Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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(L to R)   Joe Bast, Marsha Familaro Enright, Tim Slekar, Kristen Lombard

By Nancy Thorner – 

Teachers, school board members, moms, legislators, and concerned citizens attended an event hosted by The Heartland Institute on Thursday, December 11 at The Cotillion in Palatine, IL, to hear about Common Core State Standards. All had in common a desire to learn more about Common Core, not liking what they were hearing and observing in their local school systems. Heartland Institute’s president and CEO Joe Bast introduced the distinguished panel of Kristen Lombard, Tim Slekar, and Marsha Familaro Enright.

Kristin Lombard is editor and author of “Common Ground on Common Core.”Kirsten Lombard holds a Ph.D. in Historic Environmental Design: Interior and Landscape from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009) and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (1988). As a grass roots activist, Kristin couldn’t get a single vote passed by Wisconsin legislators to address Common Core.  Kristin finally realized that she would need critical mass for this to happen.  Hearing about Tim Slekar, as the newly appointed Dean at Edgewood College of Education, Kristin arranged to meet Tim. As a liberal, Tim was very anti Common Core. Their personalities clicked immediately, proving that it is possible to identify with the left when common ground is established through verbal exchange.

Around the same time Kristin became acquainted with Tim Slekar (August of 2013), an idea for a book began to blossom. It would be a book with a collection of essays about Common Core. Lombard’s first book published under Resounding Books, founded by Ms. Lombard in early 2013, was in November of this year, Common Ground on Common Core, a must read. The book serves as a non-partisan exposé of the multiple problems posed by the controversial education reform initiative.  It was edited specifically by Kristin Lombard to be a tool that individuals of whatever political stripe could use to educate themselves and others on this important topic.

Each of the 18 contributor essays in the book sheds lights on a different crucial aspect of the controversial reform package that encompasses Common Core. The authors hold widely varied political and ideological viewpoints, yet they stand firmly united against the Common Core.  Standards expert Sandra Stotsky and prominent mathematician R. James Milgram are among the book’s authors.  Both served on the national Common Core validation committee but refused to sign off on the standards.  Former U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul contributed to the foreword.

As both editor-in-chief and treasurer, Kirsten worked to secure each of the essays royalty-free, so a percentage of profits from the sale of the book could be directed toward state and local activism projects designed to fight Common Core.  Ms. Lombard has recently devoted herself full time to Resounding Books, its publishing projects, and its activism initiatives. Hear Kirsten talk about “Common Ground on Common Core” on  We The People Radio . To download the showclick here to visit the show’s page to stream the audio.

Tim Slekar, a liberal and Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin

Liberal in his ideology, Tim Slekar has been dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin since August, 2013.  Slekar has been blogging about the dangers of corporate-backed education reform for years at atthechalkface.com. He is also the cohost of the online chalkface weekly radio show on Sundays at 5 p.m., as well as the founder of United Opt Out, a group that encourages parents and teachers to refuse to participate in high-stakes standardized tests.

Tim Slekar was initially a 2nd grade classroom teacher.  20 years ago he could feel what was happening and knew that he couldn’t remain a classroom teacher.  He subsequently returned to college to elevate his teaching credentials to continue earning a living in the educational field. According to Slekar, there are those in the reform movement who are giving money to entities that do not really represent reform.  Mentioned were Governor Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Both say they are against Common Core, but unless Walker and Jindal remove the mandatory assessments they are not really against Common Core.  Mr. Slekar spoke of mathematics as being developmentally inappropriate in many aspects.  Regarding language arts, classic literature is being replaced with informational texts.

Slekar believes that tests take more and more time away from real learning.  According to Slekar the problem isn’t the tests .The problem is the high-stakes nature of the tests. Kids may not get much out of the tests, but their scores determine whether their schools are labeled “failing”, which determines the funding received by schools. Slekar pointed out a trio of foundations — the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation — who are pushing tests that produce data to prove public schools are failing.  Parents and teachers are absolutely right to suspect that these tests don’t serve kids well and are instead designed to make schools fail.  Failure, in turn, would  give credence to increasing standards as a way to improve student performance. Slekar encourages students to opt out of the tests. Although this strategy may seem risky to parents and teachers who worry about their schools receiving a failing grade, Slaker dismisses the strategy as short-term thinking, firmly believing that the drive to label all public schools as failing must be stopped.

