Utah Teacher Exposes Anti-Family Online Curriculum

Utah Teacher Shares Insights about State Approved Online Curriculum that Goes Against Family Values

reposted from www.ReturnToParentalRights.com

A Utah teacher deserves a BIG thank you from parents for taking time to document some of her concerns with the online curriculum used in her high school. The curriculum was approved by the State of Utah. Please take the time to read and share this excellent blog with your family, friends, school board members and legislators.

I would like to preface her blog with this:

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

What George Will may not have known at the time was that the Obama administration was already using several levers to get states into online curriculum that essentially nationalizes curriculum. One such lever is the #GoOpen Initiative. Utah is a partner (see here and here) in the first consortium of states in the Federal Initiative that are collaborating on online curriculum content. Just as states were incentivized by Waivers and Race to the Top to rubber stamp Common Core standards and assessments, they are being incentivized by the #GoOpen Initiative to rubber stamp curriculum, and to sanction it based on its ability to increase children’s test scores on Common Core-aligned daily, online assessments in learning platforms.

The #GoOpen Initiative is part of a larger global and federal initiative to advance the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). In fact, the US Department of Education appointed a new advisor to help school districts transition to Open Educational Resources. The more states that adopt open-license, no-cost, online curriculum, the more teachers’ curriculum choices can be tracked, and steered, by the Federal Online Learning Registry. The Registry operates like a curriculum filter and ratings system. The Utah Education Network (UEN)—also called the Utah Education Telehealth Network (UETN)— houses online curriculum for Utah schools and is named as the entity implementing Utah’s Master Technology Plan. They are partnered with the Federal Online Learning Registry.

The above realities make it likely that few parents and teachers will know just how anti-family their children’s/students’ curriculum have gotten. We need more teachers to investigate the online curriculum in their schools (as opposed to just using teacher data dashboards to assign curriculum that they don’t see) and to be willing to share what they uncover for the sake of helping parents protect their children’s hearts and minds.

Thank you, Suzan Barnes! You are a hero to us and our children!

  • • • • • • • • • • •

Online Learning: A Wise Choice for Utah Schools?

Originally posted by Suzan Barnes on June 7,  2016 at:
https://standwithme.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/online-learning-a-wise-choice-for-our-nations-schools/

Today online learning is encouraged more and more in our country. Proponents of this method say that computers help students learn better because 1) kids love screens and 2) learning is personalized allowing students to move at their own pace. In this essay, I will show that both of these presumed advantages can turn out to be liabilities. Other liabilities include lack of teacher involvement, lack of real-life experiences, lack of balance in content (specific to Edgenuity online curriculum), and lack of knowledge of content by teachers and parents.

Too Much Screen Time

Yes, kids love screens, and many parents complain that limiting screen-time at home is difficult. Regrettably, extensive use of screens in the classroom only increases screen-time. According to an article by Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. in Psychology Today, multiple studies have shown that too much screen time causes atrophy in the brain’s gray matter where “planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control” originate. Other areas affected are the striatum where socially unacceptable impulses are suppressed, the insula which provides the capacity for empathy and compassion, and the white matter which enables “communication within the brain and from the brain to the body and vice versa.” Dr. Dunckley concludes,

“In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. Use this research to strengthen your own . . . position on screen management, and to convince others to do the same.”

As shown above, children may be eager to learn in front of a screen, but the damage that occurs is likely to have a negative overall effect on their ability to learn.

Online Learning Is Not Personalized

Proponents of online learning say it is personalized to meet the individual needs of each student. In actuality, during an online lecture, the student and the virtual teacher are unable to communicate which essentially precludes personalization and makes online learning better suited to disseminating a single, subjective view of the world.

Lack of Teacher Involvement

When a teacher delivers a lecture, both the students and the teacher are meaningfully engaged in the lesson content. The students must digest the information and demonstrate their understanding of the subject in order to complete subsequent assignments.

By contrast, the teacher’s involvement in online lessons occurs mainly through use of the dashboard. The dashboard alerts a teacher that an action, such as unlocking a quiz, is needed in order for a student to move forward. The teacher can review a student’s scores on assignments leading up to a quiz, or unlock the quiz without looking at the scores. In either case, familiarity with the lesson material or thoughtful review of the students’ work is not required.

One problem that arises from the lack of thoughtful review is that students can copy material from the lesson content and paste it into the response box to get a score of 100% since the computer merely looks for matching or related words.

