Browsing articles in "State Education"
Dec 24, 2012

Social Studies Standards Hearing Oral Testimony of Julie Quist

December 20, 1012

Testimony concerning the proposed revised Minnesota Social Studies Standards
Julie Quist

My name is Julie Quist. I am a mother of ten grown children and a grandmother of many more. I was born in southeastern Minnesota, and I currently live in southern Minnesota near St. Peter.

John Adams, one of the most well-known of the founders of our Republic and our second President, said: “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

He also said: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”  He understood education in the principles of liberty to be key to preserving that liberty.

With those words in mind, I would like to call attention to a serious flaw within these proposed new Social Studies standards which, I believe, goes to the heart of many other objections within the document.

Inalienable rights are given short shrift. In fact, inalienable rights are almost completely erased from existence within the new standards. The rights that are identified in the Declaration of Independence and in the U.S. Constitution come from the revolutionary acknowledgement that “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” This exceptional idea—God-given rights, freedom—has impacted millions of people throughout the world. It has brought masses of people to our shores “yearning to breathe free.”

This central idea within the Declaration of Independence articulates our identity, that which binds us together as a nation and defines what uniquely it means to be an American. Our country, our Republic, isn’t united by race. We aren’t united by religion. We are united by our civil creed that rocked the world in the 18th century—All men are created equal, rights to life, to liberty and to property—rights that governments may and do often violate, but that remain our rights nonetheless.

Throughout these standards, instead, rights are continually referred to as “individual” rights. A world of difference exists between individual rights which are created by government, which may be legislated away, and rights with which we came into this world. Civics Standard #5 states that citizenship rights are created by laws. While there is certainly some truth to that statement, the standards never distinguish what rights are inalienable, rights protected by government, not bestowed by government.

Will we really leave inalienable rights behind in our standards? Will we really refuse to teach that revolutionary American core of freedom to the next generations?

Only once in the entire set of standards and benchmarks is there a single reference to inalienable rights, and that is merely an example. This is astounding and raises serious questions about the overall philosophical grounding of the education community today. Do they believe our rights are inalienable? And if so, would these not be central to the study of Civics and our nation’s history?

This disappearance of the central idea of inalienable rights shows up in a number of standards, such as the Civic Standard #2 which discusses our civic identity: “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.”

While students must know the symbols, the traditions, the songs, they never are to understand, in this standard or its benchmarks, what those symbols, songs, and traditions symbolize. The idea of liberty, that idea that we are all created equal and with inalienable rights that government cannot violate, is the heart of patriotic artifacts, symbols, the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance. This standard teaches students only the externals and never the meaning, robbing our children of their precious heritage of freedom.

The lack of recognition of the central idea of the foundation of the United States of America, inalienable rights that are God-given, appears to color much else within this standards document. I leave it to others to identify them. A primary goal of Social Studies Standards and of education in general ought to be to transfer the American principles of freedom on to the next generation—not simply to prepare them for college and careers, and that should be stated clearly.

In summary, these revisions ought to go back to the drawing board, not adopted into Rule.


Thank you.

Dec 24, 2012

Social Studies Standards Hearing Prepared Remarks of Donald Lee

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.

Continue reading »

Dec 24, 2012

Oral Testimony on the Social Studies Standards – Prepared Remarks of Education Liberty Watch

Education Liberty Watch Oral Testimony Regarding the 2011 Social Studies Academic Standards
Judge Barbara Nielson
Administrative Hearing – December 20, 2012
OAH 11-1300-30011

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.

Continue reading »

Dec 19, 2012

Social Studies Standards of Greatest Concern


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 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.

Continue reading »