On his radio program yesterday, Georgia GOP U.S. House nominee Jody Hice blamed court decisions barring school-sponsored prayer and the display of religious texts in public buildings for a “downward slide” in America, including low test scores, gang violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy and “promiscuity.”
“[A]s we have removed prayer and Bible and our Christian heritage from our public school, what has been the counter consequence?” he asked. “Has behavior increased or decreased? Has education gotten better or worse? Have our overall citizenship, our citizenry, have we become a better place to live or a worse place to live? Is there more drugs or less? More gang violence or less? More teenage pregnancy or less? More promiscuity or less?”
“Folks, across the board we have suffered,” he concluded.
In fact, teen pregnancy rates have been falling steadily over the past two decades as has the rate of sexual activity among teens, and in 2011 violent crime in the U.S. fell to the lowest rate in 40 years, a trend that has persisted. But somehow we don’t think Hice meant to credit the separation of church and state for these positive trends.
So we had in 1952 a clear understanding of the role of religion in our public life, even in our schools. Then shortly thereafter we had the beginning of a reinterpretation of the First Amendment, a reinterpretation of separation of church and state as it applies to the public school system.
And wow, have we been on a downward slide ever since. Removing prayer, then removing the Bible, then removing religious documents such as the Ten Commandments, which of course has led to the removal of other symbols and so forth, and then removal of benedictions and invocations at any kind of school event or activity.
And I just want to ask you, what kind of behavior, as we have removed prayer and Bible and our Christian heritage from our public school, what has been the counter consequence? Has behavior increased or decreased? Has education gotten better or worse? Have our overall citizenship, our citizenry, have we become a better place to live or a worse place to live? Is there more drugs or less? More gang violence or less? More teenage pregnancy or less? More promiscuity or less? What has happened in our society as we have removed our religious heritage from being taught, from even being allowed in our public schools?
Folks, across the board we have suffered. Education scores have gone down, violence and crime has gone up and we are witnessing more and more of the consequence of those decisions.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
The five students are the grandchildren of Cliven Bundy, a rancher who has previously engaged in armed clashes with the U.S. government over the use of federal land. The incident that sparked the removal involved Bundy’s 15-year-old granddaughter whose school refused to allow her to bring a pocketknife to school, according to television station KSNV.
Her father, Ryan Bundy, disagreed with the school’s labeling of the knife as a weapon and, per KSNV, said he has inculcated in his children the need to always carry a knife. His children affirmed his stance, saying that they utilize knives for chores but don’t wield them as weapons.
"They’re trying to make my child a criminal – and any other child a criminal – for simply having something, and that is not right," Bundy said.
Bundy said he hopes the administration will allow the pocketknives on campus so that the issue can be resolved, a sentiment his daughter echoes.
"I hope that somehow (sic) figures this out because I still would like to go to this school," she said. "I really don’t want to be homeschooled."
h/t: Ahiza Garcia at TPM
Opposition to the educational standards known as Common Core has come from an array of Tea Party groups, conservative think-tanks, Glenn Beck, and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity — and a few voices on the left as well. But one of the most active sources of opposition has been an unlikely group: a Christian conservative organization that works to defend the rights of homeschooling parents.
Homeschoolers are not actually covered by the educational standards. Still, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has spent tens of thousands of dollars in opposition to the Core State Standards Initiative, including federal lobbying, a microsite, and even a fully produced 39-minute documentary. According to a press release, “HSLDA has been opposing Common Core since 2009 and, as public concern over the standards grew, HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris decided that creating a film about the standards would be the best way to make information about Common Core widely available.” While HSLDA has tried to present these public school standards as an “immediate threat” to homeschooling families, critics from inside and outside of the homeschool movement wonder if it is part of a pattern of fear-mongering by an organization eager to maintain its membership base.
‘Jerry Falwell’s Lieutenant’
In 2009, the governors and state education commissioners from 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands joined together to establish a set of standards for K-12 English-language arts and math education. But while that Common Core was initially embraced by governors of both parties, growing opposition from conservatives has pushed some Republican governors and legislators to drop the benchmarks.
Among its most fervent opponents are the Home School Legal Defense Association and its founder Michael Farris. An attorney and ordained Baptist minister, Farris joined with J. Michael Smith in 1983 to establish an organization to provide advocacy and legal representation for parents who chose to educate their children at home. Farris was a already veteran of the Christian Right movement, having worked against the Equal Rights Amendment under anti-feminist legend Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s, as head of the legal department at Concerned Women for America, and as a state director for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the early 1980s. Today, HSLDA estimates its current membership as about 82,000 families. The organization, based in Purcellville, VA, reported in 2013 that its annual budget is more than $10 million.
A self-described “Christian organization,” HSLDA came to prominence as a growing number of conservative Christians, fed up with secular public schools, decided to educate their children in their own preferred way. Farris, in a video on the organization’s site explains, “Homeschooling has given us a way to obey God’s command to teach our children to love God as we go through the day… the only way to make that practical, to implement the command about teaching kids to love God, in the way that he prescribed, that I’ve figured out, is homeschooling.” Milton Gaither, a homeschooling historian and an associate professor of education at Messiah College, told ThinkProgress that as homeschooling became “an increasingly popular option for conservative Christians” in the 1980s, HSLDA created mailing lists, magazines, and an organizational structure to organize them. “HSLDA was able to corner the market,” Gaither said, “and by 1990 they were running the show and were pretty much the face of homeschooling.” In 1993, HSLDA reached a major milestone: homeschooling was legal in all 50 states.
