Concerns

Responding to the Utah Attorney General’s Report on Common Core

The Utah Attorney General (AG) recently issued a report about Common Core.  I’m grateful that Common Core concerns are receiving much-needed attention, rather than being dismissed as unfounded. I thank the Attorney General for his time spent on this issue.  But the report is egregiously errant.

I’m just a full-time mom, not a lawyer.  Though I have many years of experience teaching in public schools, plus years spent researching ed reforms, I never aimed to rebut a state attorney general’s education report.  But truth is truth and error should not be accepted as fact.

Please study this out for yourself. I’m here to point out and to back up with documentation, the errors and omissions of the A.G.’s  Common Core report.  It’s for you to draw your own conclusions.  It’s for our children to live with what we adults see as truth.

Before I get to the errors and omissions, I will point with gratitude to three key issues that the report correctly clarified:

1)  The report’s first paragraph correctly clarified the fact that the “Utah Core” for K-12 math and English is, in fact, the exact same thing as “Common Core.”  Many have been confused about this fact and some in leadership allow that confusion to continue because they know Common Core has become a toxic term.  But no one need be confused.  The A.G. is correct:  Utah does (unfortunately and voluntarily) adhere to centralized, standardized Common Core standards and tests.

2) The report also  correctly stated that the US Dept. of Education ( by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion...” (emphasis added).

3) The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.  Most people already knew that Utah CAN withdraw from Common Core; our point has always been that we REQUEST that our state will indeed withdraw from Common Core.

The Attorney General’s report wrongly concludes three main things, which I will afterward explain in detail:

1) That adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law; that the parent-teacher lawsuit –brought against the state’s decision to adopt Common Core without proper vetting– holds no water and that the board’s adoption of Common Core was legal;  that Common Core standards do not qualify as rules –so the UARA’s rulemaking process did not need to be followed;

2) That Utah has not ceded authority nor lost local control over its education system via the Common Core Initiative; and that there are no groups that now hold direct or indirect control over Utah’s education system;

3) That Common Core does not impact curriculum.

  1.   The report incorrectly states that the board’s adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law, using “a very public process” and that it was not illegal in any way.  That question will soon be determined in a Utah court.  The lawsuit to which the report referred–in which parents and teachers are suing the board over its method of adopting Common Core– is still a live, active lawsuit.

Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute (the institution supporting the lawsuit) was correctly quoted by the Deseret News, saying, “Specific behavior was required of the board that was not done. That is the basis of our lawsuit, and that was not responded to by the attorney general.  Our allegations still stand and we’re confident that a judge will determine that the board, in fact, did not comply with the law.”

The A.G. came to a different conclusion not only from that of Libertas Institute but also from U.S. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, who noted that Utah’s state school board and many other states very quickly, quietly adopted Common Core “without studying it, without writing a white paper on it,” without consulting with the teachers, administrators and others whose careers would forever be altered by it.

This clearly goes against our state’s law.

As a public school teacher whose credential has never lapsed out of date, I can attest that when Common Core came to Utah, neither I nor any teacher, to my knowledge, received so much as a letter or an email consulting with or discussing or debating or communicating the fact that a decision was in process, nor announcing any potential positive or negative consequences of the decision.  Local school boards can and have attested that they were likewise left out of the decision.   Millions of public school parents can testify that there was no “very public process”.  Although parents often get  letters, robocalls and emails about school pajama day, the fall carnival, community council elections and many other issues, it was only long after the state had agreed to Common Core (and its associated data, testing and evaluation reforms) that parents and teachers became aware of what it was and how it would change our lives forever.  Teachers and the general public would have had to have been actively scouring the state office of education website on a weekly basis (–and why would they?)  –to have come across any invitation for public discussion or feedback on this huge, transformative issue.

The report also falsely states that prior to adoption of Common Core, Utah was an active participant in the creation of Common Core standards.  This claim is not backed up with evidence of any kind. Listening to the minutes of the state school board meetings surrounding adoption of Common Core reveals that the claim is far from true.

Last, there’s the reference to Utah’s  UARA  which defines rules and rulemaking.  The A.G.’s report correctly states that a plausible case can be made that  because Utah is now ruled by Common Core’s rules, the rulemaking process should have been followed, and was not. UARA defines a rule as a statement by an agency (in our case, the USOE/school board) which implicitly or explicitly requires some class of people or agencies (in our case, school system employees)  to obey it; a statement that implements or interprets law (in this case both state and federal law, even though the federal government does not have constitutional authority to make education laws– since it has done so and it uses money to control states’ obedience to these unauthorized laws and policies, and now Common Core-implementing state laws are congruent with Common Core education reforms as well).

Common Core standards must be considered rules since the state school board and USOE mandate statewide adherence to its benchmarks and tests, and the legislature specifically mandates  teacher and school evaluation using Common Core computer adaptive testing.

But the A.G.’s report oddly states that because Utah law does not define the meaning of the term “standard,”  the standards aren’t really rules so the rulemaking process was correctly skipped over. That defies common sense, and research.  Teachers and administrators rely on USOE/USSB statements on Common Core to interpret and implement education law and policy.  Common Core is mandated by the legislature’s Common Core CAT testing laws, and adherence to Common Core was partial payment for receipt of federal waivers, monies and technologies; it was parceled with federal No Child Left Behind waivers, ARRA grant obligations, SBAC (Utah’s former) testing grants, and the federal SLDS grant, each of which helped bind Utah schools, teachers and students to Common Core and common data standards.

