|Back to February Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 253||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||FEBRUARY 2007|
|Writing the Tucker Plan into Law|
Bills are being introduced in Congress that, if passed, will write much of the Marc Tucker education plan into law. The most significant of these bills so far is the SPEAK Act (S. 224, H.R. 325), also referred to as the "Dodd-Ehlers bill." Future bills will likely be forthcoming to implement other features of the Tucker plan.
What does Tucker's plan hope to accomplish? The focal point of his proposal, says Tucker, is "to adopt internationally benchmarked standards for educating" our students and workers. [Executive Summary of the Tucker Report, paragraph 1, emphasis added]. He says again that in order to improve education, we must enable students to "succeed against internationally benchmarked education standards" [Executive Summary, p. 12].
What are "internationally benchmarked education standards"? In the field of education, the word "standards" means (1) "content standards," or "curriculum," the subject matter schools are to teach, and (2) "achievement standards," the level of accomplishment regarding the curriculum that students must achieve as measured by tests of some kind. "Benchmarks" are the detail of the curriculum and the tests. So the term "internationally benchmarked education standards" means international curriculum and international tests.
What international curriculum and tests does Tucker have in mind? He clarifies on page 87 of his Report that he favors the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests and curriculum. PISA are the politically-correct international tests and curriculum favored by the postmodern left. They focus on fuzzy math instead of traditional math. They disregard errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. They ignore reading fluency and comprehension in favor of students being able to "construct" and "reflect" on what they have read.
Not surprisingly, PISA tests give far different results than knowledge-based tests. When Tucker calls for "internationally benchmarked standards," he wants to give the impression he is speaking of high expectations on academic knowledge and skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. The PISA tests are all about political-correctness and the leftist worldview; they do a poor job of measuring knowledge and skills.1 (For an analysis of fuzzy math and the damage it is doing to our children, see the author's America's Schools: The Battleground for Freedom.)
All educational curricula and achievement tests are based on a political and educational philosophy. The philosophy of the PISA tests Tucker prefers is not consistent with the worldview and wishes of most parents and other citizens in the United States. Perhaps that is why his plan also calls for the elimination of locally elected school boards.
The international PISA tests and curriculum are consistent with the international education system already being followed by the United States. The first President George Bush, on behalf of the United States, signed the international education agreement known as The World Conference on Education for All (EFA) (1990), an accord overseen by UNESCO. This international agreement required the United States to establish a national system of education as opposed to a state and local system a feat largely accomplished by the Goals 2000 Act of 1994.
The updated version of EFA was formulated in 2000 and is known as "The Dakar Framework for Action." It was signed by President Bill Clinton. This second international agreement, commonly known as "Dakar," is an expansion of the 1990 Education for All agreement.
On October 3, 2003, in a speech to UNESCO, U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige said: "Education for All is consistent with our recent education legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act." Paige also said that the United States and UNESCO were pursuing a "common strategy" and were "implementing joint action" in education policy. The reason No Child Left Behind is consistent with Dakar is because NCLB was structured to meet the requirements of the international agreements.2
The Education for All website explains the international curriculum that participating countries are expected to teach. Paragraph 58 says education should "strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] (Article 26)." Article 26 of UDHR says education "shall further the activities of the United Nations." In other words, at Dakar the United States agreed to design an education curriculum that promotes the activities of the UN including treaties and documents America has not signed such as the UDHR, the Treaty on the Rights of the Child, Kyoto, the UN Treaty on Biodiversity, the Earth Charter, and the International Criminal Court Treaty, to name just a few.
Like PISA, the curriculum required by the UN documents and treaties focuses on attitudes, values and worldview, not high knowledge-based expectations. The Earth Charter, for example, calls for legalized abortion, gay marriage, income redistribution within nations and between nations, military disarmament, and education in Pantheism along with numerous other positions of the hard left. Dakar requires the United States to promote the political agenda of the UN in its education curriculum.
Do these international education agreements have the force of law in the United States? No. Since the agreements have never been ratified by the Senate, they do not have the force of law in and of themselves. The signatures of U.S. Presidents on these agreements, however, mean the agreements are now the education policy of the executive branch of our government. Since the Department of Education is an arm of the executive branch, it is expected to comply with the international agreements - and it does.
In addition, Goals 2000, School-to-Work and NCLB have written key features of the international agreements into our law. The Tucker plan does more of the same. Following is a description of how it will work.
Tucker explains that his plan will require students to pass new Board Exams. He says:
Our first step is creating a set of Board Examinations. States will have their own Board Examinations, and some national and even international organizations will offer their own. A Board Exam is an exam in a set of core subjects that is based on a syllabus provided by the Board. So the point of the exam is to find out whether the student has learned from the course what he or she was supposed to learn." [Executive Summary of the Report, p. 10].
