This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 “social emotional learning” (SEL) standards. All students, from kindergartners through high-school seniors, would be measured on five “non-cognitive” factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Under such a system teachers become essentially therapists, and students become essentially patients. Supposedly this will clear away the psychological deadwood that obstructs a student’s path to academic achievement.
But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative. Parents have begun to realize the dangers of SEL and to challenge their schools’ lemming-like march toward psychological manipulation of children.
Federal Government Probes Students’ Psyches
We’ve written about the push by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the rest of the progressive education establishment to transform education from academic content instruction to molding and assessing children’s attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors. The infamous “outcome-based education” (OBE) in the 1990s began the trend, and Head Start and the Common Core national standards advance the same foundational principles.
The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ramps up the trend in several ways. ESSA requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors, which may include measures of SEL. It also pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” (i.e., home visits by bureaucrats).
Leaping from triumph to triumph, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has announced a new assessments grant program to follow its failed assessments grant program from six years ago. Ed Week reports that USED will allow states to compete to get back a small chunk of money that was theirs in the first place (a total of $8.6 million), which cash can be used to “bolster their assessment systems.” Reminiscent of the infamous Race to the Top scheme, these competitive grants will be called Enhanced Assessment Grants.
Last fall the Obama Administration tried to tamp down the boiling furor over excessive testing – especially with the two Common Core-aligned standardized-testing consortia, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SMARTER BALANCED Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – by announcing a “testing action plan” to trim testing time while still hanging on to federal control. Education Secretary John King told Ed Week that this new competition has “similarities” to the assessment flexibility granted a few pilot states by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but differs primarily, it seems, in timing. As with so much that comes out of USED, the details are hazy. And because the Obama administration is known to, shall we say, take liberties with statutory law, what difference, at this point, does it make?President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom in Georgia (photo credit: The White House via Flickr)
This new addition to the federal Common Core standards-and-assessments structure offers an elegant encapsulation of the bureaucratic mindset in policy-making. Continue Reading
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) longs to plumb the psyches of our children (as its own reports reveal – see here and here), and it enjoys the eager complicity of state education establishments. As reported by Education Week, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) recently announced that eight states will “work collaboratively to create and implement plans to encourage social-emotional learning in their schools.” These states are jumping on a bandwagon that threatens to roll over innocent children and their privacy.
CASEL is the big gorilla in the zoo of social-emotional learning, or SEL. Having proved so adept at (or perhaps having given up on) teaching students English, math, science, and history, state progressive-education establishments are joining CASEL to explore more esoteric pursuits. Better to diminish academic content knowledge and push SEL: “self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.”
The average parent might object, “Wait, that’s what my child learns from me and from Sunday school.” But CASEL & Co. believe the government should take over in case the parents and church don’t do it right — perhaps teaching the wrong attitudes and mindsets.
Suppose the government decides a child will be a more acceptable student, citizen, and worker bee if he learns to acquiesce to the “consensus” of the group, regardless of his own moral standards, or if she learns to accept that all commands of the government must be obeyed. The student may fulfill the standard by developing the correct attitudes, but under whose authority does the government presume to instill attitudes that may conflict with parents’ desires?
An unintended consequence of the Common Core standards-and-assessments scheme is dissension among liberal interests over the testing. The “opt out” movement comprises essentially two categories: parent activists seeking to protect their children from the useless or even harmful Common Core computerized testing, which is designed less to assess academic content knowledge than to collect psychological data on students; and the liberal, no-accountability, never-test crowd, who object to students’ taking any standardized tests, even validated academic tests not aligned to Common Core. But a powerful liberal cohort also resides in the Common Core education-establishment universe, which pushes more and more computerized assessments not only to collect psychological data on students, but also to enrich the testing companies and other hangers-on that profit from testing accoutrements, such as the required technology. (There is also a powerful, parallel GOP cohort that pushes the same agenda.)
The tangle of agendas illustrates that centralization schemes can create the strangest allies.Photo credit: Alberto G. via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
One arena for combat is the proposed regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). John King — who was pretty much chased out of New York State when he doggedly pushed Common Core standards and testing there — continues to do the bidding of the Common Core establishment as Secretary of Education. His proposed ESSA regulations would penalize any school in which more than five percent of the students opt out of the testing. Such schools would be designated “in need of improvement” and subject to (so far undefined) punishment.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)Continue Reading
We know what Hillary Clinton wants for public K-12 education. She wants universal government preschool, despite the well-documented failure of government preschool to deliver even a fraction of what the Hillaryites promise. She wants federal “education SWAT teams” to “help” struggling schools (that idea creates interesting visuals). She wants more federal control over school discipline to enforce “school climates” of which she approves. And all education should be geared toward a sweeping, centralized, government-controlled system of workforce-development.
We probably won’t hear much from Clinton about Common Core, given that (as Missouri Education Watchdog reports), the leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee advise avoiding the subject as a “political third rail.” But even though she bemoans the controversy surrounding Common Core, she endorses the idea of the national standards as a means to control the “most important non-family enterprise” society engages in (take that, you intrusive parents!) – not surprising, since much of her professional life, at least the part not devoted to suppressing bimbo eruptions or selling national security to the highest bidder, has involved laying the groundwork for Common Core.
Clinton’s vice-presidential choice, former Virginia governor and current U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, actually is less tainted by Common Core than is his Republican vice-presidential counterpart. While Trump’s VP pick, Governor Mike Pence, ensured the national standards were retained in Indiana despite intense opposition, Kaine had already left the governor’s office before the Common Core decision had to be made (his successor, Governor Bob McDonnell, was one of the few governors to reject the national standards, so Virginia – at least theoretically – operates outside of Common Core).
