EdWatch, Minnesota's best-known, powerful grassroots K-12 education advocacy organization is concluding operations at the end of this month, according to co-founder Renee Doyle, in an e-mail sent to supporters at the end of November.
"We came into being in 1998 over the statewide outrage about Minnesota's radical new education system, the Profile of Learning," said Doyle in the e-mail. "Colleen Wogen, Julie Quist and I called the first meeting to order and elected each other officers. We had no idea that our newly established educational non-profit would not only go state-wide, but that five years later, under the name EdWatch, it would go national. EdWatch has stood as an advocate for children, parents and teachers and always has been on the cutting edge of educational research and information."
It amazes me to look back over the last twelve years and realize what an education we gave each other, legislators, school boards, parents, and the public. Doyle said, "We boldly challenged the conventional wisdom regarding No Child Left Behind, International Baccalaureate, Early Childhood Education, School-to-Work, the federal curriculum, international education standards, education for world citizenship, earth-worshiping environmentalism, school mental screening and drugging, 'comprehensive' sex education, Outcome Based Education, and a centralized federal workforce system. We reminded parents, teachers, and students that good education understands that truth exists and should first of all be about acquiring knowledge and understanding, not about inculcating government-approved values and beliefs."
I cut my political teeth during the Profile of Learning repeal battles. A friend of mine and fellow parent alerted me to the process-based Profile, which was enacted in administrative rule during the Jesse Ventura administration by the then-Department of Children, Families and Learning under its commissioner, Christine Jax. By establishing statewide academic requirements in rule rather than through legislation, the Ventura administration avoided all of those bothersome public hearings and legislative oversight. Complaints to my then-state senator yielded polite letters full of edubabble and reassurances that parents should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, after all, the state of Minnesota knows best (summed up in the nanny state admonishment, "Just breed 'em and feed 'em").
My most memorable experiences as a member of EdWatch include:
- Organizing and conducting an EdWatch education workshop in 2001 (just after 9/11)
- Celebrating the repeal of The Profile of Learning
- Having my picture taken with Michele Bachmann at her desk on the floor of the Minnesota Senate, on the first day of her first term
- Visiting Bachmann months later in her freshman office, with the window facing into the parking garage, and seeing that photo on her bulletin board
- Visiting Republican legislators, meeting legislative staff, and learning the secret routes around the Capitol and State Office Building
- Being appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty to serve on the Academic Standards Committee to help draft new academic standards with the renamed Department of Education under commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke
- Helping to create an early version of the EdWatch web site, as well as my own web site (Minnesota Education Reform News) and blogs
- Being inspired by some amazing conservative activists and conservative Republican legislators and candidates