Category Archives: Essay Contest

The Core of Rottenness by Sarah Anderson

Another in our essay contest series, this one contributed by Sarah Anderson.


What is common core? It is the standard core of knowledge that most educators and government officials believe every child should know in preparation for college. I understand why they would think students in high schools would need something like this, what I don’t understand is why they feel the need to shove it down the throats of children in elementary schools. The children in America are taking more and more tests about science and math while doing less art projects and learning about fun subjects that teaches them learning can be fun. I think that they should do away with common core as it is now and return the core curriculum back to how they were before they started experimenting with the math classes, letting the elected state officials decide what our children should learn. The education in America is messed up; the whole idea of America is the land of the free where different people are free to do things in their own unique way. So the question is, why do they think they should teach all the children the same things and the same pace? Every citizen in America is unique, that includes the children and teens. We all deserve to take things at our own pace and if we need to be in an easier math class they should have one available for people to take.  We all learn in different ways and I would go as far to say that expecting millions of individuals to think and learn the same way was completely unconstitutional and inhumane. In the common core system they have developed different ways to test the special needs children, but every child is special, not just the ones with the learning disabilities. In a perfect world each and every child would have their own curriculum dedicated to teaching them in the way they learn best. That may be completely unrealistic, but schools should at least try to offer as many classes as they can, where the teachers teach the students at different paces instead of fewer classes that everyone has to take. I’m not saying that having core classes are bad, there are things that every child should know, I’m just saying that they should offer lots of different classes so students aren’t forced into classes where they fail just because they don’t learn the way that teacher teaches. If the government is going to spend a ton of money we don’t have on our education they should use it to offer more classes and hire more teachers to teach different and unique subjects.

When Utah first adopted the common core, the government distracted everyone from all the power they were taking away from the states by putting a competition in our faces where the states could win prize money. If everyone hadn’t been distracted I don’t think they would have agreed to let people on the other side of the country make the decisions for their children’s education. The government is taking more and more power away from the people and the sad thing is lots of people don’t even know its happening. When Utah joined the common core program we were assured that our state could get out of it if the majority of the state wanted to, but it’s not that simple we would also have to get written permission from the board of education and all of the other states in the program. There were also a few implied threats that any money we had earned in the competitions would have to be paid back to the country. The government is trying to convince everyone that it is such a good program and all of the children will be much better because of it, so why does it seem like they had to bribe the different states to join? Furthermore why does it sound like they’ll make our lives extremely difficult if we ever try to leave? The government is trying to control the states of this nation and all of the people and children who live in them. When the government was set up it was specifically designed to be a servant of the people. The people all voted and decided what laws they all had to live by, and there was a checks and balances system set up to make sure that the members in the government didn’t get greedy and try to take complete control of the government. This nation was meant to be a Republic, but every day when the government takes away another one of our freedoms to make us all “safer” we seem to be moving closer and closer to a communist government. Common core is an example of this; the government is taking away the states’ rights to decide what our children learn and telling us they know what’s best for our children. How can some old fat people who live over two thousand miles away, know better than the elected officials who live in our state? Our rights are being taken away from us, but people don’t realize it because they are wrapped up in the lies the government is feeding us about knowing what is best for our children.

The Common Core should be taken out of our schools and our education should go back to being decided by the elected officials in each state that were doing a fine job before it came along. The USA is about people uniqueness, and our children learning to be common are the complete opposite of that. It’s against everything we stand for as citizens of the USA, our children should learn to embrace their uniqueness and being told they have to learn like everyone else at such a young age drills the idea that being different is bad. If the children of our nation are forced to learn in such a strict environment with no room for creativity they’ll never reach their full potential.

-Sarah Anderson

Essay Contest: No improvement, just giving up freedoms

David Cox submitted this essay for our contest. He is a public school teacher and former state representative and helped educate me in the very early days of my activism in Alpine school district 10 years ago. Here is his essay.


“I have not yet heard one salient reason for moving from what we already have to Common Core Standards, except to be the same as everyone else. How pathetic. There’s no improvement, just a giving up of our freedom and responsibility for our children.

When I was first hired, what one taught was decided by the texts that teachers and the principal decided upon.

