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The Minnesota Senate hearings: Social Studies

January 28, 2004

The room was filled to "standing room only" capacity. Thank you to those who took the time and effort to show up. It makes a tremendous difference! Many in the room sported stickers that read, "Pass the Standards," "The Declaration IS a 'Founding Document,' " and "Knowledge is Freedom, Pass the Standards."

If any doubted that the battle over the new standards was about whether the Profile-of-Learning-type standards will be reinstated, they can doubt no more. Critics of the proposed standards urged legislators to disqualify the proposed standards because they weren't based on the "national standards" (federal curriculum). The Profile of Learning was built on the federal curriculum.

One University of Minnesota history professor described the proposed social studies standards as "biased" and "ideological" because they were based on the "biased" idea that the founding documents, such as the Declaration, have the same meaning for us today that they did at the founding of our country.

Students from the Freedom School in St. Paul charged that the standards were racist. The President of Education Minnesota, Judy Schaubach, along with the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts, insisted that there was too much content in these standards. A teacher charged there was too much memory work. (Memory requirements were incessantly criticized.)

"Where is the requirement to memorize?" asked Senator Gen Olson. "I don't see that."

It turns out the teacher was unfamiliar with the actual language of the proposed standards after all, but she said she was opposed to "low level learning." Senator Olson reminded those in the room that critical thinking skills are based on real knowledge of real information. Yet the attack on memorizing continued.

Another teacher claimed there was no active citizenship required. "There is nothing here about voting, running for office, nothing about being part of this democracy."

How about on page 49, a Senator asked her."Students will describe the activities of civic life. Examples: seeking elected office, engaging in public service, registering to vote and informed voting, participating in political campaigns, communicating with government officials, keeping informed about current issues."

Apparently many who are criticizing the proposed standards have not done their homework. They have strong opinions, however, and that seems to be what they expect of Minnesota students -- strong opinions, involvement in community issues, but shallow knowledge.

Excellent testimony came from a number of academic standards committee members, from some college professors who want incoming freshmen to have a solid knowledge of the basics. Michael Chapman gave a moving presentation from EdWatch. "The proposed standards help cut through some of the censorship of our true heritage and the anti-American bigotry with which the public has grown so weary!"

Ironically, critics are convinced there is no time in the school day to teach all of this knowledge, but the amount of material in the proposed standards is substantially less than the federal curriculum they demand. The critics also insist that the students should be out in the community doing good deeds during the school day, lobbying for the teacher's pet projects at the Capitol or City Hall, and working at a job for school-to- work. Is it any wonder little time remains for learning the foundations of knowledge?

"They are not passable in their current form,'' the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said. "There is too much dispute.'' (Pioneer Press)

Letting the Senate and the Governor know that the Profile was repealed because Minnesota wants students learning real knowledge will be the biggest educational undertaking taxpayers have faced in this state. And yet, it is the most important. All other education concerns pale in comparison. Stay tuned for that battle. If you care about the future, stay engaged.


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