  1. The report incorrectly states that Utah has NOT ceded authority over standards and curriculum.  Utah ceded her authority by adopting Common Core, in several ways:

Way one:  Utah has no vote or voice in the revisions to “its own” common core standards.  Utah did not write Common Core.  Neither did any other state. Common Core was never, despite its marketing claims, a state-led process.  The creator-copyrighters of Common Core were two unelected, nonpublic groups— unaccountable-to-voters groups, cannot-be-influenced-by-voters groups; closed-door, private D.C. groups, that go by the misleadingly governmental-sounding titles of “National Governors’ Association” (NGA) and “Council of Chief State School Officers” (CCSSO).  NGA and CCSSO are private clubs–  they are nongovernmental, and not all governors nor all superintendents choose to belong to NGA/CCSSO; in fact, some U.S. governors and state superintendents avoid the NGA and CSSSO like the plague.

The power of the NGA and CCSSO over standards and education policy in many states is the prime example of education without representation.

Way two:  Utah cannot vote for those who have authority to revise or change Common Core.  And we know that Common Core IS going to change.

Utah’s Common Core standards are under copyright by NGA/CCSSO.  Utah can’t influence who gets hired by NGA/CCSSO or what policies get created in those closed-door meetings.  Utah can’t participate in any amendment meetings when Common Core “living work” standards get altered and revised, which the copyright holders  have promised to do.   The standards state:  “The Standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.”

Way three:  The CCSSO –significantly– has also created the Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS), in partnership with the federal department of education, to match up with the Common Core standards technologically as well as academically.  Utah promised the federal government to adhere to CEDS tracking technologies in such documents as   Utah schools’ 2009 ARRA federal grant application,  which is fully explained and linked here.  Because our federally paid-for State Longitudinal Database System is also (per federal grant requirement) interoperable with federal systems, and because our Common education standards and Common data standards match the CCSSO’s CEDS requirements, student privacy and state autonomy over data systems are also no longer in our control.  Truly, control over student data privacy is threatened via the interdependence of Common Core standards and federal Common data standards.

Way four:  Utah’s statewide SAGE/AIR Common Core tests enforce the Common Core being taught in Utah schools and the Common data standards (CEDS) being used in Utah schools.  SAGE/AIR are Common Core-led, computer adaptive tests which are not only end-of-year but year-round formative tests, controlled and created by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with token help from a handful of appointed Utah teachers.  AIR is officially partnered with both the federal government and the SBAC (federally-funded testing consortium).  This means that the micromanagement of tests and the sharing of student level data –to which the SBAC is subject by contract– also binds AIR-partnered Utah.  Utah students must be tested on Common Core standards using SAGE/AIR tests, which are secretive in nature, written by psychometricians with a mission statement that focuses on applying behavioral and social science research, and which follow the Common Core copyrighters’ philosophies.  Test cannot be seen (because of secrecy rules) by those governed and tested and evaluated by them.

All of these controls do fetter Utah citizens to federal dictates, and each rests on the Common Core standards.

  1. The report incorrectly states that Common Core impacts only standards and not curriculum..  Because the state Common Core tests (aka SAGE tests) are not only year-end, but formative (year-round) tests, they impact curriculum very much– much more than any previous statewide testing did.  Because state and federal reforms have now attached teacher evaluations and school evaluations directly to student scores on these Common Core tests, teachers must choose from an ever-narrowing spectrum of curriculum that teaches to the test more than ever before.  The SBAC testing group, which is partnered with Utah’s AIR testing group, and Microsoft (Bill Gates’ company) which is partnered with Pearson (the world’s largest education sales products company) each offer Common Core test-matched curriculum, and Utah schools and technologies are purchasing them over other products, because the board mandated that Common Core would be Utah’s Core.

Lead Common Core funder Bill Gates revealed in a speech, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point.  We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services…  For the first time there will be a large, uniform base of customers looking at using products…”

The A.G.’s report also omits key concerns, including:

  1. Copyright and control of Common Core-  The report ought to have clarified who truly controls and holds copyright over the Common Core standards and its related data standards, and who has authority to revise them.  Neither voters, nor elected representatives,  nor local teachers, nor Utah’s State school Board, but only the nonpublic D.C. group, NGA/CCSSO, controls them.)  As has been stated, there is no amendment process for our state to revise the “living work” of Common Core, by which we are now governed, although these standards will be revised by its copyrighters.
  2.  The State Duty to Educate Locally- While the report is correct in saying that the federal government coerced states into adopting its definition of college and career ready standards with the hope of getting federal money, the report does not stand up and say that Utah is under a constitutional obligation to stand up for the right to educate via local dictates.  The A.G.’s report does not recommend that Utah cease being controlled by and unreasonably swayed by federal money.  It apparently accepts Utah’s seeming submissiveness to the federal (unconstitutional) posture of authority over education.  If the A.G.’s office has not itself adopted the submissive mindset under the federal posture of (unauthorized) authority, then the report should have recommended that Utah fight for a reclaiming of state power over all aspects of education.  If Utah’s A.G. believes in the constitutional separation of powers and in the importance of maintaining local control of the constitutionally state-held right and responsibility over state education — then the report should have focused on that point rather than sidelining it as an historical, water-under-the-bridge detail.  Nor did the report recommend standing in solidarity with Oklahoma, a state which recently repealed Common Core and has faced federal power grabbing struggles as a result.

The report said, “Will we lose federal monies if we modify Common Core standards? No.”

That is a half-truth.  Utah didn’t lose federal monies by adding cursive to Utah’s English standards in addition to Common Core, true.  But if we make more than minimal additions (there’s a 15% cap on adding to Common Core) or if we aim to repeal the whole enchilada we end up with severe federal pushback as has been demonstrated in the case of Washington state and Oklahoma.  We should, of course, still hold the line of state authority and ignore the pretended authority of Secretary Duncan.

III.  The State Board’s Constitutional Duty to Not Cede Its Authority – The report correctly states that the school board has the authority to set standards, and that the board “is the appropriate constitutional body” to withdraw from Common Core, based on the Utah Constitution‘s words:  “The general control and supervision of the public school system shall be vested in a state board of education consisting of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and such other persons as the legislature may provide.”  True.