So I had a great deal of say. It was school based, though the state had recommendations of what, and at what grade level, but recommendations were all they were.

Some time after Nation at Risk, 1983, it became the vogue thing for districts to write up “standards.” That came about to counter what so many teachers were being taught by constructivist professors (as one of mine at BYU did) that, “If you want to cover the text…(wait for it) use a dish towel.” You were to teach what they, the students, wanted to learn. It was “democratic” learning (student driven). In other words “just teach whatever!” The standards movement came about to stop constructivism, because the Back-to-Basics movement wasn’t able to, since it was directed at teachers and not the professors, who were the source. Alpine SD used teachers, I was one of many, who wrote these and lesson plans to go with them in the old ACE (Alpine Curriculum for Excellence). It actually was very good –and specific.

Then the State Board of Education decided they had to get into the act and State Standards were created through USOE. These were much inferior to the ACE. At first we were able to “align” the standards together, which I worked on using Career Ladder monies. Finally they were shoved down our throats and we had to give up the ACE for these inferior state standards, which were quite non-specific.

Now we are having National Standards crammed down our throats, which will be backed up with tests that will end up dictating even the methods used to teach. Why? (Here’s the irony.) Because they are being created by professors who are as constructivist in philosophy as the original standards movement was created to get rid of! And these “standards” (inferior to many states’ previous standards and heavily influenced by the aforementioned philosophy) are being required in order to get federal dollars and wavers from NCLB. How can any district back out?

And as these become entrenched in a few years the politically correct police from Washington will start telling us EXACTLY what we can and can’t teach (history will be added, think of how that will be slanted) and how, and it will be things we in Utah will disagree with strongly depending on the administration in power. What’s worse, there will be no other choice. Already charter schools are being required next year to teach it, and even private schools will be required to become accredited, of which the first requirement will be to adopt the national curriculum. The next step, as has happened in Sweden this past year, even home schooling will be abolished. Do you see why I’m terrified?

I’ve watched it happen from day one and followed it very closely. I’ve seen all the changes, and it isn’t better. Back then, you couldn’t guarantee perfect teaching, but many teachers did a very good job.

As it is going, teachers will be little more than robots, constricted in everything they do.

This will almost prohibit great teaching.

The real irony is that conservatives tried to forcibly get rid of the faulty constructivist teaching by using government power with the standards and accountability movement. And after getting the force of government in place, liberals turned it around and took control and are in the process of completely implementing their agenda. If they had truly understood human agency and the real conservative philosophy, they would never have tried to use government to “guarantee” correct philosophy, because if you give government enough power to control it, it will end up controlling you.

As a retired teacher, former legislator, and grandparent, I am strongly opposed to the Common Core for three main reasons.

1. I want standards, not standardization. Standardization forces everyone to come down to a common level, the lowest common denominator. Locally adopted or created standards build the intellects and support of and from the local parents and teachers. Nationally imposed “standards” bring avoidance and lack of responsibility along with agendas I oppose, such as #2.

2. The philosophy of those who created Common Core is constructivism. They believe the student must construct their own set of knowledge (discovery learning). This is the philosophy that gave us “Whole Language” instead of reading, English, and spelling. It gave us “Investigations Math” instead of real math. It dumbed-down history and geography into “Social Studies.” The Common Core itself is dumbing-down Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus into Math 1 and 2, etc.

3. Finally, though the standards themselves were not directly created by the national government, they are being imposed by incentives. The real nationalizing threat comes from the tests that ARE nationally created and which drive the implementation of the standards. I want our schools to listen to the parents, not to Washington politicians and educrats.

The real answer to improvement will only come when we give both freedom and responsibility to the local community. That is the story of America, the story Europeans didn’t (and still don’t) believe, that, given freedom to either succeed or fail, the common man will usually do what is necessary to succeed. Nationally imposed education will not do this, neither will vouchers, which would only, with the funding, pass on the government interference that is hampering the public schools to private schools. To solve this we need to create new, community-sized school districts. Doing this will bring the community together on behalf of their own children. The adults will grow in the process of local decision-making and control of education, and that will then raise the children.

