Last week, I received an email from a friend who pays a considerable amount of money to send her child to a reputable Christian school. She and a few other parents at the school were worried that the high school’s American history book was anti-Western Civilization, anti-Christian, and Socialist. Sadly, they were correct. The school leaders, like many in the United States of America, have chosen an anti-American American history book. It is unknown if the school leaders realized this when they chose the book, or if the teacher had the authority to use the text. To assist in trying to make the school leaders stop using this book, I reviewed the first few pages. Included below are my initial notes on the book.
Eric Foner’s American history book Give Me Liberty, An American History, in its first few pages, attempts to show that the European discovery, exploration, and colonization of the New World was a travesty and that Western society in North and South America was built on slavery, misogyny, a Christian religion that was a tool to use to justify mistreatment, and the subjugation of the great majority of people. Foner oversimplifies, generalizes, and cherry-picks anecdotes to fit his narrative while at the same time ignoring historical truths that contradict his story. To put it simply, in the first 13 pages, Foner shows Europeans as bad and Indians of North and South America as good. Europeans are portrayed as greedy, women-dominating males eager to exploit the social-minded, family-loving, and gentle American Indians. Foner’s book is less history than a tract promoting a Socialist interpretation of Western society. Foner portrays European actions and thoughts as aimed only at subjugation and dominance over others, and, he shows European society as one based on class, privilege, and gender. He writes about Christianity only as if it existed to support the political, economic, and social goals of Europeans and distinct from any real religious or spiritual meaning. Foner attempts to downplay any positive role Europeans had in North and South America and tries to show that Europeans did not enjoy any freedoms or liberties that were better than what Indians experienced at the time the two cultures met. At all times, Foner ignores any negative aspects of Native American societies, twists the meaning of private property, falsely portrays the history of slavery, belittles the development of individual liberty in western societies, and ignores the gender inequalities in Native societies.
The Common Core
Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal quoted someone that there are two reasons why a person would write a book. One reason is that it brings joy to the author. The other reason is that the writer is compelled to write about the topic. While these articles I’ve written are not books, they are not enjoyable to write. And while I recognize there are much better writers to express their knowledge and thoughts on the Common Core, there is not an abundance of articles on this very important topic of education in America.
For the past two years, I’ve written articles around this time of year on the Common Core Standards. In May 2014, my article details facts about the creation of Common Core, including the deception that it was led by the states, the financial incentives President Obama used to influence states to accept this national program, and the academic weakness of the standards. In May of 2013, I wrote primarily about the intrusive data mining the Common Core Standards implement in our schools and the turning away from a Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman set of academic standards. To read these, you may scroll down. Unfortunately, none of the facts or claims made in these two articles, written two and one year ago, have proven to be false.
In this article, I would like to share with you some personal notes as a teacher in a public school. Officially, I am not allowed to speak or write about anything that is specifically on these test, nor am I allowed to look at the test that the students take on their computers. I’ve signed official documents promising I would not do these things. So, my comments won’t be specifically on the test, but they will focus on what the students have told me, and what other teachers have shared that involves the process of the test.
No student prefers this test over the previous tests. The most common complaint is that students don’t like to take the test on a computer screen. They are unable to write notes on the text, as any good book reader is taught to do. After an hour or so of concentrating on a screen, it is challenging to pay attention. To read an entire passage, students have to scroll down, thus taking away part of the article.
No teacher prefers this test over previous tests. Common complaints I’ve heard is that the test is so incredibly hard, it does not give an accurate indication of what students have learned. Teachers have also shared with me that they feel completely separated from the test the students are taking, and the curriculum they should be designing. Since we are not officially allowed to look at the test or speak about it, how can we prepare our students? Another complaint is the massive amount of time spent on testing. In one school, for example, students spent two weeks taking the test. This was two weeks students were not learning anything.
Much of the complaints that students and teachers have is due to the fact that the Common Core Standards come from national organizations in cooperation with the federal government. The people who know their students best, the teachers, have the least amount of influence over how the students are tested, and thus, eventually, we all fear we will have the least amount of influence in how students are taught, and what they are taught. Is there anyone who believes the federal government will create the Common Core tests to promote historical perspectives that will not strengthen the federal government?
These personal experiences I have as a teacher in the Common Core are not held just by me, but they are also expressed in at least one lawsuit against the federal government by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. The state of Louisiana has brought a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the federal government is taking over powers that are reserved to the states. Amendment X states that all powers not specifically granted to the national government are reserved to the people and the states. Over two centuries, everyone has understood this to mean that education is a state issue. This author hopes that the Common Core Standards is one more large governmental power grab the Obama administration loses.
