Tag Archives: education

Comprehending Xenia Schools’ F Report Card

By Daniel Downs

Xenia City Schools didn’t do so well on Ohio standardized tests. The XCS district got an F on their report card. As explained in a number Gazette articles, achievement levels were increased. State legislators raised grade level achievement requirements for reading, mathematics, and other subjects. I heard one of the key sponsors of the education reform bill SB2 comment that they raised the percent of students required to pass each test from 30 percent to 80 percent and from 8th grade level graduation tests to 12th grade level. In other words, our schools now have to give taxpayers an adequate return on their investment and students a globally competitive education.

Of special interest are the language skills and language skills in particular. All of us who have an education–such as it is–have experienced reading comprehension quizzes and exams. Those of us with degrees in English education know how to create them. Therefore, failure of our students to pass a reading comprehension test reflects the failure of our teachers and parents to teach a most basic skill necessary for future learning, careers, and social life. And, maybe that why our society seems to have a problem remembering, and consequently to comprehend, the value and purpose of important principles of our past as well as past issues and problems that have arisen because of forgetting them. For example, the value and purpose of the Protest Reformation, which was freedom of the press especially the printing of bibles in the common language and the freedom of religion in terms of reading and interpreting the bible. If it had not occurred colonizing of America by Protestant Puritans would have never happened. Another example is the American Revolution against the legal, social and economic abuses committed by the parent government of the colonies, the British King. The abuses accredited to him (and actually the British Parliament) were enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. For early American history to mean anything, American citizen must comprehend it, value it, and consequently, remember it.

But, so what?

During the era of the Revolution and the remaking of our national constitution, one of the principle reasons for both was forgetting the past. The British government forgot the ancient rights of colonial Englishmen, why and how they came to be, resulting in the war for Independence, which in turn necessitated those in the Constitutional Convention to consult many works of history and law in order to establish a body of national law that fulfilled the principles and rights declared in the compact of Independence.

America is facing the same problems today.

Did I mention that the failure lays on the shoulders of both teachers and parents and I should add on all of our institutions. In the classroom, developing the skills of evaluating, analyzing, interpreting, and enjoying literature of all kinds is a continual process. But, actually that earning these begins at home when parents teach their children the symbolism of language. This takes place while helping them learn the words for dogs, cats, trees, flowers, noses, ears, running and walking, cars, trucks, wheat, corn, apples and peaches, dog chasing a cat, a boy running after a rabbit, bear hold its cub, a girl cuddling her doll, and all of those symbols and there meaning of life. Parents are responsible for continuing to motivate their children to read and to learn. Those skills cannot fully develop in a classroom. The corporate media, entertainment, professional sports, governments, and even religious institutions all contribute disincentives to read and especially to comprehend the truth about our past. The one media that offers a vast array of reading materials including classics of all subjects e.g. fiction, politics, law, finance, science, and et cetera is the Internet. Ebooks are much cheaper than print media and books, but some still prefer library books. Free is good.

By the way, our schools have no reason to blame on-line testing as part of the reason for poor performance on last year’s state achievement tests. Teachers, parents, students, and anyone else (even me) had access to examples of all on-line tests. Teachers and parents could have had their student practicing to become nearly perfect.

Ohio government is now holding our schools to a higher standard. May be a dumbed-down education is a thing of the past. Before new schools were built, the achievement gap was mostly closed at least as represented by one year of achievement tests. With the new gap, restructuring students and classroom instruction per student level of prior achievement may be necessary.

The End of Childhood in the Era of the Emerging American Police State

By John W. Whitehead
December 16, 2013

It wouldn’t be a week in America without another slew of children being punished for childish behavior under the regime of zero tolerance which plagues our nation’s schools. Here are some of the latest incidents.

In Pennsylvania, a ten-year-old boy was suspended for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination. Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend “bow” and “shoot” an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like an imaginary gun and “shot” at Johnny. Principal John Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.

In Utah, a seven-year-old boy was arrested and berated by police because he ran away from school. The boy showed up at his mother’s house late in the afternoon, at which point he explained that he had left the school of his own accord. The mother called the school and explained what happened, at which point the principal decided to call the police, despite knowing the boy was in the protection of his mother. An officer arrived at the house, told the boy to “straighten up,” took him outside, handcuffed him, and yelled at him saying, “Is this the life you want?”

