Thursday, April 29, 2004


A couple of years ago, the State of Minnesota put in place learning standards that were widely criticized as anti-academic and anti-American. The “Profile of Learning” standards were similar in many ways to Nebraska’s, only more radical in their anti-individual, pro-group orientation.

You could almost call them “socialistic” standards in the way they de-emphasized the components of a classic American education and minimized many of the facts and events of American history. Like Nebraska classrooms, Minnesota’s changed from encouraging individual academic achievement to “peer tutoring,” and solitary study gave way to “cooperative group learning.” The honor roll and academically-based competition were out because they made less-able students “feel bad.” The spotlight was turned on to molding the kids’ attitudes, values and beliefs.

Unlike Nebraska’s apathy and complacency, the public in Minnesota rebelled. All kinds of corruption and fandango were exposed in the way money was being spent to put the standards in place. There were big errors on the assessments that supposedly measured student progress. Ultimately, there was a huge rally of thousands of parents and teachers at the State Capitol. The standards were toast. The standards, put in place by Democrats, were a key reason Democratic candidate for governor Roger Moe was defeated. (Can’t resist it: the people said, “No Moe.”)

The winner, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, wanted to replace the state education official responsible for all of this. He hired an educator who was on record FOR traditional education, Cheri Pierson Yecke, as his education commissioner. The Legislature voted the hated standards out, and Yecke began working to replace them with traditional, knowledge-based, academic curriculum and instruction.

You know: the stuff most likely to produce graduates who can read, write, compute, and think for themselves.

You know, curriculum and instruction based on individual reading and study – not group projects; concentration and written reports – not discussions and “stunts”; and the great ideas, discoveries and stories of history – not fill-in-the-blank worksheets, TV sound bites and computer games.

Since the content being delivered in the classroom would be more academic, the testing had to be more over academics and less over the social engineering type of skills and traits that the “Profile of Learning” standards put in place.

Imagine that! Quality curriculum! Better accountability!


So now, 14 months after she took the job, Yecke has to go through a confirmation process in the Minnesota State Legislature that should be a breeze. Instead, the Democrats got together, put her through a kangaroo court this week, called her “divisive” (translation: she won’t cave in to what THEY want to do), and voted Tuesday against her confirmation. The vote was 6-4 – the six Democrats on the State Senate Education committee voted against her and the four Republicans were in support.

Gov. Pawlenty said in a statement, “Today's vote by the Senate Education Committee was a vote against innovation, accountability and reform in education.

"Dr. Yecke has been taking on the status quo -- and winning -- which is why Senate Democrats voted along party lines to reject her. Imagine what the Senate Education Committee could have done if they had invested the same time and energy in improving education that they've spent tearing down a reformer.”

Now the battle moves to the full Senate, which is under pressure to get things done before the session ends in a matter of days.

Here’s hoping they come to their senses and see that this commissioner is doing the right things for kids.

For more about Yecke and her ideas, see her book, "The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools," detailed on www.amazon.com

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