Although present in many other areas of the Republican Party Platform, the struggle between parents/grassroots activists and corporate education reform/data overlords is no more evident than in education. That fight is between parents who are demanding their inherent right to control the educational destinies of their children and the corporate titans, politicians of both parties, and bureaucrats that have imposed Common Core, invasive testing, psychological profiling, and data mining.
Jane Robbins has already done an excellent job noting many of the same grassroots and parental wins. I heartily agree with her list of wins for our side (a complete list of my points and quotes is available here):
- Affirming the need to eliminate or greatly reduce the unconstitutional, expensive, and ineffective federal role in education
- Rejecting the view of students as products or “human capital”
- Affirming the primacy of the parental role in education
- Protecting data and psychological privacy and rejection of social emotional profiling and mental screening
- Opposition to national standards and test based accountability
- Supporting local control
- Rejection of the Title IX bathroom edict and contraceptive based sex education as dangers to privacy, safety, and health
- Affirming academic basics like phonics and other important foundations like history from original documents and the Bible as literature
One other significant piece the RNC should be commended for adding in the overall section on families is the plank acknowledging the incredibly important role of two-parent families that is foundational to education and to preventing so many social ills that plague our nation. Continue Reading
Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building in Washington, DC (photo credit: IIP Photo Archive via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)Continue Reading
Piercing the gloom of the current educational and political landscape are a few glimmers of hope. One promising development is that some state and local education officials are now openly discussing what previously was never uttered aloud for fear of being struck down by the gods of lucre – the possibility of relinquishing federal funding to regain autonomy over education.
An early sign of light appeared in response to the unlawful decree issued by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) concerning transgender students. After USED threatened public schools if they didn’t open up all restrooms, locker rooms, sleeping quarters, and probably sports teams to both sexes, three school board members (Brian Halladay, Wendy Hart, and Paula Hill) in Utah’s Alpine School District sent a letter to state leaders objecting to a “level of federal overreach [that] is as unprecedented as it is unconstitutional.”
These board members downplayed USED’s probably bogus threats of funding loss but declared that even if the federal dictators followed through, such bullying could have a silver lining — an “ideal opportunity to declare Utah’s sovereignty, and to allow our children to be free from the tyrannical mandates of our federal government.” The board members went on to argue that student safety and privacy should trump any funding concerns, especially when just 8 percent of the district’s budget comes from federal funds.
These members pursued the subject at the next board meeting.
Donald Trump is set to announce his vice-presidential choice sometime this week, before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland begins on Monday.
Despite occasional stumbles, such as identifying education as one of the core functions of the federal government and his dizzying policy switches, Trump has been relatively stable in opposing Common Core and claiming he wants to “make education local.” Although he has no record in public-education policy, he would be more likely than Hillary “It Takes a Village” Clinton to decrease the federal role in education.
But some of the major contenders for the VP slot do have public records — and those records are concerning. Here is a brief review of the commonly discussed names in order of the amount of media buzz they are receiving at The Pulse 2016, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post:
1.) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Gingrich served as Speaker while the Clintons, Marc Tucker, and others were laying the foundation for the “seamless web” of centralized education and workforce that undergirded No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core. (See the following diagram created by former congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Mike Chapman and distributed by Education Liberty Watch’s predecessor organization EdWatch.)
To his credit, before he became Speaker, Gingrich voted against Goals 2000, which implemented the mental health and preschool pieces of the FedEd puzzle, and School to Work. These bills implemented Marc Tucker’s infamous vision explained in his letter to Hillary Clinton in 1992. Continue Reading
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) must be very proud. Along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), he has received the National Education Association (NEA)’s “highest honor,” the Friend of Education award. The NEA bestowed this award for Alexander’s “bold leadership” in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Previous award-winners include well-known conservatives Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Nancy Pelosi.
As one of the two major teachers’ unions in the U.S., the NEA has a much-deserved reputation for lavishly funding liberal candidates and causes. George Will has noted that in the 2014 elections, the union was the nation’s third-largest spender, almost exclusively supporting Democratic candidates. In connection with its recent national convention, the NEA announced its intention to fund LGBT initiatives, including support of President Obama’s radical transgender guidance for schools, and to oppose state religious liberty statutes (how children’s education is improved if their and their parents’ religious liberty is curtailed is not clear). And it goes without saying that despite complaining about the “poor implementation” of the Common Core national standards, NEA remains a proponent of that centralization scheme.
Conservative teachers have long resented the NEA’s confiscating their dues money, against their will, and using it to advance causes with which they disagree. A legal challenge to this practice fell victim to the absence of Justice Scalia when the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether such compelled speech violated the plaintiff teachers’ First Amendment rights. Continue Reading
Although the progressive education establishment (which includes Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander) insists that the Common Core issue is fading and won’t affect the election, the question of the national standards — with all its ancillary issues — refuses to die.
For her part, Hillary Clinton continues to declare her fealty to the idea of uniform national standards. In an interview with Newsday, Clinton reiterated, “[W]hat I want to do, again, just like you were talking about Common Core and to set some standards, we need to have a common set of standards by which we judge all the schools, all the public schools, traditional, charter, magnet, whatever we call them.” Clinton also repeated the duplicitous talking points to the effect that Common Core was a state-led effort, that the standards are internationally benchmarked and will allow us to compare U.S. students’ performance to that of other nations’ students, etc.
Clinton’s bottom line seems to reflect the long-ago counsel of famous school-to-worknik Marc Tucker, who believed (and believes) that centralized power in the hands of education “experts” is the answer to all education and economic problems.
But perhaps in a nod to the fever-pitch opposition to Common Core in New York, Clinton did admit that the implementation of the standards left something to be desired. “I think the roll-out was disastrous. I think the way they rolled out the Common Core and the expectation you can turn on a dime… They didn’t even have, as I’m told, they didn’t even have the instructional materials ready. Continue Reading