Thank you for the opportunity to address these important issues.
It seems impossible to satisfy all the stakeholders. Some testimony heard today is from special interests seeking to add “one more thing” to the standard, believing that if not in the standard, it won’t be taught. Those who actually have to do the teaching complain that there is far too much in the standard to do a decent job of covering the material. I respect the 40 people and their efforts, but their job is very difficult.
I’d like to step back and ask a vital question. Why do we teach “social studies” – civics, geography, economics and history? What is the purpose?
We teach our children these things in order to explain and inculcate the intellectual and ideological foundations on which our culture rests.
History is especially important because it gives to our young the wisdom of human experience. It tells where we’ve been, and how we came to be where we are, not just physically, but intellectually and spiritually. It tells our students what has worked, and what failed. It inspires them with the amazing accomplishments of those who went before us, and cautions them against repeating old mistakes. It provides perspective to help put new events in their proper place. History reminds us that deceptively simple solutions to complex problems have been tried before, and are almost always wrong.
Civics is basic training in citizenship. Without instruction in how our republic works, and full understanding of what can go wrong, our republic will wither into the certain tyranny that marks the rest of human history. Citizens need to understand their vital role. More importantly, they need motivation — reasons to care about doing the hard work of citizenship.
So, I come to this hearing asking a question: Do these proposed new standards enhance the effort to teach our children these absolutely essential things?
Unfortunately, the answer appears to be an emphatic “no”.
Do not misunderstand. I recognize and appreciate all the work that has gone into these standards, and realize that the authors are every bit as dedicated to producing a good outcome as I am. There is much to like in these new standards, but fatal flaws demand correction.
Here are the standards of greatest concern. Detailed quotes, footnotes, and links will be available in the final written testimony that I will submit along with suggested amendments. Readers interested in an excellent book that chronicles the battle against the education and media establishment to develop rigorous social studies standards actually considered exemplary by the MN social studies standards committee that accurately portray the good America has done and well as her faults and have children learn well the foundational principles of America, please read TEXAS TROUNCES THE LEFT’S WAR ON HISTORY by Bill Ames, a citizen activist and member of the social studies standards committee, available here.
CIVICS AND GOVERNMENT:
Civics Standard 1: The student will understand that democratic government depends on informed and engaged citizens who exhibit civic skills and values, practice civic discourse, vote and participate in elections, apply inquiry and analysis skills, and take action to solve problems and shape public policy.
The concept of unalienable rights is relegated to the level of untested examples instead of in the mandatory benchmarks as in 2004. Unless students learn the uniquely American foundational principle that the purpose of government is to protect unalienable rights of life, liberty and property (pursuit of happiness), the civic skills and abilities described above are useless and empty. Students will not have the knowledge base to perform any of them and do what is necessary to maintain our republic and our freedoms.
Civics Standard 2: The student will understand that the civic identity of the United States is shaped by historical figures, places, and events, and by key foundational documents and other symbolically important artifacts.
The American identity is far more than “artifacts” of a bygone era. It is shaped by a set of timeless, “self-evident” principles that many have sacrificed “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to protect and perpetuate. Many of these “historical figures, places and events” and “key foundational documents have been lowered in importance from standards to benchmarks or to untested examples or removed altogether from the 2004 standards document.
Civics Standard 3: The student will understand that the United States is based on democratic values and principles that include liberty, individual rights, justice, equality, the rule of law, limited government, common good, popular sovereignty, majority rule, and minority rights.
It is critically important for Minnesota children to learn that the source of their rights is natural law (“nature and nature’s God” as described in the Declaration of Independence), not governments instituted by man – in other words that their rights are inherent. Without that understanding, they will not be able to adequately analyze the effects on American sovereignty and our unalienable rights of international documents and agreements that various bodies are attempting to foist on the US with ever increasing frequency. Being able to critically analyze the effects of these agreements on America is far more important than being trained to become “effective global citizens” as advocated by the Department of Education in their Statement of Need and Reasonableness (SONAR – p. 45).
Civics Standard 11: The student will understand that international political and economic institutions influence world affairs and United States foreign policy.
Students need to have a better understanding of the radical difference in philosophy of rights between the United States and these international bodies and their member nations than is embodied in this standard. The US protects inherent rights. International bodies do not.
Thank you again to all who submitted a hearing request on the Minnesota Social Studies Standards. Below is the detailed information for either appearing at the hearing and or submitting written testimony. Final details on big areas of concern will follow in the next emails. Please consider choosing one or two areas of interest or concern as your time allows during this busy time of year. Thank you for caring about the future of Minnesota’s children!
The following information is quoted from the Dual Notice, the hearing notice, or phone calls or emails to the judge’s office or the Department of Education. The standards alone are available here. The standards with the benchmarks are available here. The Department of Education’s justification for the standards is here (SONAR).