Only by creating new smaller districts will we return liberty and responsibility to the local parents and teachers. Only then will true accountability be accomplished. Only then will true educational quality and efficiency be possible to achieve. It truly takes a community to educate a child. We cannot lift the children without lifting the adults too.

That cannot be accomplished by nationally created and imposed standards.

It takes governing from the local level to lift and build the people. That is what the United States are all about.”

-by David Cox

Essay Contest: My Children are not Guinea Pigs

Here is an essay contest entry by Michelle Nicholes.


I am writing to express my concerns with the direction that our public schools are heading as a result of the federal government stepping in and more specifically (I am going to say it, but please keep reading!) Common Core.  I know that there are a lot of good and bad things being said about Common Core and you are probably more than tired of dealing with it, but I truly believe it is something that still needs to be addressed.

When I first started hearing about Common Core, I was fine with it.  (Not that I really had a choice, since it had already been implemented before parents were told about it.)  It sounded like a good idea.  But the more I started researching and learning, the more it started to confuse and concern me.  I’m just beginning to really understand what is happening with the control over education being taken away from the state and the implementation of this new curriculum and standardized testing.  And while I still don’t know everything about it, I know enough to be more than just a little concerned.

As a parent, I’ve always been actively involved in the education of my children.  Because of this there are many things about Common Core that bother me.  Below are just a few:

*It is very concerning to me that as a parent, I might not always have a say in what my child is taught in the public schools.

*I’m very angry that something that hasn’t even been tested or confirmed successful is being implemented.  My children ARE NOT guinea pigs.

*I am disturbed that there is data collecting on children that has nothing to do with school.  Why??

*I am frustrated that they are attempting to standardize education making it a one size fits all, when no two children are EVER going to be alike.  It doesn’t take into consideration the individuality and also the struggles that some children face.

My son started struggling with math two years ago in third grade.  He really struggled last year in fourth grade.  Nor has it improved this year.  I discovered that Common Core math was implemented the year he first started struggling.  I was told that because of the new curriculum, they needed to cram a whole bunch of new math ideas into the year to get them on track for the next year.   That all sounded wonderful, let’s get our students smarter, faster!  But that isn’t exactly how it will work.  They are introducing new ideas, new concepts that require children to learn things they are NOT ready for.  Their brains are not developed enough to grasp the concepts yet and all it does is frustrate them.  I saw that with my second grader last year in math as well.  As an adult, the concepts they are teaching kind of make sense, if I look hard at the reasoning behind it.   But most children are not ready for this way of thinking and reasoning.  They have taken math from simple steps to many complex steps and I don’t understand why or see how it is helping.  If you have looked at the Common Core math, then you’ll know what I mean.  If you haven’t, I would encourage you to try to solve a few problems- following the new rules, not the way you were taught.

I had to relearn how to do long division last year in order to help my son with math.  It confused me as to why it had been changed.  After all, haven’t we all succeeded just fine – for many decades, I might add- with the tried and true method of long division?   I showed him how I was taught to do it and he told me “I wish I could just do it that way.  Your way is tons easier!”  All this new curriculum is doing is frustrating the students and affecting their self esteem.  Frustrated children give up.  Most children that feel stupid or inadequate because they don’t understand something, will just give up!  Children are not known for their patience.

I won’t go into everything that concerns me, but there are many more that I could mention.  They are concerning enough to me that I will be withdrawing my children from public school next year in order to home school them.  My children’s ability to learn and feel successful, instead of feeling stressed and inadequate, is important enough to me to make this big decision.  I love our schools and teachers.  I have no problems with them.  However, I have no love for Common Core and what it will ultimately do to our children.

My hope is that you will continue to research and become aware of all that Common Core really is.  Our children’s future is too important to not make a careful, educated decision.

–Michelle Nicholes

Essay Contest: Stop the Cowardice

Another Essay contest entry, this one by Cindy Vincent.

Even though I homeschool, I support public schools. In fact like many other homeschoolers I greatly benefit from their existence. Many programs exist such as K-12, Connections Academy, My Tech High. Other local public charters have distance learning programs like Canyon Grove Academy in Pleasant Grove of which we take part. All of these homeschool programs are publicly funded.

