Date: September 24, 2003Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Monday's public hearing in Saint Paul, but from press accounts, it was another mob attack from liberal teachers, replete with alarmist rhetoric, raised voices, and cheering sections. This was a repeat of similar staged attacks during the hearings for the math and language arts standards, designed to undermine and discredit the process, not improve the standards.
Subject: Liberal teacher attack!
The public comment period, and the work sessions scheduled for November, are designed to resolve criticisms such as bias toward European history, or an inequity between the number of Republican presidents and Democratic presidents mentioned, or the omission of specific historical events such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, or an emphasis on the roles of women and minorities, and yes, reduce the number of standards statements, which in the draft are copious in number by design.
As a member of the Academic Standards Committee, I welcome and look forward to vigorous criticism and specific suggestions for improving the standards. But political attacks will be exposed as such:
[Star Tribune, September 22:] "The standards must reflect the worlds from which these children come from," said St. Paul school board chairman Al Oertwig, who noted that half of St. Paul's kindergartners are immigrants for whom English is a second language. "And many are not from American backgrounds."
[Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University, and board member of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, said, "Our ability to defend — intelligently and thoughtfully — what we as a nation hold dear depends on our knowledge and understanding of what we hold dear." Speaking of being "out of balance," not enough students today understand what is good about America, and what it stands for. I hope that the final version of the new standards corrects this situation.]
[Pioneer Press, letter to the editor, September 18; and Star Tribune, letter to the editor, September 15. Yes, both daily newspapers carried the same letter. What a coincidence!] The Department of Education created a committee on which public teachers made up fewer than half of the members and it was not even a requirement to have a background in the social studies discipline to be on the committee.
[The inclusion of non-teachers at the table is considered an asset, and is required by the Profile of Learning repeal legislation signed in May. Parents, school board members, businesspeople, higher ed, and taxpayers have representation on the standards committees, in addition to K-12 teachers and administrators.]
The 9-12 Standards were written during two meetings without even the entire committee in attendance. A nonteacher's reconstruction of the United States history standards were accepted by the committee without having being read. The committee was neither diverse nor representative of Minnesota.
[Other members of the same committee would disagree with this version of the process. A cursory scan of the committee membership lists will reveal much diversity, and as mentioned earlier is required by state law.]
The committee was both forced and encouraged to take standards from the five samples supplied by the Department of Education. The sample standards came from California, Arizona, Alabama, Kansas and Virginia. It is worth questioning when we know that we are following the states that rank at the bottom of the educational standings.
Marc H. Doepner-Hove, Mound
[The committees were neither forced nor encouraged to use any existing standards or guidelines. The standards from other states were provided for reference only. The standards provided to the committee were rated the best in the nation by standards experts.]
Some will continue to work to undermine and discredit the standards process. I urge the rest of us to work hard to develop nation-leading standards for the next generation of Minnesota's public school students.