Date: February 9, 2004The PiPress ran the following letter from Paul Seeba today. It's a clear example of the standards opponents' embrace of identity politics, and ironically, elitism:
Subject: Standards sophistry
The composition of Education Commissioner Yecke's social studies writing committee needs to be questioned by the people who currently use the public schools in Minnesota. As a member of this committee, I found it strange that the users of the public system (i.e. public school parents, teachers and administrators) were grossly underrepresented, while the non-users of traditional public schools (i.e. private and charter personnel, home-schoolers and ideologues who have little contact with public school children) were grossly overrepresented, given the tiny percent of the population they represent.Personally, I find it strange that the non-users of traditional public schools (i.e. private and charter personnel, home-schoolers and ideologues who have little contact with public school children) are nevertheless compelled by law to surrender tax dollars to support the public schools. Oh, I know that public school districts are compelled by law to provide them with access to services such as transportation and extra curricular activities, but I'd wager that most would gladly pay fees for such access if tuition tax credits were also part of the bargain.
Minnesotans ought to know that not one public school administrator served on the final committee, yet a private school headmaster was given a starring role. This is especially strange as private schools are not held to these standards.
Gov. Pawlenty has stated publicly that we need "standards that stand the test of time." How can this happen when the actual users of the public schools find out the standards were largely written by a coalition of people who do not use the traditional public schools?
The truth is, most private school parents I talk to are willing to pay taxes to support the public schools, even though they are "non-users" who have "little contact with public school children." They understand that all Minnesota citizens — even the headmasters of private schools — have a big stake in a high-quality public education system. Conversely, don't Minnesota's children deserve the academic standards that draw from the best that education has to offer, regardless of where those ideas originate?
It's true: the personal backgrounds and ideologies of the Academic Standards committee members would not have reflected those found at an Education Minnesota convention. The committee was much more diverse than that. The "public" is back in "public education" like never before.