Every day I see students who scored 70% to 100% on assignments, score 20% to 50% on the quiz that covers the same material. It is likely that the copy-and-paste feature combined with the lack of teacher/student engagement is responsible for this. For these students, the goal is not to learn but to finish as quickly as possible, and teachers who spend much of their time as dashboard monitors have little time to invest in any individual student’s educational experience.

Lack of Real-Life Experiences

Pediatricians recommend zero screen time for children under 2 years of age. An important reason for this is that looking at a ball on a screen is not the same as looking at, touching, and playing with a real ball. Similarly, students learning from pictures and videos are merely gaining static information which is easily forgotten. Much more effective teaching occurs when students interact with real people who respond to them in real-time and with real interest, tossing ideas back and forth to explore a subject. Should teachers wish to facilitate a group discussion of online curriculum content, they would encounter the following difficulties as a result of different stages of their students’ progression: 1) students who are ahead have already moved on and may feel they are wasting their time with repeated information, and 2) students who are behind may have insufficient background to understand the material.

Lack of Balance in Curriculum Content (Specific to Edgenuity)

As I work with students, I encounter essay assignments that prompt me to look into a particular lesson’s content. For example, an essay topic such as, “Do you think that the Founding Fathers were justified in rebelling against the British government?” makes me wonder what in the lesson might prompt a student to answer in the negative. An essay topic such as, “Write an argumentative editorial that argues for or against young people’s ability to initiate positive change in their communities,” makes me wonder if the curriculum’s definition of “positive change” is the same as my own.

To help readers determine whether or not their values align with the Edgenuity curriculum, I have included the following examples of common themes. My experience is mostly in Language Arts, so it is this subject from which these examples are taken.

Racism

Language Arts 9 semester 2 contains a unit called “Fighting for Equality.” Rather than encouraging students to become “color blind,” the curriculum creates division by presenting readings where whites are aggressive or oppressive toward other races, thus encouraging all other races to view themselves as victims.

Feminism

In Language Arts 11 semester 2, repeated references are made to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles.” These works lead young women toward dissatisfaction with the role of wife and mother and disrespect for those who fulfill that role. The following themes are drilled into the minds of our young people through repetitious quiz questions.

From “Trifles” –

  • Women face abuses and injustices in a male-dominated society as symbolized by a bird with a broken neck
  • Women are “confined” by the duties of wife and mother
  • Women often feel pressured to conform to society’s expectations

From The Feminine Mystique

  • Women frequently go unheard in a male-dominated society
  • Women can feel suffocated and trapped by society’s expectations
  • Women who are “stuck” at home often have feelings of dissatisfaction, desperation, and hopelessness.

After students read all the excerpts about how women are suffocated by men, an excerpt from Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway ends with the idea that girls are nice to look at, but not worth making the effort to court or marry. This excerpt encourages the boys to objectify women.

While awareness that some women have experienced oppression has some value, and knowledge of how our culture has evolved is an important part of learning about our nation’s history, the Edgenuity curriculum presents no point of view outside of that cited above. No discussion occurs about the benefits that society in general, and children in particular, receive from women who choose to raise their own offspring and provide well-managed homes for their families. Rather than empowering women to use their talents in whatever way they prefer, young women are encouraged to feel like vengeful victims who must continue “the fight” to overcome the abuses perpetrated by men.

Environmentalism

Humans are portrayed as enemies of the earth. One article, “Save the Redwoods,” written by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club,* compared cutting down a sequoia tree to make wood products with passing General George Washington “through the hands of a French cook [to make] good food” (Language Arts 9 semester 1). The Middle School Reading Course semester 1 contains an entire unit called “Environment: Extreme Weather” which presents global warming as a fact illustrating its consequences through articles such as “Global Warming in Siberia,” “Global Warming and Superbugs,” and “Weather of Tomorrow.”.

Video gaming

Middle School Reading semester 1 also includes multiple units on “The World of Gaming” in which students are assigned to read a “Persuasive Essay against ESRB Labeling Restrictions.” The essay assignment is, “What game do you like to play and why?” While helping a student with a quiz, I came upon a reading informing students that gaming helps develop quicker reflexes and suggesting that they could use that as an argument the next time their parents told them they were spending too much time playing video games. Targeting parents who struggle to limit their children’s game time and suggesting that parents do not know best pits young people against their parents rather than encouraging respect and obedience.