In Colorado, a six-year-old boy was suspended and accused of sexual harassment for kissing the hand of a girl in his class whom he had a crush on. After a good deal of negative publicity, Canon City Schools Superintendent Robin Gooldy decided to alter the offense from “sexual harassment” to “misconduct.”

In New York, three students were arrested while waiting for a bus to arrive and take them to a basketball scrimmage. The three were part of a group of a dozen basketball players who were waiting on a downtown sidewalk as per their coach’s instructions, when they were approached by a police officer who demanded they disperse. They explained that they were waiting for a bus, but the officer decided to arrest them anyway.

Add to the execution of zero tolerance policies the phenomenon of “lockdowns” of public schools, which are sometimes prompted by legitimate threats, but more often by nearby domestic disturbances and false alarms, in which students are corralled into closets and hallways, met with police officers armed to the hilt, searched by drug-sniffing dogs, and generally made to feel as if they are living in a war zone. This trend of acclimating children to a mindset in which they should always be fearful, on edge, and deferential to authority is compounded by so-called “drills” in which police officers pretend they are spree shooters. Dahlia Lithwick, writing for Slate, notes that these bizarre attempts to prepare kids for an active shooter situation do not really prepare students for emergency situations, but rather simply frighten them.

In fact, their true purpose, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, seems to be simply to acclimate children to the mindset of paranoia and absolute deference to authority which has taken hold of the American populace at large. Children are being conditioned to accept any and all orders from on high, even those which they inherently know are wrong.

In the face of this madness, some schools have begun scaling back the zero tolerance regime. For example, schools in Broward County, Florida, which saw over 1,000 student arrests in 2011, have begun a policy that de-emphasizes arrests, expulsions, and suspensions in favor of counseling and keeping kids that run into trouble in school.

Since implementing the new policies, “school-based arrests have dropped by 41 percent, and suspensions, which in 2011 added up to 87,000 out of 258,000 students, are down 66 percent from the same period in 2012.” Still, most school districts across the country maintain a strict adherence to zero tolerance policy.

Alongside the zero tolerance mess is the general censorship of student viewpoints when discussing topics which are not approved by school administrators. For example, when a Pennsylvania student newspaper decided to run an editorial explaining why they found the term “Redskin,” the nickname of the school’s athletic teams, insensitive, and why they would no longer use the name in the school newspaper, the school administration reprimanded the students and demanded they continue to use the term. In another case, a student journalist in Virginia was reprimanded for writing a column on sexuality-based bullying, also known as “slut-shaming,” because the article contained words and phrases such as “sexual” and “breast-feeding.”

Considering students in high school are on the cusp of adulthood, legally and otherwise, the attempts to censor them when they engage in debates that are occurring on a daily basis on television and in the newspapers isn’t simply obnoxious, but threatens the integrity of society as well. If students are being taught to self-censor, they will be ineffective citizens. They will internalize ideas contrary to basic American principles, namely that all people should be allowed to speak their minds as they see fit.

In fact, according to the Knight Foundation, students who are taught on the value of the First Amendment are more likely to agree with statements such as “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions” or “newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval.” However, for those who’ve not received such instruction, they seem more doubtful of the value of free speech.

Thus, one can easily see how the zero tolerance/censorship regime which dominates American public education can easily translate into a disaster for civil society at large in the coming years. Call it the end of childhood, call it the end of innocence, call it the end of imagination. What it will eventually amount to is the termination of freedom in the United States.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at http://www.rutherford.org.

Common Core: A Lesson Plan for Raising Up Compliant, Non-Thinking Citizens

By John W. Whitehead
September 23, 2013

As I point out in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, there are several methods for controlling a population. You can intimidate the citizenry into obedience through force, relying on military strength and weaponry such as SWAT team raids, militarized police, and a vast array of lethal and nonlethal weapons. You can manipulate them into marching in lockstep with your dictates through the use of propaganda and carefully timed fear tactics about threats to their safety, whether through the phantom menace of terrorist attacks or shooting sprees by solitary gunmen. Or you can indoctrinate them into compliance from an early age through the schools, discouraging them from thinking for themselves while rewarding them for regurgitating whatever the government, through its so-called educational standards, dictates they should be taught.