I want to take a stand not only with homeschoolers who take advantage of the programs such these. But also with parents who send their children to public schools. I want to stand with teachers who have been delegated by parents to teach our children. I want to stand with local school board members who care enough to put their name on ballots to represent the communities of Utah. I want to stand with local school administrators who know the needs of our individual communities. We need to stand together because we know what’s best for our children.

The Divine Creator sent children to parents not to state school boards, governors, senators, or legislatures. He didn’t send them to bureaucracies such the National Governors Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers, or to corporations such as Achieve, Inc. He didn’t send them to the US Department of Education. Yet if we send our children to a public school in which ever form, despite the fact that we fund them, these are the very individuals and entities that are in control of our children’s education.

Policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top has our state board of education afraid of the federal government. I want to tell the governor and our state board of education to stop their cowardice and listen to their constituents. It is no secret to us that you have been advised to not listen to us by influential members of society. You have been warned that parents would go to the legislatures. It is no secret that our own Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has marginalized us, in particular ‘suburban white moms’.

I am against Common Core and its sister reforms of data tracking and computer adaptive testing because these policy’s strip parents and students of privacy. They strip teachers of freedom to teach to a diverse group of students. Local leaders loose the ability to change standards that could fail local communities.

Abraham Lincoln once said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Utah has let itself be divided. The governor and the state board of education vs. parents and teachers. Together, as a state, we can stand up to the bully that is the US Department of Education and the federal government. There is no need to be afraid. But we can not do this if the board continues to give the public misleading and incomplete information as it did in a presentation last summer.

For many years parents and teachers have for the most part trusted the state board of education to make decisions for our children’s education without fuss. But the board has crossed a line. Don’t mistake our stance on Common Core for wanting low standards or no accountability. We want those things for our children also. That is why we have spent hours, days, weeks, and months dedicated to reading bills, reforms, laws, grant applications, and conference notes. Notice that these are all informational texts that we are capable of reading without having been subject to ELA Common Core State Standards.

As history and modern day has taught over and over again, a controlling and powerful government may be very successful at certain outcomes, including education. However force , even by fear, is not nor ever has been the American way. As Americans , as Utahans, I know that we can be much more creative than common standards.

Cindy Vincent

Essay Contest: Red Flags Across America

Another entry from our essay contest by Laureen Simper.


The Common Core State Standards have raised red flags to watchful parents across America, and awakened the most fearful creature in all of nature:  a parent who senses that the well-being of its offspring is at stake.  The red flags are daunting, because there are so many.  Here are a few:

When parents can’t get anything more concrete from a teacher other than to call these standards “more rigorous”, that is a red flag.

When teachers are afraid to speak against the Common Core standards for fear of losing their jobs, that is a red flag.

When university education students are told that their professors don’t know what to teach them to qualify them as certified teachers, that is a red flag.

When teachers skulkingly hand a parent a text book to help a child at home, as if that text book is contraband, that is a red flag.

When a federal government spending money from taxpayers who have not yet been born, bribes states to receive waivers from ridiculous practices or money to adopt untested, unused, unwritten standards, that is a red flag.

When educrats advocate funneling a child into a system that will determine what that child will grow up to be, for the good of a global job market, which undermines the true self-determination that has been a prized value of liberty since this country’s beginnings, that is a red flag!

It is at this point in the conversation that any good disciple of Saul Alinsky will hurl this question accusingly at the protective parent:  “so aren’t you for any standards in education?”

Parents: it is at this point that we must have an answer so ready, that it nearly bursts from us because it burns within us: I am for standards that are NOT common!

Excellence is not common.  And rigorous does not equal excellence.  Rigorous is defined as “thorough, exhaustive, and accurate”.  Do we as parents want that kind of education for these beautiful, snowflake-like individuals, these magnificent children, who came to us – as Wordsworth said, “trailing clouds of glory from God, who is [their] home”?  Remember: the word ‘rigorous’ has the same Latin root as ‘rigor’ – as in ‘rigor mortis’ – the stiffening of muscles that follows death.  In the context of Common Core, I pray that ‘rigorous’ isn’t referring to stiffening that leads to the death of our children’s ability to imagine, dream, create, and think for themselves.