As stated by Tucker, these Boards will determine the content that students must learn and will also write the tests to see if the students learned what they were supposed to. But Tucker says he is speaking of content and tests written at three levels of government: state, national and international. (Tucker also indicates that we need a singular national curriculum.) How can curriculum and tests written by three levels of governance be brought into conformity? The answer to that question is provided in the SPEAK Act (S. 224, H.R. 325), the Dodd-Ehlers bill. According to the bill summary of SPEAK provided by the New America Foundation, this bill does the following:
Purpose: To create, adopt, and implement rigorous, voluntary American education content standards in math and science in grades K-12 and incentivize states to adopt them. [The bill]: 1. Tasks the National Assessment Governing Board . . . with creating . . . national content standards in math and science for grades K-12. [emphasis added]
These "American education content standards in math and science" have already been written. (See Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced.) That is why the bill says the board can "adopt" as well as "create" national standards (curriculum). (Look for other bills to add in the other subject areas.) The effect of the Dodd-Ehlers bill is to (1) legitimize the national education content standards (national curriculum) already written, (2) authorize the National Assessment Governing Board (NAG Board) to adopt or change the curriculum, (3) give this non-elected board the authority to dictate the educational content and tests for all our schools, and (4) equip the NAG Board to "incentivize" (translate "force") the states to adopt its curriculum.3
Since the voting members of the NAG Board are appointed by the President of the United States, one non-elected board will now have the authority to dictate the education content for all public schools as well as the authority to write the important tests. According to Tucker's plan, the resulting Board Exams, first given in tenth grade, will determine if a child can continue in school or not. A second Board Exam will dictate if students may attend college or not. This non-elected Board, therefore, serving at the wishes of the President, becomes the education gatekeeper for the children of our country. As explained above, these Board Exams will be more interested in measuring the attitudes and values desired by the hard left than in measuring knowledge-based academic achievement.
As noted above, the United States already agreed to teach the UNESCO curriculum when our Presidents signed Dakar. The Dodd-Ehlers bill gives Dakar the force of law. In this way the central features of the international education agreements will become law in the United States without ever facing hearings or a ratification vote in the U.S. Senate. The Constitution of the United States will have been effectively bypassed.
The UNESCO curriculum is now being taught in 680 American schools in the form of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. In 1996 the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) formed a "partnership" with UNESCO to form a pilot program for what the IBO and UNESCO websites describe as an "international education system." 4
The IB curriculum focuses on students and faculty becoming what IB calls "world citizens." Faculty and students are expected to memorize the 10 values of world citizenship. (The Ten Commandments have been replaced with the 10 values of IBO-UNESCO.) These IB values are vague and non-academic. IBO refers to them as the "attitudes and values" that are central to the IBO curriculum. Like PISA, the IBO curriculum does not focus on knowledge, it focuses on the attitudes and values of the internationalist left.
The central theme of these IB values is explained in a power-point presentation on the IBO webpage. One frame asks the question: "Freedom fighter or terrorist? [According to] Mahatma Gandhi: Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress." This frame defines the moral relativism and multiculturalism that is central to the IBO curriculum terrorists exist only in the minds of some people, it's all a matter of one's perspective. In direct contrast, the United States creed, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, insists that truth and morality are real and universal not mere cultural constructs.
Other details in the Tucker plan make his agenda easier to accomplish. Those details include (1) having teachers be hired by the state, (2) having states take over teacher certification, (3) requiring that teacher education be based on the Board's curriculum, (4) establishing universal pre-school (the structure already exists to force the same international curriculum on pre-school education (see Quotes and References from Early Childhood Testimony), and (5) establishing merit pay for teachers who help facilitate the system.
The big question in education "reform" today is this: What values and worldview will form the foundation for the curriculum and tests? Will we follow the fundamental principles of the United States as stated in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution? Or will the foundation be the ideology of the postmodern, internationalist left?
If the internationalist plan is not what we want, what can be done to stop it? We must (1) prevent the Tucker plan and the Dodd-Ehlers bill from becoming law. (2) The United States should withdraw from the international education agreements. (3) The U.S. Department of Education should be prohibited from writing a national curriculum, whether it is "voluntary" or in the form of "education standards." (4) The United States should again withdraw from UNESCO. (5) Curriculum decisions must always be in the hands of elected people who are accountable to the public. (6) Pre-school education needs to be protected from the ideological and political curriculum being imposed on it. (7) For real academic progress, we need to go back to the pre-progressive education policies that produced far better academic results than we see today. That includes giving parents much more choice than they have today.
Footnotes available on website: http://www.edwatch.org/
Allen Quist is adjunct professor at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. He served three terms in the Minnesota legislature and has authored three books on education: The Seamless Web, Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How Its Enforced, and America's Schools: The Battleground for Freedom.