Thursday, February 18, 2010

Goals 2000 is alive in 2010

In the mid-1990's, my state legislator knocked on my door campaigning for reelection in our district. After a brief chit-chat session where he talked about roads, drains, and everything else he thought I cared about, I asked him, "Are you aware of the pending education reform in our state and many others which is modeled after Europe and will forever change the US economy?"

"No, I'm not." He replied. "But it sounds more interesting than the pot holes I've been talking about all day."

"Well, within a decade or so there will be proposals requiring students to choose their career major by the end of ninth grade, test and graduate them by tenth grade, and track them into their future career or college; all based on national standards just like the socialist countries of Europe."

"It'll never happen." He scoffed. "We're not Europe and to be honest you're sound a bit like one of those looney conspiracy theorists."

Ignoring the insult and completely undettered, I replied, "Fine. But at least give me the benefit of the doubt and read up on it before you declare me a looney and commit me to a mental institution." I handed him a short grant proposal written by someone in the Michigan Department of Ed. "If you still believe I'm wrong, please come back and say it with information that proves it."

A month later he arrived, unannounced, on my doorstep to apologize for calling me a lunatic and declared that I was indeed correct, Michigan (and the nation) is moving toward national curriculum standards and declaring career majors and graduation after tenth grade is part of that process.

Today's New York Times confrms exactly what I was trying to tell my state legislator.
The new system of high school coursework with the accompanying board examinations is modeled largely on systems in high-performing nations including Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore.

The program is being organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy, and its goals include insuring that students have mastered a set of basic requirements and reducing the numbers of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they enroll in college. More than a million college freshmen across America must take remedial courses each year, and many drop out before getting a degree.

“That’s a central problem we’re trying to address, the enormous failure rate of these kids when they go to the open admission colleges,” said Marc S. Tucker, president of the center [National Center on Education and the Economy], a Washington-based nonprofit.
The name Marc Tucker may not be familiar to you, but it is very familiar to me. Marc Tucker is the author of the famous "Dear Hillary" letter shortly after Bill Clinton was elected to office in November of 1992. The letter detailed a complete remake of the American educational system into a seamless structure from cradle to grave. It was called Goals 2000 or School-toWork and heavily promoted by the Clinton administration as the salvation of our students. But it was nothing of the sort. It was a bold plan to remake the American free market economy into a socialist state using our children as a commodity in their desire to fill job quotas.

Thankfully, after a protracted battle spanning both of Clinton's two terms, Goals 2000 was defeated. HSLDA rightly understanding the dangers of the program declared it "dead" in 1999.

It was gone on the radar of Congress and homeschoolers breathed a sigh of relief, but it was not dead in the heart of Marc Tucker and many others. Reformers abandoned the name, Goals 2000, but continued to press forward with their agenda through the National Center for Education and the Economy and funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates is determined to see common core standards brought to the fifty states and eventually around the world.

Now that Obama is in office, Tucker and Gates see an opportunity to more boldly promote this reform agenda; an agenda built on the desires of the state not the dreams of our children. Obama's education secretary, Arne Duncan, has already declared that national standards benchmarked internationally a goal of the Obama adminstration.

Consider the article in today's New York Times article about early graduation another wake up call. Telling students they can graduate two years early is nothing new and homeschoolers are taking advantage of early college enrollment, but national board exams to prove proficiency will be problematic for every homeschooler, even if we are exempt from them.

Remember...what is tested, is what is taught, what is taught is what is thought. College admission and career placement will be based on tests based on national standards and board exams. The federal government's standard for what every tenth grader should know, isn't my standard and shouldn't be in a free country.

Homeschoolers should work just as aggressively to defeat the proposals in 2010 as we did in the 1990.

Update: Speaking about education reform in today's Washington Post, Melinda Gates wrote,
In short, there is strong evidence that the key players are ready to cooperate and innovate. If all the stakeholders -- the federal government, state governments, school districts and teachers -- continue to coalesce around the goal of having an effective teacher in every classroom, then public schools will start to deliver on their core promise. They will prepare every single American to succeed in college, their careers and their lives.
Notice which stakeholder is missing? Parents. One "stakeholder" wonders out loud if educators really want involved parents. He cites some an educator who argued that parents were unnecessary in the reform process because doctors don't ask patients for their opinion.

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