Some homeschooling advocates were not thrilled that the movement’s most visible organization was and remains a religious one. Mark Hegener, publisher of Home Education Magazine, told ThinkProgress that Farris’ “approach is a narrow religious agenda, and homeschooling is just his shtick.” While the movement had been initially diverse and inclusive in its early days in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Heneger thinks HSLDA made homeschoolers seem like a homogeneous community of Bible “thumpers.” While he acknowledges the Christian homeschoolers represented by Farris and his organization have a right to be exclusive, Hegener does not believe they have a “right to be exclusive and speak for everybody.” Still, he said, while more inclusive homeschoolers attempted to band together to create a counterweight, the more individualist homeschooling families were not interested in a “top-down” centralized national organization and efforts were largely unsuccessful.
As head of HSDLA, Farris became a national spokesman for the homeschooling movement and one of the country’s most vocal critics of public schools. A 1993 Washington Post profile noted that, in his 1990 book Home Schooling and the Law, Farris argued that “Christian beliefs have been thoroughly eradicated from public schools,” and those schools are a “multi-billion-dollar inculcation machine” to push “secular humanism and new age religions.” It also quoted Farris as describing public schools as “godless” promoters of “evolution, hedonism and one-world government.”
While Farris was making a name for himself in the homeschooling world, he was also dipping his toes into politics. Relying on his prominence within the burgeoning Christian Right movement, Farris won the 1993 Republican nomination to be Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Ron Faucheux of Campaigns & Elections called the general election contest “one of the nastiest campaigns ever waged for a statewide office.” His campaign energized religious conservatives and received the strong support of Christian Coalition founder and televangelist Pat Robertson. But his ideology and previous statements proved problematic. His Democratic opponent attacked him as “Jerry Falwell’s lieutenant,” called him “rigid and extreme” and highlighted Farris’ previous work in trying to get books he believed promoted “Secular Humanism” removed from public schools. Quotes, like one from his 1992 book opining that “wives have a duty to be a loving and submissive aid to their husbands,” proved controversial, even for many within his own party. Though Farris repudiated some of his earlier writings, saying that did “not accurately represent” his views, even the state’s Republican U.S. Senator John Warner refused to back him and Farris lost by nearly 9 points (as the Republican nominee for governor won by a more than 17-point landslide).
CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
After the loss, Farris changed his sights from politics to higher education. In 1999, he broke ground on Patrick Henry College, a place for homeschooled students and others to prepare for political leadership. The college, also located in Purcellville, VA, was designed to be a Christian college to train students to work “for Christ and for Liberty.” Students at Patrick Henry must agree to a strict religious covenant, must promise to refrain from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, to attend religious services regularly, and to abstain from premarital sex and dating (which Farris has called “serial infidelity.”) Farris has frequently expressed his dream that alumni will go on to win Academy Awards and the White House.
While the school is not legally affiliated with the homeschooling association, HSLDA helped found Patrick Henry College, continues to helps fund it, and shares the same land. Working an estimated 50 hours a week between his dual roles as chancellor of Patrick Henry College and chairman of HSLDA, Farris receives an annual compensation package of nearly $400,000 as he continues to work toward advancing his mission: combining God and the classroom under one roof.
‘Trampling the Constitution and education freedom’
Though opponents have tried to convince parents that the Common Core is a massive federal plot to usurp state and local control of education with a national curriculum — some even labeling it “Obamacore” — it is not actually even a federal program, nor a curriculum.
National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) devised the set of standards, which lay out what public school students should be expected to know and understand by the time the graduate high school. All 50 states already had state standards in place, and the plan included “an explicit agreement that no state would lower its standards.” The goals were devised in 2009 by a panel of education experts, including representatives from standardized testing providers like ACT and College Board. Through their membership in the NGA, the elected governors of nearly every state agreed to set these goals, though they did not “define how the standards should be taught or which materials should be used to support students.” These goals, generally speaking, apply only to public school students.
Education reform advocates, including the Center for American Progress, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association have embraced the Common Core standards, while encouraging an implementation that provides adequate support to the teachers and schools who will be tasked with helping students meet its goals. (The Center for American Progress has received grant funding for its work on Common Core implementation.)
While no state is required to participate in the Common Core standards, the Department of Education has offered some carrots to encourage adoption of high state standards, in general. These included grants via the Race to the Top portion of the 2009 stimulus law and waivers allowing states to opt-out of some No Child Left Behind requirements if they have switched to college and career ready standards. But adopting Common Core was not a requirement for either.
One of the Common Core’s strongest supporters has been a conservative educational think-tank called the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Michael Brickman, the organization’s national policy director, told ThinkProgress that while the federal government was not involved in crafting the standards, the federal incentives “painted a false impression that the federal government was behind” Common Core and led to opposition by groups like HSLDA. “I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if the federal government hadn’t incentivized states to adopt these standards — a very small portion of an optional grant program.”
This claim of a federal takeover is one of a series of objections Michael Farris and his Home School Legal Defense Association have cited in their massive anti-Common Core campaign. In 2013, on his Home School Heartbeat two-minute daily radio program, Farris did a series of segments with Estrada, outlining their opposition to the Common Core. In one segment, Estrada said, “We are seeing nothing less than the federal government pressuring states to adopt the Common Core and change their curriculum.” Farris responded that this was “one more example of the federal government trampling the Constitution and educational freedom.”
The most expensive part of the group’s campaign against Common Core was its 2014 documentary, Building the Machine. Farris described the film as “presented in a way that shows both sides arguing their case — but when you watch it, the opposition to the Common Core is so much more sensible than those that are promoting it, there’s no doubt left behind.” It would convince, Farris predicted, “people that are in the middle that this is a dangerous program.” (Farris told Tea Party activists in the same speech that Common Core is “the worst of the lot” of federal education programs, is an “evil idea,” and that his broader goal is “chopping off head of the snake entirely” by amending the constitution to ensure the federal government will no longer be able to use the “general welfare” clause of the constitution to interfere with education.)
