Date: December 2, 2003
Subject: As Seen in City Pages

For about a week after I was mentioned in the November 12 City Pages, hits to the Minnesota Education Reform News web site (including this blog) went up significantly, but they have since died down to normal levels.

In case you missed it, the article by Britt Robson, "Cooking the books," is a fine example of liberal reporting. The headline is a clever play on words (as I writer myself I appreciate a good pun), with the subtitle "Right-wingers divine new education standards." "Right-wingers" is a good emotionally-charged choice of words, which he repeats in the article. I am not sure why the verb "divine" was chosen: Webster defines it as "to discover intuitively," "to discover or locate (as water or minerals underground) usually by means of a divining rod," or ": "to practice divination : PROPHESY; to perceive intuitively."

Next Robinson says that the committee was chosen by the Department of Education to "concoct" the standards. He continues, "It was hard to pick the most egregiously right-wing standard set by the committee."

"Was it that all seventh-grade students are to know the significance of the four references to God in the Declaration of Independence?"

Why is this a right-wing standard? There are four references to God in the Declaration of Independence, that's a fact.

"Or maybe that first-graders must understand the definition of 'opportunity cost'? Entrepreneurship is cited in the standards more than three times as often as anything regarding the nation's labor movement."

Aren't there any liberal entrepreneurs?

"The Declaration of Independence is erroneously referred to as "the founding document that sets forth the principles for our nation" (that would be the Constitution)..."

There's that pesky Declaration of Independence again (see previous blog entry).

"...and the committee claims that the framers of the Constitution 'secured the equal rights of all citizens' (which would have been news to women and slaves, among others). "

Has the United States always lived up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitiution? No, but they did establish the rights that made possible women's suffrage, equal employment opportunity, the civil rights movement, the end of slavery, and many other protections available in America first. Remember the 1989 reading of the Declaration in Beijing's Tiananmen Square? Is this merely right-wing spin?

"How were these and countless other claims outside the political mainstream approved?"

Actually, it's still a draft document that will not be submitted for "approval" until the Legislature convenes in February. How do you define "the political mainstream?" By looking who won the 2002 elections? Good attempt to marginalize the draft.

"The composition of the committee reflected the political bias of Yecke—who has ties to the Bush administration—and the [Fordham] foundation."

Yes, the committee was appointed by the Commissioner of Education, who was herself appointed by the governor to implement his education agenda. The larger point is, the process implemented by the commissioner is the most public in state education history, one that has made the ongoing public debate — in public hearings, newspapers, talk radio, and web sites — possible. It would have been so much simpler to implement new standards in administrative rule and leave the public out of the process. There has been and will continue to be so much public and legislative oversight in this process that the final product cannot help but reflect what the majority of Minnesotans want.

"...those concerned about a right-wing takeover of classroom learning should pay attention."

Funny, I don't remember CP sounding the alarm about the left-wing takeover of public education.

"Someone really is after us... (the NEA and its affiliates) have been singled out because of our political power and effectiveness at all levels -- because we have the ability to help implement the type of liberal social and economic agenda that (they) find unacceptable."

—Robert H. Chanin, National Education Association general counsel

Keep those cards and letters to the editor coming. We won't always agree, but at the end of the day we will create standards of which we can all be proud. As President John F. Kennedy said, "Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us."