Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Appeasement seldom works 

The Pioneer Press runs a story today on the latest draft of the social science standards. Both sides are unhappy: EdWatch is upset about passing some of these changes off as technical when they appear to be more than that, while Parents United for Public Tax Dollars Schools seems to think still that only teachers can write the standards.

Some of the standards removed that upset EdWatch, I think, would not be missed greatly. I note the first one, however, as being part of this long bugaboo between Sen. Kelley and his critics over the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. The following standard was removed:

"Students will explain that Lincoln's understanding of the founders' principles includes that the principles of the Declaration of Independence are universal and applicable to all people at all times."
In isolation, given the other places the Declaration is mentioned, you wouldn't make a big deal about losing that standard in return for getting it passed. But that issue is not going to go away -- all you've done here is embolden Kelley to get other mentions of the Declaration out of the standards. Scholar the Owl has this to say,
This is a big deal because the Declaration of Independence says that certain rights are inalienable, meaning that the government can't ever take them away. Why would anyone object to this benchmark, unless perhaps they believe that the rights to life, national sovereignty, and property rights are not so inalienable after all?
Good question, though one can answer that those concepts are covered elsewhere in the document, which they are. My concern is more over tactics than substance. Between the first and second drafts there was a closing of the area of disagreement. Some benchmarks were added and others deleted, in return for which the MDE received much more favorable reviews from a range of people, including some critics. The biggest remaining criticism has been length rather than whether these are the right standards, MinnWORST and the Dozens notwithstanding. So why write a third draft unless you are going to again narrow the range of disagreement? Whatever the merits of the changes or whether they are technical or substantive, if the new draft does not get you more votes for passage, it goes backwards because it emboldens your enemies to wait for even more changes. Perhaps we will have to wait for the evidence that it does get more votes, but I don't see it yet.

The Owl wonders if and when Governor Pawlenty will come to the defense of the standards. It may come to that.