» Paula Bolyard

PJ Lifestyle

Paula Bolyard

In addition to writing for PJ Tatler and PJ Lifestyle, Paula also writes for Ohio Conservative Review,. She is co-author of a new Ebook called, Homeschooling: Fighting for My Children’s Future. Paula describes herself as a Christian first, conservative second, and Republican third. She is also a member of the Wayne County Ohio Executive Committee.
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Are Teachers’ Unions Community Organizing Our Kids Under the Guise of Common Core Opposition?

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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There’s been a curious development in the movement to oppose the Common Core State Standards across the country as the debate has become highly focused on the evils of testing and, in particular, the tests associated with Common Core — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced tests.

Many school districts are reporting significant numbers of parents opting their children out of the tests — and in New Mexico, more than a thousand students walked out of schools and refused to take the PARCC test. The AP reported that “students…took to the sidewalks with signs and chanted as supporters honked their horns.”

Pantograph.com reported on a student PARCC protest at a high school in Normal, Illinois:

Tanvi Singh, a NCHS junior and representative of the Bloomington-Normal Student Union, encouraged students to refuse to take PARCC although the Illinois State Board of Education and local educators, including District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly, have said that is not an option. She cited ISBE by-laws that state students can refuse to take standardized tests.

“Now they know that next week, when schools across Bloomington-Normal boycott the PARCC test, if any student is treated unfairly for refusing, we will be there fighting for them,” she said. “To fix this, it’s going to take students … being defiant and disobeying and being disruptive and demanding that they be heard, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

Singh said students must protest because they “have nothing to lose but our chain.”

Singh complained about “high stakes testing” and “corporate education reform” as she rallied students, who marched around the school chanting, ”1, 2, 3, 4, we are not a test score” and “the students united will never be defeated.”

The Bloomington-Normal Student Union’s website has a strong labor union theme:

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Local school districts across the country have been scrambling to implement policies to handle the absences on test day and the missing test scores. Several states, responding to the anti-testing backlash, have proposed (or passed) legislation to limit the impact of the tests and to protect students, teachers, and schools from negative consequences that would result from low test scores.

On the surface, this sounds like a step in the right direction for those who oppose Common Core. I wrote the following about the entanglement of the tests with the federal government and how it will eventually lead to a national curriculum:

Two testing companies — Smarter Balanced and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — agreed to create the tests and most Common Core states signed agreements to use one or the other. Some 40 million students nationwide will be subject to these two tests created with federal funding and under the influence of the federal government. According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education is providing guidance on the peer-review process for the standards and tests and “could exert a powerful influence on how states set academic expectations.”

Critics say this will result in “teaching to the test” on steroids. The tests will most certainly drive what is taught in classrooms, even though the standards do not have specific curricular requirements. The PARCC Assessment Blueprint and Test Specifications FAQ encourages teachers to use their materials to “guide thinking about classroom rubric use and design.” According to PARCC, “The ELA/literacy passage selection guidelines and worksheets should also be helpful tools to guide text selection for classroom instruction and assessments.”

In other words: if teachers want their students to succeed on the tests, they should use the PARCC-recommended materials in the classroom.

This is one of the worst developments in the history of American education and it should be strongly opposed if for no other reason than it is a frontal assault on federalism and it will chip away at — and eventually destroy — local control of education.

But many teachers — and their powerful unions — oppose testing for very different reasons. Two years ago I wrote about an event held in the nation’s capitol in April of 2013:

A group called “United Opt Out” organized the Occupy the DOE event in front of the Department of Education in April. Their mission statement claims that they are “dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education,” saying that high stakes testing is “destructive to ALL children, educators, communities, the quality of instruction in classrooms, equity in schooling, and the democratic principles which underlie the purposes of public education.”

Much of the rhetoric coming from this movement is anti-school choice in the extreme. Charter schools and vouchers are the enemy of public education, they say, designed by corporate marauders hell-bent on privatizing our wildly successful public education system that would be a Utopian paradise if only they had an unlimited pot of cash.

If you’re a parent who is working to stop Common Core in your local schools, you must ask yourself if this is a movement you support. And are you on board with your children being community organized and encouraged to parrot the talking points of teachers’ unions? Because although the students who are “organizing” and staging walk-outs and protest marches claim that their anti-testing movement is student-led, their complaints closely echo those of the teachers’ unions.

And what about accountability? While the idea of a national test based on national standards that are heavily influenced by the federal government is reprehensible, are you against all accountability for teachers and local schools? Because that’s what a lot of these groups would like to see.

