Saturday, March 01, 2003


If you want to fight for Nebraska's public schools and the children they serve, and if you have been looking for just one thing you could do that would truly make a difference, consider attending one of these upcoming forums on education and "essential curriculum" sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Education:

Thursday, March 6, Lincoln, Cornhusker Hotel, 333 South 13, Ballroom DEF, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, March 11, Columbus, Educational Service Unit #7, 2657 44th Street, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Monday, April 14, North Platte, North Platte Community College, Technical Campus, 1101 Halligan Drive, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, April 15, Sidney, Country Kettle Restaurant, 284 Illinois Street, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Consider contacting your State Board of Education member and requesting to be invited to participate in this crucial process. Or else just go and listen in.

The meeting series is related to the failure of the proposed state constitutional amendment in the 1990s that was going to call for "quality" education be provided to every student in a move toward "equity" that appeared to most Nebraskans to be too much like communism ("from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"). State Auditor Kate Witek, then a state senator, was a leader in the movement to expose the tremendous expense of "equity" or "adequacy" changes to a state's education system, and the tremendous damage to real quality that "quality" movements actually cause because they destroy local control.

Bottom line: if this discussion goes the wrong way, Nebraskans could be facing bills for brand-new school buildings for every student in the state because some district somewhere in the state was able to afford in a brand-new building . . . or every district in the state might be required to construct a swimming pool year-round just because another school has that luxury.

It's the "keep up with the Joneses" theory of financing public education . . . and it threatens the very core of our schools' reason for being, which is supposed to be providing a good education without bankrupting the state.

Longtime education observers in Nebraska say that these "adequacy" meetings are part of the "consensus" process being used nationwide to trick citizens into accepting pre-engineered, forced societal change that bureaucrats and school administrators want in order to ensure a steady and increasing supply of cash. The "results," "outcomes" and "conclusions" of these meetings have already been "pre-determined" and the participants will be "manipulated" into thinking the right way.

But if citizens who are awake to the manipulation attend these meetings and listen in, or better yet, participate, they can at the very least shame the perpetrators, make them see what they are doing, and while they probably can't alter the pre-set "outcomes" of these public forums since they're already set in stone, those who attended these meetings can advocate more effectively later on with the state senators who are likely to be considering proposed legislation -- also "pre-set" but supposedly emanating from these forums -- next year.

State Board of Education President Stephen Scherr of Hastings is expected to open the discussions, asking the question: "What education opportunities should be provided and/or available for all Nebraska students?"

Forum participants will review a proposed policy on essential education during their discussion and then present the views of the group. At 7:30 p.m. at each meeting, State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen will speak, wrapping up the discussions at all four locations.

Excerpts from the booklet by B.K. Eakman (rush-order your own copy to be prepared for these meetings: author and education activist B.K. Eakman's website)

1. Control the environment of thought to drive the debate to the real issue. If you don't, they will.

2. Stay quiet in the beginning because the leader, or "facilitator," is busy feeling everyone out to reveal objections and doubts that can be manipulated. Keep yours to yourself until the real issue of the meeting becomes clear.

3. Remember that whoever set up the meeting and the agenda, and is paying the presenter, wants a particular outcome that may not be the same as what citizens and parents want. This is a "sales presentation," so let the buyer beware.

4. The "facilitator" and the insiders will be using tactics such as redefining what people say the way they want it said; redirecting attention away from participants' concerns to their own agenda; intimidating and de-legitimizing people who express another point of view as being "troublemakers" who "insist on having their own way instead of bowing to majority rule"; using repetitive slogans that misstate and manipulate, and appearing to grant a "bone" to the traditional views of education from time to time that really isn't granting anything new, but is designed to try to keep quiet those who are trying to counter the proposed socialistic changes.

5. Listen carefully and don't let them: misquote authorities, misstate what educational research really shows, overgeneralize, use jargon to conceal their real intentions, dismiss alternatives out of hand, change the subject, exaggerate the facts, appeal to peer pressure and popularity, or smear opposing points of view. Beware especially of namecalling; if they call you a bad name intending to label you in some way, point it out to others in attendance, and said, "Now, let's think about this: that is a rude name and so untrue; why would he call me that? What purpose could it serve?"

6. Refuse to play the game. Refuse to be manipulated. Drive the debate back to the subject. Force the facilitator to address your statements, arguments and principles. When you hear something that is not true, raise your hand and ask, "That isn't true. Where on earth did you get that idea?" and demand a research citation that participants can look up. If one is not forthcoming, say, "Oh. Then that's just your opinion, right? And it's completely opposite from what the research I'm familiar with has shown." It's a good idea to come to these meetings armed with research citations for the basic issue, which is generally an attempt to get more money for an untested, controversial and counter-productive change, in case they try to undermine your knowledge or authority. Stand up, if you have to, and demand that your opinions be addressed. Interrupt, although politely, if the "facilitator" tries to blow you off. Insist that all those who make their living, or their spouses do, from public education, raise their hands. Insist that "cost-effectiveness" be on the list of basic goals. You'd be shocked at how often it is swept under the rug at these kinds of meetings because the people putting the meetings on just want the money and don't care whether it's even the best way to go for kids. If citizens keep saying common-sense things that the "facilitator" won't let be written down on the board for all to see, stand up and say, "Here, let me have a turn with the chalk (or marker) because you're missing a lot of what people are trying to say."

7. You will be put in a "circle" that is supposedly a place to openly share your ideas in a small-group setting, but actually, the "facilitator" by now has you targeted, and will put you in the "circle" where you can best be isolated, minimized and silenced. The best thing to do is to say nothing, but as soon as people start moving, go and sit in a different circle than the one to which you were assigned. if the "facilitator" protests, then loudly and firmly say, "What's the big deal which circle I join? Do you have some reason you want particular people in particular circles? Are you trying to fix the outcome, or what?"

Be polite! Be strong, though. It's important. And most of all, thank you . . . for thinking of our children and being willing to invest some time into their best interests.

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