We are for the uncommon, the excellent, the exceptional.

We are for the individual liberty of directing our children’s education – with decisions made locally in homes and local community schools and districts.

We are for the individual liberty of local teachers – gifted and dedicated professionals who love and praise and encourage our children, who spend countless hours of personal time and too much unreimbursed personal funds on their students, and who often intuitively know – without multi-million dollar assessments – which of those students are struggling and how to adapt lessons to reach them.

We are for the privacy of our children as guaranteed to us by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

We are for our children having the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a protected childhood, of them having the freedom to succeed – and fail! – and through their experiences, gain the strength and wisdom to choose for themselves the path their lives will follow.

I quote Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, who delivered a masterful speech last summer, on what he was for in education.  He said:

           “The goal of good education should be the pursuit of what is good…and true…and just…and right…and REAL, not the protection or the propagation of what is COMMON.  Good education has never been about dumbing down the academy to a group of ideas that are agreed upon by the powerful and the popular.  The goal of the educator should be the pursuit of truth, not the construction of what is common.  Education should be about an open mind that challenges the consensus, rather than a set of closed constructs of commonality that capitulate to the mediocrity of the group, group think, and the collective opinion.”

He goes on to say:  “I am against Common Core because I believe in intellectual integrity – the integration of head, and heart, and fact, and faith that is directed by the student’s thirst for truth and not the state’s hunger for control.”

I stand for excellence, for local control, for privacy, for teachers, but first, last, and always, I stand for my children.

Laureen Simper

Why I Oppose the Common Core Initiative

Another entry in the Essay Contest, this one by Lindsey Ohlin.


by Lindsey Ohlin

There are hundreds of reasons why I oppose the Common Core initiative, but all of them boil down to my support of the United States Constitution and the Natural Rights of Men. Not only is Common Core unconstitutional, but it also goes against my God-given rights as a parent to raise, guide, and educate my own children in the way I see fit.

The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution established that the power to oversee and control education belonged to the states. Those powers which are not explicitly granted to the Federal Government by the Constitution are reserved to the States and the people. Education is NOT listed as a power granted to the Federal Government, and therefore it is the right of the states and the people to control the educational system at a local level. Not only does the Constitution NOT authorize the federal government to control our education system, but even the law that organized the U.S. Department of Education states that they are not authorized to “exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system […], or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system […].” (Department of Education Organization Act Section 103-b). This information alone is enough to tell me that Common Core overstretches the rights of the federal government and encroaches on our rights as Utahns.

Not only is Common Core unconstitutional and in violation of federal law, but it is also in violation of my beliefs in the Natural Law and the laws of God. As a firm believer in God and a belief that we are all children of our God, I know that I have been entrusted with a sacred stewardship over my children. I am to raise up my children in righteousness and look out for their best interest. In Proverbs, we are commanded as parents to “[t]rain up a child in the way he should go […]”; yet, somehow I missed the part where it commanded the government to take on that responsibility. It is my responsibility as the parent to stand guard over my children and ensure that the things they are being taught are in line with truth and decency. When the control of curriculum is taken away from the local school districts it is also taken away from the parents who have a say in who controls their school districts.

So basically, although I could go on and on about why I oppose the common core agenda, the two all-encompassing components of my reasoning boils down to the fact that without question it is unconstitutional and hinders my responsibility as a parent, entrusted to me by God, to raise and guide my child through this scary world we live in.

Essay Contest: Indifference to Data Privacy

This essay contest entry by Karen Lee discusses data privacy issues.


I’m finding that people are indifferent to the problem of data privacy, figuring that they think “the Feds” have all of our information already. They feel helpless and afraid to go against “authority” and traditional educational procedures. This is exactly what “the Feds” want people to think. As people opt out of Common Core testing, Utah should focus more on who AIR is and who is controlling the content of the test items as well as having control of the Standards, the “living work” that will evolve and change over time by those in charge, “the Feds”. What has the federal government done that hasn’t turned into huge bureaucracy and a burden to the people, not to mention indoctrinating or pushing a particular agenda down our throats?