Those who founded America believed that an educated citizenry knowledgeable about their rights was the surest means of preserving freedom. If so, then the inverse should also hold true: that the surest way for a government to maintain its power and keep the citizenry in line is by rendering them ignorant of their rights and unable to think for themselves.

When viewed in light of the government’s ongoing attempts to amass power at great cost to Americans—in terms of free speech rights, privacy, due process, etc.—the debate over Common Core State Standards, which would transform and nationalize school curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, becomes that much more critical.

Essentially, these standards, which were developed through a partnership between big government and corporations, in the absence of any real input from parents or educators with practical, hands-on classroom experience, and are being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, will create a generation of test-takers capable of little else, molded and shaped by the federal government and its corporate allies into what it considers to be ideal citizens.

Moreover, as Valerie Strauss reports for the Washington Post: “The costs of the tests, which have multiple pieces throughout the year plus the computer platforms needed to administer and score them, will be enormous and will come at the expense of more important things. The plunging scores will be used as an excuse to close more public schools and open more privatized charters and voucher schools, especially in poor communities of color. If, as proposed, the Common Core’s ‘college and career ready’ performance level becomes the standard for high school graduation, it will push more kids out of high school than it will prepare for college.”

With so much money to be made and so many questionable agendas at work, it is little wonder, then, that attempts are being made to squelch any and all opposition to these standards. For example, at a recent public forum to discuss the implementation of these standards in Baltimore County public schools, one parent, 46-year-old Robert Small, found himself “pulled out of the meeting, arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer” simply for daring to voice his discontent with the standards during a Q&A session with the superintendent.

“Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle,” shouted Robert Small to his fellow attendees as he was being dragged out of the “forum” on the Common Core standards. “Is this America?”

No, Mr. Small, this is no longer America. This is, instead, fascism with a smile, sold to us by our so-called representatives, calculating corporations, and an educational system that is marching in lockstep with the government’s agenda.

In this way, we are being conditioned to be slaves without knowing it. That way, we are easier to control. “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude,” writes Aldous Huxley.

The original purpose of a pre-university education in early America was not to prepare young people to be doctors or lawyers but, as Thomas Jefferson believed, to make citizens knowledgeable about “their rights, interests, and duties as men and citizens.”

Yet that’s where the problem arises for us today. Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights, largely due to an educational system that does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Many studies confirm this. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29% of respondents couldn’t name the current vice president of the United States. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why America fought the Cold War. More critically, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights.

That Americans are constitutionally illiterate is not a mere oversight on the part of government educators. And things will only get worse under Common Core, which as the Washington Post reports, is a not-so-subtle attempt “to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum.”

Putting aside the profit-driven motives of the corporations and the power-driven motives of the government, there is also an inherent arrogance in the implementation of these Common Core standards that speaks to the government’s view that parents essentially forfeit their rights when they send their children to a public school, and should have little to no say in what their kids are taught and how they are treated by school officials. This is evident in the transformation of the schools into quasi-prisons, complete with metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, and surveillance cameras. The result is a generation of young people browbeaten into believing that they have no true rights, while government authorities have total power and can violate constitutional rights whenever they see fit.

Yet as Richard Dreyfuss, Oscar-winning actor and civics education activist, warns: “Unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable.”

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at http://www.rutherford.org.

Pro-Abortion and Pro-Homosexual Youth Lobby Sent Home Empty-Handed from UN

By Timothy Herrmann

NEW YORK, May 4 (C-FAM) Youth activists arrived at the UN in droves last week in an attempt to hijack the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) by promoting homosexual rights and abortion. However, countries rejected their demands and produced a fairly balanced outcome document that focuses on more pressing youth concerns like education, employment, health and development.

Sponsored by organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the Youth Coalition, and the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), youth activists flooded the conference floor and were strategically placed on country delegations with the hope of shifting the conference’s focus to sexual and reproductive health of youth and adolescents.

Throughout the week, they lobbied country delegates to place controversial language in the outcome document that would undermine the right and responsibility of parents in the sexual education of their children and include sexual and reproductive health “rights” as well as comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).

