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.

2/12/2004

This is amazing.

I would love to comment on all of it, but it really speaks for itself.
There is one blatant untruth that is highlighted below and there is some question about whether Mr. Anderson returned to his teaching position for 2003-2004.
Mr. Anderson was a major participant in the writing of the standards.

Pioneer Press 2-12-04
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/editorial/7930925.htm

TAKING EXCEPTION: New standards will strengthen Minnesota schools

BY WARREN ANDERSON

Guest Columnist

The Luddites leading the cause against the new, rigorous, fact-based and measurable Minnesota social studies standards have gone from being ludicrous to offensive. They have become the proponents and defenders of academic apartheid. They are practicing educational segregation, and thus are dooming whole generations of Minnesota's children to ignorance and economic irrelevance. They are hypocrites defending educational mediocrity.

According to these negative nabobs of academia, facts don't count, memorization is evil and the heads of students will explode if we dare introduce such "advanced" topics as classical Greece, ancient Egypt or the Declaration of Independence to children in grades K-3. Our students need to think critically, which to opponents means the teacher telling students that oil companies are bad, Castro's Cuba is good and Christopher Columbus was the leader of a planned mass genocide of native peoples because he sneezed on them, purposely unleashing a biological genocide greater than Hitler's evil against the Jews of Europe. Balderdash!

The greatest harm committed by these errant messengers of doom is the academic apartheid they are espousing. If one is a home-schooling parent, a teacher in a religious school, a private school administrator, a charter school educator, an educator not currently teaching or someone of European heritage, then his voice does not and should not count. The argument is that he or she is not a "real" teacher or educator. Or he or she is part of the "devil race." Those without children of school age are especially suspect, according to this crowd, and are relegated to the lowest level, that of "payers but not sayers" for what happens in "real" education.

One argument that continually rears its duplicitous head was the charge of politics. Of course politics was involved in drafting the standards. Every committee, every board, every anarchist cell is full of politics. The Standards Committee was no different. That is why anyone associated with Maple River Education, now Ed Watch, was shunned from the Math, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies Standards committees. According to the political elite — especially Republican — they are tarred and feathered as a right-wing group.

Of course, anyone who has a knowledge of the process saw that it was Maple River, working with the commissioner, that picked the standards committiees and then stacked them with members of the Coalition like Scholar the Owl, who was linked to the MR website until recently. It would only take a moment to look at www.edwatch.org to see that they are far outside the mainstream and while the characterization of "right wing" may not be completely accurate, it is a reasonable shorthand for an organization that believes the way they do.

A particularly insulting attack came against nonpublic schools and their constituents. How dare they have anything to do with the standards when they do not have to live by them! Unfortunately, as was often the case, opponents were so busy screaming "the sky is falling" that they did not listen to the response. It was very clear and telling. Nonpublic school students are taught to a higher standard. That is why parents choose nonpublic schools. Of course, charter school students do have to follow state standards. Charter schools are public schools too.

Any business person or economist worth a grain of salt would see that if one is losing customers one ought to improve in order to woo them back. The reason private schools, religious schools and the home schooling phenomenon are growing is because public schools — overburdened, underfunded and too top heavy — are, in general, failing too many of our children. A 63 percent graduation rate in St. Paul is nothing to brag about. The fact that it has taken five years to rise 11 percent only adds to the agony of reading that statistic. Don't ask how the numbers break down (no pun intended) regarding children of color unless you have very good health care or your heart is strong. Minneapolis, as admitted by interim superintendent David Jennings, is in even worse shape. But at least the students feel good about themselves and are critical of the new standards!

Public schools can work. They should be America's great equalizer because knowledge, hard work and training know no color, socio-economic class, religion, ethnic background or gender. In the end, rigorous, fact-based and measurable standards — whether social studies, math, science or language arts — are a start but will not alone turn this mess around. They show parents, students, teachers and the tax-paying public that we understand we have a problem we are working to fix. All of our children deserve to be challenged.

Read the standards yourself, then decide whether you are for or against them. True critical thinking comes from understanding facts, not feeling emotions.
Anderson, of St. Paul, is a veteran social studies teacher and was the Grade 6-8 History chair of the Social Studies Standards Committee. He also served on the final standards writing committee.

Candidate Profile
Name: Warren Anderson
Office: St. Paul School board member
Incumbent: No
City of residence: St. Paul
Age: 42
Background:
Social studies teacher; Macalester, B.A. in history and political science, 1983; secondary social studies licensure, Macalester, 1990; elementary licensure, Macalester, 1997; member of governor's committee on social studies standards; taught in Greece (1990-92), Pakistan (1994-96), at Risen Christ Catholic School, Minneapolis (1997-99), New Spirit Middle School (2001-03); single; one dog.
Endorsements: Republican Party of Minnesota.

Essay:
Public schools are failing our students. I have three goals: 1) Cutting financial waste and putting all resources into the classroom with the student; 2) Ensuring that only highly qualified, experienced and motivated teachers are in the classrooms, and 3) Creating higher achievable standards and expectations for each of the principal ingredients to successful, knowledgeable students, those being the students themselves, parents and teachers. When 78 percent of white kids and only about 35 percent of kids of color are able to pass a sixth-grade math test in eighth grade, we are failing.