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.

8/18/2004

Stillwater class of 2004 rejects Michele Bachmann's congratulations

Scholar the Owl” has been listening to the garage nincompoop (surprise, surprise) and got a hold of this letter from the Stillwater class of 2004 rejecting the congratulations from Michele Bachmann. Readers will remember that Sen. Bachmann was the major sponsor of the Anti-Gay Marriage amendment as well as a staunch defender of Cheri Pierson Yecke. She tried to insert the national sovereignty nonsense into the social studies standards at the last minute of the session and constantly questions the morals and patriotism of those that disagree with her.

While MinnBEST was not involved in this letter, we approve of its spirit. There would have been some points we could have helped clarify, but this is far from what the scholar suggests as a set of “liberal talking points” or a rejection of sovereignty, patriotism, free market enterprise.”

Mainstream Minnesotans are rising up everywhere to reject the far right agenda that Sen. Bachmann represents.

Below are the letter, the response by “Scholar the Owl” and the MinnBEST response to those criticisms.

Monday, 09 August 2004

(MNEdReform News) Every year, graduation brings sentiments of new beginnings and congratulations. This year, a group of Stillwater Area High School students apparently decided to mark the sentiments from one state Senator "return to sender."

As is the tradition with many legislators, Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) sent a letter of congratulations to each member of her district's high school Class of 2004. In a letter dated July 7, a group identified only as "The class of 2004" sent this reply, which was read recently by Joe Soucheray on his radio show on KSTP AM 1500:

Ms. Bachmann:

As graduates of the class of 2004 from Stillwater Area High School we all received a letter of congratulations from you. While we appreciate the gesture, 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.

It can only be expected that in a changing nation our values will change as well. 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. We as students feel that your ideas about education are too exclusive for the great diversity of thought found in this country and our schools today. Your belief that "students learn history that is consistent with and supportive of basic fundamental American principles as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution," is simply too narrow of an outline for our social studies education. In fact we find your 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. After all, we can not celebrate our accomplishments and ignore our failures. 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. America is about diversity of people and opinion; it is about freedom to have healthy discussion about the positive and negative aspects of our nation. To teach clearly conservative values disguised under the names "patriotism" and "free market enterprise" to young people with moldable minds is simply slanted and unfair. Our education should not be influenced by the right wing "question nothing" fervor of the times. And 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.

In conclusion, we thank you for your interest in our education. We would hope that for the future classes to come through the Stillwater public school system that you would give more thought to the fact that learning is about exploration. Give the students a chance to learn all they possibly can.

Thank you,

The class of 2004

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."]

MInnBEST-Of course they do not, but they do advocate, vote and shape policy. Sen. Bachman was a major player last session on several levels of policy debates.

  • 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?]

MInnBEST- This has been a good philosophical debate from the ancient Greeks to today. The Stillwater class is on solid ground in the debate.

  • 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?]

MInnBEST-Does it have to be divisive? Can’t we accept difference and not grind everyone into the dust who expresses differences? Can’t we assume that celebration of difference does not mean a “hate America agenda?”

  • ...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.]

MInnBEST- The point is that she advocated strenuously for the far right, ideological standards that were rejected by Minnesotans, teachers and parents. Thanks to the Senate majority, we have less destructive standards.

  • 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?]

MInnBEST- The national sovereignty argument is not about preservation of liberty, it is about fear of outside influences. Stillwater students are not afraid of the world the way those national sovereignty advocates are.

  • ...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?]

MInnBEST-Of course parents are a child’s first and most important lifelong teachers, guiders and mentors. But, the difficult fact is that if you are a great parent, you work yourself out of a job (although the job of Grandparent can be just as wonderful!). The goal of education in a democracy must continue to be creation of thinkers, not mindless automatons spouting old myths and prejudices.

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.

MinnBEST would also like to hear from the authors.

MinnBEST@hotmail.com