But nowhere in Utah’s Constitution does it say that the board, superintendent and other persons may give away or delegate  that “general control and supervision of the public school system”.

Conclusion:

The Attorney General’s report receives an “F” in my gradebook.  It simply veers so far from the truth that it cannot be taken as correct.

I don’t expect to hear from the Attorney General’s office, apologizing for the errors.  I don’t expect the state school board members nor those education staffers at the Governor’s office who openly call me and other teachers and parents “crazy” to suddenly fact-check, turn around and be enlightened.  I simply wrote this piece for other people like me– people who care about the truth, people who aren’t financially rewarded by and tied to the claim that Common Core is the One True Path, people who value this knowledge, to better protect and educate their children and to possibly have a chance at saving some of the local control that is our Constitutional inheritance.

–Christel Swasey

How Common Core Is Creating a Generation of Low-Information Voters

This comment was posted to Facebook by Jared Carman and I wanted to make sure it got wider notice so it’s here for your information. Jared serves on the Utah instructional materials committee and so he receives significant amounts of books throughout the year to review.

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How Common Core Is Creating a Generation of
Less-informed Voters

(What I learned reviewing over 500 Common Core books from all the major publishers)

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LEARNING 101: Kids learn what they practice.

In a typical Common Core practice item, children as young as 6 and 7 are given two “opinion” passages to read, usually on a social issue of some kind. The passages are short. The children are directed to read the passages, form “their own” opinion, based on one of the passages (an inherently biased exercise, but that’s a separate issue), then ADVOCATE for their opinion in writing, using information from the opinion pieces as supporting evidence. Net, net: Read little to no actual information, then form your own opinion, supported another person’s opinion.

Consider the following:
– The word “opinion” or “argument” is mentioned 38 times in the 110 Common Core writing standards.
– Under Common Core, opinion-forming practice and testing is required for EVERY student in every grade, even Kindergarten.
– “Opinion writing” testing is a central feature of the SAGE/Common Core tests.

(Source: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf)

What do you get when you combine low-info opinion practice, with messages (from the “informational texts”) to organize, resist, influence, strike, stand up, sit in, and vote, vote, vote…and you do this regularly for thirteen years?

An entire generation of highly-opinionated, less-informed voters.

 

Alyson Williams, one of the parent reviewers of SAGE tests, made this comment in the same thread:

That is the SAGE writing assessment. I saw no other format… the student must read several excerpts, and argue in writing one point of view or the other citing directly from the provided passages to support her argument. While many parents were concerned about the content (recall the examples last year of books vs. video games) I am concerned that even with neutral content the repetition of this kind of writing practice over and over for years, especially when it is computer graded by a technically limited rubric, is not a very valuable exercise to great writing (or thinking) rather conditioning a test-taking skill at best. Worse, however is that it seems likely to result in a generation of people who are not independently seeking truth and employing classical logic or analytical thinking, but willing to form opinions without in-depth knowledge or greater context but on the carefully edited ideas served up in the digest form of popular media.

Who teaches the teachers? Social In-Justice at BYU

Warning for all you non-religious types… I’m about to exercise my first amendment right and share my secular and religious thoughts based on my personal beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and quote a couple scriptures and LDS church authorities below in support of my beliefs. Naturally all of this article is my own opinion and I’m not speaking for the church. Just in case anyone might get confused about that… ;)

Periodically someone asks me a question like this: “how does this ________ nonsense get into our children’s schools?” Lately I’ve had that blank filled in with social justice. It seems to have gained an unfortunate sympathetic ear among people because they think it’s about helping the poor, when it reality it does just the opposite. There’s a load of articles on the web about how various Common Core players and organizations have come together to promote social justice through the curriculum and assessments they have developed. This article will not focus on those elements, but on the misguided concept of social justice.

A couple weeks ago, someone sent me a link to an article from BYU’s Frontier magazine which is an online magazine for alumni of their college of physical and mathematical sciences.

In the Fall 2014 issue on page 18, you’ll find an article entitled “Solving social injustice one math problem at a time.” The article is about Dr. Kate Johnson in BYU’s Math Education department and her background and experiences which lead her now to entwine social justice into her math teaching.

As if it isn’t hard enough for children to do word problems on new concepts, lets add social justice into the mix so they can feel the plight of the poor and downtrodden and learn about how evil capitalism is.

Now some parents might want this type of class for their child. They might say, yes, I want my college child well rounded by wrestling with these issues in math class instead of laser focusing on the theories and functions of math so that when they go to teach little children, they can help them understand how the rich are evil and the poor are oppressed. Love live the Communist Manifesto!

News flash: This style of teaching isn’t going to improve math education, nor will it fix social injustices. Social justice is the gospel of envy, not Christ’s gospel of love.

It is abundantly true that the scriptures teach us to take care of the poor. However, in each instance, the Lord is commanding people to take care of the poor as a matter of free will, using our agency in an individual charitable endeavor.

Lets get started.

Here are relevant quotes from the Frontier article about Dr. Johnson (emphasis mine):

“Through struggling with how to handle the hard questions her students raised about the world, Johnson realized that math could help them sort through the many differing points of view. The way this is done is through typical math tasks, like a story problem, but the subject of that story problem would be sharing wages in a sweatshop rather than sharing crayons in a classroom.

“The ultimate goal of teaching math for social justice is to help kids better understand the world around them in conjunction with math,” Johnson said. “Students are going to talk about those issues whether or not we give them math as a tool to do so, and so to me, we should be giving them math as a tool to think and talk about those issues so they can see the utility of math and so they can make stronger arguments.”

