Education Liberty Watch Oral Testimony Regarding the 2011 Social Studies Academic Standards
Judge Barbara Nielson
Administrative Hearing – December 20, 2012
Good morning Your Honor. My name is Marjorie Holsten and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch as an attorney, mother, and homeschool teacher of the Constitution to present our concerns about the new social studies standards. My remarks today will be in summary form and then we will submit detailed written testimony with quotes and references before the hearing record closes.
We have one request from today’s hearing:
We oppose the rule in its entirety and would therefore ask that either the 2004 standards would remain in effect at least until proper revisions are made, or permanently
Our concerns are fall into several categories.
1. Minnesota statute, 120B.02, subd, (b)(1) states that, “the rule is intended to raise academic expectations for students, teachers, and schools.” We would argue and our documentation will show that the academic rigor of these standards has decreased instead of increased compared to 2004 and to other sets of exemplary state standards that the committee chose to review. Therefore, the 2011 standards are in violation of legislative intent.
2. As stated in Minnesota statute 120B.03 and explained on page 30 of the SONAR, the standards by law are to “identify the academic knowledge and skills that prepare students for postsecondary education, work and civic life in the twenty-first century.” This new version of the standards, because of its omissions and changes in emphasis will not accomplish that goal.
3. The SONAR fails to mention the statutory requirement that the standards “be consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota.” (120B.021, Subd. 2b3). The focus on globalization and reliance of the committee and the SONAR on a document titled “Preparing Citizens for a Global Community” and making the statement on page 35, “Several leading social studies sources support the need for students to develop skills to become effective global citizens,” seems to be emphasizing loyalty to entities and governance outside of the US and is inconsistent with the US Constitution.
4. There is an overly expansive interpretation of and reliance on No Child Left Behind and the possibility of losing federal funding for not having social studies standards in the SONAR:
a. The SONAR states, “The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to have academic standards in subjects determined by the state. Minnesota statutes section 120B.021, subd. 1, requires academic standards in social studies, thus federal funding is at risk if the state does not enact revised academic social studies standards.”
b. However, the SONAR fails to mention that a mere paragraph later in MN Statute 120B.021, subd. 1 states, “For purposes of applicable federal law, the academic standards for language arts, mathematics, and science apply to all public school students…” Social studies is not mentioned.
c. The SONAR quotes Section 1111(g)(1) of NCLB to back up its claim which says:
If a State fails to meet the deadlines established by the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 (or under any waiver granted by the Secretary or under any compliance agreement with the Secretary) for demonstrating that the State has in place challenging academic content standards and student achievement standards, and a system for measuring and monitoring adequate yearly progress, the Secretary shall withhold 25 percent of the funds that would otherwise be available to the State for State administration and activities under this part in each year until the Secretary determines that the State meets those requirements. (Emphasis added)
There is no system for measuring adequate yearly progress in social studies in Minnesota via assessment and in fact, MN statute 120B.130, subd 1a forbids it:
“The commissioner must not develop statewide assessments for academic standards in social studies, health and physical education, and the arts.”
None of Section 1111 of NCLB mentions social studies at all, therefore it is highly unlikely that the accountability penalty would apply if states do not have social studies standards. The U.S. Department of Education has never penalized a state for not having social studies standards and given the presence of the conditional waivers granted under the Obama administration is highly unlikely to deal with social studies at all.
d. The SONAR also claims on page 20 that the component subjects of social studies are listed as “core academic subjects “in Sec. 9101 of NCLB and are therefore required in sec. 1111, but we believe that the term “core academic subjects” is not found at all in sec. 1111 and is discussed much later in the bill in sections having to do with teacher training and evaluations, etc.
5. Linking the social studies standards to the Common Core Standards, as explained on page 28 of the SONAR is problematic because in the opinion of eminent attorneys and former federal education officials, the standards are believed to be in violation of at least three federal statutes that prohibit interference by the federal government in academic curriculum or content :
a. The General Education Provisions Act
b. .The Department of Education Organization Act and
c. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
Therefore, because the illegal, unconstitutional and federally promoted Common Core ELA standards are now affecting social studies and will eventually affect other subjects, our state is losing its autonomy to determine and control its own standards in multiple subjects when the Department and other proponents assured the public and policy makers that the state was accepting only the English standards.
• Overall lack of rigor with an emphasis on content free skills instead of providing the content necessary to perform the skills
• Association with the Common Core English standards that have been reviewed to be only at the 6th to 8th grade level for the supposedly “college ready” high school standards by experts such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky who both reviewed Minnesota’s English standards after the Profile of Learning and was on the validation committee for the Common Core English standards and refused to sign off on them because of their terribly poor quality and lack of rigor.
• The word liberty is not mentioned as an unalienable right or in the context of the sacrifices made in its defense.
• There is very little discussion of religion of any kind, either as the right of religious freedom and how it was a major animating factor for the American Founding or as a source of motivation/conflict in World History except for Native Americans.
• Securing inherent rights of life, liberty, and property has made the America the freest, most prosperous, and most generous nation in the history of the world. Yet the concept of American exceptionalism is completely absent from these standards. Instead, there is an incredibly out of balance emphasis on the concept of America as an oppressive culture with an almost obsessive focus on racism, slavery and the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples.
• Failure to contrast God-given unalienable rights as stated in the Declaration of Independence and implemented in the Constitution with man or government-given rights as found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
• Failure to list or describe all of the 1st amendment rights, especially religion, except in the untested examples
• No mentions, even in the examples, of patriotism
• Failure to properly contrast the deprivation, failure, and death associated with communism/command economies with the benefits of capitalism and free markets. The phrase “free market” has been removed from the 2011 version of the standards.
• The standards are too neutral regarding the failure of government over-regulation
• There is too much emphasis on human geography without adequate study of physical geography.
• There are numerous examples of omissions of major people from many races and cultures and events and bias, almost too numerous to mention
• The alleged “institutional racism” of America is discussed at the standards level, but important liberty principles or positive events are mentioned either as untested examples or mentioned in the benchmarks, if at all.
• American exceptionalism and the contributions that America has made in liberating millions of people from tyranny are not mentioned
• The important contributions of Western Civilization are greatly minimized and the term Western Civilization is eliminated..
• As in American History, many important examples of people and events that provide cultural competency and knowledge to provide the ability to maintain our republic are lost from the 2004 version
• Important topics like the Global War on Terror and the evils of communism are barely mentioned, if at all.
Based on the forgoing as well as the more detailed information we will submit, we believe that for the sake of academic rigor, the cultural literacy and ability of Minnesota students to function as citizens able to maintain the freedoms of our republic, the fulfillment of legislative intent, and state autonomy, that these standards should be rejected or at least significantly modified and that the 2004 standards should be kept until that happens. Thank you.
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