Free Speech Crisis is a Failure of K-12 Education

At universities across the country, including Yale, Purdue, Missouri, Princeton, and Georgetown, students have protested environments they find hostile and supportive of racial discrimination. In several of these cases, students have called for limits on free speech and the press in the midst of their protests, shocking pundits, parents, and others nationwide with their lack of understanding and respect for our fundamental First Amendment rights.

These actions, however, are supported by the results of a recent PEW research poll, which found that 40% of millennials support government limits on free speech when it pertains to offensive statements about minority groups, a significant increase from their counterparts in previous generations.

Why are millennials so affable to government limits on free speech?

Read More

An Open Letter to Arne Duncan from a "White, Suburban Mom"

Originally Posted to RedState.com

Secretary Duncan,

Given your recent comments, it should come as no surprise to you that someone like me, a “white suburban mom,” would be opposed to Common Core. Every parent has the right – the duty – to be responsible for their child’s education, and to raise concerns when they feel the system does not meet their needs. This is not political silliness. This is good parenting.

However, given your description of my appearance and my lifestyle as some sort of pejorative slur, your claims that I am “politically silly,” your assumption that I am preoccupied with some label of “brilliance” for my child, you may be surprised to hear that my opposition is rooted much deeper than the color of my skin, the location of my residence, or any declaration of potential brilliance for my son.

As both a mother and a former teacher, I’m concerned that these standards were not piloted. They were not internationally bench-marked, as you claim. They came in the form of federal grants (aka bribes) intended to incentivize cash strapped states to accept curriculum standards sight-unseen. I’m concerned that unfunded mandates for local classrooms will increase burdens on teachers, while limiting their abilities to be innovative and creative for individual children.

I’m concerned with expensive programs, new resources, and a large testing consortium creating a “common” standard of performance with little motivation for competition, challenge, or excellence. Despite lacking full implementation, it has already been reported that the $350 million spent on national testing consortiums has not resulted in the gains promised to the states in the first place. I don’t believe that standards should be tied to requirements for longitudinal data tracking systems, or national assessments, or No Child Left Behind waivers.

I believe in the power of public education. I believe that teachers deserve our trust and the freedom to create classroom environments and lesson plans that uniquely challenge their students. Simply “teaching to the test,” rather than teaching students to enjoy the process of learning, would be a tragic unintended consequence of Common Core.

Every child has the potential for excellence. But that excellence, and yes, “brilliance,” looks different on every child – because NO child is common.

I call on you to rescind your statements, and apologize to those parents, grandparents, community members, educators, administrators, analysts, and legislators who rightly raising concerns about your program (which the American Federation of  Teachers compared to Obamacare, by the way).

We deserve our concerns to be addressed in a manner free from insult and innuendo. If you cannot find it in yourself to do this, you are welcome to join this “white suburban mom” for dinner, where my 6 year-old can explain to you what The Golden Rule means.

Regards,

Whitney Neal

Delaware Governor Jack Markell Gets it Wrong on Common Core. Again.

Originally Posted at RedState.com

Upon reading last Sunday’s Washington Post opinion column written by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, titled, “The tea party is wrong on the Common Core curriculum,” I was floored at the abundance of inaccuracies and lies by omission.

To date, 45 states have adopted Common Core Standards- in exchange for the opportunity to receive federal stimulus dollars. In the private sector, we call this a “bribe.”

Contrary to the Governor’s claims, the standards were not state-led. They were funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and written by a DC-based organization called Achieve, an organization beholden to corporate donors like the Gates, GE, IBM, Intel, and Pearson- who incidentally, all stand to profit from Common Core.

Under Common Core, your child’s education will be just that- common. Every child will be treated the same, regardless of each student’s individual needs, strengths, or career goals. The expectations for a high school junior in Delaware may be the same as in California as Governor Markell asserted, but the expectation will be a consistent standard of mediocrity.

There has not been any means testing to ensure these standards are successful in the classroom. Content experts who reviewed the standards (only 1 out of 60 being a teacher) were not given any proof that their feedback was received, and their changes were not reflected in the final standards.

Although I am disappointed in the Governor’s opinion regarding federally-mandated education curriculums, I’m not surprised. His own state of Delaware received $119 million to implement Common Core standards and the surrounding requirements through the Federal Race to the Top program (a committee on which he co-chaired).

Apparently a kind word and big check will get you a lot farther in Delaware than just a kind word.

All children deserve access to a quality public education – one that is accountable to parents and local school boards, not Washington insiders and corporations. I will be testifying as an expert witness this Thursday (tomorrow) at 7pm at the Cape Henlopen School Board in Delaware to request that Delaware opt out of Common Core. I invite Governor Markell to attend the meeting, and rethink his position on educational freedom.