Public Testimony at SBOE Meeting: Factual Errors in Social Studies Textbooks

November 19, 2014

Dear Friends,

During the public testimony on November 18th “factual errors” in 6th grade social studies textbooks were brought to our attention by retired Lt. Colonel Roy White, Chairman of the Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT), and the TTT Coalition volunteers.   Colonel White and these volunteers have expended thousands of hours on conference calls, reading training newsletters, going through “mock reviews” and finally conducting the actual reviews on the textbooks. The goal is to have as many social studies textbook reviews posted in one place that will give parents, teachers and Board of Education members a single source to find these reviews to insure the publishers are held accountable for producing factual and honest social studies textbooks.  This will be an ongoing process handled by volunteers.

Following their testimony I continued the dialogue with the board members and encouraged the corrections.   I am sharing with you how important the process is in reviewing our textbooks. We merely want to have the most factual and intelligently honest textbooks possible for our children.

Below is the letter written by the publisher National Geographic Learning, Cengage Learning, Marcie Goodale, regarding the “factual errors.”

Dear Chairwoman Cargill:

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address comments made during the November 18th State Board of Education meeting regarding Proclamation 2015 instructional resources, specifically regarding Cengage Learning’s World Cultures and Geography for grade 6.

Two comments were made yesterday regarding “factual errors” in Cengage Learning’s World Cultures and Geography textbook for 6th grade which we would like to address.  One had to do with the text’s description of the United States as a democracy.  The second was a suggestion that Jesus be identified as Jesus Christ in a Christian context.

In response to the first comment, on page 65 there is a sentence that reads, “The United States was the first modern country to establish a representative democracy.”  The Truth in Textbooks group said that the United States is a “constitutional republic.”   We had suggested the following edit: “The United States was the first modern country to establish a federal republic. The government is often referred to as a representative democracy.”  In response to yesterday’s comment, we will delete the second sentence and use the term “constitutional” instead of federal.

In response to the second comment, on page R52 in the World Religions Handbook, the first sentence under “Historical Origins” reads: “Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also called Jesus Christ by Christians.”  This is nearly verbatim to the language requested by the speaker in the meeting today.  In addition on page 60 in the text, Jesus is referred to as Jesus Christ in the description of Christianity.

A second area of concern was the question of Common Core State Standards and the role of these standards within this sixth grade social studies program.  Cengage Learning wishes to reassure the State Board of Education and the TEA that nowhere within World Cultures and Geography is instruction regarding Common Core State Standards mentioned, encouraged, or promoted.   World Cultures and Geography for Texas focuses solely on the TEKS and ELPS to which the program aligns 100%.  The program is infused with TEKS projects and TEKS assessment.

We appreciate the opportunity to address a third area of concern and that is the link to external websites from myNGconnect.com for Texas, the program’s instructional portal.  Cengage Learning commits to removing any links to external websites, such as National Geographic, no later than Thursday, November 20.   National Geographic Learning is wholly owned by Cengage Learning; while there are resources within World Cultures and Geography from National Geographic, the instruction and pedagogy has been developed independently of the National Geographic Society.  In no way does National Geographic Learning | Cengage Learning influence the content selected for the National Geographic website.  All web links to National Geographic will be permanently discontinued.

It is our sincere intent to participate in Proclamation 2015 to be part of the education of grade 6 students in Texas. We believe our curriculum conforms to the high standards of the Texas State Board of Education and the citizens of the state of Texas.

We respectfully present this information for your consideration, and appreciate the opportunity.

Marcie Goodale

Publisher, Social Studies

Hector Morales

Sales Manager – Southwest

National Geographic Learning

Cengage Learning

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

www.tincymiller.com

gtince@aol.com

An Interview with Jane Robbins: Common Core and the Contents are not so Common

Dear Friends,

 

A very important and informational interview with Jane Robbins by Michael F Shaughnessy, Education Views Senior Columnist.

 

                   “An Interview with Jane Robbins: Common Core and the Contents are not so Common.”

 

QUESTION:  Jane, first of all, tell us a bit about yourself, your background, experience and involvement in Common Core.

 ANSWER: I am an attorney and senior fellow with the American Principles Project, which was founded by a law-school classmate of mine (Prof. Robert George of Princeton). My bio follows:

 Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington, DC. In that position she has crafted federal and state legislation designed to restore the constitutional autonomy of states and parents in education policy, and to protect the rights of religious freedom and conscience. Her essays on these topics have been published in various print and online media. With Emmett McGroarty she co-authored the APP/Pioneer Institute report, Controlling Education From the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America, and with McGroarty and Joy Pullmann the Pioneer Institute report, Cogs in the Machine: Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing. She has written numerous articles about the problems with Common Core, threats to student privacy, and usurpation of state sovereignty over education and has testified about these issues before the legislatures of nine states. She is a graduate of Clemson University and the Harvard Law School.

