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Testimony Against the Senate-Posted Alternative Social Studies Standards

March 18, 2004

Senate Education Policy Committee
Social Studies Standards
March 18, 2004
Julie M. Quist
EdWatch

Senator Kelley and Committee Members:

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on the "Alternative Social Studies Standards" that are being considered here today. I am the Vice-President of EdWatch, a statewide coalition of parents, teachers, and taxpayers of all kinds. Our organization began in opposition to the Profile of Learning as it was being implemented statewide in 1998.

The people of Minnesota want our students to learn our heritage of liberty. More than anything else, it is this heritage that unites us as Americans no matter our ethnic or racial background or our economic status. For example, the Yankelovich Public Agenda Poll reported that 84% of parents want their children to understand what is special about America. They want their students to understand the flaws of our country, but they know that this country has been a beacon of freedom to the world. They want them to know how and why. These alternative standards do not accomplish that.

My comments are directed at the first set of alternative standards in Government and Citizenship. They fail to give students a solid foundation in our founding principles of freedom, as stated in the Declaration of Independence.

Some examples of that are:
On page 52, grades 4-6, protecting individual rights and promoting the common good are represented as equal purposes of government. This undermines the Declaration of Independence which identifies the one primary purpose of government to be protecting inalienable rights. Since the common good is always ultimately defined by government, inalienable rights are undermined in this standard. The proposed social studies standards are in fact advocating the internationalist view of human rights, not the United States view.

On that same page national sovereignty is not included in the list of key definitions under the standard "the purpose and function of the democratic government," - benchmark #3. This is consistent with the federal curriculum that undermines the principle of national sovereignty. The question for this committee and for Minnesota is this -- is national sovereignty important or isn't it? Most Minnesotans say yes. The education radicals say no. Which side does this committee want to be on?

On page 53, principles of the Declaration and the Constitution are not identified as "principles," but, rather, as "key ideas" and "concepts." This is consistent with efforts to portray the founding principles as true for that time, but not necessarily true for today.

In that same standard, the principles that are referred to as "concepts" of the Declaration of Independence are listed only under "possible topics," not as benchmarks. Consequently they may or may not be taught. Again in this example, national sovereignty doesn't make the list of "concepts" expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

This approach to the basic principles of liberty that form the foundation of our Constitution and our history as a nation is seen throughout this set of standards. On page 55, in grades 7-8, the "individual rights" of Minnesota citizens are presented as if the Minnesota Constitution grants those rights. The understanding that individual rights are inherent and inalienable is de-emphasized. It is never clarified that the founders considered these principles to be true for all people at all times. Are the foundational principles of the United States of America important or not? If they are important, they need t be in the benchmark. By not including these principles in the benchmarks, these standards say that these principles are of minor importance.

Another important issue that is misrepresented in these standards is the principle that all powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the states, as stated in the 10th amendment. Since the 10th amendment is the only constitutional restriction on federal power, this is an alarming omission. We cannot teach limited government without teaching the 10th amendment. On page 58, the benchmark refers to powers "granted" to state governments and to "the people." This is a total distortion of inalienable rights as clarified by the Declaration of Independence and by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution does not "grant" the states and the people its rights. They are inherent rights "reserved" to the states and to the people, since the Constitution has not "delegated" them to the federal government.

Finally, the standards require activism (p. 67). This benchmark is neither "objective" nor academic, as state law requires. Therefore it violates the enabling legislation for new state standards.

In summary, "national sovereignty" is not included anywhere in the actual benchmarks, and, as a founding principle, it is missing even from the "possible topics" in many areas where "key concepts in the Declaration of Independence" are listed. The founding principles of the Declaration are usually reduced to "concepts" or "ideals." "Self evident truth" is a "possible topic" listed once as a "concept" in the Declaration.

These standards are a total distortion of the actual foundational principles of the United States of America. They are an embarrassment to the Senate of the State of Minnesota. We urge you to reject this alternative.

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