President-elect Trump: Honor Phyllis Schlafly by Picking a Secretary of Education She’d Endorse

Phyllis Schlafly (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

On election night when it became apparent that we were witnessing a truly remarkable and historic event, one great, American patriot came to mind — the late, conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, who passed away this past fall at the age of 92.

Lost in the media coverage since is the fact that it is Phyllis Schlafly, yet again, whom Americans have to thank for the biggest political upset since the election of Ronald Reagan. As if already being “regarded as one of the two or three most important Americans of the last half of the 20th century” (as described by one of her foes, no less) and having “plant[ed] the seeds of a conservative revival” that ultimately led to the Reagan revolution weren’t enough, Mrs. Schlafly outdid herself one last time.

Undeterred by old age, right up until her death, Phyllis was still hard at work for the country she loved. Her early March endorsement of Donald Trump not only handed him a victory in the Missouri primary, but more importantly it gave him the stamp of approval necessary to be seen as a serious and viable candidate amongst countless conservatives, including this one. It’s fitting that Schlafly’s final book, The Conservative Case for Trump, happened to be released on the eve of her passing.

Phyllis’s support of Donald Trump, however, did not come without a cost and without great personal sacrifice. It caused a bitter and divisive firestorm within her organization, Eagle Forum, and within her immediate family. Continue Reading

Schools Ditch Academics for Emotional Manipulation

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But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative.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).

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Read the full article at The Federalist. Continue Reading

New Report: Winners and Losers of Common Core

Photo credit: Red Maxwell (CC BY-NC 2.0) / Wilson Dias (CC BY 3.0 BR)

Teresa Mull of the Heartland Institute writes about a new report analyzing the enormous funding of the Common Core national standards — where the money came from, what it was used for, and especially, who benefited from the entire endeavor. Hint: It wasn’t the students.

The report, “Smart Money? Philanthropic and Federal Funding for the Common Core,” was produced by scholars at Penn State University. Unlike many academic discussions of Common Core, it recognizes that the national standards are designed for technical, data-driven outcomes rather than genuine education. It also recognizes the dearth of evidence that the Common Core-type of “standards-based reform” actually elevates student achievement.

The report combines these insights with a wealth of information about the federal programs (such as Race to the Top) and private foundation grants (such as the millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others) that poured into the Common Core scheme from development to implementation. From this data the report draws conclusions about Common Core winners and losers.

Winners

  • Philanthropic foundations, which “further rooted their preferences for . . . metrics, big data, measurable growth, and competition, in the education sector. . . . Venture philanthropists’ broad and strategic funding enabled them to purchase increased influence over public policy and public institutions without incurring any accountability for the policies they advanced” — policies that have no evidentiary basis for success. And crucially, the report notes that the foundations’ expenditures “empowered them to install public policies without democratic processes.” No one has ever voted for Bill Gates, but as even Common Core proponents have admitted, his “agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.”
  • The federal government, whose showering of money on states during a deep recession enabled the U.S.
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Civil Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration’s campaign to force schools to open up restrooms, locker rooms, overnight sleeping accommodations, and probably sports teams to students of either sex is not going well. The latest opposition comes from several brave students in Minnesota’s Virginia Public Schools, who are reminding the administration that they, too, have rights.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of these students and their parents, alleging the U.S. Departments of Education (USED) and Justice (DOJ) and the Virginia Public Schools are endangering student privacy and safety by instituting the DNA-denying policies. The complaint describes in shocking detail what the female students have encountered since the schools caved to USED and DOJ pressure. For example, “a biologically male student who identifies as a female — and who is allowed to enter the girls’ locker room under the district’s policy — went on to dance in the locker room in a sexually explicit manner — ‘twerking,’ ‘grinding’ and dancing like he was on a ‘stripper pole’ to songs with explicit lyrics . . . .” When not gyrating, he commented on the girls’ body parts and suggested he would like to “trade.”

Determined to defend their dignity, the plaintiffs complained to school authorities about this harassment and invasion of privacy. But instead of removing the male, the authorities forced the girls into less convenient restrooms and locker rooms. One of the plaintiffs was so upset by these developments that she chose to attend a different school this year. Continue Reading

Not a Conspiracy Theory: Educrats Discover Alarming New Ways to Data Mine Our Children

Opponents of the progressive-education elitists on issues such as the Common Core scheme are routinely accused of spouting paranoid conspiracy theories. This smear is particularly common in discussing technology-driven “digital learning.” It’s ridiculous, educrats say, to suggest that schools — meaning the government —and their corporate ed-tech allies will be probing the psyches of our children. Track children’s eye movements or scan their brains? That’s crazy talk!

Except that federally funded researchers now brag about doing just that.