“I’m interested in teachers’ identities, as it pertains to mathematics teachers, particularly in the context of teaching math for social justice,” Johnson said. “So basically that’s like teaching math in contexts that help bring to light social issues in addition to teaching key math principles. If that’s the way you are going to teach math, then how does your race, gender, class, or awareness of your privilege play a role in the way you teach about those topics? Basically, when you state it broadly, I’m interested in how who we are shapes what we do as teachers.”

I realized that teachers are learners too, in part because I got student teachers and I just started to become interested in the kinds of things they needed to know in order to be productive math teachers,” Johnson said.

I wanted to broaden my impact,” Johnson said. “When I was a high school teacher, I used to say that I was teaching the world one deaf student at a time, and then when I went back to school to be a teacher educator, I said teaching the world a little more than one kid at a time. Because if you impact one teacher, it will impact more children that way, and teaching math through social justice to those teachers will bring about greater social change.

This article in Frontier is all about this particular teacher and I’m not publishing this to get her in trouble because she certainly isn’t by any means the only teacher educator doing this. I just felt compelled to expose what is happening in our schools of education where teachers are taught and ultimately comes to your children’s classrooms. Many of the educators in BYU’s Education and Math Education departments embrace John Goodlad, Bill Ayers, and Linda Darling-Hammond’s left-wing philosophy on social justice. They have attended workshops, joined their organizations, read their books, and even presented at their conferences. I believe the year was 2006 when BYU even hosted Goodlad’s NNER conference. Here’s an ad from just a few years ago for Goodlad’s conference to teach teachers how to implement social justice and the GLBT agenda in your children’s classrooms.

John Goodlad's NNER advertising a teacher training. Also note the GLBT training for teachers.

John Goodlad’s NNER advertising a teacher training. Also note the GLBT training for teachers.

Social Justice 101

So what is social justice? I found this awesome 5 minute video online that explains this concept really well. I particularly loved the statement by the U.N. that if you believe truth and justice are concepts independent of their agenda, you are essentially an enemy of social justice. Truth is so overrated…

I periodically engage in discussions online with people who espouse that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and that the government is well within its rights to do this. But they fail to remember one core principle of our government which is that it was established by the people, for the people, and of the people. When the people created the government, we delegated to government the ability to do certain things we have a right to do ourselves in order to make those things more efficient. I have a right to defend myself and my property so we created a sheriff and the military to protect those things on a larger scale so I can focus on other things. On the other hand, I don’t have a right to go to my neighbor’s home and take $500 from him and give that money to someone else I know is needy, so I can’t get government to do that for me and keep my hands clean of robbery. Frederick Bastiat called this “legal plunder” in his classic work, “The Law,” when people use government to do things to others that they can’t legally do themselves.

These people further claim that the scriptures and Christ’s teachings justify redistributing the wealth. But what did Jesus teach?

Did Jesus go to the Romans and ask them to exact a tax on the rich to help the poor? No.

Did he go to the Sanhedrin and ask them to do likewise? No.

He told the rich young man to go sell *what HE had* and give it to the poor.

He watched the widow cast in her 2 mites and announced that she had given more than all the rich yet didn’t mention how evil the rich were for not caring for her needs.

Did he organize a redistribution effort among his church? No. He taught compassion, charity, and to put away our jealousy and envy.

The gospel is one of individual responsibility with individual mandates to care for the poor. We have no right to force someone to salvation by making them take care of the poor and in so doing, create just the opposite effect within the breast of those whose compassion we need.

What does our progressive taxation system do? We say if you make X amount of income, you pay 15% taxes. If you make up to Y, then you pay 28%. And so on up the ladder. The more you make the larger the percentage you pay. What does that do to a person who makes more money?

  1. It can destroy their ability to be very charitable.
  2. It makes them feel like they are already giving more for social programs and they don’t need to do more individually.
  3. It destroys the entire holy principle of charity because those with wealth don’t have the opportunity to *give* someone money. It’s taken from them and they never see the needy people it helps, thus causing them to not have their hearts moved with compassion on the plight of the poor. Social justice ROBS the rich of this critical enrichment activity.

What was the Lord’s plan? 10% whether you’re rich or poor? A fascinating contrast, don’t you think?

The very people who want to have the wealthy to have compassion upon the poor have erected a system that prevents it from being possible. They have created a system of hatred where the rich feel taken advantage of. Where did this progressive taxation idea come from? The father of modern-day envy, Karl Marx, a co-author of the Communist Manifesto. This document is the exact opposite of the God-inspired U.S. Constitution. Only in an atmosphere of liberty, can the gospel of Jesus Christ thrive. Personal choices are paramount to the gospel plan. When some seek to overthrow that plan by focusing on social justice instead of God’s justice, and enact man-made systems of charity instead of God’s perfect system of charity, they mingle the philosophies of man with God’s perfect plan of salvation for his children and corrupt society through vanity.

Think about this…some people are born into wealth and some into poverty. It is a social injustice, but it is not injustice on the part of our divine creator who has a perfect plan for each of his children. His plan is to exalt his children and bring them back into his presence. In some instances, that necessitates trials of wealth, and for others trials of poverty. Each individual is born into this world with their own unique challenges to deal with but it is their own personal plan of salvation that God crafted for them. Under no circumstance does the wisdom of man exceed the wisdom of God. We should stop trying to serve the Lord in the devil’s way. Only the gospel of Christ can provide the spiritual salvation God’s children need.

In the April 2010 General Conference of the LDS church, Elder Todd Christofferson said it well.

“In a complete reversal from a century ago, many today would dispute with Alma about the seriousness of immorality. Others would argue that it’s all relative or that God’s love is permissive. If there is a God, they say, He excuses all sins and misdeeds because of His love for us—there is no need for repentance. Or at most, a simple confession will do. They have imagined a Jesus who wants people to work for social justice but who makes no demands upon their personal life and behavior.”