CREDIT: HSLDA’S YOUTUBE ACCOUNT
The movie features an array of attacks on Common Core. A Cato Institute scholar suggests that it was not the “will” of people because they don’t vote for governors based on what they will do at the National Governors Association. Two members of the Common Core’s validation committee who did not back the final standards express their disappointment with what their former colleagues adopted. A journalism teacher objects to having standards and testing at all as a formula for a society where everyone is “mushed out to be the same.” A researcher from the Heartland Institute makes the odd claim that “we have no track record and the track record we have points against Common Core.” Farris himself appears to decry “systemization, and centralization, and data collection.” The Fordham Institute put out a point-by-point refutation of what it called “spurious accusations” in the documentary.
Almost no mention of homeschoolers is made in the film.
Protecting homeschoolers from birth control and same-sex marriage
One common attack on HSLDA has been that its work often extends to topics that are not directly connected to the rights of homeschoolers. So far this year, its federal lobbyists have worked to stop ratification of treaties, including U.N. Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as passage of a bill to prevent corporations from denying birth control coverage in their healthcare benefits. HSLDA’s Estrada told ThinkProgess that the organization is concerned that the treaties include language protecting the “best interest of the child,” which could directly impact parents who disagree with the United Nation’s interpretation of that standard, and that the bill would undermine free speech and religious liberty.
In 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.” Estrada said that the group no longer lobbies on this issue and that he did not know why it had done so then.
Ryan Stollar, executive director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (a group of former homeschoolers who work within the movement to protect the rights of current homeschool kids), told ThinkProgress that he believes the issues the leaders of HSLDA “have chosen and continue to choose to focus on are not necessarily that issues that are in the best interest of the homeschooling movement,” and may be “actively jeopardizing” it. He cites “right-wing extremism,” positing that “making opposition to same-sex marriage a homeschooling issue is shooting [themselves] in the foot” in their attempt to represent the broader movement. “It alienates so many people,” he said, and the group’s thus-far successful work to block the disability treaty, for example, is “not connected” to homeschooling and “atrocious.”
Robert Kunzman, an expert on homeschooling and professor at the Indiana University Bloomington, told ThinkProgress, “To the extent that they believe it to be a threat, you can’t fault them for deciding that’s where to put their energies. But some of the issues they’re taking on are pretty far afield from homeschooling.” Among these questionably-related issues, he observed, is the Common Core.
‘Selling peace of mind to members’
HSLDA is not a typical advocacy organization. Rather than simply collecting donations, it offers members an informal insurance policy for $120 annually, serving as a legal team for parents who homeschool their kids and might face any interference from the government. HSLDA says that while it “cannot guarantee representation in every case,” it comes “to the aid of our members and many nonmembers whenever possible.”
HSLDA is “selling peace of mind to members,” Rachel Coleman, a homeschooling alum who leads the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, observed. But, she told ThinkProgress, “to convince people that they should be members, [HSLDA must] convince those parents that there is a reason for that. It’s helpful to them to present every little thing as a threat to homeschooling.”It’s helpful to them to present every little thing as a threat to homeschooling.
Over the years, this “fear-mongering” charge has been one of the most frequent knocks on HSLDA. Gaither of Messiah College said the organization uses a “constant, steady stream of alarmist rhetoric of ‘what the federal government is doing is a threat,” with Farris spreading “constant fear that the federal government is getting bigger and bigger, more and more secular, [and is] destroying the creation of our forefathers.”
Kunzman concurred, telling ThinkProgress that he has frequently heard people in homeschool community criticize HSLDA as a group that “only survives financially by continuing to manufacture crises. That’s how they fundraise. Threats to homeschool freedom get the base riled up, so people contributing believe they need legal protection and political advocacy.” This victimization narrative has proven beneficial to the organization in good times and bad, he suggested: “If they win something, it’s great promotion of their services. If they lose, it’s ‘the threat is real and you’d better support us.’”
HSLDA dismissed these criticisms. Will Estrada, the organization’s director of federal relations, told ThinkProgress in a telephone interview that the group hears from some who think they “blow things up” out of proportion and others who think their tactics are not reactive enough. “Some of these people are a little too naïve. We see on a daily basis attempts to restrict homeschool freedom,” he said, noting that while the group does its best to share “the truth from our legal experience of 30 years, you can’t make everyone happy.”
Gaither also observed that while “Jesus in the Gospel says you can’t serve God and money,” some critics believe the organization’s leadership wants to be pure, but also to be well paid. Estrada also rejected any suggestion that Farris and the eight other HSLDA employees making upwards of $110,000 annually are unduly profiting from an organization that calls itself a Christian organization. “[Michael] Farris hasn’t had a vacation in years,” said Estrada, and “a lot of these people could be making way more than they are making” if they went to a K Street law firm.
Will the Common Core impact homeschooling?
An article in HSLDA’s quarterly Home School Court Report magazine entitled “Common Core testing affects homeschoolers this year,” warns that a small number of Tennessee homeschoolers who affiliate with local school districts instead of church schools could be forced to take a test based on the Common Core Standards. The same article also notes that even those families “have a good legal argument to avoid it.”
CREDIT: HSLDA’S COMMON CORE MICROSITE
For a full explanation of why HSLDA opted to get involved in Common Core, one must turn to the group’s anti-Common Core website. It spells out three major arguments as to how the Common Core represents a threat to homeschooling: data tracking, college admission standards, and standardized testing.
HSLDA says that “perhaps the most immediate threat to homeschool and private school students is the expansion of statewide longitudinal databases,” citing an Oklahoma official who proposed including homeschoolers in the data collection process. “In light of the growing revelations that the government is engaging in massive invasion of privacy in spheres other than education,” the group warns, “it is utterly impossible to believe that these databases will not be mined and misused to serve the ulterior purposes of a centralized government intent on growing its own power.”
Estrada told ThinkProgress that while he is not aware of any evidence that data-collection harms homeschooled children or impedes parents, he said he sees no reason that the federal government, states, or businesses need “all this information on kids.” “Whether data held by outside entities will make it so kids can’t homeschool isn’t really the question,” he suggested, “The question is why do they have it and should they have it.”
