Date: September 17, 2003The following testimony is published with permission of the author. It was given at the public hearing of the Academic Standards Committee in Moorhead, Minnesota on September 15.
Subject: Moorhead Hearing Testimony
My name is Julie Sorenson. I am the mother of two school-aged children, a resident of Moorhead, and in two weeks will be for the first time a home-owner in the school district. I am also a foster mom to a senior special education student at Moorhead Senior High School. I have been exceptionally pleased with the teacher, and the many services provided. Academic content has never been an issue.
I wish to thank the individuals who have participated in the process of revising these standards. Obviously these standards form the heart of our state's educational system, and have far-reaching implications for our future.
At a time when many of our family, neighbors and friends are fighting a war and actively preserving the freedoms our nation's founders worked so hard to establish, we must make sure each student understands how important national sovereignty is to our freedom. In the social studies, civics, economics and history standards, it must be made crystal-clear to our future generations that only by protecting our unalienable rights was our nation able to become the lighthouse of freedom that it is.
Our future leaders need a clear understanding of our country's founding principles in order to maintain and perpetuate them. Thankfully, this draft of the Minnesota standards does ensure that the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are the basis for defining these founding principles.
I'm also glad to see that the concepts of "unalienable rights" and "self-evident truths" are in these standards' educational lexicon. The National Standards on Civics and Government, for example, have gone too far in the direction of post-modernist thinking. Those national standards minimize or ignore these timeless, crucial principles, lifting up instead fuzzy notions such as a "belief in progress." Our country's founders believed in progress, all right, but they knew the only way they could enjoy progress is by first protecting the rights our Creator endowed to us.
The national standards, on which the Profile of Learning was based, do much to undercut the principle of national sovereignty. Instead, they focus attention on the lengthy United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. How many parents are aware that this document says in Article 29 that none of the human rights mentioned can be exercised "contrary to the purposes and principles of the UNITED NATIONS?" Minnesota has made a laudable (and closely-watched) first step in rejecting standards that denigrate our nation and fail to tell the truth about America's incredible contribution to the well-being of the world.
These new Minnesota economics standards would be improved by focusing more on how the United States has been a model of economic success for the rest of the world. The geography standards state that national sovereignty has a "changing nature." I object to that portrayal. National sovereignty "changes" only when it ends.
Last, I encourage revisions in the geography standards so that students will actually be required to know where nations, important cities and physical features actually ARE on the globe. The national standards say "people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity." When's the last time you asked someone "What region are you from?" People properly do and should identify with a nation. Especially their own.
An over-emphasis on "regions" and "cultural geography" leads the student to believe that individual nations and parts of those nations are inconsequential. Our future leaders must understand that each sovereign nation has a distinct place and boundary, and that it is not just some "region" of an amorphous globe.
Our family will continue to pray for those in leadership in our schools, and for the students in them, and we will seek to fulfill our responsibilities of helping to keep our nation free through excellent education.