If I may offer an interpretation of what he’s saying… The people had turned to wickedness but they thought that a collective salvation under the gift of God’s incredible mercy for his children would save all of them regardless of their personal choices. They made up a false Christ by imagining a God that makes no demands on our *personal* lives, yet they weren’t forced to comply with heaven’s mandates.

In the April 2013 conference, Elder Christofferson gave another great talk which included much about temporal redemption for the poor. In this talk he pointed out that sometimes when needs are more widespread, larger organizations may need to be involved when needs exceed the ability of individuals to personally take care of the problems.

“Some forms of temporal redemption come by collaborative effort. It is one of the reasons the Savior created a church. Being organized in quorums and auxiliaries and in stakes, wards, and branches, we can not only teach and encourage each other in the gospel, but we can also bring to bear people and resources to deal with the exigencies of life. People acting alone or in ad hoc groups cannot always provide means on a scale needed to address larger challenges. As followers of Jesus Christ we are a community of Saints organized to help redeem the needs of our fellow Saints and as many others as we can reach across the globe.”

Does the church exact a tax on its members to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? No. The church teaches doctrine and invites people to participate in a gospel plan that helps the rich meet the needs of the poor. He concludes with this powerful statement.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.”

In my own words, we have an individual mandate to help the poor, but if our own personal efforts to help the poor don’t actually bring them to Christ and redemption through his atonement, then the gospel is only a gospel of social justice which may give someone temporary assistance with their temporal needs, but does nothing to provide the ultimate redemption we all need.

In the recent October 2014 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey Holland gave a great talk on taking care of the poor as well. He pointed out that when Mary anointed Jesus’ head with the expensive spikenard and Judas complained that it could have been sold and distributed to the poor, Jesus rebuked him and said, “Why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work…She hath done what she could.”

Judas’ envy had got the better of him and he wanted that wealth taken from Mary and given to someone else. Perhaps he was jealous that he hadn’t saved his own money in the way Mary had done. Regardless of Judas’ personal motive, Jesus obviously knew that Mary’s choices were her own and she was choosing to do good in the best way she saw fit. Judas had no right to complain or to force Mary to sell her goods and give to the poor. As mentioned above, Jesus never told the government or the church to take from the members to give to the poor. He invites us individually to participate in the work of temporal and spiritual salvation.

Elder Holland goes on to clearly point out the individual mandate we have:

“Now, lest I be accused of proposing quixotic global social programs or of endorsing panhandling as a growth industry, I reassure you that my reverence for principles of industry, thrift, self-reliance, and ambition is as strong as that of any man or woman alive. We are always expected to help ourselves before we seek help from others. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves. But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again.”

Over and over again we are reminded that helping the poor must come from a personal desire to do so and not from someone elses compassion with other people’s property.

We also have this clear explanation in modern day revelation. From the Doctrine & Covenants, section 104 we read:

15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.

16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

The plan and the choice are clear. God wants the rich to take care of the poor to exalt the poor and humble the rich. But he wants it done by the use of agency. We don’t have any right to erect a system of force that destroys the agency of man. In so doing, we destroy God’s plan. God has a punishment prepared for the rich who do not turn their hearts to the poor when the Lord presses upon them to be compassionate. When government takes from the rich to provide for the poor, it is in essence proposing to guarantee God’s rewards upon the rich for so giving, yet no godly characteristic is formed in the heart of the rich because they aren’t the ones giving.

What should teachers at BYU be focusing on? In my opinion, they should be focusing on building faith in Christ in their students. When people come to Christ, they live His gospel and keep his commandments. The wealthy do help the poor and the people become of one mind and one heart. You can’t force that, but pure doctrine changes hearts.

If you want poor kids to excel and get better jobs, and overcome their life circumstances, teach them real math and stop distracting them. They need to compete in this world with those who may have had more advantages due to their wealth. If you are under the illusion this isn’t possible, watch “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” It’s free on Netflix.

To teach the poor to look upon their situation as a plight may in fact lead them away from Christ as they question why a “fair” God has put them in their challenging circumstances. By gifting them envy instead of encouragement, we indoctrinate them in the doctrines of the devil. Instead we should teach all to have faith in Christ, solely. Social justice is faith in government that they will take enough from the rich to give to you to meet your needs. That is not the gospel.

Professors and teachers, do not suppose that you know better than the parents who have sent their children to you. Do not suppose that because you have those children in your care that you have permission to do anything contrary to grounding them in truth and building faith. Teaching is a sacred duty and where it is not a faith building, joyous experience in embracing truth, it is not of God.

In Doctrine & Covenants 105:5 we read, “And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself”

What is that law? The law of consecration, which is a choice to participate in. You cannot prepare people for life in a celestial realm by forcing them to do good and contribute to the causes you deem just through government intervention.

If an all-powerful God who could easily right the wrongs of society and compel men to provide for others, doesn’t interfere with our choice and agency here on earth because of Celestial laws, what gives anyone else the right to do what God Himself rejects, and impose on mankind compulsory systems of tyranny all in the name of brotherly love? We should probably stop second guessing God and start trying to mimic him.

Data Collection Nightmare Comes True

Michelle Malkin’s latest article exposes what’s happening with data collection on our children. Don’t miss this and then email your legislators and ask them to terminate the Statewide Longitudinal Database System which the federal government paid Utah over $9 million to set up to track our children. No profiling our children. Let local teachers assess our kids and discuss their assessments with parents. Utah may not have this particular extreme tracking yet, but lets make sure it never happens here. Over 42,000 children in Colorado have been subjected to this particular collection system and there are others like it operating in other states.

http://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2014/10/10/look-whos-data-mining-your-toddlers-n1903149

Here’s a few clips from Michelle’s article:

“Most parents have no idea the scheme is on track for full implementation by the 2015-2016 school year. The company already plans to expand assessments to cover children from birth through third grade.”

