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Drafts "Appear From Nowhere" in the Senate

March 21, 2004

As the House was finishing up its work on the standards in the 2nd floor House Chambers, the Senate Education Committee began its hearing on Sen. Kelley's "alternative standards" two floors below The hearing room was crowded. A very big thank you to all who showed up in force. Most stayed faithfully to the 10:00 p.m. ending.

U of M Professors
A common theme of the testimony in support of the "alternative standards" was that they were the product of "experts," all from the University of Minnesota -- four professors and four "experts in pedagogy." The "alternative standards" appear to be safely OUT of the hands of the public and into the grip of the University crowd.

Remember the letter from 32 of the University crowd who blasted the citizen standards for not focusing enough attention on the "tragedies and injustices" of our nation's history? (See our update.) Those professors are back, this time with their own set of "alternative standards."

Civics Testimony
Another "alternatives" supporter identified himself as the former head of the National Council of Social Studies, the national standard's umbrella organization. Not surprisingly, he was pushing the national standards (the federal curriculum), and he objected to their being treated as "poisonous." (The National History Standards were rejected in 1995 by the U.S. Senate on a vote of 99 to 1. That's poisonous!) He also thought the "alternative standards" were terrific.

This federal curriculum advocate described the purpose of civics standards as being to train kids to be activists, and to create citizens of the U.S. and citizens of the global community. He was quite critical of the citizen standards because they were "doctrinaire."

When asked to explain why he thought the citizen draft was "indoctrination," he pointed to its emphasis on the Declaration principles and the implication that the Declaration of Independence constitutes the founding document of our government. According to his view, more "activism" should be required.

Opposition to Kelley's Alternative Standards
In summary, the hearing displayed the Senate's intentions for Minnesota's social studies standards, and it was not a pretty picture. Opposition to the "alternative standards" were bunched at the end of the agenda. Sherokee Isle, a parent and a teacher, provided thoughtful opposition testimony, and EdWatch's testimony was presented by Michael Chapman and Julie Quist.

In his testimony, Michael Chapman stated, "The National Council for the Social Studies, which formed the basis for the Profile of Learning...[states]: 'a diverse…yet globally interdependent world calls for citizens with a new sense of purpose' and requires 'a new vision for social studies educators.' (NCSS, p. xix.)

"The goal of creating citizens with a new sense of purpose" Chapman continued, "explains why these 'alternative standards' mention the themes of 'transformation, social and cultural change, global interdependence and trends' over 170 times, but national sovereignty is mentioned only twice as 'possible topics,' and twice for discussion on how international agreements affect sovereignty."

Julie Quist opposed the "alternative standards, as well. She stated, for example, that, "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 benchmarks. By not including them in the benchmarks, these standards say that these principles are of minor importance."

Senator Kelley ended with a scolding to EdWatch that we ought not be suggesting that he, his standards, or the authors of the new standards are un-American. He described the social studies conflict as a "family" disagreement. Unfortunately, the standards that the Senate has brought forward are dangerous, because they undermine the precious principles of liberty that make us free.

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