Though comprehensive sexual education was eventually included in the document, countries refused to mention it without reference to “the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents” to provide “appropriate direction and guidance on sexual and reproductive matters.” Similarly, any reference to sexual and reproductive rights in the document was explicitly understood by countries not to include abortion as a method of family planning.

Even more disappointing for radical activist groups was the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity language used by the homosexual lobby to promote homosexual rights at the UN. The Arab group and a majority of the African countries along with the help of the Holy See, the Russian Federation, and Pakistan threw out the only reference to sexual orientation in the final draft of the document on the last day of the conference.

While the exclusion of “sexual orientation” appears to be a victory, the UN dialect is so misleading that the single mention that does exist in the document of the right to “decide freely and responsibly on matters related to…sexuality” greatly worried delegations like Uganda, who believed it was an attempt by countries supportive of homosexual rights to sneak in new language.

In addition, even though the conference theme was “Adolescents and Youth,” countries could not agree upon the definition of either term. Initially, they were defined as falling within the ages of 10 and 24 but given that the document mentions sexual and reproductive rights, countries were unwilling to afford these rights to 10 year olds and the definition proved too controversial to include.

Despite the hard fought battle of many delegations to move beyond reproductive rights and, instead, secure strong references to education, employment and the Millennium Development Goals in the document, the serious misgivings among countries related to the reproductive rights and sexuality of youth made it nearly impossible to reach consensus. As a result the chairman of the Population Commission took it upon himself to put together the final outcome document, or chairman’s text, which even he admitted, “was not completely satisfactory to all.”

Timothy Hermann is Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s Representative to the United Nations. His article first appeared in Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.

How About Reducing Some Bureaucracy?

By Marc Kilmer

Ohio is only a few months into the new fiscal year and the state is already facing a budget deficit. On one side are the governor and some of his legislative allies, proposing to close the deficit by raising taxes. On the other side are some legislators who want to close the deficit by consolidating government services. The idea of raising taxes in order to keep afloat a bloated state bureaucracy should be a nonstarter, but many in Columbus are choosing bureaucrats over taxpayers in this fight.

First, we need to be clear about something — Governor Strickland’s tax proposal is a tax increase, pure and simple. He wants to raise tax rates that have been in place since January. It’s not a “postponement” of a scheduled tax cut; it’s an increase in tax rates that are already in place. The governor wants to call it something other than a tax hike since he has loudly opposed raising taxes in the past, but there’s no avoiding the simple fact that his plan increases the state’s current income tax rates.

The governor says the only alternative to this tax hike is to cut education spending. Legislators should welcome the opportunity to examine just how well the state is spending taxpayers’ money on educating students. Student spending has steadily risen over the years but there is no evidence students are getting a better education. If they were so inclined, the governor and legislators could work together to seek more effective ways to fund education. But this probably won’t happen.

A good alternative to the false choice of cutting taxes or reducing education spending is the proposal to consolidate state government agencies. This would merely eliminate some redundant state agencies and departments and move their functions to another area of the government. It would not cut any government services. The projected $1 billion in savings would come from the staff reductions and savings on rent, equipment, and supplies.

Public employee unions claim the state government is already going through an “unprecedented downsizing.” It’s hard to see how this is true. In 1998, the state had 174,000 full-time and part-time employees. In 2008 that number had swelled to over 187,000. State taxpayers fund the salaries and benefits for all these workers. If the business of state government can be accomplished just as well with fewer workers, then legislators of both parties should embrace that goal.

Some object to this consolidation measure on grounds that it would not produce the savings projected or that these savings would not happen quickly enough to affect the current deficit. There is probably merit in both these claims. However, the fundamental reason to consolidate state government is not the monetary savings it will produce, but the reduction in unnecessary government bureaucracy. This would be a good idea even if it produced no savings to taxpayers. The fact that it will certainly save some money (and do so quickly depending on when the restructuring begins) makes it a great idea.

Saving taxpayer money is more than a function of just trimming government spending. State policymakers need to rethink how the state and local governments spend taxpayers’ money, which may mean restructuring state government, ending public sector unionization, reducing taxing districts, and other similar steps. Only through fundamental reform of how state and local governments operate can Ohio restore its economic strength. This state government reorganization proposal is a good first step.

Marc Kilmer is a policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a research and educational institute located in Columbus, Ohio.