“TS Gold’s creators describe the testing vehicle as “an early childhood assessment system” that purportedly measures the “whole child.” What that means is that the tests are not only for “literacy, mathematics, science and technology, social studies and the arts,” but also for “developmental domains including social emotional, physical, language and cognitive development.”

Aligned to the federal Common Core standards, which were designed and copyrighted by a small cadre of Beltway educrats, TS Gold received $30 million in federal Race to the Top subsidies in 2012. The assessors have 38 “objectives” arranged under nine topics of academic learning, psychomotor data and social-emotional development. Students are rated and recorded on their ability to do things like “respond to emotional cues,” “interact cooperatively” and “cooperate and share ideas and materials in socially acceptable ways.””

“Creeped out yet? This is just the tip of the data-mining iceberg. Last spring, parent Lauren Coker discovered that TS Gold assessors in her son’s Aurora, Colo., public preschool had recorded information about his trips to the bathroom, his hand-washing habits and his ability to pull up his pants.

“When I asked if we could opt out of the system,” Coker told me, school officials told her no. She pulled her son out of the school and still doesn’t know whether or how the data can be removed.”

“The ultimate goal is not improved school performance. The real end is massive student data-mining for meddling and profit. The Obama administration sabotaged federal student and family privacy protections through backroom regulation, allowing once-protected student data to be sold to private vendors for the creation of what one Colorado bureaucrat calls “human capital pipelines.”

Edutech firms such as Pearson, Microsoft, Google and Knewton are salivating at the lucrative opportunities to exploit educational Big Data and sell “customized learning” products in the most data-mineable industry in the world. And the politicians who can hook them up are reaping rich rewards in their campaign coffers.”

The Four Candidates for State Superintendent

Yesterday the state office released the names of the four finalists for Utah state superintendent. It’s a disaster.

You can find more extensive bios on the four finalists here: http://utahpoliticohub.com/state-superintendent-finalists-list-usbe/

Here’s a quick low-down on their ties to Common Core…

John Barge, current Georgia state superintendent

It appears that based on this article, Dr. Barge is not someone we could ever trust. Before the 2010 election he was adamantly opposed to Common Core. After the 2010 election he was very totally pro-Common Core. Total 180.

Rich Crandall, former director of the Wyoming Department of Education

This is a special individual. When the elected Wyoming state superintendent (Cindy Hill) spoke out against Common Core, the governor illegally stripped her over her powers and left her retaining her title, and brought in Rich Crandall to helm the state superintendent powers. Mr. Crandall said, it is “critical” that Wyoming successfully implement the common core state standards in reading and math adopted here in 2012. In my opinion, anyone who would accept an appointed position to unconstitutionally supplant an elected one, should not be near public office. I totally oppose Rich’s nomination.

Brad Smith, current Ogden School District superintendent

Disqualified himself by speaking of Common Core in this way: “They’re a huge step up from where we’ve been,” he said. “A huge step up.”

Martin Bates, current Granite School District superintendent

I can’t find any immediate articles tying Martin’s comments to Common Core, but Granite school district has been one of the most aggressive in implementing policies passed down from the state office of education, particularly carrying the SAGE and other tests to extremes. Teachers have lost days of teaching in order to test their students and from teachers who have contacted me and others, morale is low because of it. They also fired teacher Ann Florence over refusing to grade the writing portion of the district-wide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. I agree.

Wrap-up

How do the two outsiders above get brought in but Michael Sentance from MA is dropped when he helped build the best education system in the country? He gave a great interview when Dr. Menlove was appointed. No need to answer my question. I know the answer and it’s got putrefaction all over it.

We need partisan elections in Utah and I believe we need to elect our state superintendent publicly in partisan elections just like we do other chief state officers. Wyoming elects their superintendent and got someone opposed to Common Core. We can’t have any confidence in our state school board when they bring forward people like this and reject people who have done great things in education like Mike Sentance.

Action Item

Email your legislators that the state board has failed us by bringing in 4 finalists who are so pro-Common Core they are ensuring there will be no candidate we can support. Tell them we need partisan elections in Utah and we need to publicly elect the state superintendent because the unconstitutionally appointed state school board doesn’t represent Utah values like a partisan elected school board would.

Find your legislator: http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Email the state board and express your disappointment with their selections.

board@schools.utah.gov

 

Did George Orwell see the future? 1984 UNESCO Document on Common Core

Yesterday, Dr. Gary Thompson posted this document to Facebook with this comment:

It’s the handbook on how to manipulate teachers worldwide in this crap.

Another “score” for all you right wing nut bags. ;)

The subtle, as well as pronounced manipulations and indoctrination used her are hilariously being copied by USOE towards teachers and the parents in the community.

I find it hilarious (or perhaps ominous) that this document was published in 1984.

Here is just one quote from page 5 of the document:

“This regulatory role of teacher educators and inspectors has already been defined as follows ‘how can the inspector be made an agent of change in the educational system (a dynamic control)? How can the inspector be made an agent involved in controlling the relationship between the educational and the social (community) systems (external control)?’ This is the big question, and it must be admitted that these inspectors are either ill-prepared for their task, or not prepared at all. This is why an examination of the abilities and skills of school inspectors as regulators of the system is probably the most fundamental point that arises, because they work at strategic points in the functioning of the educational system.”

I would offer John Goodlad as a case in point to this. Charlotte Iserbyt in her book “The Deliberated Dumbing Down of America” calls him “America’s premier change agent.” His work at BYU started in 1983 with the “public school partnership” and then brought BYU’s education department into his “National Network for Educational Renewal” as a founding member in 1986. We succeeded in getting BYU’s education department out of the NNER just a couple years ago by throwing light on the subversive side of Goodlad and his social justice instruction in the classroom, but they are still infatuated with him and his worldly philosophies.