Computer Adaptive Testing WILL drive the curriculum! You should have heard Alpine School District data guy talk about how wonderful the SAGE test is going to be, especially with the interim testing (testing 3 times a year). You are kidding yourself if you don’t think the teachers will change and do whatever they can to get their students to perform well on these tests. It will reflect their ability to teach, thus changing curriculum to conform.

I wish we could be more forthright about it all and compare this process of National takeover of education to Germany and the Communists burning books and controlling what information the people learn or hear.

Have you read the book “Exiled?” It is about John Lothrop back in the early 1600’s dealing with the Church of England and the evil Bishop Laud. They threatened, tortured, mutilated, and killed those who didn’t do exactly as the Church of England dictated. There was no freedom of conscience. People were thrown into horrible prisons if they associated with Separatists or Independents, those who didn’t support the Church of England but instead wanted to study prophecies and follow their conscience relating to Christ.

Have you read it? Probably not. You can’t find this book in the libraries or even online. It is a true story about freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, fighting and sacrificing for what you believe in.

I could go on and on, but as a final thought, do you know what your children are being “forced” to read in their classes at school?

This fight against Common Core is a fight for liberty and freedom to choose. It is worth the fight and we need to help people understand that they CAN do something different than what is being asked of them by the schools. These tests are not critical to a student’s base of knowledge. They are simply a way to control the message and gain their numbers and data desired. Good teachers already know if their students are mastering the concepts taught.

by Karen Lee

Essay Contest: Seek Learning Out of the Best Books

Another essay contest entry, by Alyson Williams


The current approach to education reform in the U.S. reminds me of a well-known scene in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. Tom needs to whitewash an entire fence before he can get on with what he’d really like to be doing. Not able to get the job done on his own he comes up with a clever plan and one by one gets the neighborhood boys to take over his work by making the job look really appealing, by convincing them it is something that want to do of their own accord, and by the flattery that only certain people are capable of doing such an important job. After all, Aunt Polly was “awful particular” and didn’t trust Jim, or Sid with the task.

Sound familiar? Federal and private education reformers have been trying to push through policies to centralize power over education for decades but could not force the sovereign states to comply. Who knew all they had to do was convince a few of the “neighborhood boys” that they would make great reformers and call the plan “state-led.”

I find in the dialog between Tom and his first dupe an especially uncanny metaphor for the adoption process of Common Core and the other Stimulus-driven education reforms.

Tom expresses doubt that his friend Ben can be trusted with such the important task at hand saying, “If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it …”

Ben assures Tom that he’ll be careful and deciding he’d better give something to Tom in trade he offers, “Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”And then as he sees Tom hesitate, he adds, “I’ll give you ALL of it.”

So Utah gave away our Core, but who wants just the core of an apple? Do we really think they’ll be satisfied with that?

The story continues saying, “Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart… the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.”

The narrator says of Tom, “He had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.”

The vignette ends with the observation that Tom “had discovered a great law of human action… that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do” but that people would happily work at doing something if it was voluntary.

How ironic that this was so similar to the process that led to the adoption of the English Language Arts standards that sacrifice the time once spent feasting on classic stories in favor of the informational-texts of the 21st-century, global workforce. Stories that, like this one, would serve as a cautionary tale to Governors, Superintendents or others racing to support common education standards for our nation when they would likely never had been such enthusiastic participants if the objective had been assigned or decreed. When deftly positioned as a voluntary “state-led” initiative, however, and presented along with the ego-stroking idea of themselves as the only leaders who could be entrusted with such an important task, the Common Core State Standards Initiative swept Governors and Superintendents into bids of what they each might offer (in the form of Race to the Top grant applications and often the entirety of the cost of such commitments when the grant was not awarded) for the honor of participating.

One key reformer, Education Secretary Arne Duncan later bragged to an international audience at UNESCO of the early success of this strategy saying, “… today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.”

As a result, the fence standing between reformers who would centralize key aspects of public education and their goal of getting on to more mischief with our local schools was whitewashed in record time. The dupes gave up the whole apple and more, and just like Aunt Polly, many an unsuspecting citizen accepted the trickery as a praiseworthy achievement.

