IMPORTANT LEGISLATION

Common Core

 

The issue continues to arouse much interest, debate and objection. Here are several different sources and their approach:

This is what Wisconsin Family Action wrote in their most recent newsletter on Common Core: “Last month the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core, chaired by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, had a wrap-up meeting on the public hearings that were held on the issue. In that meeting, the vast majority of the representatives indicated that they were in favor of several recommendations that WFA made during our testimony at the first public hearing held in Madison. Julaine Appling, WFA president, suggested, among other things, that there be firewalls built in to protect student data, a legislative requirement for regular and systematic review of any academic standards that are adopted at the state level, that local control over curriculum choices be reaffirmed, and that CCSS have a legislatively mandated “sunset” date. It is encouraging to see that the legislators are listening to what we have to say on the issue, and are preparing to take some action related to Common Core. .. The next steps, from what we can determine, is for Senate and Assembly leadership, in consultation with the committee chairs and members, to determine which recommendations they will adopt and put into the proposed bill. That will require both the Senate and the Assembly to come to some pretty firm agreements. With the legislative session winding down no later than mid-Marsh, there’s a great deal to do on this issue if the legislature intends to take decisive action on Common Core.”

And this, from the latest WPA newsletter: “The current debate over Common Core State Standards is a continuation of many efforts by the federal and state governments since the 1980s to reform public schools be establishing standards and requiring public schools to comply with them. Initiatives such as Goals 2000, America 2000, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top all included standards. The version known as “Common Core State Standards” was announced in June 2009, and is sponsored by the National Governors’ Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and supported by most of the educational establishment. It also has widespread support from both political parties. Standards are one of the major reasons for the federal and state educational databases.

Opposition to CCSS is coming from some conservatives organizations, some liberals, and teacher in New York state and Washington state who are boycotting them by refusing to administer tests associated with the standards.

Homeschoolers are not directly affected by these standards. Private schools, including homeschools, are not currently required to comply and are not likely in the foreseeable future, especially since these kinds of initiatives are ineffective, have not worked in the past, and are now being opposed by teachers.

WPA has opposed state and federal education standards for more than 20 years and continues to do so. Among the problems with standards are the facts that they take power away from families and local schools and give it to the government, emphasize one-size-fits-all education that does not work for many if not most children, and rely heavily on standardized testing that is unfair and inaccurate and interferes with learning.”

And finally, this item in a hand-out regarding the program on January 23rd:

“A February 2013 DoED report, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, reveals that data to be collected and made available extends well beyond academic records, and includes biometric information (e.g., fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition, DNA, voice prints, etc.) and “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources – independent of intellectual ability.,” The scope of the personal data collected, its accessibility, and the implications for its use should deeply concern Wisconsin parents.”

A summary of present action on Common Core put out by Rep. Duey Stroebel’s office on December 16th indicates that, “we were able to pause the implementation of Common Core,” that Wisconsin public school boards should choose and adopt their own local academic standards, curricular materials and instructional methods, and that the legislature should “restrict the collection of biometric student data.” It is good to know that all of the private citizens who are speaking out on this issue are having an effect. It is a reminder of the importance of each of us taking action, not just waiting for something to happen then complaining when we don’t like it!

 

 

 

 

 

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Cause for Concern but not Panic

Article found in WPA newsletter, December 2008, summarized by Tomi Fay Forbes

 

Anyone who is part of a Christian network of any sort has no doubt received one or literally hundreds of emails regarding the UN Rights of the Child issue.

For the United States to ratify this convention, the President must send it to the US Senate for 2/3rds approval. None of the past three Presidents – either Democrat or Republican – who have served since the convention was adopted by the UN has sent it to the Senate.

 

The convention addresses serious problems around the world which need attention, such as hunger, poverty, and child slavery. The issue is that of increasing the power and authority professionals and so-called experts have over families while reducing the rights and responsibilities of parents. Rather than working to strengthen families, the convention views children as independent units. Presently in U.S. courts this applies to custody and child abuse cases. The convention would apply it to all areas, including parent-child relations, education, health, mass media, recreation, foster care and adoption, and juvenile justice. While we want children around the world to have solidity and care, it is naïve and short-sighted to view children as independent units whose best interests can be separated from those of their families and society as a whole. Children need to be part of strong, stable families. Rather than looking at a child in the context of the family, the child is separated from the family.

 

The convention repeatedly gives decision making authority to “competent authorities” (professionals and experts in child development, child psychology, social work, etc.) rather than to the parents. When overwhelming problems such as poverty, war, racism, and genocide make parents incapable of making decisions in their children’s best interests, the real problems should be addressed. Undermining families and sometimes taking children away from their parents will not solve these problems.

 

In addressing issues surrounding education, the convention unfortunately calls for compulsory education rather than compulsory attendance. (Remember, this was the issue with the bill regarding virtual schooling a year ago.) If schooling must be compulsory, it is much safer to require attendance, which can be verified without intrusive measures like testing or review of curriculum and which allows freedom of thought. By contrast, compulsory education allows the state to dictate what knowledge, attitudes, and skills children must acquire and demonstrate.

 

The original convention was adopted in 1989. All counties of the UN have ratified it except the US and Somalia. The US has also refused to ratify other UN conventions in the past. Before it can be ratified, lawyers in the state department assess ways in which it is at odds with current federal and state laws and constitutions. Any country can agree to the convention as it stands or modify it by adopting “reservations.” If the US were to seriously consider ratifying the convention, it would undoubtedly change provisions in the convention that are at odds with current US and state laws, the Federal and state constitutions, and widely accepted practice. In the past, it has taken three to five years for conventions like this to be ratified.

 

While the convention raises serious concerns, it is unlikely to be ratified in a form that will significantly impact US federal and state law. However, the ratification process could encourage discussions of children’s rights and the principle of “the best interests of the child.” (Of course, this would give supporters of families an opportunity to present their views as well.) Ratification would undoubtedly encourage advocates for children’s rights to press for more legislation. It would encourage the current trend to undermine families by turning to professionals through increasing preschool for children of younger ages, mental health and other screenings, etc.

 

We can strengthen our position on important issues by understanding and exercising our rights and responsibilities as families and working to prevent professionals and experts from taking over the roles of parents.

 

Martin Guggenheim's book: What's Wrong with Children's Rights, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 2005