The other major concern is that if states have common standards for the public schools, standardized tests like SAT, ACT, and GED will be aligned to the Common Core and homeschooling parents who opt not to use Common Core curricula will see their kids do poorly and not get into college. Warning that kids taking these examinations might “soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles,” HSLDA claims on its website, homeschool students who “are not adherents to the Common Core” could “find themselves at a significant disadvantage come test time.” Additionally, it claims that colleges and universities are “being pressured to adapt their standards for college readiness to the Common Core standards.”Students taking the redesigned SAT, ACT, or the Iowa Tests could soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles.
ThinkProgress contacted ACT Inc. (the non-profit company behind the ACT test), GED Testing Service(the public-private partnership behind the GED test), and College Board (the non-profit behind the SAT and AP tests) to see whether such a re-alignment was imminent. Ed Colby, director of public relations for ACT Inc. explained that in fact the opposite was true: “The ACT is already aligned with the Common Core standards,” he said, because the company “helped develop those standards” and was “at the table” when they were designed. CT Turner, senior director of public affairs for GED Testing Service said that it updates its tests based on “what people need to succeed,” not Common Core — and that its recent realignment “started happening before the Common Core standards came.” Carly Lindauer, senior director of external communications at College Board, said that the newly redesigned SAT “measures the skills and knowledge that evidence shows are essential for college and career success” and “is not aligned to any single set of standards.”
ThinkProgress also spoke with a psychometrician with expertise in how these standardized tests and the admissions processes work: Wisconsin Center for Education Research associate scientist H. Gary Cook. He noted that “a lot of what’s on [existing standardized tests already] are in these standards, as ACT said.” Moreover, he noted, the tests are a tool mainly for colleges and universities to determine who will likely succeed in their first year. While the “indirect customers” for these tests are “the people who take them,” the “primary customer of ACT and SAT are universities,” he explained, “If these didn’t work, universities wouldn’t use them.” As such, he said, he does not “see ACT or SAT” being coerced to adapt their core assessments to fit Common Core.
Estrada conceded that this concern has not proven an issue so far and said that HSLDA is in the process of updating that part of the site. “We’re watching very closely, it’s something we’re concerned about. But at this point it doesn’t look like the effect is going to be where we thought two to three years ago.” He suggested that this may be, in part, that with states like Texas not adopting Common Core, it became harder to create a nationalized curriculum. Either way, he said, homeschoolers continue to do well on the tests: “I love being proven wrong by homeschoolers when they’ve done so well and their education is so good, they come back and ace these tests even though they’ve never really been prepared for them.”
In his book Write These Laws On Your Children, homeschooling expert Robert Kunzman quoted Farris expressing concern that standardized testing is not going to be a fair measurement because content validity can’t be attained for so many different homeschooling experiences: “The problem is that all of this is entirely subjective. There is no such thing as an objective standard. A test is fair, according to due process standards, only if it measure the content of what you’ve been taught… you’d have to write an individualized, content-valid standardized test for every child that’s being homeschooled in America. You just can’t do that.” But despite his stated concern that homeschoolers might be disadvantaged by standardized tests, the school he founded and leads, Patrick Henry College, requires applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score. ThinkProgress was unable to talk with Farris nor another Patrick Henry College spokesman about his concerns about standardized testing and the college’s admissions policies.
Luis A. Huerta, an associate professor and coordinator of the education and policy program at Columbia University’s Teachers College, told ThinkProgress that he thinks HSLDA and homeschoolers have some reason to be cautious of Common Core. “If [Common Core affects] external metrics that are the gateway to college, this potential hurts the content of instruction they engage in as private homeschoolers,” he explained, adding, “I think they’re against this because it has the potential to change a lot of things.” At the same time, he said, this campaign could be yet another wedge issue that will boost HSLDA membership: “If they publicize potential ills, might this be the force that brings [lapsed members] back home to HSLDA?”
Messiah University’s Gaither observed that while he does see a lot of concern about Common Core homeschool online chat rooms, it is most often from people who do not seem to understand what the standards are. For HSLDA, he suspects, Common Core is another attempt to scare parents into thinking it’s a threat “so people will give money,” at a time when membership growth has slowed (its official membership total was about 3,000 families higher at the time of Kunzman’s 2009 book).Parents and teachers are saying ‘We’re tired of all of these top-down mandates. To heck with it, we’re gonna homeschool.’
Whether this is part of the intent of the effort or not, HSLDA’s Estrada noted one other apparent impact of the campaign against Common Core: more homeschoolers. “I talk to families on an almost daily basis who are frustrated, not so much with Common Core, but who see it as the last straw. Parents and teachers are saying ‘We’re tired of all of these top-down mandates. To heck with it, we’re gonna homeschool.’” While he doesn’t know if it will be massive, “anecdotally, we see a lot of it.” He said they have not made a “concerted campaign” to recruit people based on their fear of having their kids in public schools aligned to the standards, but noted, “I’ve said, once or twice, on panels, ‘If you’re concerned about the Common Core, now’s a great time to homeschool!’”
Still, so far, Estrada admitted, Common Core has not actually affected homeschoolers. “But homeschoolers have seen what happens [when there are] centralized, standardized policies in place that affect all kids in education. We were founded in 1983 when most states criminalized homeschooling.” The Home School Legal Defense Association, he said, is fighting it now “before people say ‘all 50 states have Common Core. Why are those homeschool kids not getting the same education?’”
ThinkProgress intern Shannon Greenwood contributed to this report.
ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill Monday which would have allowed teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons in schools.
The bill would have designated certain school officials as “school protection offers” who would have to complete a 100-hour police training in order to carry a gun. Additionally, the bill would lower the age requirement for concealed weapons from 21 to 19, allow gun owners to carry their weapons openly in the state (despite bans in certain cities), and require public housing authorities to allow their tenants to possess firearms. The bill passed the GOP-controlled legislature in May, but the veto came on the last day Nixon had to act on the legislation.
