and we refused to allow them the position of recognizing who would speak and when.
This is key: they raised their objections after the meeting began and we did so before it could get started.
That might seem a small point, but small and subtle are two very different things, and very often the more subtle trumps the more bold & brazen. Those who know how to manipulate a group are able to take nearly complete control of that group, if they be allowed to begin speaking from a position of power and control.
Because we refused the DESE facilitators the opportunity to even begin their presentations, or to ask for introductions, or to even finish a sentence, because we asserted from the start that non-work group members would be granted permission to speak only when the business of our work group was at a suitable point for listening to them, DESE's facilitators never had a position of power from which to control the session from.
The videos from the other sessions bear this point out. Where the DESE facilitator was allowed to begin the meeting, to ask for introductions, to lay the 'norms' for the meeting, to direct that questions be written down, and define how they they as oh-so helpful facilitators would politely recognize who would speak and for how long... they accomplished in the first few seconds, and solidified in just a few minutes, their complete control over the meeting for the rest of that day and the next.
Watch the Social Studies K-5, 9/22/14 AM session, and I'll bet that you won't see what's being done to the participants until it's already been done - it was decided in the first minute of their meeting, by letting the DESE facilitator start their meeting. They assumed the sale, took possession of the floor, and having taken the floor, it became theirs.
They began their presentation, nicely, politely, asking for introductions, walking participants through their slides... and so assumed and kept control of the meeting from that point on. Despite the valiant efforts of the two members who had no other connection to MO Ed than being parents - indeed, because of their opposition - the nice facilitators gained more power with every objection they made, seeming more and more reasonable, while the objections, and those making them, seemed more and more small and unreasonable.
It happens that easily.
At one point in the second video, one of the other participants, tsk-tsk'ing the objectors, states that
"The DESE facilitator cannot control this meeting, we of this work group will do that..."
, but that is in fact exactly what happened. Having been able to start the K-5 session, the DESE facilitator didn't just take control, they were assumed to have it, and those who work in one aspect or another of the state schooling industry, felt themselves to have the upper hand along with them, and they never let it go.
It is incredibly easy for that position to be taken and held! That technique, whether you attribute it to Delphi Technique or any number of others, is one that is familiar in office politics, sales and elsewhere, and it really amounts to simple power dynamics and manipulation, which enables one party to take and keep control over another.
If these tactics seem remote to you, I'll bet that you've had more experience with them than you might imagine. Have you ever allowed a salesmen into your home, and found yourself being shown to your own kitchen table, to listen to their presentation? Do you know why? Because that is the way a strong (not pushy) salesmen goes about 'taking control of the sale'. They not only take over your own kitchen, but walk you through their presentation, not answering your questions right off but suggesting that you hold them till the 'appropriate' time, they nicely refuse to give you a price: "Well I can't give you a price until I know the features you're interested in", and it just so happens that know the features you're interested in is what they need to manipulate you into buying what they want to sell you.
Whether you call it 'Delphi Technique', or simply using power to control groups, DESE was serving their own interests, not those of Missouri. They 'took the kitchen table', by selecting the meeting places, and staffing the work groups with their own 'facilitators', who were there to direct and shape the meetings, their context and their content and progress, in a manner that led to what DESE had chosen to sell - something that could not be accomplished if there had been a kick off meeting explaining the purpose of HB1490, DESE's lack of authority in the process, and the forbidden nature of Common Core in rewriting our standards.
“HB1490 was designed to vest in the Education Work Groups the power to shape recommendations for academic standards absent influence from bureaucrats and politicians. Under the law, after DESE convened the initial meeting, the power shifts to the groups alone to guide themselves each month with the goal of delivering their best academic standards recommendations by Oct. 1, 2015. There exists no authority in the statute for DESE to dictate the deliberations of these work groups, nor even to guide their deliberations after the initial organizing meetings held yesterday, unless invited to do so by individual work groups.”
, but really, it was no more helpful than the work group participants questions and statements.
5) As long as DESE is allowed to maintain control over the work groups, which were created to undo what DESE has been so intent on doing, then our work groups will not be able to do what they were convened to do.
Call, write, email your representatives, and let them know that DESE needs to be barred from the proceedings of the work groups, not because they are obstructing our efforts, but because they are leading them, oh so sweetly and firmly, to exactly where DESE wants them to go. And as DESE's poor judgment and proven disrespect for the opinions and rights of those they were established for and hired to serve, they should have no further part in these work group proceedings.
The work of the work groups, while it will be hard work, and it will take time, it is good work, and it doesn't require partisan efforts. Despite DESE's claims, this is not a politically Left/Right issue, or a parent vs. teacher issue - there are many people working to roll back Common Core who are politically on the left, right and center, and many teachers as well. Our work group, the 'Social Studies, 6-12' group, is, I think, split 50/50 politically, but once the manipulators were moved out of the way, we were able to discuss the actual issues of standards, listening to and thinking upon what each had to say, and so were able to make good progress.
We just needed to get DESE out of the way.
If Missouri is to have worthwhile Curriculum Standards for the education of its citizens and future voters, then the Legislature and the Governor need to remove DESE from participating in the process in any way, shape or form. They are the reason why the current process is in disarray, having paid millions for something we do not want, need or have any reason to believe will be successful for any one other than assessment companies.
