Date: MAPSSS: Been there, done that
Subject: October 16, 2003

MAPSSS FlyerPage 1 of the flyer being circulated by MAPSSS lists its agenda for Minnesota's new academic standards. Readers of Minnesota Education Reform News will recognize that "it's deja vu all over again:"

What are the goals of MAPSSS?

To propose alternative standards for K-12 history and social studies that:

  • Emphasize higher-order critical thinking as a life-long skill required of effective citizens in democracies more than rote memorization — remember trying to decipher the Profile of Learning? Remember wondering, "OK, but what will my child actually know when she graduates from high school?" Why link this skill to "citizens in democracies" instead of "Americans in a Constitutional republic?" Why disparage knowledge? Knowledge and "higher order thinking" are not mutually exclusive; in fact, you can't truly have the latter without the former.

  • Integrate expectations that Minnesota students learn how to become active citizens who improve their communities, state, nation, and world — how can you argue against this one, unless in health class our kids start a petition to make your entire town a no-smoking zone, and in social studies class they make NO WAR IN IRAQ signs. Debating the issues of the day should be part of education, but when political activism is taught, whose politics is being activated?

  • Reflect and integrate balanced coverage of diverse cultural traditions, historical experiences and environments of each major world region — balance and awareness of other cultures is essential to a broad based education, but why emphasize regions without mentioning nations? Shouldn't Johnny be able to find Bosnia (or Quebec or Missouri) on a map? "Balance" should not come at the expense of understanding our own country. As Diane Ravitch 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."

  • Accurately address ways in which the United States has not always lived up to its founding principles — no argument with this one, as long as this is "balanced" with an accurate understanding of those founding principles — oops, there's that "knowledge thing" again.

  • Help guide teachers in developing and implementing rigorous curriculum and authentic assessments — can you say "Profile of Learning?" Including curriculum and assessments in the state-mandated graduation standards was such a bad idea that it was literally outlawed in the legislation that repealed the Profile: "Academic standards must...not require a specific teaching methodology or curriculum."

  • More closely align with national standards — actually, the draft economics and geography standards already align with national standards, and that's a problem!
The Profile of Learning was developed by the education establishment outside the purview of the Legislature and the parents and taxpayers of Minnesota. It conformed to national standards. It was process-oriented and anti-knowledge. We tried these radical standards on our guinea pig kids. There was a referendum on the Profile of Learning. The Profile lost.