“Arming teachers will not make our schools safer,” Nixon said. “I have supported and will continue to support the use of duly authorized law enforcement officers employed as school resource officers, but I cannot condone putting firearms in the hands of educators who should be focused on teaching our kids.”
This isn’t the first time the state’s legislature has tried to pass lax gun laws which would place armed teachers in schools. Last year, both chambers passed a piece of legislation which not only would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons, but it also would have nullified several federal gun-control laws in place since the Roosevelt administration, allowed weapons purchased during gun buyback programs to be recycled, and fined journalists attempting to report on gun owners. Nixon vetoed this legislation as well, and an attempt to override his decision fell through after a leading law enforcement group and the state’s attorney general came out against it.
Both chambers have the chance to override Nixon’s latest veto when they reconvene in September. With Senate Republicans holding 23 of the 34 seats and House Republicans holding 108 of 163, the GOP is just one House vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to implement the law. When the bill passed the House in May, it did so with 111 votes, two more than needed to override the decision.
Securing a lone Democratic vote isn’t out of the bill’s supporters’ reach — in May, the Republican supermajority managed to override Nixon’s veto of a $620 billion tax cut when Rep. Keith English voted against his party. In this year alone, Nixon has vetoed 33 bills passed by the GOP-controlled legislature, the most during his career as governor, including a bill that would have imposed a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions in the state.
It’s being heralded as a triumph for science.
The news: Teaching students that creationism is an evidence-based theory is now banned in all public schools across the United Kingdom, according to new documents from the British government. Here are the new standards, which institute a:
…requirement for every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.
According to io9, this means any “academy or free school” in the U.K. which teaches creationism to students would be breaking its funding agreement with the government. Academies are roughly equivalent to charter schools in the U.S., while “free schools” are nonprofit independent schools funded by taxpayer dollars, which can be organized by parents, teachers, charities and businesses. The new language updates a 2012 rule which required all future free schools that teach the theory of natural selection alone to include academies and all existing free schools.
This means that the U.K. is on track to more or less completely end the practice of teaching creationism in publicly funded schools. However, it does permit creationism and other beliefs about the origin of the Earth and life to be taught in classes on religion, so long as they are not presented as valid alternatives to scientific theory. While there are further reforms needed in other educational sectors across the U.K., it looks like the biggest step toward getting religion out of taxpayer-funded science classes has just been accomplished.
Contrast that to the U.S.: In the U.S., some $1 billion in taxpayer funding across 14 states goes to private schools. Earlier this year, Politico reported that those private schools included “hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies.”
In the U.S., just the states of Louisiana and Tennessee currently permit creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design, to be taught as alternatives to evolution in public schools. But across much of the South and Midwest, private schools that teach creationism are able to accept millions of dollars in public funding. Slate has a relatively up-to-date, comprehensive map of such schools here. There really are hundreds of them.
Map of schools teaching creationism. Image Credit: Slate
From Politico’s report:
… many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. Their course materials nurture disdain of the secularworld, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. They often distort basic facts about the scientific method — teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of “scientific law.”
One set of books popular in Christian schools calls evolution “a wicked and vain philosophy.” Another derides “modern math theorists” who fail to view mathematics as absolute laws ordained by God. The publisher notes that its textbooks shun “modern” breakthroughs — even those, like set theory, developed back in the 19th century.
In the U.S., the settled science of evolution is still pretty touchy. Missouri, for example, is considering a bill that would "alert" parents to any discussion of natural evolution in schools. And a 2013 Pew poll found that just 6 in 10 Americans believe that life evolved over time (including via the guidance of a supreme being), compared to 87% of scientists.
Why you should care: Pew found that Americans widely disagree with scientists on a variety of issues, including embryonic stem cell research, the use of animals in laboratory testing, nuclear power, childhood vaccinations and the causes and scale of global warming. At a time when the economy increasingly values education in highly technical STEM fields and large-scale scientific projects are more important than ever before, it would be nice if taxpayer dollars funded secular, scientific education instead of religious dogma.
Source: Tom McKay for Policy Mic
Notorious misinformer Glenn Beck appeared on Fox News to push various myths about the Common Core education standards while promoting his upcoming live movie We Will Not Conform.
On June 12, Fox’s Sean Hannity hosted Beck, a former Fox host and founder of The Blaze network, to discuss the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. “Political turbulence” surrounding the standards, however, has led a few states to opt out of Common Core, following months-long smear campaigns from right-wing media figures, including Beck andFox. Beck even wrote an “angry and ignorant" book titled Conform, which spent 222 pages lobbing ridiculous attacks against the standards and public education in general.
On Hannity, Beck plugged his July 22 live movie, which will also feature fellow Common Core misinformer and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. After Hannity explained that Beck was “going to show in this movie how to defeat Common Core,” Beck claimed that Common Core opponents are “winning on this.” He then propagated a series of myths about the standards, including that Common Core is about “control, manipulation, [and] propaganda” and that it takes away freedom from teachers, despite polls showing that teachers support it. Beck even likened Common Core to education in China because it “use[s] propaganda in the classroom” to “shape these minds to get them to be good little boys and girls for the state.”
Given that he launched his campaign against Common Core by stating, “We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack,” Beck’s live movie promises to be yet another absurd ruse in his constant, fact-free crusade again Common Core.
h/t: Hilary Tone at MMFA
SAY WHAT?: Congressional Candidate Says Public Schools Should Be Allowed To Ban Undocumented Children [TW: Racism, Ethnocentrism, White Privilege]
Brad Zaun (R) is hoping to win Iowa’s 3rd congressional district by denigrating undocumented schoolchildren.
A leading Iowa Republican candidate is championing a nefarious proposal in his bid for Congress: banning undocumented children from receiving public education.
