Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

Minnbest is a non-partisan, broad based coalition of parents, educators and school advocacy groups who believe excellent public education is a foundation of democracy in America.

12/30/2003

Here is the first email I sent out on the proposed Social Studies standards

Here is the first email I sent out on the proposed Social Studies standards

Hello:

I am sending this to everyone to inform you of a very important issue in Minnesota education. The new social studies standards are now in the discussion period.

As you may know, very few actual classroom teachers were involved in the creation of these standards and this is reflected in their conservative bias and general poor quality.

There are several errors that are easily fixed but there is a bigger problem as well.

The Civics standards are especially problematic in that they reflect a philosophy of Government that a small group of people hold. This philosophy was defended by Allen Quist, former candidate for Governor of Minnesota in the Startribune. http://www.startribune.com/stories/562/4067292.html

In this Letter, Quist States, "The First Amendment to the Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This amendment restricts what the federal government can do; it places no restriction on what states can do."

Mr. Quist's wife is the head of a group called the Maple River coalition that maintains a website called http://www.edwatch.org/ which is working to change education in Minnesota and is part of a national effort to de-emphasize the role of the federal government and the protections of federal law.

This far right wing group essentially wrote the civics standards and is actively working to negate topics like judicial review and federal supremacy over the states. According to edwatch.org, "The history and civics standards, however, stay away from the common anti-American undercurrents. Sixties- era legislators who like to focus on America as negative will not like a positive approach to America's heritage."

They also had a hand in much of the first draft of the science standards. It was replaced the same day after the media pointed out that evolution was taught as a possible theory in the biology standards. The following is a comment on the second draft, "The new science draft standards generally have good content- based expectations, but their approach to evolution is nothing short of unscientific propaganda."

What needs to be done?
No Minneapolis teachers or executive members of the Minnesota Council of Social Studies was on the panel. There are no meeting scheduled in Minneapolis.
So…….
1. Go and read the standards for yourself.
http://education.state.mn.us/stellent/groups/public/documents/translatedcontent/pub_038359.pdf

2. Go to one of the meetings. The closest one is in St. Paul, but city people are needed in the suburban meetings because the teachers there are more afraid to speak out for real fear of retaliation. http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/4097472.html

3. Read about them and listen as time goes on and encourage you state representatives to vote based on what happens.http://www.startribune.com/stories/563/4094533.html (last Letter)

Talking Points you can use with friends, colleagues and other people during this process. You can also ask good questions at the meetings.

1. Who put these together?
The Social Studies Standards were put together with very little CLASSROOM teacher input. There were plenty of people involved who have teacher degrees or certificates, but very few in the classroom.

2. Why are there no meetings in Minneapolis?
There were NO Minneapolis teachers involved in the process and only one from St Paul. How can they make standards without the most populous districts in the state?

3. Lets look at the numbers
Subject/ # of times mentioned

Declaration of Independence 20
Property 4
Religion 12
God 2
Constitution 26
Judicial Activism 1
Judicial review 0
War on Poverty 0
Desegregation 0
Affirmative Action 0
Popular Sovereignty 0
Due Process 0
Equal protection 0
Ronald Reagan 2
Richard Nixon 2
George W Bush 1
John Kennedy 0
Lyndon Johnson 0
Bill Clinton 0
Jimmy Carter 0

4. What is missing from the Civics standards?
The purpose of Government= Protection of Rights (in) Promote common welfare (not in)
Different forms of Government (confederation, parliamentary)
Legislative Supremacy
Magna Carta
English Bill of Rights
3/5s Compromise
Virginia Plan vs. New Jersey plan
Federalists vs. Antifederalists
6 Principles- Popular Sovereignty, Limited Government (in) Separation of Powers (in) Checks and Balances (mentioned)
Judicial Review
Amendment Process
The Supreme Court
Relations between the Federal Government and the states
The Civil Rights acts (only mentions 14th amendment in the history standards around the Civil War)
Campaigns
Local Office holders
National office holders (president is included in Kindergarten)

5. So what? We can still teach whatever we want because there is no test! Take your pick.
True, there is currently no test. Is that a good thing? Not really. What stops school districts from eliminating social studies classes? If it is not a core subject, then it can made an elective, or eliminated altogether.
False, a test will probably be made from the standards eventually. Do you really want one of the questions on the test to ask about Ronald Reagan's critical role in the destruction of the Soviet Union? (in there) Or how many times God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence? (in there)

6. C'mon, they can't be that bad!
Take a look at the group who made up most of the Civics standards. The Maple River Coalition is available @ www.edwatch.org.
A representative from The Maple River Coalition was the leader for the Civics standards meetings.
A few places to click.
1. Edwatch Updates - 9/15/03: The Public Hearings Begin especially down toward the bottom. Read the Comments.
2. Check out the Nation at risk Annual Conference. Especially the speaker bios and subjects.

This is not a partisan issue, this is an issue of whether our students will maintain their high status as some of the best educated in the country, or will we be forced to dumb down our curriculums to please a group of State's Rights Activists.
Go to any or all of the standards meetings!!!!

Monday September 22nd
St. Paul Central High School
275 North Lexington Parkway
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday September 24th
Willmar Education and Arts Center(District office)
611 5th Street S.W.
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Thursday September 25th
Worthington Senior High School
1211 Clary Street
Location: Cafeteria
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Monday September 29th
Cloquet Senior High School
1000 18th Street
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Tuesday September 30th
Princeton Senior High School
807 South 8th Ave
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday October 1st
Hibbing: Lincoln Middle School
1114 East 23rd Street
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Thursday October 2nd
Bemidji Senior High School
2900 Division Street West
Location: Lumberjack Room
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Thursday October 9th
Coon Rapids Senior High School
2340 Northdale Blvd.
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Monday October 13th
Apple Valley: School of Environmental Studies
12155 Johnny Cake Road
Location: Commons Area
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Monday October 20th
Forest Lake Senior High School
6101 Scandia Trail North
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Tuesday October 21st
Stewartville Senior High School
500 4th Street S.W.
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday October 22nd
Albert Lea Senior High School
2000 Tiger Lane
Location: Auditorium
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.