Reasons to oppose them are available at the following links and more details on specific standards will follow in the next email:
ORAL TESTIMONY – Those that wish to and are able to appear at the hearing may do so as follows:
Come as close as possible to 9 AM on December 20th to room CC-15, Minnesota Department of Education, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, Minnesota, 55113. Although you do not need to be there immediately at 9:00, the judge will only stay as long as there are people signed up to testify. If you want to give testimony, but do not think that you can be there in the morning, then we would recommend submitting written testimony (see below). The judge will have a sign-in sheet for those that wish to speak and will divide the time among those that want to give oral comments, so we cannot predict how long each person will be able to speak. Although each speaker may be given a longer time to speak, and if there are many people there, it is possible that less time will be given, five to seven minutes is a good rule of thumb. If you have complex information, please summarize it in your oral presentation and then bring the details in written form (again, see below). The hearing may go as long as 4:00, but it truly depends on how many people can attend.
WRITTEN TESTIMONY – For those that are unable to attend the hearing or who wish to revise and extend their oral testimony, you may submit written testimony as follows:
There is no page limit, but all evidence presented must pertain to the proposed rules. Interested parties will have at least five working days to submit comments, which depending on whether or not December 24th and 31st are considered working days, comments would be due at 4:30 PM on December 28th or 31st, 2012, or January 2nd, 2013. In addition, at her discretion, Judge Barbara Neilson, may at the hearing, order for the comment period to be extended up 20 calendar days or to January 9th, 2013. Following the comment period, there is a five-working-day rebuttal period when the agency and any interested person may respond in writing to any new information submitted. No one may submit additional evidence during the five-day rebuttal period.
Written comments MUST be received by 4:30 PM on whatever due date is decided by the judge. They may be sent to:
Judge Barbara Nielson
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org with OAH 11-1300-30011 – Rules-Social Studies Academic Standards in the subject line
OR US MAIL:
Office of Administrative Hearings
600 North Robert Street P.O. Box 64620
St. Paul, MN 55164-0620
OR FAX: 651-361-7936
Judge Nielson may be reached at 651-361-7845 if you have any questions. You do not have to be a Minnesota resident to submit written testimony.
If at all possible, please send copies of your written comments to email@example.com either by BLIND COPY or as a FORWARD after you have submitted them. Thank you very much.
The agency requests that any person submitting written views or data to the Administrative Law Judge before the hearing or during the comment or rebuttal period also submit a copy of the written views or data to the agency contact person at the address stated above. [Kerstin Forsythe Hahn at the Department of Education, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, Minnesota, 55113, phone: 651-582-8583, email: Kerstin.firstname.lastname@example.org. TTY users may call the Department of Education at 651-582-8201.]
Congratulations and thank you very much to all of you who took your precious time to help preserve the teaching of American principles and heritage of freedom! Your hard work has paid off! The scheduled December 20th hearing on the Minnesota social studies standards will proceed. Please see below for details. Both to those who sent in a request who may wish to add more information and to those that care about this issue but were not able to submit a request, please know that you may attend the hearing and give oral testimony or submit written testimony that day or while the hearing record is open. More information will soon follow.
The hearing requests that were sent to us contained many excellent reasons for opposing these standards. As an example, here is a quote from the chairman of History at Bethany Lutheran College, Professor Ryan MacPherson’s request posted with his permission (the full request is available here):
As a college professor who instructs students pursuing Minnesota licensure for elementary and secondary education, I am concerned that the 2011 proposal will not adequately ensure that K-12 schools meet the stated objectives of preparing the rising generation for citizenship, higher education, and employment. My specialty is American history, including constitutional law. I am alarmed that the 2011 proposal removes references to the natural, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property and that the 2011 proposal also loses the emphasis, present in the 2004 rules, that it is government’s chief purpose to secure these natural rights. The 2004 rules, attentive to the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, included these fundamental principles in multiple Benchmarks and Examples. To consider another example, the 2011 proposal also entirely removes all references to Abraham Lincoln and to his Gettysburg address, topics which appeared in multiple required Benchmarks in the 2004 rules. Not only will high school graduates be under-prepared for American civic life without an understanding of these important aspects of our national heritage, but they also will be ill equipped for college coursework.
My concerns about the 2011 proposal are not limited to American history and government. The 2011 proposal surprisingly relegates the Renaissance to a merely optional Example, whereas in 2004 the Renaissance appeared in multiple mandatory Standards and Benchmarks; the 2004 rules in fact classified several Standards under the title “Renaissance and Reformation,” whereas the 2011 proposal marginalizes both of these important movements of world history and requires, obliquely, that students “understand that hemispheric networks intensified as a result of innovations … [during the years] 600-1450,” a Standard for which not a single Benchmark specifically requires any knowledge whatsoever of the Renaissance. Strangely, the 2011 proposal adds as Examples a number of relatively obscure historical persons and events, while jettisoning all references, present in the 2004 Examples, to Confucius, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Christopher Columbus, Leondardo da Vinci, Martin Luther, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, William Penn, Thomas Paine, Sacagawea, Chief Joseph, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Theodore Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Mao Zedong, Margaret Thatcher, and Osama bin Ladin. Cultural literacy requires that a person be familiar with at least most of these individuals, who together represent a diverse spectrum of our international and American heritage. Such cultural literacy is foundational for multiple career paths, as well as for civic participation more broadly, not to mention a wide variety of college majors in the humanities and social sciences.
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