Brad Zaun, vying to represent the third congressional district in southwest Iowa, was a guest on Mickelson in the Morning, a local conservative radio program hosted by Jan Mickelson, late last week. When the conversation turned to immigration, Mickelson wondered why the state of Iowa spent money educating the children of undocumented immigrants. He dismissed the Supreme Court ruling 32 years ago that it’s illegal to deny undocumented children public education and asked Zaun whether it’s time to revisit the matter.
“Absolutely,” Zaun, currently a state senator, said. “I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of attempts to make some changes.” He blamed fellow lawmakers for a “lack of courage” in deciding not to strip undocumented children of an education.
MICKELSON: The state of Iowa spends millions and millions and millions of dollars every single year trying to educate people whose parents aren’t even here legally. About $200 million. And we have been doing this for years. And our governor says, “well that’s the law of the land. That’s Plyler. The Supreme Court says we have to.” I say that’s bullhockey. Even if that court case has some merit, and I don’t think it does, it ought to be challenged, and it should not be automatically applied here in Iowa, because we ain’t Texas! What do you think ought to be done? Is it time to challenge Plyler here in the state of Iowa?
ZAUN: Absolutely. I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of attempts to make some changes. The problem is we’ve got a Democratic-controlled Senate. It’s just been frustrating. […] There’s lack of courage to do that. I’m just being honest with you.
Listen to it:
This is not a merely academic issue. Hundreds of school districts across the country have been unconstitutionally inquiring about students’ immigration status, prompting the Department of Justice and Department of Education to send out guidelines reminding school officials that they must enroll every child.
In addition, though Mickelson claims immigrant children are leeching off taxpayers, he never acknowledges the fact that undocumented immigrantspay billions in taxes. In 2010 alone, the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes.
Zaun is currently considered a frontrunner for the Republican nomination. The primary election is held Tuesday.
Source: Scott Keyes for ThinkProgress
HB 5707, a bill aimed at curbing school bullying in the state, is now waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.
The legislation, sponsored by lesbian state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, passed the Senate May 29 with 37 votes in favor after being amended, and proceeded to pass the house with 75 votes in favor of concurrence.
"Bullying in our schools has dramatic impacts on the victims and disrupts the educational process as a whole" Cassidy said in a statement. "The effects are devastating and well documented: victims have reduced academic achievement, lower involvement and are often forced out of school. Our schools must be safe and welcoming for all students, and this bill is a significant step towards that goal."
The bill lays out a clear bullying policy for schools as well as responsive measures. It also directs that schools compile and report data on bullying incidents.
"What I hear from [families of bullied children] so often, when they speak with schools or police, is that they are often told, ‘You are the first ones this has happened to’—that opens the door to blaming the victim," Cassidy told Windy City Times shortly after the bill passed out of committee in March. "With this, you can go back and verify that something else happened on a particular date."
An anti-bullying measure failed in the Senate in 2012 by just one vote. Cassidy has said the new measure is stronger and includes some facets that had to be deleted before.
"A comprehensive approach is needed to solve this issue," Cassidy said in the May 29 statement. "By giving school districts the tools to combat bullying, with an emphasis on restorative practices and accountability through data, we can help ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for children and schools."
Republicans may be able to rile up their Michelle-hating Dittohead base with this sort of garbage, but Michelle Obama is immensely popular with normal people, and healthy kids are even more popular.
First Lady Michelle Obama is, in many ways, a more attractive target for conservatives than her Free-World-Leading husband, and this week, House Republicans took aim at the First Lady’s signature initiative. In their proposed fiscal year 2015 agriculture spending bill, the House GOP included a provision that would gut nutritional requirements in school lunches. The White House responded by saying that Mrs. Obama will continue to put the health of our children ahead of politics.
President Obama may, indeed, be the subject of a greater volume of conservative derangement than anyone in history, but Michelle Obama strikes just as nasty a chord with the base, with little or no effort, unless you include trying to get kids to eat healthier. There’s just something about her that riles up a certain portion of the culturally conservative Republican base, but hell if I can figure out what it is.
It’s no surprise, then, that House Republicans would make it their personal mission to gut the school lunch nutritional requirements that Michelle Obama has championed, which include the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and a reduction in sodium content. That sodium reduction, by the way, would bring school lunches to almost exactly a third of the current recommended adult daily allowance for sodium by 2017. The provision would allow any school to opt out of the requirements completely if they could show their school lunch program is losing money:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall establish a process by which a State shall grant a waiver from compliance with the final regulations published by the Department of Agriculture in the Federal Register on January 26, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 4088 et seq.) for the 2014-15 school year to any school food authority located in the State that verifies a net loss from operating a food service program for a period of at least 6 months that begins on or after July 1, 2013.
Notwithstanding the dubious logic that if a school is losing money on lunches, it must be because they’re not poisoning our kids, why not propose letting those schools apply for additional funding to defray the losses, if they can prove they were related to the nutritional requirements? In what universe does it make sense to solve the problem by feeding our kids shit? By this reasoning, the states should grant licenses to sell crack if your school’s losing money. Forget Taco Tuesdays, say hello to Meth Mondays!
The First Lady responded by holding an off-the-record conference call (that wasn’t all that off-the-record) to rally opposition to the GOP measure. Perhaps sensing an opportunity to harness resentment for the First Lady, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, whose previous reporting includes keeping tabs on FLOTUS’ vacation expenses, asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about the showdown this week. “How active do we expect the First Lady will be in fighting this legislation?” he asked.
Carney pointed out that the nutrition standards have already been implemented by 90 percent of schools. and repeatedly suggested that Republicans are putting politics ahead of children’s health. “The First Lady and this administration believe that every decision we make should be guided by sound science and hard evidence, not politics or special interests, particularly when it comes to the health of our children,” Carney said, later adding that “she’ll continue to work very hard on those and make clear where our priorities should be, which is on our kids’ health and not on politics.”
