This is the second in a series of three, by Pam Danz.
Intelligent concerned persons like Henderson County School Board Member Amy Holt are bewildered by all the fuss over the Common Core Standards (CCS). She says, “I have talked with several teachers of various grades and I’m honestly at a loss as to what the problem is… this isn’t much different than what we have been doing before,” and, “I just keep hearing that it is a Federal Program, and we shouldn’t be involved because its Federal. “
There are many other problems with the CCS, but Holt has put her finger on the central problem. She just isn’t sufficiently terrified that the federal government has broken Constitutional law and its own recent laws and policies to steal the power our local school boards are supposed to have over the education of our children.
It is really important to maintain local control over what goes into the minds of our children because the farther away from home decisions are made about what and how our children learn, the more difficult it becomes for individual parents and school boards to have any influence over their own children’s education. It is the parents who are responsible for how their children are raised, and it is the parents who have the inalienable right to decide what they learn. Taking Parental Rights away from parents is not only a violation of our personal liberty; it is a symptom of a Statist take-over of the Republic.
One of the reasons parents risked death to go over the Berlin wall to freedom was that in a Communist country, the State owns not only the means of production , it owns the citizens. The State tells you where you will work, how much you will earn, where you will live, what you may buy, and how you may raise your children. The state decides what the children will learn, not the parents. This is important to the revolutionary state because if you control the children’s minds, within one generation you will have created a docile population that thinks it is right and proper to do exactly what the politicians in power tell you to do. You have lost your inalienable rights. The State doles out your rights and the state can take them away for the common good or for any other reason. This is the tyranny that our Founders fought against. This is the slavery that our Abolitionists fought against. It is the absence of civil rights that our Freedom Fighters fought against. If you do not have the right to determine what your child learns, you have lost your Parental Rights.
Parental Rights are a big deal because, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. The tree of Liberty was set up to be “bent” by many individuals, sometimes working against each other. (They called it “Checks and Balances.”) Our whole republic is built upon the premise that free men and women will make the right decisions for themselves and their children if left alone. If you do not think the Average Joe is capable of righteous self-determination, if you think only the elitists in Washington are capable of telling us how to live and what to teach our children, the Great Experiment has failed.
But how can a simple national standard take away your Parental Rights? The CCS are just a set of math and English goals, aren’t they? No it is not. It is a rigid blueprint dictating what your children will learn. It will spread into Social Studies and Science, even into the fine arts. Sites like EdHelper.com are already offering CCS “aligned” text books in Social Studies and Science. Granted, the CCS “are not a curriculum, but they do dictate the first component of any curriculum: content. The standards also drive how local curricula are sequenced and, by virtue of these first two things, will constrain some of the materials teachers use. That is, textbooks and other materials will need to be aligned to Common Core… (CCS) will likely ensure that local curricula across participating states look quite similar,” as a September 2013 Pioneer Institute White Paper by Robert Scott summed it up.
In the wisdom of our Founding Fathers the United States was set up so that each state could design its own experiments in solving societal problems. This fosters the innovation for which we in the USA are famous. The states can learn from each other and copy each other’s successes without the entire nation going down the tubes when a new national blueprint fails. It is interesting to note that the schools that have rated the highest recently in the improvement of student achievement are the Charter Schools. Where there is competition and freedom to experiment, students flourish.
Because protecting parental rights is so very basic to our freedom and way of life, starting with the Constitution, those rights were protected. The Constitution enumerates the powers that the federal government may exercise. Dictating national standards in education is not one of them. As recently as 2009 Congress has repeatedly stated in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that standards and assessments are the in the authority of states, not the federal government. “Nothing in this title [Title I of ESEA] shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.” The more recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) did not change this language. This is the major reason people are upset about the CCS; it is an illegal power grab by the current administration.
It is amazing that the very persons who would throw their hands up in horror if the federal government “messed with the minds” of school children by mandating that they sing Silent Night in school are frequently the same people who feel it is perfectly OK to dictate when, what, and how children shall study and how they should be assessed. This is “messing with children’s minds” to the Nth degree.
If all teachers in North Carolina must “teach to the test,” that test determines the content of their lessons. (CSS aligned lesson plans are also available on the internet.) The CSS is a soft federal take-over of education. It has quietly snuck in on little cat feet covered by a fog of promises to improve children’s readiness for college and teacher’s ability to teach.
Each family is unique, but in a free society, families discuss and wrangle, group together with like-minded parents and educators and determine what will be taught to their children by electing school board members who reflect community standards. For example, citizens of North Carolina have recently voted to define marriage as a contract between one man and one woman. They would greatly resent standards which assumed that A Tale of Two Mommies or King and King were desirable reading for their children. Parents in Massachusetts might think they were just great, but might hate Chris’ First Hunting Adventure and The Girl Who Wanted to Hunt. In Texas where second amendment rights are held sacred the latter two books would probably be just fine. In a free country we cater to individual rights. If an individual doesn’t like the state standards, he or she has a chance to change them by working with neighbors. The chance of tinkering with federal standards as a private citizen is just about nil. If disgruntled parents want the easy way out, they can just move to a state where others share their values. If we lock all the states into one set of standards there will be no place to go. In Germany, for example, home schooling is illegal and the government standards apply to all children.
There is no reason that states cannot align their successful programs and make interstate moves easier on children. There is no reason states cannot heed current research about more rigorous standards. But they need to do so, voluntarily, from the states up, not under the federal threat of losing grant money and waivers of previous onerous federal regulation.
Pam Danz lives in Flat Rock, NC and used to write for the Radford News Journal in Radford VA. Along with several other careers she has a Masters Degree in Education with experience teaching from Middle School through college.