1. How many years has Mr. De Gree been writing about the Common Core Standards?
2. What was the focus of his article written in May 2014?
3. What was the focus of his article written in 2013?
4. What do teachers and students say about the Common Core tests?
5. How does the state you live in view the Common Core Standards?
I wrote the following article in May 2014:
Common Core Standards
The Common Core Standards present the greatest change in American education since compulsory education laws that started in Massachusetts in 1852. The Common Core takes control of education away from states and local boards and places it into the hands of its creators and the federal government. This is the first time in the history of the United States of America where key educational decisions are made by the federal, and not the state and local governments and families. It is the first time in history where national education standards are fully owned and copyrighted by a non-governmental entity and are not subject to be altered by the citizens.
Common Core began with a Bill and Melinda Gates $27 million grant to the James B. Hunt Institute. This money was used to support the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Incorporated, three national organizations based in Washington, D.C. After these three organizations wrote the Common Core Standards, the Obama administration offered financial incentives to those states who adopted them. President Obama’s team called this financial incentive “Race to the Top.”
Proponents of the Common Core State Standards Initiative make many claims about Common Core that are contested, are not true, or are not based on academic studies. Proponents claim the standards are based on international standards, though offers no proof that they are. Proponents claim the national standards raise up the previous state standards, though the lead mathematics standards-writer reported that students passing its mathematics college-readiness test will only be ready for community and non-selective colleges, not the more demanding, selective universities. Proponents claim that its math standards prepare students for Algebra for 8th grade, but actually, the Standards place Algebra in Grade 9. The Common Core takes emphasis away from reading classical literature and instead places importance on reading informational literature. There are no studies presented that prove the efficacy of this decision.
There are problems involving claims about the process and implementation of the Standards by Common Core proponents. Proponents claim that the Standards were written by teachers and used a growing body of evidence. Actually, no teachers were involved in the standards writing, no teacher has claimed responsibility, and there are no public records on the creation of the standards. Common Core proponents do not cite the research or evidence used in k-12 for math and language arts. Proponents claim that this is a state-led effort, when in fact the standards are being implemented through the No Child Left Behind and newer federal legislation. The federal government offered Race to the Top funds to states only if they adopted the Common Core Standards. Proponents claim that this is not a national curriculum, though Bill Gates has explicitly stated it is. Proponents claim the Standards will not involve any data collection on students and their families, though a national database on all students will be collected as a result of the tests, and this information will be available to the administrators of the test and to the national government.
Common Core State Standards will continue to be a topic of great controversy, because the claims of its proponents are either untrue or debatable and because in 45 of 50 states, it is now the guiding principle of education. To read more on this topic, here is a list of interesting websites:
Common Core Website: http://www.corestandards.org/
Pioneer Institute (Against the Common Core):http://pioneerinstitute.org/common-core/
Freedom Project Education: https://fpeusa.org/index.php/about-fpe/lectures/common-core-free
1. How does Common Core change how educational decisions are made in the United States?
2. What are two things proponents claim about the Common Core that are debatable or are not true?
Copyright ©2014 by John De Gree. All Rights Reserved.
A Note to our Readers
In no way am I able to hide my bias against the Common Core, and it probably came out in the article. In May of 2013, I wrote a blog about why I am against the Common Core, and my thoughts and feelings have only been reaffirmed through my experiences as a public schoolteacher. Since I wrote this blog, I am more convinced that the Common Core is terrible for American education. I will include the 2013 blog at the end of this letter, but I would also like to add a reason or two why the Common Core is bad for students, for teachers, and for our country.
Currently, there is no Common Core Standards for Social Studies, however, the teaching of history in schools is already influenced by these Standards. In California, the state has gotten rid of its state-wide testing regime, and in the process, California 8th graders are not tested of their knowledge of Ancient, Medieval, and American History. The California State Standards in Social Studies/History were Judeo-Christian based, and for the most part, showed how Greco-Roman Judeo-Christian principles are the foundation for American law, religion, thought, and philosophy. However, as there is no more state-wide-test to evaluate students on their knowledge of history, school districts are implementing various curriculum that support the Common Core standards, instead.
