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Closing MN's 2004 Legislative Session

May 20, 2004

Two education issues defined the close of the 2004 MN Legislative Session after an all-night session that ended at 7:00 a.m last Sunday morning. These issues are:

1. The harsh rejection of Cheri Pierson Yecke on trumped up charges as MN Commissioner of Education by a Senate DFL party line vote;

2. The passage of flawed social studies standards by legislators who had not read them.

Both of these issues are interrelated.

1. The Rejection of Commissioner Yecke

In an act of political brutality, the DFL closed ranks to oust the Commissioner from her job. Promises of support were broken, and agreements betrayed. Phony charges which the Commissioner successfully defended in committee were dragged up again on the floor of the Senate. Senator Steve Kelley exercised a ruthlessness unknown in Minnesota politics. Some referred to it as an act of war, which typifies the sense of outrage felt by Republicans and the public at large.

Sen. Kelley and his fellow accusers presented no serious challenge to Yecke's qualifications. In the end, she was symbolically executed by a kangaroo court of radicals who saw the Commissioner as a threat to their ideology and their control of Minnesota schools. Their decades-long power over education is slipping. They forced their entire caucus along with them, as they systematically trashed a well-qualified and effective commissioner.

Cheri Pierson Yecke fulfilled her responsibilities with high energy, conviction, openness to the public, a cooperative spirit, and friendliness. She was accused of being "divisive" simply for acting on the principle that the pro-American public has as much to say about the education of the children of this state as does the entrenched education establishment.

The so-called "experts," who would TRANSFORM America by shaping the worldview of our youth, were, under Cheri Yecke, not allowed to trump the public's expectation that education is about knowledge, rather than attitudes and political activism.

Knowledge-based education enrages the education elite who write the national education standards, dominate the University faculties, and bully good teachers into silence. Commissioner Yecke stood in their way, so they took her down.

2. New Social Studies Standards

A futile effort to appease Sen. Kelley's angry political base produced a new set of flawed social studies standards that were crafted in secret by curriculum directors, bureaucrats and so-called "experts" who support the radical federal curriculum. Sen. Kelley's strategy of tying the Commissioner up in politically motivated confirmation hearings effectively sidelined her from the process for weeks. Without a shepherd, the citizen standards were orphaned.

The new science and social studies standards passed both the House and the Senate in the last hour before the final session adjourned. No time remained for lawmakers to read or debate them.

In spite of their flaws, however, the new social studies standards improve on the Profile of Learning in a number of important ways. Since the old Profile standards are currently integrated throughout the public school curriculum, most notably in language arts, the passage of these new standards represents a minimal, but noteworthy, improvement.

Here are the positive elements of the new social studies standards.

Students will now learn:

The problems remaining in Minnesota's social studies standards, however, are considerable. They adopt the framework from the radical Kelley standards, which we have vigorously opposed.

Some examples of the problems with the standards are:

The newly adopted science standards do not include in the life sciences that students will study the full range of scientific evidence related to controversial issues such as evolution, in spite of almost universal public expectation that this information should be taught.

Most revealing was Sen. Kelley's absolute refusal to include national sovereignty as one of the founding principles of our country. National sovereignty is included as mere examples twice, neither time in a positive light.

Finally, the process by which the "compromise" was adopted is disturbing. The final language was assembled in complete secrecy by a team who were obviously in sympathy with the radical approach to social studies.

The "compromise" was distributed Saturday afternoon to conference committee members and to others present; then the committee adjourned. The final version was accepted by the conference committee in a hastily called meeting in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Those of us standing vigil all night were not even informed of the meeting.

A few hours later, and minutes before final adjournment, the Senate adopted the entire education bill. Senator Bachmann pleaded to see a copy of the standards before the final vote. She was not recognized to debate them.

The flagrant violations of Senate rules were mirrored when Senators attempted to bring the constitutional marriage amendment to a Senate vote. Motions were not recognized, and Senators were not allowed to speak. The rules of the Senate were violated repeatedly to suppress the will of the people.

Critics claimed the Commissioner didn't listen to their complaints, a totally false charge. In the end, it was the radicals who bludgeoned through standards compiled by a one-sided, handpicked few who disregarded the intense desire of Minnesota parents and taxpayers for standards that pass on the knowledge of our freedom to the next generation.

This quote is engraved in copper inside the Capitol building:

"Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army."

While the new standards improve on what Minnesota had in the Profile of Learning, they don't begin to represent what most parents and citizens want for the next generation. The "experts" are deciding for the public.

This quote is also engraved in the Capitol building ceiling:

"The liberty of a people consists in being governed by laws which they have made themselves."

The citizen standards were developed with the genuine involvement of the public, then left largely undefended for weeks while the Commissioner fended off her attackers. The citizen standards were cynically shelved and replaced with some "compromise" standards by faceless appointees behind closed doors. These were then passed in the dead of night without time for considered debate, and the Commissioner lost her job to boot. This is an affront to the principle of the liberty of people "being governed by laws which they have made themselves."

But take heart. "Being governed by laws which people have made themselves" is hard work, but it is the foundation of liberty. Living under laws which represent us begins with a tireless determination to hold lawmakers accountable.

For too long, too many of us have been satisfied to let others do that work. Our future is in our hands. Legislators have been elected and defeated over this education battle for the last six years. Those elections have brought us to this point. Many believed the battle was won when the Profile was repealed last year. We knew that the battle had only begun.

If we are to succeed in passing on education for a free nation, parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers of every stripe must step up to the plate. Some of us are capable of being the candidates who challenge some seated incumbents. Some will be their campaign managers, volunteer workers and contributors. Some will support good candidates in other districts if they have none in their own.

Citizens must rise up to replace the entrenched political cartel, one legislator at a time. It's possible. It's doable. It's been happening step by step for the last six years. We now need to take it over the top.

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As Winston Churchill said: we must never give up, never give up, never, never, never give up. We can take up our challenge now, when we have friends to help us and we have a chance to win, or we can do it later, when we are all alone, and we have little chance of victory. The decision is ours.

We now are the contenders. Let us adopt the words of John Paul Jones, "I have not yet begun to fight."

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