In 2001, amid plenty of controversy, the U.S. Congress passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. This law placed impossible demands on states, such as requiring 100% proficiency in reading and math by 2014.
As 2014 began to approach, everyone knew this “goal” was impossible, so in September 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) announced that states could seek “flexibility waivers” for the requirements they must meet under NCLB. The states had to meet certain new requirements set by the USDOE, including adoption and implementation of “college- and career-ready” standards and assessments: a.k.a. Common Core.
In November 2012, the Utah State School Board announced it had accepted a bid to build Utah’s new assessment system from the American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.), a behavioral research company based in Washington, D.C.
Curiously enough, that same company had one of its vice-presidents serving as a reviewer of NCLB waivers. A.I.R. vice-president Sabrina Laine was appointed in November 2011 to review applications from the states for No Child Left Behind waivers. AIR is the official partner of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) who was one of two federally funded testing consortiums. So one of the two organizations writing federally funded Common Core-aligned tests gets to help decide whether waiver applications are acceptable? Something’s not right here.
Last night, in his State of the Union address, President Obama made a rather bold and unexpected statement about education.
He said, “Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so those German kids, they’re ready for a job when they graduate high school…We need to give every American student opportunities like this.”
It was bold, because he laid out his vision for education in very clear terms. It was surprising, because he’s usually been more cautiously obscure about his intentions.
For months, opponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been trying to show people that CCSS is being used by the Federal government to expand its role in education. The president helped us paint that picture last night.
Most states adopted the CCSS as part of the first Race to the Top (RTT) program, which Obama initiated in July 2009. He praised the results of the original program last night, saying, “Four years ago, we started Race to the Top, a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards.”
Then, in conjunction with his assertion that he wants the U.S. system to work like Germany’s, Obma proceeded to announce a second RTT program.
It appears that not only were the opponents of the CCSS right about increased Federal involvement, but that it goes even further than we’ve said. Based on Obama’s bold statement last night, the current thrust of education reform is toward a centrally-managed education system that assigns kids to tracks – like Germany. And a centrally-managed education system is part one of two parts to a centrally-managed economy, the other part being high government regulation of businesses.
How will this affect kids (and by extension, businesses) in Utah? That all depends on how our legislators and elected officials in the executive branch respond to the money that will be offered, and the nice-sounding promises that will be made.
We will either join the movement toward a German-style education system, lured by the siren song of educational utopia and the millions of dollars in the new RTT competition; or stand for basic American freedom, say “No” to the money, preserve our free markets, and protect our kids’ basic right to choose their own destiny, rather than be told what they are “best-suited for.”
Obama’s statement was very clear: he wants our education system to look like Germany’s, where the test you take about the time you are 10 years old determines your future.
German Education Tracks
We in Utah need to be just as clear: we want no part of this system. While there are a few aspects of its system which are perhaps worthy of emulation, its disregard for individual liberty and undermining of the free market by projecting what jobs will be needed and slotting kids for them is not. We want no part of the Federal government’s promises of educational Eden, “if we’ll just let them be more involved and share our kids’ personal data with them.”
Education is not just about producing workers, which seems to be Obama’s attitude. It is about acquiring knowledge to enrich one’s understanding of the world, one’s appreciation for beauty, one’s understanding of the deep truths of humanity. Acquiring skills that enable one to seek employment in the occupation of his or her choice is an inevitable consequence of teaching for the former purposes.
And education is best handled entirely at the most local level. Utah’s elected officials should turn down the RTT bait, which will draw us into deeper dependence upon and accountability to the Federal government. They must remember and honor the basic principles of the American way of life while they formulate ways to strengthen our educational system.
One final item worthy of note: homeschooling is illegal in Germany. Does Obama aspire to imitate this feature as well?
What You Can Do: Contact your state representative and senator and tell them you’re concerned about the push to institute a German-style education system in the U.S., and that you want them to oppose bills that will move us in that direction.
Contact your state school board member and tell them you’re concerned about the push to institute a German-style education system in the U.S. Tell them that you want them to tell the State Office of Education not to apply for the new RTT grant, and get us out of Common Core.
Contact the governor and tell him you’re concerned about the push to institute a German-style education system in the U.S., and that you want Utah to get out of Common Core and not participate in the new RTT grant competition.
ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
This was just passed on to me. The Obama administration is actively seeking to deport a German family who has refugee status in the U.S. because they homeschool, which is illegal in Germany. The Obama Justice Department says that the family should be promptly deported even though the children may be seized by authorities and the parents jailed if they are forced to return to Germany, because homeschooling is not a fundamental human right.
If you’ve been unaware of the intentions of this administration as regards the role and rights of parents, this story should make everything very clear. And it should increases concern about the new RTT program which seeks to advance Obama’s agenda for children.