Interestingly, there is a major move afoot in this country by the feds to transform schools into community learning centers where they are open longer hours, keep children in schools longer, bring in parents for training in the agenda, and more. This can be searched online as “21st century learning centers” and other such community education center terms. This is nothing more than a play to make schools indoctrination centers (why hello Mr. Orwell).

Here is the UNESCO document. I would lastly point out again that Bill Gates’ Microsoft signed a contract in 2004 with UNESCO to create a global education system. Funded by Gates’ money, just a few years later we have Common Core.

UNESCO 1984 Common Core

Bombshell: Duncan breaks law – NAEP Now High Stakes Test

NEW VENUE AND TIME: Please come to a protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Invite everyone you can, especially those with children with disabilities.

In a nutshell: Secretary Arne Duncan violated federal law seeking to punish state school disability programs, got caught big time, and a federal Dept. of Education official is here in Utah on a “routine” visit. Time for a protest.

What you are about to read should result in congressional hearings and Arne Duncan probably being fired as the US Secretary of Education.

Federal law sets forth certain things that can be done under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). No one may circumvent those laws. Only Congress can change laws, but because of the current Executive Branch’s agenda to bring states under federal control, grant-based regulations and mandates have increasingly been created by Secretary Duncan, in violation of the Constitution.

On June 24, 2014, Secretary Duncan circumvented congress and issued mandates for changes in the way state special education programs are evaluated. (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-accountability-framework-raises-bar-state-special-education-programs)

“To improve the educational outcomes of America’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.”

He then went on to explain what changes he is mandating.

Eight U.S. senators prepared a letter explaining the violations of law involved in Duncan’s action and asked the Secretary a number of very pointed questions. Evidently, Senator Hatch from Utah walked that letter into a meeting, interrupting it, to deliver it to Secretary Duncan. The senators’ letter is embedded at the bottom of this article.

In essence, the mandate changes the way the school funding game is played by suddenly announcing that historical NAEP test score data will be used retroactively to evaluate federal funding on schools that have children with disabilities. As the senators’ letter points out this is a very clear violation of the law.

Duncan calls this new framework, “Results-Driven Accountability.” It’s simply unconstitutional and illegal. The press release states:

“Last year, when the Department considered only compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year, however, when the Department includes data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.”

Why are they so eager to tell states they aren’t meeting requirements? So they can enact more requirements. It’s the way things work for those in power. Tell schools they aren’t performing and then punish them with additional requirements.

Utah happens to be coming up short and is on the list of states that “need assistance.” The USDOE continues, “If a state needs assistance for two years in a row, IDEA requires the Department to take actions such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance or identifying the state as a high-risk grant recipient.”

So Utah is at risk of losing federal funds due to the feds moving the goal post and mandating, against the rules of the game, that teams retroactively enact the new rules. Suddenly the score that was 14-0, is 0-0.

Now I’m no fan of federal funding in any respect and I’d love to see it abolished, but until we are able to accomplish that, this is an egregious violation of the law and should result in Duncan and maybe others being short-timers on the hill for their actions.

NAEP was supposed to be for a common set of data between the states and was mandated to never be used for high stakes testing determination.

So what kind of “technical assistance” does the USDOE have in mind?

“As part of the move to RDA, OSERS [Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services] will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center – the Center on Systemic Improvement – to help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funds which they currently receive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition, OSERS will be working with each state to support them in developing comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.”

Because so many states were suddenly deemed to be below threshold (without knowing that’s how they would be evaluated), we’re going to see a new federal “assistance” center because obviously the states aren’t capable of educating children with disabilities. We “need” that federal help…  (Oh, and Common Core isn’t being pushed by the feds either, of course.)

Interestingly, Gregory Corr, the Director of Monitoring and State Improvement Planning at OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs), is coming to Utah *right now* to do some type of investigation. This is beyond normal. Directors don’t go to states on “routine” visits.  I understand he will be at the State Office of Education on Thursday.

Please come to the protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Help tell the the feds to stop violating the law, stop violating Utah’s sovereignty, and stop messing with children with disabilities. It’s OUR education system. Lets give Greg a “warm” welcome. Bring your signs.

 

Secretary Arne Duncan Busted

What’s your tipping point?

Two stories I just received. What is it going to take for you to do more than sign a petition?

“My daughter, _______ who lives in ______, is on the Community Counsel for _____ High.  A few days ago in one of their meetings, the floor was opened for those on the council to express any concerns they have.  She brought up Common Core and some of the others indicated their concerns also, but a teacher that she knows personally, who was in attendance, said, “We are not allowed to mention Common Core.  It is now called Desk Standards–but it is really Common Core.”
Just thought that I’d pass that on.” -SS

“So I have to say that I’m pretty upset. I picked up my son from school today and asked how his day was. He told me he got earbuds today; when I asked him what for he said he was working on a tablet and needed them. He went on to tell me he was working on a program (don’t know what it’s called but he logged into Pearson.net) and it was a match game. So when he made a match, the tone was a binaural beat. If he didn’t get the match correctly it “screamed at him” another binaural beat that he described… ‘it went through my body and made me shake, I was unable to type because it was like an electricity shock.’ I told the school that I did not want him using any portable device provided by the school. I was not informed about this, of course. Has anyone had their children mention something like this? I asked him if there are any of his classmates who do not participate but they all do. The teacher instructed the class that they cannot sit out on this exercise. – LP

When an untested math standards and curriculum are forced on children nationwide and their emotional, psychological, and intellectual abilities are not considered, you have a one-size-fits-all recipe for disaster and it boils down to institutional child abuse. What are you doing to help good candidates get elected this November?

