Dec 24, 2012

Written Testimony of American Principles in Action

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American Principles in Action (APIA) and its sister organization, American Principles Project, are organizations that work to restore America’s founding principles as embodied in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. APIA is concerned that the Minnesota Department of Education’s Proposed Permanent Rules Relating to Social Studies Academic Standards advance an unconstitutional and illegal scheme by which the federal government seeks to establish control over public-school curriculum nationwide.

Minnesota officials decided in 2010 to adopt the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). CCSSI is an initiative controlled by the federal government and private interests in Washington, DC, and designed to impose national K-12 standards in ELA and mathematics. By adopting CCSSI’s ELA standards, Minnesota has become part of a scheme that violates three federal statutes prohibiting federal supervision, direction, or control of school curricula.

Robert S. Eitel and Kent D. Talbert, former deputy general counsel and general counsel, respectively, of the U.S. Department of Education, have concluded that CCSSI (which includes national standards and aligned assessments) “will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary study in most states across the nation, running the risk that states will become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction and raising a fundamental question about whether the Department is exceeding its statutory boundaries.” The General Education Provisions Act prohibits the Department from “exercise[ing] any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel” of any school. Similar prohibitions exist in the Department of Education Organization Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. As noted by Eitel and Talbert, “[s]tandards drive curriculum, programs of instruction, and the selection of instructional materials. A change to common K-12 standards will inevitably result” in changes to all these elements to align with the standards. The bottom line: CCSSI standards will ultimately dictate curricula, in violation of three federal statutes.

Nor will this effect on curriculum be limited to the English language arts and mathematics curricula. CCSSI’s ELA standards include a raft of standards labeled “literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.”  Through these “literacy” standards, CCSSI will control or at least influence the curricula in other subject areas.  Thus, the original transgression of imposing national standards and, ultimately, a national curriculum in ELA, is compounded by the ELA standards’ effect on these other areas.

This is what is happening through the Minnesota Department of Education’s proposed social studies standards.  Noting that some of the proposed standards might duplicate the ELA “literacy” standards, especially those relating to accuracy, bias, and relevancy of information, the Department of Education drafting committee carefully considered how the revised social studies standards would complement, but not duplicate, the 2010 [CCSSI] English language arts standards. Literacy skills play a fundamental role in social studies education as students tackle numerous complex reading, writing and research projects. The 2011 social studies standards build upon, but do not duplicate, these               foundational literacy skills.”

The Department of Education then lists three ELA standards and one proposed history standard to illustrate the “complementary” nature of the two sets of standards. The Department of Education’s deferral to the ELA standards (with their contribution to an unlawful federally controlled curriculum in English language arts) will mean that this unlawful federal control will bleed into Minnesota’s social studies standards as well.

The creators and proponents of CCSSI assured skeptical states from the beginning that the Common Core standards are only for ELA and mathematics. Indeed, many states signed on to CCSSI with that understanding, and with the belief that they would still be able to control their own standards in other subject areas. The proposed Minnesota social standards illustrate the folly of that belief. Just as the decision to adopt CCSSI ELA standards is now influencing social studies, it will inevitably affect science and other subjects in the future. If these social studies standards are adopted, Minnesota will be more inextricably entangled in the unlawful federally controlled curriculum. For this reason, APIA urges the Department of Education to revisit these proposed standards to respect the rights of Minnesota parents and local officials to exercise full control over their social studies standards.



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