 

 

 QUESTION: This is an old question- but your fresh perspective is welcomed. Where does it say in the Constitution that the Federal government can tell the states what curriculum to follow?

 ANSWER: It doesn’t. The Constitution gives the federal government no role at all in any aspect of education. Regarding curriculum specifically, the Common Core proponents claim that CC is “just standards, not curriculum,” but they and we know that the point of standards is to drive curriculum. The Pioneer Institute has published a report showing exactly how the federal government will, illegally, dictate curriculum through Common Core:http://pioneerinstitute.org/download/the-road-to-a-national-curriculum/. And some of the pedagogy of Common Core, particularly in math, is so prescriptive that teachers are told exactly how they must teach. Being allowed to choose one Common Core textbook over another Common Core textbook isn’t much of a choice.

 

QUESTION: What does Common Core have to do with privacy?

 ANSWER:  Common Core is part of a much larger scheme that requires states to implement CC standards and aligned curriculum, administer CC-aligned assessments, and build out their state longitudinal databases (financed substantially by the federal government through the Stimulus bill and Race to the Top). The state data systems must be built to identical specifications to facilitate sharing data across state lines. A direct connection to CC is through the CC-aligned assessments (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), each of which has a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Education requiring the consortium to allow student-level data to be made available to the US Department “on an ongoing basis.”

 

Another, more nebulous but equally dangerous, connection: CC is essentially a recycling of the discredited Outcome-Based Education from years ago. That is, it diminishes academic knowledge in favor of instilling the “correct” mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors in children. It thus is perfect for ushering in the interactive “digital learning” platforms, which are focused on exactly the same thing. These platforms can compile essentially personal profiles on students through the “fine-grained” information the students give off as they interact with the platforms. My testimony on all this is attached to the email. Also see a thorough discussion in this report:http://pioneerinstitute.org/download/cogs-in-the-machine-big-data-common-core-and-national-testing/.

 

QUESTION: Let’s get to some common ground here. We have states as disparate as Alaska and Hawaii. Should these states have exactly the same curriculum?

 ANSWER: Only if you believe, as Bill Gates does, that every child in every school in every state should be trained (not to be confused with “educated”) in exactly the same way, because that would be much more efficient. Why not have a Common Core Operating System? Why do we have 50 states anyway? That’s so inefficient!

 

QUESTION: Has anyone in the Common Core movement thought that perhaps we need to increase the school day or school year in order to assist students with this new approach?

 ANSWER:  This issue hasn’t come up much in connection with Common Core, but the Obama administration advocates increased school time: http://www.eduinreview.com/blog/2009/03/obama-proposes-longer-school-days-extended-school-year/. Arne Duncan also wants schools to become “community centers” that will be the hub of students’ lives all the time (instead of students’ being with their families, or involved in church or other activities):

http://teach1776.ning.com/video/secretary-arne-duncan-says-schools-should-be-the-center-of-americ

      

QUESTION:  Teachers already have quite a full agenda every day. Who is providing support for this apparently massive change in curriculum?

 ANSWER:  The states will have to shoulder the responsibility of providing costly professional development, which they are doing with varying degrees of success (or failure). Of course, no amount of PD can add hours to the day. I know a Georgia teacher of gifted math students who recently retired, partly because she was overwhelmed by the new requirements – for example, having to spend 2-3 hours each night inputting student data.

 

QUESTION:  Jane, this entire issue reminds me of the fight between states regarding slavery. While some may see this as a stretch, is the issue surrounding Common Core one of “states’ rights” to provide their own perspective on education?

 ANSWER:  The Constitution certainly contemplates that each state will control its education system. By centralizing control in both the federal government and unaccountable private interests, Common Core is inconsistent with the constitutional scheme. The difference is that in the slavery situation, some states were trying to retain power to deny fundamental rights to certain human beings. With Common Core, by contrast, parents in individual states are objecting to the denial of their fundamental right to control their children’s education.

 

QUESTION:  Let’s also face some facts- taxpayers pay for books, teacher’s salaries, indirectly, the buildings. Have taxpayers been assessed as to anything about Common Core?

 ANSWER:  Taxpayers haven’t yet experienced the full weight of the costs that will be imposed by Common Core. The testing hasn’t gone into effect – testing that will require enormous expenditures for technology infrastructure. See this report for an overview: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=pioneer+institute+costs+common+core.

 

The only other thing I would add is that Common Core doubles down on all the progressive policies that have damaged public education over the last 50 years – centralization, standardization, outcome-based education, fuzzy math, diminished study of classic literature, etc. I don’t think doing more of what manifestly doesn’t work will result in success this time.

 

 http://www.educationviews.org/jane-robbins-common-core-contents-common/

 

 Respectfully,

 Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12