Date: September 1, 2004
Subject: Here's pie in your face

In a debate, leftys tend to hide from the facts behind shaky ideological arguments presented as self-evident truths. When they run out of those, they hurl bitter invective. When they run out of that, they throw a pie in your face.

Sen. Michele Bachmann's office informed me that all 40 copies of the letter from the "class of 2004" arrived in a single envelope, with no signatures and no return address or any other identifying information.

When you visit the State Fair, be sure to take a gander at a piece of ? believe it or not ? political crop art (or just gawk at the photo at the Power Line blog) featuring images of the Republican Senator from Stillwater and Anita Bryant in a "Right Wing Pie Fling." So much for the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

The anonymous letter purportedly from the Stillwater Area High School class of 2004 doesn't signal a political sea change in the east metro. Authentic? Maybe. A "statement?" OK. Political dialog? No, just another pie in the face from stage left.


Date: August 26, 2004
Subject: We're all liberals now

When it comes to education, we're all liberals now. It started when President Bush had a "what's wrong with this picture?" moment when he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the second-most liberal Senator, Ted Kennedy, at the rollout of the reauthorization of the mammoth federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a.k.a. No Child Left Behind. President Bush's 2005 budget requests:
  • $37 billion for K-12 education, a $12 billion (49%) increase since 2001

  • $13 billion for Title I funding, a $4.6 billion (52%) increase since 2001

  • $11 billion for Special Education funding, a $4.7 billion (75%) increase since 2001

(Source: GeorgeWBush.com)

And the federal government is not even Constitutionally chartered to provide K-12 public education, the states are.

It used to be a rule of thumb that the Republicans will never outspend the Democrats. For John Kerry's fuzzy math on education funding, see The Kerry Spot on National Review Online.


Date: August 25, 2004
Subject: Different day, same situation

In the July 29 edition of the Education Gadfly, Diane Ravitch mourns the recent passing of the Council for Basic Education, at least as it existed from its founding in 1956 until "the organization changed with the times, as it branched out, sought grants, wooed foundations, entered into partnerships, launched projects and pursued government largesse," after which time "the original voice of CBE faded until it was merely a whisper."

Regular readers of Minnesota Education Reform News may recall that Achieve, Inc. with CBE issued an evaluation in November 2000 that was filled with both praise and criticism of the Profile of Learning.

Ravitch recalls that CBE "began as a lonely outpost for a small, outspoken group of articulate critics who agreed that the public schools were foolishly trying to be all things to all people; who believed that progressive educationists had saddled the schools with bad ideas; and who insisted that the mission of the schools was not socialization but intellectual development...founded by bold men and women who led a revolt against mediocrity, anti-intellectualism, and mindlessness in the public schools."

Nearly fifty years later, groups like the old CBE are needed now more than ever. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


Date: August 24, 2004
Subject: Return to sender, part deux

OK, maybe this is just a tempest in a teapot, but over the weekend I received a mailing from EdWatch that featured the letter from the Stillwater Area High School "class of 2004" to Sen. Michele Bachmann. At the bottom of the page that included the entire text of the letter, it says, "40 students (of the 700) returned the congratulatory cards that Senator Bachmann sent them, with this letter, however, no names or signatures were included." Sen. Bachmann's office confirmed this information to me.

As Darth Vader said, "Impressive." Or not.

King Banaian over at SCSU Scholars is amazed at the apparent ability of the class of 2004 to get this letter written and signed by, say, 50% plus 1 of the graduating class of 700 or so "At the graduation? At the senior party? Then why does the letter bear the date July 7? Afterward? How? By mail?"

For his part, the always provocative Michael Boucher of MinnBEST weighs in with "Mainstream Minnesotans are rising up everywhere to reject the far right agenda that Sen. Bachmann represents."

Although this letter was signed "the class of 2004," it apparently does not represent the views of the majority, or even a significant minority, of the class. So who really sent it?


Date: August 17, 2004
Subject: Liberal talking points from Stillwater High School

A few weeks ago, Joe Soucheray (AM 1500 KSTP radio) read a letter apparently from certain members of Stillwater High School's class of 2004. The letter was in response to a congratulatory letter sent to all members of that class from state Sen. Michele Bachmann. The student letter struck me as so remarkable that I contacted Sen. Bachmann's office for a copy of it, and of the senator's original letter. (You can read the entire text of both on the main MNEdReform News web site.)