Slekar likewise believes there is no achievement gap.  It is poverty and the lack of opportunity that are the major drivers of educational disparities. Poor kids need to get more of everything that rich kids get, that includes more music, more art, and rich literature.

Marsha Familaro Enright, Psychotherapist, President of Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, and President/Founder of Council Oak Montessori School

With an M.A. in Psychology from the New School for Social Research, and as a Psychotherapist since 1976 still practicing part-time in Chicago, IL, Marsha Familaro Enright co-founded the Council Oak Montessori School of which she is the president and administrator.  Additionally, Ms. Enright is currently the president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute and leads the development of the College of the United States and its wholly independent scholarship fund. Enright also writes for The New Individualist, a journal of opinion dedicated to reason, individualism and freedom.  Other accomplishments of Marsha Familaro Enright can be found at this site.

To Marsha Familaro Enright, the education of the human child is of profound importance to anyone dedicated to achieving “the best within us.”  It is especially important to those who have, or wish to have, children of their own, and to those who are or wish to become teachers. Enright is concerned about a child’s nature and needs; how they are different from those of an adult; and how to best foster the child’s development so as to help him maximize his potential for productivity and happiness in life. The emphasis on human nature, needs, and values is in keeping with the The New Intellectual Forum in Chicago, IL, founded by Marsha Familaro Enrightco in 1987.

Attributed to Aristotle:  “All men, by nature, desire to know.”  In other words, very little will stop the young child from exploring the world and trying to learn.  Ms Enright views Aristotle’s words as the state of mind education should strive to achieve in order to create a vibrant, free society. Prior to the era of mass education, children were home- schooled.  Even so, the American populace was fairly literate for the times.  But having lived with tax-supported, government-provided education as a major supporter for 200 year, many people cannot imagine how most children could be educated otherwise.  For Ms. Enright, the free market system is the answer.

Ms. Enright  believes there is no way to give everyone equal advantages no matter how much money is spent.  Why?  Because human beings are individuals with hugely varying talents, abilities, and interests.  Enright advocates that parents and students be treated more like customers of a service business, with private schools competing to do the best job possible for each child..  Not only would schools be run more efficiently with little or no bureaucracy, but they would be responsive to their customers:  parents and teachers. Schools could be of every shape, size, and location, tailored to fit each school’s outlook and purposes.  With an emphasis on individualization, many students would be interested in non-academic areas such as crafts, trades, the arts, and business.. Unlike with Common Core, there would be no generated push for everyone to attend college, which has  resulted in an increase of unnecessary degrees and punishing debt for college graduates.

Part 2 will present disturbing facts about Common Core that not only call for, but which demand immediate action by parents and concerned Americans.  Noted is how upwards of 70% of students will fail the PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) when administered here in IL in April-May of 2015, as arbitrary out test scores have been set as a ploy to convince parents and the pubic that even more standards are called for to raise student achievement.  To help combat Common Core in your school system, resources will be provided as ammunition to fight Common Core with other like-minded citizens and friends.

On a side note, before the panel commenced President and CEO of The Heartland Institute Joseph Bast, revealed publicly for the first time introductory remarks that The Heartland Institute would be moving its office from Chicago to Arlington Heights in its desire to become part of the Northwest suburbs. Following the surprising announcement, Bast briefly described the evolution of The Heartland Institute. When founded in Chicago in 1984, its focus was mostly on IL. But Heartland’s input on policy had limited success. Illinois just wasn’t ready for reform. It was in 1995 that Heartland became a national organization. Heartland currently communicates with every national and state elected official in the U.S., and thousands of civic and business leaders, by sending out three of its monthly public policy newspapers. These newspapers contain small, informative articles that are not easy to read.  A recent survey indicated that 50% of legislators read Heartland’s “School Reform News.”  Subscribe here for your copy.