Normally, Carney would refer this sort of question to the East Wing, but clearly, this is a fight that the White House is eager to join. Republicans may be able to rile up their Michelle-hating Dittohead base with this sort of garbage, but Michelle Obama isimmensely popular with normal people, and healthy kids are even more popular.
Source: Tommy Christopher for The Daily Banter
FLOTUS v. Republicans: Michelle Obama Likes the Healthy Lunch Backlash as Much as Kids Like Vegetables
Michelle Obama is about as open to GOP efforts to roll back the healthy school lunch policies she championed as kids are to eating their vegetables.
Michelle Obama is about as open to rolling back the healthy school lunch policies she championed as kids are to eating their vegetables. After the GOP introduced a House bill last week that would ease the rules, Obama said Tuesday that the effort was “unacceptable” to her, both as the first lady and as a mother.“We have to be willing to fight the hard fight now,” she said during a meeting with five school nutrition leaders, according to Politico. “Rolling things back is not the answer.”
Obama was a big supporter of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act, which created new, whole-grain and vegetable-heavy dietary restrictions on school lunches. Kids have complained about low calorie counts and being forced to take vegetables they end up throwing away. Conservatives have called it a government takeover of public school lunches, and school nutrition authorities have argued that in some places they’re seeing lower sales. The House bill would waive the nutrition requirements if schools are losing money under the mandates.
The House bill has the support of the School Nutrition Association, a large trade group, which supports increased flexibility argues that plate waste is a huge problem. However, reports from the Associated Press and the Government Accountability Office have found that some schools are managing the new requirements well and kids are eating the healthier food. Also, 90 percent of school districts are meeting the standards, according to the Department of Agriculture. The bigger concern for schools is the next waive of requirements, which increases the whole grain requirement and lowers the sodium limit. The GOP bill waiver would also excuse schools from those requirements.
Despite support from people who’d like to see more salt and less grain in cafeterias, the bill has also raised eyebrows over additional funds for a new summer lunch pilot program that would only benefit rural low-income students. But then, maybe urban kids should be happy — the House doesn’t want to invest more money in forcing them to eat fruits and vegetables.
Source: Arit John for The Wire
More GOP failure at work.
Glenn Beck released a new book last week on everything that is supposedly wrong with education in America. The title, Conform: Exposing the Truth about Common Core and Public Education, gives most of it away.
Most people know Glenn Beck from his previous stint on Fox News or from the various media outlets associated with his network, The Blaze. His co-author Kyle Olson, on the other hand, appears to be up-and-coming in the right-wing media sphere. Currently, he is the publisher, founder, and CEO of EAGnews.org, a “news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary.” He is also a contributor to Townhall, and just last week launched a new conservative website called Progressives Today with “Dumbest Man on the Internet” Jim Hoft.
In Conform, Beck and Olson take on everything from teachers unions’ to the Common Core State Standards to school lunches to abortion in a book characterized by anecdotal evidence, sweeping generalizations, and quotes from anonymous bloggers. The focus of their ire is what they call the “controllists,” defined as “the teachers’ unions and their progressive friends in the media and the state legislatures.” In 222 pages, Beck and Olson lob a number of outlandish attacks against the various evils they perceive in public education, relying on such conservative actors as Michelle Malkin, the Heritage Foundation, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and the Heartland Institute to do so.
Here are the eight most ridiculous attacks from Conform:
1. Longer School Days Help Teachers Encourage “Teen Sexual Activity.”
Beck and Olson seem convinced that teachers are not only “promot[ing] sexual activity among children,” but would use longer school days to “encourage teen sexual activity,” among other radical ideas (emphasis added):
Educators back then knew that some parents were too shy or awkward to broach the subject, so schools made sure kids would have basic knowledge to build on as they grew and developed their own points of view.
Today the trend seems to be to promote sexual activity among children, rather than gradually preparing kids for the facts of adult life.
There’s also the issue of what our kids would learn with even more hours at school. Many of these educators would relish the opportunity to spend more time feeding students a steady stream of radical, anti-American political ideas, encouraging teen sexual activity, and deemphasizing the importance of traditional values and religion. [Conform, pgs. 126 & 138]
2. “Most Teachers Get A Raise For Not Dying Over The Summer.”
In Chapter 3, which purports to counter the myth that “Public Schools Are Underfunded,” Beck and Olson take issue with teacher compensation:
In most school districts across the nation, all teachers are given automatic, annual raises every year based on years of service and number of graduate classes completed. To put it bluntly, most teachers get a raise for not dying over the summer— their classroom performance, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with it. [Conform, pg. 15]
3. Teachers Don’t Need Tenure Because “Parents Will Hold [Principals] Accountable.”
Chapter 6 asserts that teachers don’t need tenure because if a good teacher is fired, parents will take care of that:
What should protect teachers is what protects anyone who must continually justify their job: success. Good teachers continue working, bad ones go away. And if a good teacher is fired without cause or because of some political grudge or ideological difference with a principal, you can be sure that parents will hold that principal accountable. [Conform, pg. 34]
4. Teachers’ Colleges Are "Not Very Hard" To Get Into And Are "Marxist Brainwashing Factories."
Beck and Olson have numerous thoughts on teaching colleges in Chapter 8, among them that teaching colleges are “not very hard at all to get accepted into,” and that they are “Marxist brainwashing factories” (emphasis added):
On the flip side, it’s not very hard at all to get accepted into our nation’s teaching colleges. Once you’re in, you don’t have to do extremely well to graduate and gain certification to teach in a K- 12 school. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “entrance requirements to most colleges of education are too lax, and the requirements for graduation are too low.”
Newly minted teachers emerge from college with few English skills, little respect for the discipline, and heads filled with ideas about the fundamental unfairness of America and how capitalism and individualism are terrible things.
Meanwhile, reformers keep pushing for the expansion of alternate teaching certification so that at least some prospective educators can find jobs and help kids learn without having to first be processed through Marxist brainwashing factories. [Conform, pgs. 49, 50, 52, & 56]
5. “Radical Educators” Use Civil Rights To “Further Their Marxist Agenda.”