The sentiments expressed by "the class of 2004" were straight from the liberal education elite's talking points. They rebut quotes attributed to Sen. Bachmann that did not appear in her letter. So where did they get them? Here are some excerpts:
  • ...we feel we cannot accept your well wishes, as we believe that your policies on education are hurting rather than helping our public school system. [Actually, individual senators don't have education "policies."]
  • It can only be expected that in a changing nation our values will change as well. [All of our values? Aren't any of our values universal for all people in all times?]
  • Minnesota is now one of the most ethnically diverse states in the country. Our citizens are divided in their political thought more than ever, and the face of the state is changing as new people and new times bring about a shift in the way we see faith, race relations, economic diversity, and education. [In other words, identity politics, which is by definition divisive. Aren't we all Americans?]
  • ...we find your [sic] standards overall to have an usual focus on conservative values and leaders and a general ignorance of the darker, less honorable periods in our history to be considered fair and balanced. [Sounds good, until you read the actual standards, which were written by the not-conservative-by-any-stretch Minnesota Council for the Social Studies, not Sen. Bachmann.]
  • When you state that it is essential that "our children are taught American values like sovereignty, patriotism and free market enterprise," we would say that that is a close minded approach to education which we as students reject. [Specifically what values would you teach to ensure the preservation of liberty and the union?]
  • ...when you say that "parents have the right and responsibility of training their child in the way they should go," we respond that we should have the right to be exposed to a wealth of ideas about America in order to form our own opinions. [So parents have no rights or responsibilities in their own children's education?? Are parental responsibility and forming your own opinions mutually exclusive?]

Although the class of 2004 has certainly moved on to bigger and better things by now, I would be interested in hearing from any of those behind the letter (which is not signed by anyone other than "The class of 2004"). I think that a conversation with the author(s) of the letter would be a fascinating one.


Date: August 10, 2004
Subject: Networking

The Parents United Network is preparing for battle. Forget the presidential election, PUN has bigger fish to fry: the 2005 legislative session, when K-12 funding will be on the table again.

According to a large spread in the current issue of the Minnesota School Boards Association Journal, the former Save Our Schools grassroots organization is evolving from a single group (Parents United for Public Schools, remember them from the academic standards and Cheri Pierson Yecke fights?) into a statewide network of local parent groups. This strategy could be very effective in creating a "a large and powerful coalition of citizens committed to public education," according to its web site. It has the advantage of a centralized message and resources (including a grant from the Minneapolis Foundation), with local leaders to make sure that the message is heard, to grow membership, and to put the feet on the street (and in the Capitol, and the State Office Building).

Look for PUN to position itself as a "centrist" (which in Minnesota means left-leaning) counterweight to EdWatch. They are already allied with PTOs (Parent Teacher Organizations), PTSAs (Parent/Teacher/Student Associations), school district legislative committees, several referenda campaigns, and other small ad-hoc parent groups. PUN will leverage its already sophisticated education and communications resources with their new networking strategy to compete for the hearts and minds of parents, and the respect of legislators, in 2005 and beyond.


Date: August 2, 2004
Subject: The Peacemaker

The City of Wayzata celebrated its 150th year on Saturday. It was a wonderful, small-town celebration, well-attended but not crowded. The kids and I wrote "postcards to the future" for the time capsule that will be sealed today and not opened until 2054. I took their photo next to the time capsule and the restored school bell from the first Wayzata High School. We spent the afternoon at the beach, where the antique streetcar boat Minnetonka carried passengers from Wayzata to Excelsior and back. My daughter won a free sesquicentennial pin (I had to buy mine). In the evening, we listened to two choruses perform while feasting on hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches.

Between bites of my Kempswich, I got some more local reaction to the appointment of Alice Seagren as state commissioner of education. One person referred to the new commissioner as a "peacemaker." This image seems to comfort educators and concern activists. Reform by definition is going to ruffle a few feathers. As Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "

Governor Pawlenty assures us that Seagren will be the "iron fist in the velvet glove," and that his reform agenda will proceed apace. Peace and reconciliation would be good things in this state's education ecosystem at this point, but any commissioner will have to break a few eggs before she or he can make an omelet. The hard work of replacing the Profile of Learning in statute is done, but the devil is in the implementation details. A revised suite of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and decisions made by your local directors of curriculum and instruction, and testing and assessment, will be important influences on the direction of education in Minnesota. Vigilance will be the watchword in 2005 and beyond.