And perhaps more important than anything else, is that you, if you live in Missouri, then you must insist to your state legislators, and to yourselves, your neighbors, and your teachers, that the remaining number of seats on the work groups - nearly half are unfilled - must be filled as soon as possible. Self Government is but a joke, of no one in a state is willing to take some responsibility and action for governing themselves! There's no pay in this, there's no thanks in this; I'm not getting either money or time off granted for this, it is coming, very painfully, out of my time and our already depleted bank account, and it hurts. But if I, and you, are not willing to do such things... then shame on us for the mockery we've made of 'We The People', and if that is okay-dokey with you, then you can rest assured that you will be getting even more of what you deserve in the coming years, as yet another generation is raised up knowing little or nothing about what self governance is or means.
You will learn the lesson. The only choice you've got is whether you learn it the 'easy way' or the hard way.
Anyone who reads the plain language of the Constitution and the writings of James Madison would come away with the unambiguous impression that the Founders vested the federal government with very few powers – powers that they felt could only be executed by a central government. Much of what the federal government does in this post-constitutional era is not only superfluous but deleterious to economic growth and free market fairness.
However, there are other functions that are vital and important, albeit best left up to state and/or local governments to administer. On this day 88 years ago, President Calvin Coolidge delivered a speech at the College of William and Mary echoing this very sentiment:
“We must also recognize that the national administration is not and cannot be adjusted to the needs of local government …
The States should not be induced by coercion or by favor to surrender the management of their own affairs.
The Federal Government ought to resist the tendency to be loaded up with duties which the States should perform.
It does not follow that because something ought to be done the National Government ought to do it.”
Two major issues that fit into this category are authority over transportation and education. Both of those issues are in the news today, and conservatives should take note if they plan to effectively advance a conservative reform agenda in the coming years.
With regards to transportation, once again the Senate is doubling down on the failed transportation policy of the federal sinkhole. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a $265 billion highway bill, which dictates full control over transportation policy for all 50 states. Each state has its own unique population, geography, topography, and transportation needs, yet it is all centrally planned in one 5-year bill from Washington. Naturally, when you couple the inefficiencies with federal labor and environmental mandates, along with $43 billion spent on mass transit, the revenue collected from the federal gasoline tax can no longer cover the full cost.
Instead of taxing or borrowing our way out of the quicksand of inefficient federal policy, we should devolve most transportation authority to the states. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) have companion bills (S. 1702/ HR 3264) to do just that. Each state would levy its own tax to purvey highway projects and can easily prioritize the level of taxation and spending based upon its needs. This is not even a left or right issue. More liberal states would naturally levy a higher gas tax to fund infrastructure projects, while conservatives would cut other functions deemed unnecessary or harmful. But that should not be decided by the federal government.
Education is also an important function that should be controlled by those closest to the classroom, particularly local governments. While our ultimate goal must be to remove the federal government from K-12 and higher education altogether, there are two promising bills from Senator Lee that would empower state and local governments with control over some aspects of education.
After a half century of producing no positive results, Senator Lee and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) want to devolve the $8.6 billion budget for the Head Start program to the states (S. 2119/HR 4481). The program has done nothing but self-perpetuate and create jobs for special interests. There is certainly nothing to lose by letting the states experiment with the money already appropriated.
Another bill (S.1904), sponsored by Senator Lee and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), would reform accreditation for institutions of higher education.
One of the major problems with the Department of Education is that is distorts the “education market” much like any other government intervention in the private economy. The current higher education accreditation system is controlled by the federal government and creates a one-size-fits-all system that is heavily slanted towards conventional four-year college degrees. This system does not work for everyone, but the accreditation process has forced many people into this framework, even if they would like to pursue other educational training. In turn, it has contributed to the “education bubble,” in which federal bureaucrats work with leaders of higher education to over-utilize and over-emphasize the current system, thereby driving up the cost of an education – and by extension – student loan debt.
Senator Lee’s Higher Education Reform and Opportunity [HERO] Act would allow states to create their own system of accreditation, which could grant students the same benefits and status for pursuing alternative coursework, apprenticeships or vocational training.
Every Republican publicly decries the growth of the federal government, but many decline to divulge which functions they would eliminate other than rooting out waste and fraud. Senator Lee’s bills on education and transportation provide conservatives with a solid opportunity to advocate limited federal government, federalism, and changing course from decades of failed policies by the federal government.
It’s an admonishment you’ve heard dozens of times. Dr. Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention on September 17th, 1787 and was met by a woman who asked, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Dr. Franklin replied, “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”
Do you feel like we’re losing the republic?
I’ve investigated a dozen different school districts from Denver to Richmond, and at the earliest of ages (kindergarten and first grade), our children are being indoctrinated into the false teaching that America is a Constitutional Democracy. Of course, they want to say “Constitutional Democracy” since the vast majority of educrats are liberals and Democrats… …and Democracy sounds like Democrats. A republic, well, sounds like those ‘evil Republicans’.
Our Constitution and Freedoms are under constant attack, and even after we gave the Republicans all the power they need to stop the out-of-control spending, force massive reduction in the size of the Federal Government, and enjoin it to live within the confines of the document which they swore an oath to defend, the train continues full-steam towards the edge of the cliff.
What do we do?
We save the republic.
Ask Thomas Jefferson…
“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves: and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their controul with a wholsome discretion, the remedy is, not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. this is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” [sic]
The people have given up control of the ultimate powers of the society. It’s time to take it back. And, citizens across the nation are doing just that.
What have you done to Keep The Republic?
Isn’t it about time YOU did something?
Join other patriots this Saturday April 26th 10:00am – 6:30pm in training to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to articulate your desire to make the policy changes necessary to restore our governments to their proper roles! Current liberty-minded civics training only teaches theory. This is application training, practical exercises, and instruction to turn you into a Citizen Lobbyist with the skills to affect the direction of your local government as well as state and federal government.
For more information on the Saturday April 26th class, click here.
For more information, on the Center for Self-Governance, click here.