Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
I attended Wednesday evening's community forum on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by the Germantown School Board. I left the meeting fearing for the education of our children. It seems that they are being treated as pawns in a cynical political game.
In December, our board abandoned the Common Core. These standards, developed at the instigation of the National Governors' Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are being implemented in most states and districts across the country. The standards provide a framework around which to develop curricula at a local level. College entrance exams will be based on CCSS.
A rabid fight against Common Core has recently been waged by Tea Party activists. The feeling by the far right is that the standards somehow allow our children to be indoctrinated by "liberal" ideas. Some of the fringe even think that the CCSS is some kind of bizarre UN plot to steal our sovereignty. There are horror myths of children being hooked-up to bio-monitors.
The battle reached the Wisconsin State Assembly in January, where a bill (AB 617/SB 619) to abandon CCSS was introduced by politicians under pressure from over two dozen state Tea Party groups. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in the State Senate, where conservative Republicans killed the bill.
Germantown is the only public school system in Wisconsin to abandon the standards. We are the sole district, out of 426 in the state, with a school board so reckless as to drop the CCSS without considering all of the ramifications. They have not considered all of the effects on our children's futures. "Germantown !" has become a rallying cry for the anti-Common Core crowd. The board, especially member Brian Medved, have become Tea Party heroes. At last night's meeting, almost 150 people attended, but only a smattering were actually from Germantown.
In an attempt to rationalize their imprudent actions, the board brought in a professional CCSS critic on Wednesday night. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who has made quite a career for herself speaking against CCSS, rambled for an hour on the minutiae of CCSS development. Dr. Stotsky made it quite clear that she is philosophically opposed to any sort of standardization across districts on what children should learn. That each district should develop their own standards, no matter the cost and quality.
The parents of Germantown need to know who is heading up the Germantown Standards Development Committee, a group that will determine what their children will learn. Brian Medved is the committee chair. Medved is nobody's moderate. Facebook groups to which he belongs include, "Tea Party", "Washington County Tea Party-WI", and "1,000,000 People to Ditch the GOP and Start a Real Conservative Party".
When he ran for the School Board, Medved was supported by American Majority's New Leaders Project. This Tea Party astroturf group attempts to elect far right politicians in local communities. Their website states," Not only do we have an arsenal of tried and true campaign resources available online, but our training sessions have a proven track record of helping new leaders win and change communities."
Pretty telling is a January interview with Medved by "Christian Economic Perspective Radio". He called implementation of the CCSS "the most stealth move that the federal government has ever been able to pull-off". He further declared that a big part of his decision to drop CCSS for Germantown is that the standards "violate the 10th amendment" and are "against the US Constitution."
In discussing CCSS implementation, the paranoid radio interviewer commented, "You can almost hear the boots marching, if you know what I mean." To which Mr. Medved replied, "You are dead on, on that one."
Medved has a website on which he posts anti-CCSS articles, mainly from the far right press. Under his section: "Get Inspired ....." Brian links to an article in "The Free Patriot" that tells about how "government and business are working together to form a structure of tyranny."
Another article that "inspires" Medved is a loony video that proclaims, "We are in a war!...Progressives are closing their grip on the families of America !...On one side, Obamacare, on the other side, Obamacore !" Yet another of Brian's postings starts out, "Every totalitarian leader from Hitler, Stalin and everywhere in between have (sic) always sought to centralize and control education of the youth."
I don't mean to pick only on Medved. He is only the most vocal member. He could not have dropped Common Core without the complicity of the other board members. In his radio interview, he mentioned that he had been recruited for the Board by several of the current members.
And at the end of Wednesday's presentation, board member Michael Loth made the telling comment, "I don't want to turn this into a political rally, the feds have really gone extreme in the last few years ...If the federal government do what they are doing with health care, why would we entrust them with the education of our children?"
At the meeting, both Superintendent Holmes and Bob Soderberg kept repeating "It's all about the kids!", as if they were trying to convince themselves that the board's highly political move really is about the kids. It is not. The students of Germantown are being treated as pawns in a paranoid Tea Party political fantasy. Mr. Medved, Mr. Loth, and their collaborators on the Germantown School Board have abandoned the Common Core Standards without considering all of the ramifications of doing so. On examination, it is clear that there are strong political motivations behind the board's reckless actions.