Friday, July 18, 2014

Schools Dispense With History in Favor of Political Correctness

Former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin once said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” Lenin understood how important education is to a young person’s worldview, and how intractable ideas can become. Lenin used education to the fullest, as do his heirs in the West.

The cultural revolution of the 1960s remains very much with us. In the last 50 years it has chipped away at the foundations of our nation, little by little, relentlessly, with an agenda of fundamentally changing this society. The nation of Barack Obama is no longer that of John F. Kennedy.

One institution that has undergone immense change is the public education system. Formerly, public schools were dedicated to educating youths and imparting in them an understanding of the history of America, its uniqueness in history and a knowledge and appreciation of the natural rights guaranteed by our Founding documents. Until socialism arrived, these had always been considered the acme of political philosophy and government organization. The goal was to prepare graduates as good citizens and informed voters.

But the Left has so completely changed both public schools and colleges that they have almost no relation to their earlier selves. The term “political correctness” originated in the old Soviet Union. It was used to control people’s speech and, ultimately, their thought. Today’s schools are a study in political correctness.

High schools frequently offer some variety of Advanced Placement (AP) tests in various courses. If students score well enough on a given test, they can earn credit for an equivalent basic course in college, thus shortening their time (and expenses) in school. The test most students take is the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Theoretically, the better a student scores, the wider his or her choices of colleges after high school graduation.

Both the AP and the SAT tests are properties of a company called the College Board. As with schools, the College Board used to be dedicated to high standards both in curriculum and testing. But as the hippie generation with its perverse agenda has taken charge of these institutions, the College Board years ago fell in line, as a good comrade should.

Because of its unique position as producer of the tests that determine students' chances in college, the College Board has a great deal of power to shape high school curricula, including those of private schools, and to influence state standards. It’s therefore noteworthy that David Coleman, president of the College Board, is also the architect of Common Core. We’ve reported on Obama’s Common Core curriculum several times and its corrosive effect on not only the education of young people but also society at large.

Unfortunately, too few are aware of this clandestine attempt to nationalize and further corrupt America’s schools, from kindergarten through grad school.

The College Board recently released a very few sample questions for the new AP U.S. History Exam. Understandably, the College Board has always been very concerned about security to protect its latest test (historically, tests have been repeatedly edited to replace badly written questions and to add new, more topical ones). Illegal distribution of coming exams would require scrubbing an entire test cycle. This latest framework is being treated as a state secret. Samples of the test, however, have been released to certified AP U.S. history teachers who have been warned under penalty of law as well as loss of their AP teaching privileges to keep them secret. Since teaching AP classes is one of the most rewarding experiences high school teachers can have, don’t expect any leaks of the test’s contents.

This entire business is clearly an attempt to force these standards on states while the president keeps Americans distracted by his never-ending scandals. The entire American education system is being converted into a multicultural, one-culture-is-as-good-as-another propaganda machine. Some of the Founders, such as Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson and Constitution writer James Madison, are mentioned; that’s it – mentioned. They’re exposed as examples of Western class, gender and racial evil. And while teachers may chose to teach the Constitution as it is written, by doing so, they disadvantage their students because they know the real Constitution isn’t on the test.

Living up to its “Lone Star” nickname, Texas is the only state so far that’s really fighting this abomination. Ken Mercer, a member of the Texas school board, wants to introduce a resolution rejecting the new AP exam, but he’s been told that he must wait until September when doing so will be too late.

In 1788, Founder Noah Webster wrote in On the Education of Youth in America, “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.” The sad fact is that unless more school boards and members of the public wake up and smell the stench, this advice will increasingly be ignored. And what follows isn’t pretty. Indeed, it’s a nasty seed that’s already proving very difficult to uproot.


Common Core is crony capitalism for computer companies

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Bill Gates insisted that his support for the Common Core education standards was purely philosophical—he was offended by the notion that anyone would suspect him of pushing a policy that helps his own bottom line. He has no reason to peddle Common Core, he said, except that he cares deeply about the state of education in the U.S. and sincerely thinks expensive new curriculum standards and rigorous standardized testing will improve U.S. schools:

    "I hope I can make this clear, I believe in the Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education, and that’s the only reason I believe in the Common Core. And I have no, you know, this is giving money away. This is philanthropy. This is trying to make sure students have the kind of opportunity I had. You, you’ve, there is nothing, uh, it’s so, almost… outrageous to say otherwise in my view."

To that end, the billionaire philanthropist has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Common Core through the advocacy efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But wait a minute—doesn't Gates work for a pretty big computer company, or something? Oh, and doesn't the testing component of Common Core require schools to upgrade their computer software? Who wants to bet that Core-aligned standardized testing requires Windows 8?

It does! As The Post's Valerie Strauss points out, a Windows web page actually recommends that schools hurry up and buy the latest Windows software in order to enjoy a smoother transition to tech-heavy standardized testing required by Common Core:

    This is not to say that that is what sparked or drove Gates’ personal interest in the initiative; he has said he supports the standards because he thinks they will improve public education, and it seems fair to believe him when he says that is his motivation (whether or not the premise is actually true).

    Still the fact remains that Microsoft is hoping to make some money from the implementation of the Core in classrooms.

As Strauss writes, this fact does not make Gates a liar. It seems likely he does indeed think that imposing a set of uniform standards on the states will improve students' educational outcomes. But it should underscore that massive, expensive public policy changes—even well-intentioned ones—carry ramifications for rent-seekers. (Indeed, many states only agreed to the standards because the Obama administration promised them federal grant money in exchange.)

I have already noted that Common Core looks like corporate welfare for textbook giants, since Pearson—the largest textbook company in the world—won a non-competitive government contract to design tests for half the states. It may also be crony capitalism for computer companies.

Whether or not Common Core helps Microsoft's bottom line is ultimately irrelevant to whether the policy is sound, of course. But when both Tea Party conservatives and teachers unions—as well as students, teachers, parents, and Louis CK—are complaining that the school years is being filled up with wonky high-stakes tests that are expensive to implement and impossible to prepare for, it's worth asking who proposed this bright idea. And why.


UK: Banning packed lunches: A slap in the face for parents

Last week, All Saints’ Primary School in Clayton-le-Moors in Lancashire announced it was to ban packed lunches for infants (children aged four to seven) from September. The move coincides with the introduction of free school meals for all infants. But by slapping on a ban, the school might as well put up a sign to parents saying ‘SORRY, WE DON’T TRUST YOU’.

The plan follows an inspection of packed lunches at the school (something which should still be shocking in itself, but has become common), which found that fewer than one per cent of the meals brought in by children met government nutrition guidelines. Such a statistic says more about the obsessive nature of the guidelines than it does about the quality of packed lunches; former childhood staples like crisps and chocolate are now treated as deadly poisons. And the food being offered by the school, if a sample menu is anything to go by, looks pretty stodgy. Does a turkey sub roll followed by a sweet pudding really amount to a healthier choice?

The ban looks unnecessary, too, given that school meals are now free for these young children. Most parents would probably not bother with a packed lunch if the school will feed kids for free. But the lack of choice means that parents who have their own individual reasons for giving children a packed lunch will now be denied that choice. Parents with fussy children may prefer to give them something they will actually eat. Parents who obsess about everything being organic and ‘pesticide-free’ will be denied a choice, too. There are all sorts of reasons why parents might choose the expense and hassle of a packed lunch over free school meals. A ban simply takes that decision away from them.

The school-meals crusade has been built on wild claims about dramatically improving educational performance, classroom behaviour and obesity rates, none of which stands up to much scrutiny. The result is the nationalisation of children’s eating habits and a slap in the face for parents.


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