In the engaging tale of an American boy, Twain gives all who would read a great insight into what motivates people (think of it as leadership training 101) but also alerts would-be dupes against such schemes as the one currently enabling a concentration of power over the education of the rising generation.

In this example we see the power of a good story to develop both literacy and wisdom regardless of the century or the economy in which the reader lives. It might lead one wonder if we really want students to spend more time dissecting excerpts of everyday informational text (characterized as “critical thinking”) or whether we all would be better off with a little more Tom Sawyer or other classic works that have outlived educational and political fads by masterfully capturing human interactions in language that speaks to our hearts and souls, entices us to learn more, and gifts us timeless ideas and ideals to think critically about.

–Alyson Williams

The Constitutionality of Common Core by Mike Porter

Contest entrant Mike Porter submitted this essay on the constitutionality of Common Core.

During 2013, Common Core has been a subject of growing interest among families, teachers, school boards, and politicians throughout the country. As states adopted these “minimum standards” called Common Core, a growing number of citizens are organizing in opposition to its structure and function. Utah is among a super majority of states who have adopted these standards and are moving forward to its implementation in our schools. Being an active parent in my children’s education and an informed participant in my civic duties, I wish to join the resistance in opposition to our states association with this organization.

Proponents for Common Core say it’s a set of standards that define the expectation of what students are supposed to learn. With these expectations parents and teachers will be able to guide their children through the learning process and prepare them for college and careers. Common Core advocates claim these standards are only expected outcomes, which in no way limit the options in curriculum. They profess the curriculum choices are still left up to the school system to decide.

Critics argue in part that standards should not be decided upon by outside or unknown sources but by parents, schools, districts, and school boards. Antagonists say the expected outcomes and standardized tests will dictate the subject matter and curriculum, thus limiting their choice and discretion of what is taught and the method of instruction. They are doubtful a small panel will be able to meet the needs of a diverse population in an ever changing environment. And lastly, their research shows evidence of collusion and corruption with individuals and corporations while the government dangles money to encourage states to accept this concatenation.

Thomas Jefferson did not believe in entangling ourselves with foreign alliances for reasons of maintaining our sovereignty, nor did he wish us to inherit problems from other lands. I believe this has application in the area of education as well. Alliances such as this limit our sovereignty as a state and people with regards to how we choose to best educate our children. No one program can possibly meet the needs of this vast land without dumbing down the educational process. The George W. Bush initiated program “No Child Left Behind” did just that, just ask a teacher.

The tenth amendment declares all powers not enumerated in the constitution were left to the states and the people. The federal government has been involved in education for many years, redistributing the States money (our money) as they see fit with nothing to show for it but a further decline in the quality of our children’s education. The republican platform has asserted that the federal government has no authority to entangle itself in education. The states and its people need to assert their right and responsibility as the proprietor for the education of their children.

Whether Common Core is a federal program or a private conglomerate it does not matter, the principle is the same. When power is centralized, corruption and abuse of power is enabled, efficiency is diminished and the needs of the individual citizens suffer. The founders believed in the principle of separation of powers. They believed societies functioned best when governance was administered at the lowest possible level. If public education is a function of government which it is in our society, it is best administered at the community level closest to the children being educated. Programs, problems, and solutions are best managed in the capable hands of the professionals directly involved: Parents, teachers, school boards, and districts working together to educate the students they love and care about.

Competition is a vital element of our free-market, capitalistic society; it promotes innovation, improvement, efficiency, and corrective action. It encourages abundance and competitive prices to more groups and classes of people when it is allowed to flourish. Competition should be allowed to thrive in the education of our children. By creating a single set of standards-implemented by a few, competition is stifled and our children will suffer, and our society will be diminished for generations.

Essay Contest: Our Job Is Not To Indoctrinate

By Utah Teacher Susan Wilcox

We are being duped.

My trust of our district people led me to just go along with many things that I was not aware would be so controlling. At the end of the year, while we were cleaning out things and had little time to talk, they called us together to ask if they could spend the money on SRA courses that were excellent (in their opinion) – brought NO SAMPLES, and we agreed.