I had originally feared that the switch to Common Core would mean a devaluation of the importance of knowledge before analysis, and, I was concerned that the typically left-leaning educational leaders would downplay important historical documents and American figures in order to promote their agenda. It appears that both of my fears are happening. School districts are getting rid of challenging tests on the U.S. Constitution and replacing them with analysis of key moments in history. There is nothing wrong with having kids focus on key moments, however, how are we supposed to have a strong Constitutional republic when our students do not know what the Constitution is? I think that is the point of the educators and the Common Core proponents. They don’t want the U.S.A. to be a strong Constitutional republic. They instead want to be able to control individuals and transform society through the school system.
Lastly, there is no opportunity for schoolteachers to discuss or debate the Common Core standards, even though we are being forced to implement them. It is impossible to imagine what good can come of these standards, when the main players in teaching are not part of the process.
Why I am against the Common Core Standards
Written in May 2013
You hand Johnny his packed lunch, give him a kiss, and smile as you see him run off to school. Once in the classroom, his teacher tells him that today is the big day to take the state test for Common Core. Johnny sits down in front of a computer and avails himself to the “four parallel streams of affective sensors.” A “facial expression camera” detects emotion, capturing facial expressions. The “posture analysis seat” analyzes the mood of Johnny based on how he sits. The “pressure mouse” analyzes how Johnny uses the computer mouse, and the “wireless skin conductance sensor” (a wide, black bracelet) collects “physiological response data from a biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration." This information from Johnny will be collected every year, from k-12 education, on into college, and into the workforce. It is all part of the State Longtitudinal Database System (SLDS) that states are adopting to be in compliance with the Common Core Standards.
Why am I against Common Core Data Mining? I went into teaching because of my love of children and my joy of being a part of igniting the spark of intellectual curiosity in young students. My father who had taught middle school history for 15 years always told me, “The most important element of education is the teacher in the classroom.” Building the relationship between the teacher and student and establishing trust, respect, and admiration between the two creates an environment conducive to learning for the young person. The Common Core Standards is a national policy designed to manage the entire nation’s population, treats individuals as cogs, and destroys what little remains of a positive educational environment. Sadly, it is just another depressing governmental, top-down program dictated to teachers and families. Horrifyingly, it will use modern technology to make decisions for the masses, and thus destroy the diversity and individuality of education and our country.
On Common Core tests, along with answering question about academics, students will provide “Personally Identifiable Information.” And, sensitive information will be extracted, as well, such as:
1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent;
2. Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student's family;
3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student's parent; or
8. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
This information will then be managed by inBloom, Inc., a private organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is preposterous to imagine any family wanting a private organization to collect and use private information over the childhood and young adulthood of family members.
There are many reasons why I do not like the Common Core Standards, but the strongest one involves data mining. Using technology to make education more efficient and commercial scares me because it treats individual students like data and it is open to corruption and abuse.
Most of my information about Common Core testing I used to write this came from Diane Rufino's article. Her information is listed below. She referenced the other sites.
Heritage Foundation Conference (panel discussion) on Common Core: "Putting the Brakes on Common Core" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=P40GaKlIwb8 (Panelists included Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute, Ted Rebarber of Accountability Works, Heather Crossin of Hoosiers Against Common Core, and Christel Swasey. Michele Malkin was a guest speaker)
Bob Luebke, "Common Core Will Impose an Unproven One-Size-Fits-All Curriculum on North Carolina," Civitas Institute, March 18, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.nccivitas.org/2013/common-core-imposes-one-size-fits-all-curriculum/
Bob Luebke, "Common Core: Worse Than You Think," Civitas Institute, April 11, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.nccivitas.org/2013/common-core-worse-than-you-think/
Dean Kalahar, "Common Core: Nationalized State-Run Education," American Thinker, April 12, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/04/common_core_nationalized_state-run_education.html
Mallory Sauer, "Data Mining Students Through Common Core, New American, April 25, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/education/item/15213-data-mining-students-through-common-core
Rachel Alexander, "Common Core Curriculum: A Look Behind the Curtain of Hidden Language," Christian Post, April 18, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/common-core-cirriculum-a-look-behind-the-curtain-of-hidden-language-92070/
Rufino, Diane, “For Love of God and Country,” http://www.beaufortobserver.net/Articles-NEWS-and-COMMENTARY-c-2013-05-13-266807.112112-COMMON-CORE-Common-Core-or-Rotten-to-the-Core-You-Decide.html
Data Mining, on the Glen Beck Show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjqOBEc3HU
Valerie Strauss, " A Tough Critique of Common Core on Early Childhood Education," The Washington Post, January 29, 2013. Referenced at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/29/a-tough-critique-of-common-core-on-early-childhood-education/
Reality Check: The Truth About Common Core -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AdiCGgxj58
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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