President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom in Georgia (photo credit: The White House via Flickr)Continue Reading
If the Obama administration and its supporters have their way, the suburban neighborhood school could be headed for extinction. In a veritable symphony of bureaucratic coordination, the administration has figured out how to recruit three cabinet departments, liberal non-profits, and deep-pocketed foundations to this effort. It can be tough even to follow the sophisticated strategy for accomplishing this (and the president prefers it that way), but if we value our liberty, it’s worth a bit of effort to understand this scheme.
The administration is maneuvering to replace local control in education (and in other areas) with school systems that extend across entire metropolitan regions. This effort is bolstered by advocacy groups promoting “economic integration” to force suburban jurisdictions to either admit low-income students from outside their districts or redistribute the tax money that supports their schools to less affluent nearby districts. Lurking behind this plan—as with practically every nationwide education policy—is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The pincer created by Obama’s coercion from coordinated federal agencies on the one hand and Gates’s advocacy of supposedly social-justice taxing and redistribution on the other could squeeze the life out of the suburbs and suburban schools.
We Don’t Like Your Neighborhood
First, let’s have a look at the Obama coercion scheme. This ambitious plan is bound up with a new rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.
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
The Washington Times and HotAir.com report that parents in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Public School District will be kept in the dark when their daughters are forced to share sleeping quarters with boys. A training video entitled “Supporting Transgender Students in School,” posted in July (video contained in the HotAir.com article — see about the 27-minute mark) shows the district’s chief communications officer lecturing teachers that boys who identify as girls are allowed to share sleeping quarters with girls on overnight field trips — and that parents of the girls should not be warned. The CCO tells the teachers:
So, many of you might be asking yourselves, “So I’m at an overnight field trip, and I have a student who’s biologically a male, identifies as a female, and we’ve worked with that student and her (sic) family, and that student wants to sleep in the dorms, or whatever sleeping arrangements are, with the females. They don’t want to sleep in a room by themselves; they want to sleep with the rest of the females. So what do we do?
And the answer is, they sleep with the females. That’s not the easy answer; it’s the right answer. And in some cases, it’s going to cause issues, because . . . the private information piece doesn’t allow you to share that with parents of all of the other campers. Right? So that’s difficult.
It’s not clear what the CCO meant by the “right answer.” Presumably he meant “right” according to the district’s new transgender policy, not “right” as in “moral.” Because no one could make that case. Continue Reading
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 report – “Promoting 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.
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
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).
Education Week reports that former Education Secretary William Bennett is leading a new education-policy group called Conservative Leaders for Education (CLE). The goal is to take advantage of the demise of No Child Left Behind to push state policy-makers to implement “school choice, local control, ‘transparent’ and ‘timely’ accountability, and ‘high academic standards’ chosen by states.” CLE is currently made up of lawmakers who chair state education committees in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin, and the group hopes to expand to other states.
In the Education Week interview, Bennett expressed concern that teachers’ unions will flex their muscle at the local level — “that’s why I think they’re giving at least two cheers for ESSA” (the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Bennett claims, misleadingly, restores local control over education). The unions, such as American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, would certainly oppose school choice and probably push for less stringent accountability measures for schools.
But although Bennett continues to present himself as a conservative on education issues, his full-throated support for the Common Core national standards belies that image. Bennett seems to have taken his talking points from good friend Chester Finn, whose Gates-funded Fordham Institute has been the most vociferous proponent of Common Core. Parroting Fordham, and apparently without understanding the standards (he argues that Common Core is welcome because it ensures all American students will read the same classic novels such as Huckleberry Finn, which Common Core manifestly does not do), Bennett has taken to the airwaves and the pages of the Wall Street Journal to tout the national standards. Continue Reading
Now that most sane Californians who are not billionaires have fled the state (and God bless the intrepid remnant who remain to fight!), the Left faces little opposition to its radical agenda. A recent illustration is the state board of education’s approval of the new K-12 social science and history framework.
Sober commentators have warned about the extreme leftist slant of the framework. A glaring example is that some lessons will now focus on individuals solely because of their sexual behavior.
A 2011 California law requires instruction on historical contributions of LGBT people. Since then the California Department of Education (CDE) has been busily incorporating this mandate into the social studies framework. As Susan Berry of Breitbart reports, the result is that LGBT content will begin in second grade with lessons about homosexual couples plus, for kicks, a story about a 19th-century transvestite stagecoach-driver. If parents think second grade is too early for such information, they will just have to get over it. The State has spoken.
The framework includes LGBT content in grades 4 and 8 as well, but it’s in grade 11 that the indoctrination shifts into overdrive. LGBT-ism is addressed squarely in the context of civil rights. The terms “oppression” and “persecution” are scattered throughout the discussion, with vice-squad raids on gay bars lumped in with KKK lynchings (p. 542, 561-62).
The framework celebrates successes of LGBT activism: the political vote of the American Psychiatric Association to stop designating homosexuality as a mental disorder; the passage of state laws prohibiting discrimination based on LGBT status; and court and agency decisions applying civil-rights protections to LGBT individuals. 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.