Continuing on the “Marxism” train, Chapter 9 opens with the allegation that “America’s historic civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical educators” who use “racial inequities” “to further their Marxist agenda” (emphasis added):
America’s historic civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical educators.
It’s all part of their effort to take control over what our children learn and think with the hope that future generations will be more accommodating to efforts to dismantle our nation’s capitalistic economic system and impose state control and socialism.
Radical educators are very clever to use civil rights, and the racial inequities that have plagued our society for centuries, as a tool to further their Marxist agenda.That’s because few Americans disagree with the fundamental arguments of the original civil rights movement— that barriers needed to be removed so that people of all races can have an equal chance to achieve the American dream. [Conform, pgs. 59 & 60]
6. Common Core Helps Progressives Remove Parents From Their Children’s Lives.
Beck doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to Common Core. Indeed, he has been one of the most vocal right-wing media figures leading the charge against the state-led, voluntary education standards.Conform, however, makes the new, bizarre assertion that the Common Core State Standards somehow lead to a removal of parents from their children’s lives (emphasis added):
Since most parents don’t understand the Common Core techniques, students are becoming more dependent on their schools and teachers for their education, and less on help from their parents. This is like a dream come true for progressives who hope to continue to minimize the role of parents in the lives of their children.
Do these really sound like “rigorous” changes to you? Or does it sound more like a systematic approach to dumb down our kids and further remove parents from the process so that students will be easier to indoctrinate and control? [Conform, pgs. 93 & 95]
7. “Controllists” Want To Serve School Meals So That Kids Will Be In School More And To Teach Kids That Everything Is Free.
In one of their odder arguments, Beck and Olson claim that “controllists” use the school meals program to “make the case that kids must be in school more” and that school meals will teach kids “the concept of ‘free’ public handouts”:
By serving one or two meals a day to students, schools and controllists can begin to make the case that kids must be in school more so that they can eat properly.
All this fits perfectly with the controllists’ strategy of teaching children that all good things originate with the state. Once kids learn that their parents are not responsible for providing any meals because the government covers that cost for everyone, it’s not hard to take the next step and teach them the concept of “free” public handouts for everything, including education, health care, and housing. [Conform, pg. 136]
8. Former President George W. Bush and Governor Chris Christie Are “Progressives.”
Amidst their criticism of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the idea of kids staying at school later in the day, Beck and Olson assert that former President George W. Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) are “progressives”:
NCLB was the brainchild of George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy, both big-government progressives.
Some progressives are seeing the opportunity this gives them and are pushing this concept beyond school hours. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christies [sic] has started a pilot program to provide free “after school dinner” for kids in six Camden schools. [Conform, pgs. 75 & 136]
Researcher Connor Land contributed to this review.
h/t: Hilary Tone at MMFA
Emily Linden, a victim of sexual bullying, and the founder of the UnSlut Project, called out Fox psychiatrist Keith Ablow for his claim that teenage girls “provoked” sexual harassment by wearing leggings.
Ablow: “I don’t know that we can restrain boys from being boys. So the long stare, the offhand comment, you have to — what do you do, excuse it? Because it was certainly provoked. And I think girls put themselves in the line of fire that way.”
Fox News’ ”Medical A-Team” member Dr. Keith Ablow claimed that girls can “certainly provoke” harassment by wearing leggings to school.
On the May 9 edition of Fox’s Outnumbered, Ablow and his fellow co-hosts discussed a school that is allegedly telling its female students that wearing leggings to school is inappropriate and distracting to the male students. Ablow said any harassment the girls might experience while wearing leggings “was certainly provoked” (emphasis added):
ABLOW: You cannot come in with leggings. Because my son wants to learn and the truth is it is distracting. And it is kind of inappropriate because when did we decide as a culture that tights would become an overgarment instead of an undergarment. The reason we’re doing that is because girls are in a panic to be more and more sexual because we’ve taken all the restraint away from femininity. We’ve made girls into boys.
ABLOW: I don’t know that we can restrain boys from being boys. So the long stare, the offhand comment, you have to — what do you do, excuse it? Because it was certainly provoked. And I think girls put themselves in the line of fire that way.
Ablow has a history of wildly sexist remarks on Fox News. He has previously said that allowing women to serve in combat roles is “narcissism,” that a parent who bought dolls for her son was “nuts” for “gender-bending,” and that Newt Gingrich’s three marriages would make him a strong president.
“These claims may sound outlandish – and they are – but the fact is, millions of Americans are absorbing this extremist propaganda, and it’s having a very real impact,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “These lies are being repeated in churches, legislative hearings and town hall meetings across the country.”
The report, Public Schools in the Crosshairs: Far-Right Propaganda and the Common Core State Standards, was researched by the Intelligence Project and the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program.
Many Christian Right activists claim the Common Core will indoctrinate young children into “the homosexual lifestyle” and instill anti-American, anti-Christian values. Their fight has been joined by radical antigovernment groups like the John Birch Society, which claims the standards are part of a global conspiracy to create a totalitarian “New World Order.” Glenn Beck, meanwhile, describes the Common Core as “evil” and “communism.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has called it “dangerous.”
What’s more, it’s clear that some of the opponents, including national groups associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, are exploiting the Common Core in their broader fight against the public education system in an effort to promote school privatization measures.
“The 50 million children in our nation’s public schools, and the dedicated educators who serve them, deserve better than a debate that focuses on falsehoods and demonizes the very idea of public education,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello. “There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core, but those very real issues are being obscured and distorted by the claims of extremists.”
Despite the claims of many critics, the standards do not mandate the use of any particular book or course of study. Those decisions remain with individual teachers and school systems.
The standards were developed under the auspices of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-five states initially adopted the Common Core, but Indiana in March became the first state to withdraw.