We Need a Brexit in Education
By A. Patrick Huff, Ph.D.
June 24, 2016
The people of America are waking up today to witness the independent spirit of the people of Great Britain. Despite the polls, that showed Great Britain voting to stay in the European Union, the people have voted for their independence. They voted 51.8%to 48.2% to leave the European Union and chart their own path. What were some of the issues that the Brits were upset about; so much so as to make a statement heard around the world? There were many, but the overriding issue was the people wanted the opportunity to control their own affairs again. While Great Britain has always retained their currency, opting for the pound over the euro, there were still substantial issues controlled through the EU that affected the economy, foreign trade, immigration and society at large. The people of Great Britain have always been a very independent people, always standing against an overreach by oppressive powers that seek to control for their own benefit. Things had reached a boiling point with the people, perhaps due to the immigration problems, and they wanted out. So the people spoke and now the world will be watching to see what direction they take. One thing you can be sure of though, the direction they take will be their own doing, not forced on them by the unelected governing body coming out of Brussels.
The first thing I thought about this morning after I heard the news is, we need a Brexit in education. All of the seeds have been planted since the failures of No Child Left Behind were forced upon the states. We have seen the vast overreach of the federal government through the last phase of No Child Left Behind when schools began to “fail” in record numbers. Now into the beginning of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) we are experiencing huge federal overreaches coming into the schools under the guise of community involvement. The ESSA will cement Common Core into every school in the land, including Texas, and ESSA will degrade the schools, teachers and students with letter grades of A-F in the new accountability system. More on this later, but my even mentioning this perfect example of governmental hubris makes my blood boil.
Let’s go back to the parallels with the Brexit and our education system. As mentioned, the European Union has a governmental structure that is unelected by the people of the EU. This governing body dictates policies that all member states must follow. Can you imagine? Would we here in America ever put up with a situation like that, where policies are dictated without a chance for a dissenting vote, or a pathway for appeal? Well, we have just that type of governmental structure in education. Here in Texas, the Governor appoints the Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner of Education is in charge of the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The Commissioner is accountable to the Governor. The State Board of Education (SBOE) is TEA’s governing body. The SBOE has 15 members who are elected from independent districts throughout the state. The chair of the SBOE, however, and the one who sets the agenda for the SBOE meetings, is appointed. The chair of the SBOE is accountable directly to the governor. That would all be fine, if the people of the State of Texas and the teachers, counselors, principals, and superintendents in all the various school districts throughout the state, were happy with the system and felt they were being represented in a fair and just manner. Educators and parents would be fine with the structure if they felt the students of Texas were getting the best of academic preparation through the curriculum and textbooks selected by the State Board of Education. If Texas had an education system that developed young minds for critical thinking and exercises in logic so that they could go out into the world and be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, we would be fine knowing that the powers that be have the best interest of the children in mind. If we, the taxpaying public, knew that our elected officials were appointing individuals that operated with the sovereign State of Texas in mind, we would be confident in their decisions; if not we could vote them out of office. That’s how our representative form of government works, right?
The reality is, we have an education system run by an agency and a governor and lieutenant governor that do not act in the best interest of the children of Texas, because they are not in control of their own system. They do not provide for a system of education through the public schools that have the ability to provide the very best education that the independent school districts can provide for their communities, because they cannot decide on their own what is best. To make matters worse, even if we the people vote them out of office and the new governor appoints a new commissioner and a new head of the state board, nothing will change. This is because, despite all the rhetoric about ESSA returning local control back to the states and independent school districts, Texas and every other state in the Union, is tied to the federal government and has turned over the dictates of its governing education agency, to the bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Education. I got to witness this first hand when I went to a meeting of the Commission to evaluate the Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. This is the Commission that will make final recommendations to the Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, for the type of assessments our students will have and the new accountability system that will rate and label the public schools. Two members of the Texas Congress, Jimmie Don Aycock from the House of Representatives and Larry Taylor from the Senate, are overseeing the Commission. At this particular meeting that was held in April of 2016, two gentlemen from Washington D.C were on hand to assist on interpretations in the new ESSA federal law. When these two gentlemen talked, everyone paid close attention. Not a single objection was heard from anyone on the panel as the men from Washington told them how Texas would operate their schools. The subject of grading schools by the A-F method was brought up. The two gentlemen from Washington DC left no doubt this is how the system will operate. No one objected to this distasteful method for grading our public schools. Is this what we expect from our elected officials in Texas?
