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(Editor’s note: This is the first of many posts on LFR by Rambling Rose.)

Academic Balance: Education vs. Indoctrination

No one need be surprised when educational topics are discussed/debated that there are divergent views. “Controversial” is the term chosen by the Pioneer Press to describe a bill (SF 2487) introduced by State Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester). She states “it is necessary to protect students from being forced to express political viewpoints, to require that teachers present a variety of opinions on curriculum and to prohibit discrimination based on political or religious beliefs.”

The need arose following a lawsuit by high school students against the Edina school district as reported by the Star Tribune. The high school’s Young Conservative Club charged that their free speech rights were violated when they protested …. and the district revoked their status as a school-sponsored organization (denied by the school district). Five students exchanged private chats about the students who refused to stand for the national anthem at a Veterans Day program. A YouTube video was produced by an anti-fascist group demanding an apology. The district denies any evidence that the video was produced by Edina students. The lawsuit was dropped in early March without the district admitting guilt or paying damages. However, the Young Conservative Club may be re-instated as a school-sponsored club, or not, but has assurances that they may organize “with the ability to exercise free speech without consequence.” However, they are denied the possibility of future legal actions against the school district.

Edina’s school district has also sparked controversy with its “All for All” program for the past 4 years. While touted to increase student learning, the state-wide test scores reveal different results.

While black students’ reading scores did increase from 45.5% to 46.6%, that is still less than 50% and their scores in other academic areas, according to state assessments, declined. Scores for all students declined. Data from the Minnesota Department of Education reveal that Edina has dropped from 5th to 29th in reading proficiency scores and from 10th to 40th in math. The Edina program bespeaks an ideology of indoctrination and not one of creative and critical thinking.

With the revisions approved last session by the Minnesota Legislature for teacher licensure requirements, this type of leftist, progressive ideology will be the norm across all schools in Minnesota. The label is “cultural competency.”

The statute is 8710.0310 DEFINITIONS AND GENERAL RULES FOR TEACHING LICENSES, Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.30, 1.23 subdivision 1, paragraph (q). (q) For purposes of statewide accountability, “cultural competence,” “cultural competency,” or “culturally competent” means the ability of families and educators to interact effectively with people of different cultures, native languages, and socioeconomic backgrounds is non-offensive and an admirable goal for all classrooms. However, the application of the training as defined in Subpart 1. D. is not producing the declared goals. It targets problems by turning cultural competency into programs of indoctrination rather on the focus of improving student learning and test scores.

D. “Cultural competency training” means a training program that promotes self-reflection and discussion on all of the following topics: racial, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; American Indian students; implicit bias; systemic racism; gender identity, including transgender students; sexual orientation; language diversity; and individuals with disabilities.

Democrats on the Senate Education Policy Committee in response to Senator Nelson’s bill claimed that it would restrict district’s local control. Please refer to the preceding paragraph and study the topics to be required by the State in K-12 curricula.

Take a look at some of the materials included in Edina’s program. The Weekly Standard reported in early February, 2018 that Black Lives Matter posters and gay-pride rainbow flags are common in the schools. An ABC book for small children is entitled A is for Activist (F-feminist; T-trans, for example). A required English course for 10th graders focuses not on literature and improved communication skills but rather on the themes of colonization, immigration, race, class and gender. An 11th grade literature and composition class lists applying Marxist, feminist, post-colonial and psychoanalytical lenses to literature.

It is their stated policy to hire teachers who are willing to implement such a curriculum. “The Edina school district’s All for All plan mandated that henceforth ‘all teaching and learning experiences’ would be viewed through the ‘lens of racial equity,’ and that only ‘racially conscious’ teachers and administrators should be hired. District leaders assured parents this would reduce Edina’s racial achievement gap, which they attributed to ‘barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings’.” (Weekly Standard)

Not all parents agree with these policies and materials. They have lost their voice.

One parent reported “… teachers routinely pushed politicians and political positions they favored, shamed and browbeat students with dissenting views, and forced them to defend themselves against baseless allegations of racism. According to his son, he says, classroom discussions were often ‘one-sided indoctrination sessions,’ and students feared their grades would be penalized if they spoke out.” (Weekly Standard)

Parents agree that controversial topics should be included in class discussions and critical thinking skills promoted, but indoctrination is not to be tolerated. Following Donald J. Trump’s election, one teacher told the students that a Trump presidency was worse than 9/11 and the Columbine massacre. (more details, data and parental reactions: Thinking Minnesota, Issue 9, Fall 2017)

In other institutions of learning (PreK-20), teachers are typically mandated to refrain from the inclusion of personal political and religious views when working with students, parents and the community where they are seen as teachers. Neither students or teachers are allowed to display the Bible. Students have been suspended for praying in the cafeteria. Coaches have been fired for praying privately in the locker room or on the playing field. Faculty have lost their positions for having the Ten Commandments hanging above the desk in a private office. Unfortunately, double standards are now the norm!!

While some may think that charter or private schools, or even homeschooling, may be an alternative, it may not be so. The extreme ideologies are also the foundation of the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Young people will be admitted to higher education on their ability to regurgitate the political and cultural views of the leftists. This is an echo of Common Core. It did not die with the change of administration and the Secretary of Education. The previous administration carefully moved it to the states before leaving office.

Testimony last Thursday included views on both sides of the bill (SF 2487).

Katherine Kersten, senior policy fellow for the conservative Center for the American Experiment, argued in favor of the bill, pointing to the indoctrination practices of the Edina schools. “Events in Edina make clear what happen when school officials and a core group of teachers, bent on imposing a narrow ideological framework on public education, are allowed to proceed unhampered…Today in Edina, students are under intense pressure to adopt and express a very specific set of social and political views.”

Teacher and education advocates opposed the bill. Josh Crosson, senior policy director for the education equity advocate Ed Allies, challenged the belief that equity programs were the same as indoctrination and disputed the claim of lower student achievement. He added that this type of legislation will produce unintended consequences if passed. The report did not include what he defines as “unintended consequences.”

Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), chair of the committee, summed up the current status of the debate between conservatives and liberals on many societal issues. “Sometimes as conservatives we often feel as if we’re being asked to be empathetic to one side and one side is never asked to be empathetic to us.” Unfortunately, it’s true.