A negative world view

Edgenuity is replete with stories and excerpts depicting conflict and oppression. Some examples from Language Arts 10 semester 1 follow:

  • “Diary 24” from “The Freedom Writers Diary” by Erin Gruwell (A homeless black girl starts 10th grade at a school where racial tensions are high)
  • “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan (Mother/daughter conflict)
  • “Identifying Conflict” (A young girl’s experience in a Nazi camp)
  • “An Interview with Marielle Tsukamoto: A First-Hand Account of Japanese Internment”
  • “Night” by Elie Wiesel (A boy’s experience in a Nazi camp)

As stated earlier, knowledge of historical events is a valuable part of an education.  However, when students move from one depressing excerpt to another without class discussions which might offer solutions, parallels, and/or opposing viewpoints they can come away with a negative view of the world in which they live. Without class discussions, lessons generally proceed as follows:

  • Students watch a lecture preparing them for a reading
  • Students read the text
  • Students watch another lecture guiding their interpretation of the readings
  • Students complete at least one assignment pertaining to the material
  • Students are quizzed to make sure that their interpretation is “correct.”
  • The process is repeated

Lack of Knowledge of Content by Teachers and Parents

Ideally, teachers would listen to all the lectures and review the entire curriculum frame by frame and gain first-hand knowledge of the material presented. However, keeping up with dashboard alerts creates a fast-paced situation, and since they trusts the curriculum to cover all Common Core requirements, and this step is not required for students to progress and finish the courses, gaining more than incidental knowledge of the curriculum is generally not a priority. If teachers happen to discover a concept with which they do not agree, they can present an opposing viewpoint in a lecture or during a group discussion. But as mentioned above, group teaching presents its own set of difficulties when students are all in different stages of progression and possibly even studying different subjects altogether. Sharing opposing views with each student separately is too time-consuming and could be construed as pushing the teacher’s person values on an individual, so it is not a viable option.

As for parents, if no textbook ever comes home, they have limited access to the ideas being presented to their children. A parent must be aware of an objectionable teaching before they can counter it.

Many factors make it difficult for online learning to deliver a quality education. Quality learning is facilitated by real people exploring ideas and exchanging views through real-life activities and personal interactions. Through online learning, students are lead to accept the point of view put forward by the makers of the program, and as I have shown, much of the content of Edgenuity presents a divisive agenda promoting racism, feminism, and environmentalism along with a generally negative world view.

______________________________________________________________________________________

* Denigration of human life should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Sierra Club. David Brower, a founder, suggested the following: “Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.” He further stated, “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.”

9 thoughts on “Utah Teacher Exposes Anti-Family Online Curriculum”

  1. Wow. Thank you for the information about computer based learning and your thoughts on education generally.

    I believe your thoughts will help me in my classroom.

  2. According to several studies, success with on line learning shows the lowest progress of performance than any other type of learning. Not only do students score lower on standardized tests (not that these are fantastic markers of student learning, they are more likely to show a students economic status), they also have the highest level of attrition and student drop out. When used as credit make up for high school students, they have been shown to lack the vigor required in the classroom.

    Parents need to be cautious about charter schools as well. Not all but some schools use shady practices that steal money from taxpayers. There have been many examples of fraud perpetrated by charter school operators. Charter schools look like they give a parent choice. This is a misnomer. The parent has no real choice. Curriculum and student behavioral management structures are decided by the corporate office and not by the parents. In charter chains the corporate office is likely to be out of state. Public schools on the other hand are managed by a locally elected school board and community council.

    Charter schools have other issues not addressed by voucher supporters. There is no proof that charters and private schools out perform public schools. Most are evenly matched but there are several that fare worse. Many top rated charters are finding that their students drop out of the university system because they are unprepared for the demand to produce individual thought and argumentation. They were trained to take tests, they were not educated. Test prep causes a disjointed education, as does common core. In addition charters set us up for a dual system that is extremely expensive. This move has left several school systems across the nation bankrupt. Utah already has a funding issue. This is not a complaint about my salary but a complaint about class size. 30 first graders in a classroom is too many! 96% of Utah students attend public schools.

