The Michigan Department of Education is holding information sessions allegedly to get public feedback on the new science and social studies standards. However, according to parents who attended the meeting in Detroit on Sept. 1 there was little opportunity for public input. Northville parent Tamara Carlone attended the session held at the Detroit Science Center Tuesday night and said via email, “It was a sales pitch.”
It was most definitely a sales pitch, which we knew going in, but the surprising part was how poorly it was run. We never got to the third item (of only four items) of the agenda and that was the second breakout session. So – I am glad I had friends that went to the Social Studies breakout because the Science one never ended! I was also surprised that the agenda that was up on the TV screen had NO space for feedback and comments while at the same time the leader guy from MDE was saying this was ALL ABOUT GETTING INPUT!!
Carlone said that those who raised their hand to ask a question were mostly told to write their questions on a “sticky note” to be answered in a forthcoming FAQ on the MDE website; a few questions were answered and others were completely ignored.
But for Carlone the sessions did provide the opportunity to speak personally with Michigan State School Board member Eileen Weiser after the event. She showed Weiser what is factually wrong in the new Social Studies Standards. For instance stating that we are a “constitutional democracy” (page 2) and then a “democratic republic.” (page 3)
At different points in their conversation Weiser rolled her eyes, appeared unpersuaded, and insisted that in fact we are a constitutional democracy!
It is unbelievable that an elected official charged with the task of considering whether to adopt a new set of social studies standards did NOT appear to know our form of government or the content of the social studies standards. This is reminiscent of exchange Benjamin Franklin had with a fellow citizen after the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.
The exchange between Carlone and Weiser is different in that we now have the reverse–a citizen is educating an elected Michigan School board member on our form of government!
We are a Republic, Ms. Weiser, if you can keep it!
But the story doesn’t end there. Weiser later approached Carlone in the parking lot and told her that she agreed with her on the the social studies standards. She also called her the next day to say her points are valid, the goal of what is being accomplished in the classroom is misguided, and the standards need to be re-written, She encouraged Carlone to push her points.
Arriving at a place of agreement is a great start but not enough given where Michigan is at in the process. Carlone is pushing her points and plans on attending several of the other information sessions. However, Weiser is on the Michigan State School Board. Her platform is much bigger and her voice much stronger. SHE must push the points as well. If she thinks the social studies standards need to be re-written will she push for it by making a public statement identifying the errors and calling for a halt to the current standards so new ones can be written?
Weiser contacted Carlone a third time and left a detailed voice mail message. Here are two significant excerpts,
“This has always been an internal process from the state ed dept to the schools, that now that we are seeing the wisdom of opening it up to parents, low-and-behold these are really solid comments.”
“They (MDE) are taking a look at it very seriously and they are open, completely, to more comments, so you did touch a nerve, a huge one, this has always just been an internal process in the past years, parents didn’t care, the public didn’t care, so bless you for caring. Now I need to find out what else you found in the framework itself and help you find a voice in some way to get that across to the department. You are the first person to have brought this up and without you I do not know when I would have got to this because I have been so focused on science.”
Weiser’s statements sound cordial but have absolutely NO basis in reality. Low-and-behold, Michigan law [M.S.A. 15.4010 ] Sec. 10 states that the public schools “serve the needs of pupils by cooperating with pupil’s parents or legal guardian. Weiser was on the Michigan State School Board when that was passed in 1996. Finally, nearly 20 years later Weiser and the MDE see the wisdom in opening the process up to parents?!?! This hasn’t always been an “internal process” as Weiser claims. At the April 2013 State Board of Education meeting Weiser voted “aye” to seek “public comment” for future consideration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Parents gave the board an earful and forced the SBE to table the adoption of the NGSS for two years; the pending 2015 draft of the Michigan Science Standards are a rebranding of the NGSS from 2013. It is an insult for Weiser to say that in past years parents didn’t care. Many parents attended numerous legislative sessions on standards only to be ignored by board members and the MDE who testify and leave before hearing what parents have to say.
Weiser’s voice message was quite complimentary of Carlone’s efforts, rightly so. But for Weiser to admit that she doesn’t know when she would research the social studies standards is unacceptable. The material can be overwhelming and our lives can be busy but this is her job! She is an elected member of the State School Board of Education. The vote to adopt the new standards could come in October. At the very least, Ms. Weiser needs to get on Facebook and take a look at the Stop Common Core in Michigan page along with the dozens of other regional Michigan pages started by parents working on their own time to educate themselves and others on the standards and what they mean for Michigan students. Perhaps then she wouldn’t have been so surprised to find out that the C3 Framework calls our nation a constitutional democracy. Parents are engaged, it’s the MDE and state school officials who have tuned us out.
The proof that Weiser believes Carlone’s points are valid will be demonstrated by what she does going forward not by what she says in a voice mail to one parent.
Will Weiser expose the false premises in the C3 Framework that form the basis for the social studies standards? Will she push for TRUE public input sessions and not staged events by the MDE? Will she demand a delay in the adoption so she and others can thoroughly review BOTH sets of standards? Will Weiser commit on record to voting NO on the current draft of the social studies standards if they are based on the C3 Framework? Will she commit to voting NO on the science standards because they are a rebrand of the Next Generation Science Standards the board postponed two years ago?
The answer to those questions will demonstrate to Michigan citizens that the MDE and the State School Board want to keep our REPUBLIC strong for future generations.
Note: The next school board meeting is Tuesday September 8, 2015. On their agenda is an item to discuss the criteria for $60,000 grant for Civics education to a provider who develop a program for disadvantaged populations which incorporate the four Dimensions of the C3 Framework and develop a digital badge to award to students who successfully complete the program.
Developing a program around a framework Michigan has NOT yet adopted is premature and inappropriate. This item should be removed from consideration. Further the purpose of a “digital badge” should be explored and discussed in general before creating a badge specific to any set of standards.