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.

1/24/2004

Marjani: A student's perspective

Dear Committee members,
Hello, my name is Marjani and I am a junior at a Minneapolis Public School. I would first like to thank you for taking this time to hear what I have to say. I have been following these standards since the first draft came out, and attended one of the public hearings in November.

Before coming here today, I spoke with many students at my high school and asked for their views and input. Many students told me that they were upset with how the standards were written from a white male perspective. Minnesota is a diverse state, and the diverse people who live and learn here deserve standards that will accommodate everyone. Many felt as though the US history standards in particular lacked major minority and women’s representation. Although the second draft has improved its representation of minorities, it still lacks much about women and their roles in society.

I have reviewed both the first and second drafts of the social studies standards and feel as if the committee has taken a step forward yet three steps backwards. It seems that the committee’s solution for taking out all material that was previously considered politically biased, and adding in important minorities and women that many felt were lacking, was to group this information in the examples column.
Another chief concern of students is how detail oriented the standards are. Many students learn in different ways and use different learning styles and when these new standards are implemented, many feel as though it will be a struggle learning.

Students also said that they were upset with not learning more about other cultures and their history’s. Some felt that their World Studies classes were only a glimpse into other countries histories, and even then they all were mainly European and Anglo-Saxon cultures.

Aside from the standards themselves, the preparation for the committee and the public input was considerably lacking. As a person of color it is quite disconcerting to me to see a committee of all white members. It’s easy to see why these standards are biased when all the people putting them together simply cannot helped but being biased seeing as the majority of them all have the same viewpoints. You cannot put together standards for the whole diverse student population in Minnesota by a group all coming from essentially the same background. It is impossible for only one group of persons to speak for and represent all peoples through these standards.

In addition to the lack of diversity there was also a lack of time involved in developing the standards. In total the committee members spent about three months on the draft. Is it really wise to spend three months developing standards that affect each individual student’s education, is there any reason as to why more time couldn’t be given? More time for the application process, developing the standards, public input, revising the standards, more public input, re-revising the standards. Many students, myself included, don’t feel comfortable knowing plans for our education, our lives, our future, were developed in three months.

As well as a poor timeline, intentionally or not all the hearings were placed outside the metro area except for one or two. It seems a bit silly that these important hearings were held outside the metro area which contains the most populated school districts in the state. It made it quite inaccessible to the educators, parents, students and others involved from these districts to attend the hearings.

In closing, my peers and I really hope that our views will be taken into account when these standards are brought to the legislature. Thank you for hearing us and thank you for your time.