    The problem we experienced was a lack of oversight by the State Office of Education, who made these adoptions sight unseen. You should know that teacher’s training does not agree with the strategies espoused by common core. This is especially true for early childhood educators. We know for example that common core standards do not meet the learning needs and styles of our youngest students. We have over a hundred tears of research that defines best practice for young students. None of this was addressed by common core. The biggest problem is that the early years are foundational, all other educational skills rest on the early years. And no we do not need preschools that give us more acedemics pushed on younger students. Teacher voices were greatly silenced by threats of liscence removal from the state office.

    Another issue for me is federal funding. I believe that we need to become indepent of federal funding before we expand into any other educational endeavors. I also wonder if our school districts have become too large to sustain their democratic stance. I know a new expense. What I do know is that there is no magic bullet that will fix our educational woes or meet all of our educational needs.

    1. Thank you for these on-the-ground insights. I agree with you on all points. If you aren’t aware, Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change worked to advance President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act which just replaced No Child Left Behind. Jeb’s group makes its money by getting their Chiefs (corporate trained superintendents) in place to profit when public schools need to be “turned around” per test scores. The school is turned into a for-profit charter and that’s where the Chief and the charter chain make bank. Utah got it’s school grading bill from Jeb and Florida. Cronyism…when you and the Feds rig the rules/regulations and then profit off of taxpayer dollars.

      Meanwhile, far too many Utahns are willing to look into the faces of children and essentially say, “We COULDN’T say no to federal funding. It would hurt you.”

      As if, by taking federal funding, we’re helping children. The facts are clear that we’re not helping children. And, it’s sad to see kindergartners being forced into test-prep to profit the elite. What happened to respecting teachers to use their God-given agency to help kids learn to love learning?

    2. I think you need to educate yourself a little more on charter schools before you take the public school system’s scare tactics and turn them into facts. This article is addressing the problems with common core which is the reason parents are turning to charter, private, and home schooling options.

      1. Common Core is the reason that parents are turning to charters, private schools and homeschool. However, each of those avenues is being effected by Common Core because it is top-down. The federal goal for Race To The Top was/is to dismantle public schools and privatize them using Common Core testing, among other tools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan showed turned Chicago upside down by closing public schools and turning them into taxpayer-funded, for-profit charters with unaccountable boards. Taxation without representation. That is the end-goal of Common Core.

        Private schools that take federal funding are being impacted by Common Core. And, more charters are opening with the belief that they can escape Common Core while still being public schools. We have to be willing to walk away from federal funding in order to have true education freedom.

    3. Great analysis! Stop all federal funding. No new programs. Break up the larger school districts. Educators can influence, but are not responsible to raise your children – parents are.
      Cutting off all federal funds and strings will probably result in some cutbacks, (especially in babysitting) but at least we will stand on Constitutional principle. (see amendment 10) And we can show our next generation that at least in one area, we are not hypocrites.

  3. How much total money for education does Utah receive from the Feds per year? Is it more than the billion plus that Herbert is touting in new state money for education? Utah needs to grow a pair and get off the federal tit! We should fund everything locally even if we have to cut back a while. Let’s teach our children to think and have principles. Breaking completely away from the federal education system would be a good first lesson for our children in living by principle. Don’t worry about teaching to some test – how about teaching about life, choices, and principles? And I am not talking about politically correct celebrate diversity crap. We need more children and adults who are not mushy mealy mouthed, no opinion, accept everything, don’t offend, useless lumps of mud.
    We are all children of the same God. There is no racial marker in our DNA, therefore there are no “races”; just our brothers and sisters with different physical characteristics. This makes our lives much more rich and amazing. The US Constitution establishes a Republic where minority opinions are protected. It does not give minority opinions the right to dictate to the majority. The tail does not wag the dog.
    If getting into Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, etc. is your goal; who put that stupidity in your head? Going to the foundation of Progressivism for your higher education is the highest stupidity.
    My youngest brother graduated from Dartmouth, and although economically successful, he still has way too many ingrained liberal attitudes which interfere with following Jesus Christ.
    By the way, progressivism, socialism, communism, fascism, giant governments, are all concepts based upon lucifer’s original beliefs that he presented before. Everyone living on the earth rejected the idea of “everyone is equal and no one will be lost but it will cost you your moral agency”. So why are so many people falling for the same deception now? Especially educators who spend their lives dissecting concepts, ideas, and philosophies. I expect more wisdom and less stupidity from true educators! Oh, wait; “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth”.
    MAYBE IT’S JUST SIMPLY COMPROMISING OUR PRINCIPLES AND CHILDREN FOR MONEY!!!!

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