Even more disturbing in regards to who is calling the shots in our children’s education, when you begin to dig a little deeper you find our federal government marching to the beat of UNESCO under the United Nations. Yes, that’s correct, the reason we can’t decide our own curriculum for our schools, is because UNESCO’s agenda for world education is driving policy decisions here in America, right down to the local school district that can’t determine which curriculum it wishes to follow. In truth, while most want to blame President Obama for Common Core, the truth is even if John McCain had won the election in 2008 Common Core was set to go. Common Core had been chosen to become the standard bearer for American education long before Obama. In fact, Common Core has its roots as much in the philosophy of the right as it does from the left. Although I don’t put a lot of stock in any report coming out of a Non-Governmental Agency with particular ideologies meant to sway public opinion, this report from the Brookings Institute deals fairly with this issue. One has, also, only to ponder at the oddity of Republican Jeb Bush’s adamant support for the Common Core, supposedly a Democrat initiative, to see the push from both sides of the political isle to make Common Core the education standard for our country. To add one more piece of documentation to the UNESCO link, let me include this document from the mid 80’s that demonstrates UNESCO’s desire to put the globe under one set of education standards. In this report from 1984 we see a UNESCO document exploring the best ways to teach the various disciplines and the best way of training teachers and others involved in education, so as to best mold the minds of the children to the curriculum being taught. All of this sounding innocent until you look to see who is controlling the curriculum and how the teachers are trained to teach it. As history has taught us, the centralization of authority may start off with good intentions, but it ultimately leads to manipulation, corruption and deceitful practices, all for the benefit of a few. It could easily be argued that this is exactly what has happened with our education system.
We have to come to grips with the reality of our plight with our education system. We have lost control and furthermore, we have lost control to the extreme detriment of our children. We are seeing the affects of this loss of control in the classrooms across the state daily. Teachers are sounding the alarm, as well as parents and experts in the field of study. The subject most affected due to the influence of the Common Core is math. In this article from Breitbart.com we read, “During a Friday conference call sponsored by Texas-based Women on the Wall, Stanford mathematician and former member of the Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, told listeners that if the controversial standards are not repealed, America’s place as a competitor in the technology industry will be severely undermined”. The link provided will take you directly to the conference call. You will find it very enlightening.
Now, what do we do? More and more people, students, parents, teachers, counselors, principals, superintendents and school board members are waking up to the reality of this horrible mess of an education system we have allowed state, federal and global entities to bring in for our children’s education. Many in the education profession are afraid to speak up. Jobs and pensions are on the line. Parents stay quiet often because they don’t want their child stigmatized at school. So, what to do?
We have to first reclaim the high ground by learning to articulate the issues. We must become well informed. Read, read, and read some more on the issues of the day as they relate to public education. I will state here and for the record, nothing will happen in education until the politicians at the state capitol hear your voice. Congressional lawmakers listened last year when school choice was voted down soundly. Trust me, the school choice issue (expanded charter schools, vouchers or Title I portability) has not gone away, so we have to be ready for its return and not be caught off guard when it resurfaces. Next, and of paramount importance, we must push for the complete dismantling of the accountability system. The system that gives us the high stakes standardized test, keeps teachers teaching to the test, sets the parameters for school failure, and starting in 2017 will shame schools, teachers, principals, and students with an A-F labeling system, is all delivered through the accountability system. The idea that the state officials are going to judge schools and label them with a degrading A-F system, just demonstrates the complete disdain the legislature, commissioner, and state school board have for the education profession. As my good friend Steve Swanson, a staunch defender of students and the failure of the system to address their true needs, has mentioned to me many times, no school or school district should be labeled with an F until each elected official, commissioner of education, and state school board member can demonstrate that they have earned an A, in the in the eyes of the public, in their duties for the people of Texas.
The entire accountability system is discriminatory to its core. Let me recommend your reading an article I wrote earlier this year entitled The Truth About School Failure. After reading this article you will understand, finally, how horribly misguided and discriminatory our accountability system is toward our Title I schools. Once you are armed with this information you will never look at our elected officials, who push this method of grading our schools, in the same light again. Either our elected officials, commissioner of education, state board of education members, are woefully ignorant of the true factors at play behind the accountability system, or they are answering to the lobbyist and corporate entities that stand to make billions of dollars off the school standardized testing regime. Perhaps they are guilty of both. The politicians use fear and shame as tools to force compliance, and they support the system that brings eventual failure and reconstitution of our public schools. Please know that the very entities that impose failure on a school are the same entities that impose the parameters for meeting standards. For an understanding of what standards are in the accountability system, please read my book, The Takeover of Public Education in America: The Agenda to Control Information and Knowledge Through the Accountability System. The two terms standards and accountability have been hijacked, by those who set the school reform agenda, to mean something altogether different than how you or I would define these two terms.
How then shall the schools be held accountable if we don’t have the present system? The people of the community the schools serve through their elected school board will hold them accountable. The taxpaying people who have a voice through their elected school board members must exercise their right and address issues in the schools when they occur. Schools will be graded through their reputation and the hard work performed daily by the teachers, teaching assistants, counselors, and administrators who create the atmosphere for learning. It was only when the reformers decided that learning must be measured and quantified, one measurement for everyone, that the control mechanism was created. Once learning became quantified, the reformers had what they needed to declare an emergency with huge numbers of schools failing.
The people of Great Britain stood up and let their voice be heard. Time will tell what direction this historic vote will take, but what the people of Great Britain let the world know is, we the people will decide our fate. Let’s take note of this courageous stand taken by the Brits and tell our elected officials in one common voice, we want our schools back. We want sanity returned to the classroom. We want to decide what curriculum our teachers will teach. We want the teacher to be returned to their rightful place as the purveyors of knowledge in the classroom, not a computer or some other digital device. We want our children to love going to school and learning for the sake of learning. That’s all we want. Is that too much to ask? Let’s let our voices be heard. We need to say No to Washington DC and No to the United Nations. Let’s have a Brexit in education.