Watch this second grader’s “love” of math after being in Common Core.
http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/MOV956753.mp4

 

Jon Fidler wrote a great article here which contains this first bit from Leslie Castle. Please read the whole article.

http://www.locallydirectededucation.com/2014/common-core-the-purpose-exposed/

After a parent expressed concern about an indoctrinating assignment to state school board member Leslie Castle, Leslie responded:

“It is my opinion that public school is a place for children to be exposed to, not indoctrinated by, many ideas and opinions that are found in the American landscape. I can’t imagine students leaving the public school system having only been exposed to the opinions and experiences that are found around their own dinner table. That would be true indoctrination and a travesty of true education.

To hide from your child the fact that many American’s do not share your view of gun rights would be indoctrination and social engineering, in my opinion. To explain to your child that all Americans have the right to have different opinions from their parents’ and from their own is a first step in the valuable lessons of social justice and self-actualization.”

Leslie, you would make the socialist/humanist education “expert” John Goodlad proud. Goodlad wrote, “A century has passed since the prescient educational historian Ellwood Cubberley wrote the epigraph with which this writing began: “Each year the child is coming to belong more to the State and less and less to the parent.”

“My only disagreement with his observation pertains to the implication of our owning children. We parents do not own our children; we just rent them for a while. Given the extent to which what he was troubled about has expanded, however, his reference to state ownership may well be appropriate.”

(2010, Washington Post, Goodlad on school reform: Are we ignoring lessons of last 50 years?)

Thank you Leslie for yet another reason we desperately need partisan elections…

 

Comments on Common Core Math Standards

This week I received two comments on the Common Core math standards which are worth reading and understanding. This first is from Ze’ev Wurman, a former member of California’s Academic Content Standards Committee, and a U.S. Dept. of Education official under George W. Bush. Someone asked Ze’ev about Euclidean geometry in Common Core’s standards. This is his response:

“Common Core did not throw out Euclidean Geometry. Common Core replaced the way the fundamental theorems of Euclidean Geometry (relating to triangle congruence such as ASA, SAS, SSS) are supposed to be proven in the classroom to an experimental method with a track record of failure. Consequently, proving Euclidean Geometry theorems is bound to be no more than arm waiving under Common Core, and the beautiful edifice of logical air-tight deductive geometrical reasoning is bound to be lost. To add insult to injury, Common Core only lightly touches on traditional body of theorems relating to triangles and circles, making it’s geometry a shallow course.

In Common Core’s defense one could argue that many Geometry courses already today give a short shrift to logical proofs and to exploring geometrical relationships of triangles and circles. This is true for some courses, yet not for all of them. What Common Core does is that it codifies such shallow treatment of geometry to be the normative one, forcing even serious courses to be dumbed down to mediocre and shallow levels.”

This next comment is from Dr. Wayne Bishop, mathematician at California State University. Long time opponent of fuzzy math, he helped bring down the awful standards California adopted in the 90’s that devastated their state, and brought about their excellent 1999-2000 standards and framework which were among the best in the nation prior to their downgrading them for Common Core. This letter was in response to one of the questions on Governor Herbert’s recent survey. I don’t know which question this was a response to. Emphasis mine.

Although the words claim otherwise, the effect is highly pedagogical in support of a philosophy called “constructivism” that has a long history of repeated failure. I was very active in replacing California’s model of such in the 1990s with superb standards, the California Mathematics Content Standards with approved curricula and consistent assessments. Regrettably, California made the same mistake as Utah to “buy into” the misguided Common Core State Standards mirrored in the Utah ones. The words that the CCSS-M are tied to the best international standards are simply meaningless. FAR better would be to abandon the Utah form of the CCSS-M and replace the document with the far clearer and appropriate former California Mathematics Content Standards.

One of the problems is a deliberate, but disguised, avoidance of competence with arithmetic in the early grades. They are filled with nice-sounding words that are essentially content-free; pedagogy trumps specified/testable competency that is so critically important through ordinary fractions, percent, and ratio and proportion word problems. The lack of confirmation of arithmetic competence is dismissed by professional math education “experts” by ubiquitous, and inappropriate, access to calculators. By contrast, Japanese classrooms look very different:

http://www.linfield.edu/linfield-news/students-and-prof-examine-why-japan-outsmarts-u-s-in-math-scores/

“Students sit in rows and are expected to listen quietly. Teachers rely on direct instruction rather than investigative mathematics, but although they ask few questions, the questions they do ask are useful in guiding student understanding.”

The biggest surprise was a shocking lack of technology in Japanese classrooms. “Not a single student pulled out a calculator during class,” Drickey said. There were no overhead projectors, televisions, computers or laptops.

“But lack of reliance on technology may lead to higher scores for Japanese students,” she said. “The ability to think mathematically, without the aid of an outside source, could help students process mathematical problems more accurately and efficiently.”

As an experienced professor of mathematics who has taught our course designed to prepare prospective high school geometry teachers (Math 430 Modern Geometry), I am especially appalled the geometry standards that, again, echo the CCSS-M. To actually prove congruence (much less similarity) using transformations instead of the traditional sophomore Euclidean geometry approach, is something that no high school student is capable of doing without exceptional leadership, in part, because it is in none of the available books. Instead of making the subject harder (as an honest treatment would), the effect is the removal of proof from the high school mathematics curriculum. The very words in the CCSS-M and Utah Standards pass traditional sophomore proof on to college geometry which denies high school students the greatest gift of the ancient Greeks to modern human thought, semi-formal deductive logic. Sin has many forms but one of its more insidious ones is failing to educate students to the best of our ability under the misguided notion that if it’s especially challenging for some students, water it down so that everybody can “succeed”.

Professor of Mathematics
California State University, LA

 

Random Quote

“…a student attains ‘higher order thinking’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong. A large part of what we call good teaching is a teacher´s ability to obtain affective objectives by challenging the student’s fixed beliefs. …a large part of what we call teaching is that the teacher should be able to use education to reorganize a child’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.” — Benjamin Bloom, psychologist and educational theorist, “Major Categories in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives,” pg. 185

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