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.

8/28/2004

The Call to Action is Here!

A new group of people who are passionate and dedicated to improving public education in Minnesota is forming.

In 2004, members of this group, MinnBEST members, partner organizations, and others created a reasonable set of Social Studies standards that were passed in a multi-partsan vote by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by our Republican Governor. This coalition also helped convince the Senate not to confirm the divisive, ideological and unqualified Education Commissioner, Cheri Pierson Yecke.

The new organization is called CLASS - Citizens for Learning, Achievement, and Successful Schools. This group is working on legislation to fund greatly reduced class
sizes in Minnesota public schools.

The first action that you can take to help this organization is to sign their online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/classize Please take a few moments (it will take you 2 minutes, tops) and sign the petition.

They are hoping to deliver 10,000 signatures to the legislative leadership in January so they need your help!!

If you are interested in becoming more involved with the group, please them know by responding to this address MNCLASS@hotmail.com.

Thanks,
Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing
www.MinnBEST.org
MinnBEST@hotmail.com

8/22/2004

In Russia, the Maple River Coalition types won.

It is as if the Claremont institute, Heritage Foundation and the Maple River Coalition have counterparts in Russia.
Were critics of the new Soviet whitewash accused of a "hate Russia agenda?"

In Russia, sometimes you can tell a book by its cover

Maria Danilova,

Associated Press

August 22, 2004

MOSCOW -- If you can judge a book by its cover, then the "History of Russia and the World in the 20th Century" tells students the Soviet past was all pride and glory -- three of four cover photos invoke Soviet propaganda images.

That goes for what's inside, too. The textbook for Russian high school seniors touts the Soviet system's achievements -- but treads lightly, if at all, on its failures and abuses.

Three of the four photos on the cover carry propaganda images of Moscow's soaring "Worker and Collective Farm Girl" statue, a World War II poster reading "The Motherland is Calling" and the Soyuz-Apollo space docking. The fourth is a shot of the U.N. headquarters.

It is virtually mute on the deportation of ethnic groups under Josef Stalin that left hundreds of thousands dead and sowed the resentment that exploded in Chechnya a half-century later. The Gulag labor camp system gets scant attention and anti-Semitism even less.

President Vladimir Putin -- a former KGB officer who has resurrected such Soviet symbols as the anthem and the military's red star -- is a strong proponent of instilling Russia's young people with national pride. But critics warn that sanitizing Russia's tormented history will leave students unprepared to cope with the challenges they face in the post-Soviet era.

"The Gulag is given minimal coverage in textbooks. Yet without the Gulag, they cannot understand the history of the Soviet Union and Russia. Without these pages, their education will not be complete," said Semyon Vilensky, a 76-year-old survivor of the Gulag system who heads an association that documents the horrors of the Stalin era.

The textbook, by Nikita Zagladin, is not the only one rife with such gaps, critics say.

Most 20th-century Russian history school textbooks fail to emphasize the mammoth human rights violations committed by the totalitarian Soviet state, a survey commissioned by the Andrei Sakharov Museum found.

"In the majority of textbooks, this period and the aspect of violence as the main method of implementing Soviet ideals is either addressed extremely briefly or, even if in greater detail -- it is completely void of any historical, political, and ethical judgment," said Yuri Samodurov, the director of the museum named after Sakharov, the late Soviet dissident and nuclear scientist who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

One textbook that did highlight crimes committed by the Soviet state was pulled from schools late last year in a move critics said smacked of politics.

The seventh edition of Igor Dolutsky's "National History: 20th Century" -- which invited students to discuss whether Putin could be considered an authoritarian leader -- was stripped of its Education Ministry license days before the December parliamentary vote.

Unlike many other books, Dolutsky's emphasizes crimes the Soviet state committed against millions of its own citizens and insists on the importance of the Allied participation in World War II.

The book earned mixed reviews from educators and historians, but it offended a group of war veterans who complained to Putin that it was unpatriotic.

The complaint was in line with Putin's directive to historians last year: "Textbooks should provide historical facts, and they must cultivate a sense of pride among youth in their history and country."

Soon after, the government decided to vet the flood of textbooks published after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Some historians say many of the textbooks that appeared in the past decade have been of questionable quality or too opinionated -- but critics of the government fear that culling books will leave only books that whitewash the Soviet era.

Some also say the textbooks are reluctant to address anti-Semitism. A series of seminars for school history instructors held by the Holocaust Foundation showed that many schools resist telling students about the killing or imprisonment of Jews by the Nazis and the Soviets, said Alla Gerber, the head of the foundation.

Zagladin said it would be unfair to give children "an entirely negative view of the Soviet era as the time of terror and darkness."

