Friday, December 26, 2003

Maybe there's something to this 

During the original debate over the repeal of Minnesota's Profiles of Learning and the creation of the new social science standards, much was made of an exchange in the state senate between Senators Michelle Bachmann and Steve Kelley. The latter is the chair of the eduation committee that will hear the new standards next month. According to a non-partisan source, the official organ publication Senate Briefly of May 23, 2003,
Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) raised several questions about the bill. She said the bill current requires that standards must be clear, concise, objective, measurable and grade-level appropriate, not require a specific teaching methodology and be consistent with the constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota. Bachmann said that earlier language sponsored by House members included a requirement that standards be factual and verifiable and a requirement that the standards be consistent with the Declaration of Independence as well as state and federal constitutions. "There is no more seminal, premier document in the United States than the Declaration of Independence. I'm shocked there would be any reason to keep out the Declaration of Independence," Bachmann said. Kelley responded that both the U.S. and the Minnesota Constitutions have legal standing, but the Declaration of Independence does not.
Now folks at EdWatch (the old Maple River Coalition) and others have made a big deal of this statement. One shows the exchange between the two, which makes the comment look worse than portrayed in the Senate Journal.
Senator Bachmann: "Senator Kelley, I notice that when the House passed the Profile last February, the parameters for the new standards required that they be based on factual, objective, verifiable knowledge. This bill has removed the words factual and verifiable. Senator Kelly, why would you remove those requirements from the standards?"

Senator Kelley: "Senator Bachmann, when students are learning to write they are learning a skill. A skill isn't factual or verifiable.

Senator Bachmann: "Senator Kelley, I also notice that the House parameters for the standards required that they preserve and promote fundamental American principles as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. This bill has removed the words 'preserve and promote' and the 'Declaration of Independence.' Senator Kelly, why would you remove the Declaration of Independence from the standards?"

Senator Kelley: "Sen. Bachmann, the Declaration has no legal status in defining people's rights and privileges."

Bachmann: "Sen. Kelley, what do we celebrate every 4th of July? The Declaration defines our rights and our freedom. I am shocked that you would remove that as a basis of our education standards."

Another quote says that most of the removals were created by compromises in the conference between House and Senate legislators. That's a pretty big compromise, though. And while I thought perhaps Kelley had just been backed into a corner on that day and willing to see if he's going to come around, I'm less certain I should do this after reading this MPR piece on the new standards.
Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, chairman of the Senate Education Policy Committee, says he thinks the civics and government standards reflect a particular ideological viewpoint.

"There's an over emphasis on the Declaration of Independence, and some just factually wrong kind of things contained in there that seems to reflect a viewpoint on the country's founding that I don't know reflects the scholarly consensus or a mainstream viewpoint," Kelley said.

And from a transcript later on, Kelley says
"We're going to be constantly involved in a debate over what the Declaration means. What is the significance of it... I don't think there is any particular orthodoxy about it."

"I'm not sure it's accurate historically or legally to call the Declaration of Independence a founding document. We will be having those kinds of debates."

This said before the new standards were published, but the Declaration is still in there.