– In one short moment, we had changed from our own lesson plans to nationally written materials.

When we got them during the summer, there was no training yet for using them; they were piled on our shelves and one district person said to just pick them up and get going; the other said wait for training. (I’m not sure they even knew what they were doing.)

After being trained, I was excited at first with how well these were put together. Then I noticed the green agenda in there and political stuff that could be controversial, and just thought I was being “old fogie” in my thinking.

There were sideline comments about extinction of certain animals. It was the SRA Reading Mastery program, and the 2nd year we switched to another program by the same company.

It was more directly teaching reading skills. It didn’t have a lot of writing in it, but what it had I liked.

The problem is – I was between a rock and a hard place; we, as teachers, were directly responsible for their IEP goals, and these programs did NOT serve the IEP goals for each of my students. In my own training and part of my OWN resolve to help Special Education students, I determined to copy and read NIGHTLY their goals when preparing lessons. I don’t know WHAT could be more important (since parents sign this document and it is a legal paper of what this child NEEDS..) than following the individual needs of a student. I never felt there was any place or time to express these things within the district. They just plowed forward training us.

It was kind of exciting that a course would be followed when students transferred in the district, so they would have the same course going on. There were other selling points, but in the end there is no better course for a student than the inspired lessons of a loving eacher, who lives with that child for hours every day – even more hours than their parents see and work with them.

It is a sacred trust to me, and I was NOT happy to have that taken away. It is the reason good people choose to be teachers. We realize that PEOPLE are our most important resource, and we want to mold and train them to have the skills they need.

Our job is not to indoctrinate in ANY way. That is a parent’s privilege and borders on religion.

I felt SO outcast in the schools. Everyone is just worried about keeping their jobs and talk REALLY softly when expressing their feelings, when what they FEEL is what they should be loudly acclaiming.

Teachers have to express in private because they are afraid of losing their jobs. I will no longer hold back, because I don’t have and don’t WANT a job in the public sector again. I held out to help my husband get retired and pay off debt so we could free ourselves. I hope to be of value to the WONDERFUL teachers in our schools, who need our help.

Since I taught resource, I only listened in the faculty room to teachers who were very upset, but stayed calm to keep their jobs. They need those of us who are in a good situation to help to do exactly that.

I don’t like our unions because, at least in Utah, they have done nothing to help our teachers. They can’t speak up because the unions have no power to save their jobs and side with the district in defending them.

But I wish the district could record faculty room talk…they would find out that most of the teachers feel pressured, blamed for everything that goes wrong with parents, and end up being the beating stick in education, when we are actually the only ones saving those students between what they need and what is coming to them.

I was told to read a script to my resource students – SRA Reading course, and it did not serve the IEP’s of my students.

I did a much better job designing lessons for EACH student as I prayed over my stewardship as a teacher. I greatly resented being told my methods were not research-based, and therefore not acceptable.

I researched the files of my students, and I don’t know what better research a teacher could do but read the entire written history of each student, and follow through with a lesson plan for what they needed.

The direct instruction was very nicely designed. It was easy and saved time for all the ridiculous paperwork in Special Education. But I only taught half day and did paperwork the rest. I wanted to be more effective to my students.

Since music is being cut, my chances were better at business at home. I always did better at home – I got up to $6000 in grants to run a children’s orchestra over a period of 25 years from outside sources, but always felt like “WHY do I have to do this OUTSIDE the schools?” – They were my dream classes in orchestra.

The district held me back. I am not happy though that only kids who could pay a community school fee got my expertise. The schools should unleash teachers and their talents and stop all the accountability nonsense. They can use those programs on teachers who have not done well and evaluate them…to help them. These programs stops teachers from planning – and wearies their day. It takes their attention away from planning and doing a good job. I am very against the focus on teachers as though THEY were the problem.

I home schooled, half-and-half, with my own children. They were too smart for the wasted time in the public school.

This doesn’t feel like the America I once knew. The time to speak up strongly has come for me. I am not holding back. I read a lot and study the issues, but I know the feelings I have I can always trust in the situations I encounter. I go by those…they don’t fail me.

By Susan Wilcox