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Notes from the Aberdeen Common Core event

January 8, 2014

agone_NotesYesterday evening the  South Dakota Family Policy Council and Concerned Women for America South Dakota sponsored an event called “Confronting Common Core” in Aberdeen. I estimate there were around 80 attendees, but I’ve heard others estimate it closer to 100. Either way the little meeting room in the Ramada was quite packed. Even though they kept adding chairs, there were many that had to stand during the meeting.

Mark Chase, President of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, hosted the event. Overall he was quite knowledgeable about Common Core and its implementation. Early in the event Mr Chase made the connection to UN Agenda 21 and about 100 years of social engineering leading up to Common Core. I think it was OK to mention that, and mention that people should research it on their own to see if they find a connection. But he kept coming back to the point throughout the meeting. I think it would have been more helpful to leave it as a small portion in the beginning and focus specifically on Common Core in the majority of the meeting.

Just like the Lake Norden event from last fall the core of the presentation was handled by Mary Scheel Buysee. She once again provided a lot of information for attendees to digest. An important distinction she made this time was to look at the difference between a test and an assessment. The tests being created for Common Core are not tests in the traditional sense. Instead they are ‘assessments’. If I understand Mary’s use of the word assessment in Common Core testing correctly, it is important because the tests utilized will estimate the educational workforce value of a student; as opposed to testing any actual accumulation of knowledge. What really worries me about this approach is the testing is all online and not done by local teachers. It appears Common Core is putting less trust and responsibility on teachers to perform their jobs. Ironically I think many of the current problems in public education could be fixed if we actually empowered more teachers, while providing them with the tools they need to excel at their job.

Steve Sibson was a panel member who was in attendance via phone (weather prevented travel for Steve). Just like Mark, I felt Mr Sibson was knowledgeable on Common Core… But, Steve also went on too long about a global agenda. That may or may not be true. But honestly whether it is true does not lend itself well to a meeting focused on Common Core. I spoke with a couple of attendees today via email that really felt that aspect came up too often.

Dr Art Mamorstein, Professor of History, was in my opinion a valuable panel member. His explanation of Common Core’s foundations are similar to my own thoughts. Dr Mamorstein explained that programs such as Common Core are not usually part of some big conspiracy. Rather these programs are a direct result of a bureaucracy that keeps growing. I agree with the Professor. Many large-government bureaucratic programs such as Common Core are going to fit with Agenda 21 by their very nature. Just because a bureaucratic program fits with Agenda 21 it does not mean it was intentional. I believe linking every possible program with Agenda 21 does nothing but take focus away from the individual issues.

Dr Mamorstein also made some pretty insightful comments about national leaders in education and the poor state of education nationwide. The professor disputed that education on the whole is poor. In fact he said education in places like South Dakota has been great. The ‘problem’ schools in the US actually come from big places such as Chicago or Detroit. These schools also happen to have a large amount of students enrolled in each district. Dr M stated that if these large districts were reduced in size to match more rural states it would allow them to be better managed. He also went on to mention the people running these failed school districts are the ones that usually go on to become national leaders for education agendas. It does seem ironic (in a non-funny way) that education policies would be trusted with people who come from areas known for poor education.

The panelist Mary Chase took some time to explain problems with the new methods being used for math. Technically this new method (investigations) is not part of Common Core, but is being rolled with the curriculum that aligns Common Core. I am still researching investigations, but at this time I cannot see a good reason to make early elementary kids explain ‘why’ to basic math problems.

The Q&A session was much too short by my estimation. I would have preferred some panelists take less time earlier so more time could be spent in discussion.

One person did ask why the standards came about. Dr Art Mamorstein provided a couple of insightful answer here. First: the publishing companies need money. There is a lot of money involved in creating curriculum and testing. Advancing movements such as Common Core will help the publishing industries numbers. With all of the curriculum for common core being created for an ‘online’ environment there is greater potential for even more money. Curriculum changes can be put out with greater frequency, and thus more revenue coming in. He also mention that the Common Core standards came about partly become some people love testing. Further some of those that love testing utilize the results to ‘find solutions’. Another way I would put it: Common Core is created to increase the testing of education so problems can be solved. It doesn’t matter to these bureaucrats  if these problems were created by Common Core, only that a mechanism exists to test and create solutions.

Disabled children was another topic that came up during the Q&A. Even if a child has developmental issues that prevents learning at the same rate as others their age, disabled children are tested and ‘fail’ the same as their age peers. This makes no logical sense. Removing individualism is a common theme in Common Core; but with disabled children the removal of individualism has been taken to a disheartening extreme.

Finally the question was asked about how to best fight Common Cores implementation. I think there was a pretty clear consensus on the panel that it is best fought with the State legislature. Local school boards and superintendents are basically powerless to fight against common core. State legislators must work to halt the progression of Common Core implementation so as a state we can determine what is best for our children. I believe any steps taken from that point forward should involved parents, teachers, and legislators to examine what is best for public education.

Overall I think the event was a success due to the turnout and the feedback I’ve heard today. Personally I think they should tone down the Agenda 21 focus in future events. But that is my opinion and I have spoken to others that were glad to hear about the potential Agenda 21 connections. Going into the 2014 legislative session it will be interesting to see what bill develop as a result of the current anti-CommonCore movement.

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