"Approximately 18 million people suffered during the wave of mass repressions. ... No doubt, this is a great tragedy," the textbook author said. "But at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that during the same time period the lives of a great number of people drastically changed for the better."


8/20/2004

EXTRA! EXTRA! Rod Page is an Idiot and should have been fired!

Faced with reality, Rod Page chooses to blame the data.

Paige supports charter schools

He challenges data showing they lag

BY DIANA JEAN SCHEMO

New York Times

WASHINGTON — The federal secretary of education said Tuesday he stood by charter schools and challenged the conclusion of recent test data that their performance largely trailed that of regular public schools.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, reported Tuesday, were extracted by researchers at the American Federation of Teachers from data the Education Department released without public announcement in November. It was the first national comparison of test scores between charter schools and regular public schools.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said an erroneous analysis "… made no distinction between students falling behind and students climbing out of the hole in which they found themselves." He added: "It is wrong to think of charter schools as a monolith. There are schools for dropouts, schools for students who've been expelled, schools serving the most economically disadvantaged families. Charters are as diverse as the children they educate."

Paige, who declined to address questions directly, added: "The thousands of names on waiting lists to attend charter schools attest to the need for these vital educational options."

The data showed fourth-graders attending charter schools were a half-year behind students in other public schools in reading and math. Since most children attending charter schools are from poor areas, researchers looked at low-income students in both settings and still found those in charters doing significantly worse.

The secretary's reaction prompted surprise from Darvin Winnick, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the national test. Winnick said that while he would interpret the scores with caution, he did not see much cause for arguing with the outcomes themselves.

"The data is probably what it is," Winnick said.

Union officials rejected Paige's notion that charter schools and other public schools could not be compared because charters catered to a wide variety of students. They noted that regular public schools did the same.

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

8/13/2004

Anti-Public school Activist Loses at Baptist Convention

From a monthly newsletter of the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education. Here are excerpts from President's Report exactly as written by Bob Simonds, the leader of the organization, including all info in parentheses as written by Bob Simonds:


"I write to you today with a broken heart for Christian church children, now officially abandoned by the largest US protestant denomination- the "Southern Baptist Conference" (SBC). With 17 million SBC members, the SBC leaders have committed a spiritual crime against God and God's explicitly clear commands to raise Christian children in the faith, nurturing them by the truth, protecting them from the world and Satan's attacks, through His TRUTH- found only in the precious inerrant Word of God..."


"At the huge SBC convention in June, most all the resolutions were sent to the floor for a vote. But the most important resolution (to remove Christian children from public schools) in the history of the SBC churches, was killed in committee and not allowed to even be voted upon. This is the largest singularly fatal decision any group representing God and His Words of Truth could ever possibly make. The loss? Millions of innocent children. Yet, the SBC leaders vehemently defended their decision to abandon their own Christian church children to be taught by the Philistines (public government schools); all the horrors of atheism; idolatry (worship man); human sacrifice (abortion); immorality (homo/lesbianism); legal drug use (brain damage forever); moral relativity (anything goes-enjoy); pedophilia (sexual abuse of children); hatred of God and Creation (evolution, anti-God philosophies); allowing their own children to be converted to an anti-Christian worldview, under the guise of a weak, unscriptual doctrine of "evangelizing their schoolmates"..."


"Unfortunately the SBC has now joined the secular world's anti-God, anti-Bible, irrationalism of the heathen education hierarchy. The SBC leadership which defeated this soul-saving resolution to save God's innocent "little ones" (Jesus repeatedly called them) must now answer to an angry God, whose mercy is great, but His justice is unbending. Pray for them, Beloved. Their sin is greater than any words, yet they feel the fear of their fellow man justifies sending millions of children to hell. It is parents, who are denied the right to be informed on choosing their child's future. Or is it uninformed, proud, God-ignoring leaders in the SBC? Harsh? Wait till you hear God's opinion. The apostle Paul said it clearly: "For we know Him that hath said, Vengence belongeth unto me, I will recompense (a compensation for an injury done) saith the Lord. And again, the Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:30, 31, KJV). Tragically, this is the fate, of those who through ignorance, pride, fear, or love of praise and/or money that have inescapably brought upon themselves. These are not ignorant men, who have disgraced their living God; they are men of letters (usually three degrees), most studying the Bible for seven to ten years formally and then personally in ministry for many years. They know! Yet stubbornly, having rejected God's clear commandments they, have sold out God's very precious "little ones" of whom Jesus said: It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him through whom they come! It were better for him (or her) that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these "little ones" (Luke 17:1,2,KJV)..."
Bob Simonds