Ed Week reports that Carnegie Mellon University researchers are using brain scans to create computer software to adapt to what a student is actually thinking as he solves math problems. The premise is this:

Researchers can now use brain-imaging techniques to identify the mental stages humans go through while solving math problems. From there, they can use machine-learning algorithms to find the connections between patterns of human brain activity and patterns in the data generated by students as they interact with math software. Armed with that information, the researchers hope, they can build better educational software programs capable of quickly detecting how students are attempting to solve a given problem, then responding in a personalized way.

For years the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has promoted this cutting-edge research, in pursuit of “transforming” education by “personalizing” it. One reportPromoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance” — describes USED’s goals in creepy detail. The Grit report explains how a child’s emotions, such as frustration, anxiety, and boredom, “may be measured through analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, heart rate variability, posture, and eye-tracking” (p.

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USED Remains Hopelessly Committed to Standardized Testing

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

Catholic University Willingly Surrenders Title IX Religious Exemption

Loyola University New Orleans (photo credit: Louisiana Travel via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

On Thursday, Loyola University of New Orleans willingly relinquished its ability to claim a religious exemption from federal Title IX requirements. In a letter to the Department of Education, university officials wrote that they no longer need such exemptions because they no longer provide students health insurance.

The Department of Justice’s website describes Title IX as “a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.”

Many religious colleges and universities have sought exemptions from Title IX in the past because the law’s associated regulations require that health insurance offered to students provide coverage for abortion and contraception. However, Loyola and other Christian schools that have re-embraced Title IX in an effort to seem more “open and accepting” may be in for more trouble than they expect.

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the groups at the cutting edge of the LGBT movement, has been petitioning the government to seriously limit the ability of colleges and universities to live out their religious and moral convictions.

Writing for National Review, Andrew Walker explains:

Like any association with an expectation about belief and conduct, Christian colleges admit students on the basis and expectation of Christian kids promising to abide by Christian morality. The Human Rights Campaign, however, views any attempt by Christian colleges to live out their Christian ethics as inherently discriminatory because most Christian colleges, shockingly, dare to uphold the 2,000-year-old teaching that homosexuality is sinful and that gender is biologically determined, not socially constructed.

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This Supreme Court Case Just Raised the Stakes for Trump vs. Hillary

From left: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

In May, President Obama’s Department of Education (USED) sent out a decree to public schools across the United States requiring that biological boys and girls be allowed to use the bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities that correspond with the “gender identity” of their choosing. Accompanying this mandate was the explicit threat that schools would lose their federal education funding if they refused to comply, forcing school boards to choose between protecting their students from a radical gender ideology or protecting their government slush fund.

Politicians usually go with the money. That’s what happened with Common Core back in 2009 when the Obama Administration used Race to the Top grants to incentivize states to adopt the low-quality standards.

But that was not the case for the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia. The USED decree came after Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender male (i.e. biological female) in Virginia sought to sue the school district when Grimm was not allowed to use the men’s restroom. The case gained national attention in April when the 4th Circuit Appellate Court in Richmond ruled that Grimm could indeed sue, citing discrimination under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, as The Washington Post reported:

In backing high school junior Gavin Grimm, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit deferred to the U.S. Education Department’s position that transgender students should have access to the bathrooms that match their gender identities rather than being forced to use bathrooms that match their biological sex.

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Common Core’s National Curriculum Has Arrived

In May 2014, conservative columnist George Will warned that Common Core represented the “thin edge of an enormous wedge” and that “sooner or later you inevitably have a national curriculum.”

Will’s concern is now closer to realization. One lever the U.S. Department of Education (USED) may use to hasten this outcome is the #GoOpen Initiative, through which USED will push onto the states Common Core-aligned online instructional materials. These materials are “openly licensed educational resources” (Open Educational Resources, or OER) – online resources that have no copyright and are free to all users. Utah is part of the initial consortium of states that will be collaborating in #GoOpen.

#GoOpen is part of a larger global and federal effort to institute OER in place of books and traditional education (in fact, USED appointed a new advisor to help school districts transition to OER). More disturbingly, another part of this scheme increases the federal government’s ability to monitor and track teacher and student use of these online resources – and perhaps even influence the content.

This outcome could result from a related, joint USED-Department of Defense initiative called the Learning Registry. The Registry is an “open-source infrastructure” that can be installed on any digital education portal (such as PBS) and that will facilitate the aggregation and sharing of all the linked resources on the Registry. The idea is to “tag” digital content by subject area and share on one site supposedly anonymous data collected from teacher users (content such as grade-level, recommended pedagogy, and user ratings).

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Local and State Officials “Just Say No” to the Department of Education

Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building in Washington, DC (photo credit: IIP Photo Archive via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

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.

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