I’ve seen this picture on a lot of Facebook pages recently, posted by parents who oppose Common Core:

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Fuentes-Rohwer makes an excellent point in responding to one of the main claims of Common Core proponents — that the new standards promise to make all students “college and career ready.” What some of these parents may not know is that Fuentes-Rohwer, a public education advocate with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, made the statement at a rally sponsored by this anti-school choice advocacy group at the Indiana Statehouse. She railed against Republican Governor Mike Pence and the Republican supermajority in Indiana and ticked off a list of grievances:

  • Legislators who receive thousands of dollars to represent those who profit from the choice of voucher and charter schools, curriculum, and testing.
  • ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.
  • Tying student test scores to teachers and school accountability.
  • The state legislature bleeding “millions and millions of our public school dollars to private voucher schools and charters.”
  • Competition as it relates to school choice.
  • Indiana’s three private school choice programs (tax-credit scholarships, vouchers, individual tax deduction).

Perhaps most disturbing, she compared school choice to Jim Crow laws, which is perhaps the most offensive and derogatory attack that opponents can level at the movement that is one of the few escape routes for disadvantaged children trapped in failing schools:

Our children should not be in competition for a quality education because no six-year-old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunities. We cannot sustain three tiers of education — charters, vouchers, public. We tried separate but equal, we found it un-American. We found it undemocratic. And that is what this is about — dysfunction in our democracy.

Look, politics is often a game of sheer numbers, and addition — not subtraction — wins the numbers game. In order to advance your policies, it’s imperative to build coalitions, which means you’ll sometimes have to partner with people with whom you disagree on some issues. Eliminating PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing would be a step in the right direction for those of us who want to eliminate Common Core altogether, so there is common ground to be found. But in our haste to fix one part of a very bad education policy, we should be careful that we’re not also advancing other policy proposals that would make things even worse — like eliminating school choice and getting rid of all teacher and school accountability.

And we should be especially careful about allowing teachers’ unions to influence how our children think about these issues. Make sure you child’s teacher isn’t using the classroom — under the guise of Common Core opposition — to indoctrinate him about the evils of school choice and the “corporatists” in the Republican Party who are ruining our “democracy.”

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This Surprising Piece of Advice Could Save Your Life if There’s a Cataclysmic Event

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful someone will come and light the way.

This was the intro to NBC’s post-apocalyptic series Revolution, which painted a bleak picture of how the United States might fare in the event of a massive — fifteen years in the show — power outage. After I recovered from my initial shock at an America gone so wrong that in fifteen years no one could figure out how to generate electricity (Common Core math, anyone?), I began to wonder how long it would take our country to descend into the near-anarchy portrayed in the show — where people panic and the government collapses in the wake of a nationwide emergency.

In his new e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, James Jay Carafano says there are two crucial moments that determine whether someone will survive a disaster. The first is the “golden hour,” when a seriously injured individual needs to receive emergency medical care in order to survive. The next tipping point is the 72-hour mark. Individuals who can’t get water or are exposed to harsh weather for up to three days will likely die.

But what happens if the crisis is extended and ongoing and the government is unable to provide assistance in the wake of a catastrophic event?

In his book, Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading expert on national security and foreign policy challenges, gives examples of events in the United States that took a tragic turn when a disaster struck, like during a major power outage in New York in 1927 when a cascading power failure produced a blackout. Despite the fact that the blackout only lasted for a day, Carafano says, “In a city already on the edge with sky-rocketing crime, racial tension, and civic unrest, the dark unleashed a night of terror and looting unseen in New York since rioting during the Civil War.”

Other communities Carafano studied handled crises significantly better, in part because members of the church or the community pitched in to help. Carafano notes:

There is a pretty broad consensus that faith-based organizations are among the top performers during a crisis. The tasks they perform, such as supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, or providing mental health responses for everything from stress and grief counseling to recovery from spousal abuse, can be immensely valuable for communities struggling to survive in the wake of a catastrophe. Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.

Carafano is spot on with this advice.

Our family attends a church with about 500 members, representing a wide range of ages, income levels, job skills, and life experiences. We have engineers, carpenters, welders, counselors, lawyers, nurses, business owners, auto mechanics, hairstylists, teachers, farmers, computer specialists, and homemakers. We also have a collection of wise, white-haired men, who slogged through the jungles of Vietnam or marched across Europe during the time they served in World War II. No matter what the crisis, I have no doubt our tightly knit church community would rise to the occasion, beginning on Day One with an enormous pool of skills and talents from which to draw. Moreover, the extensive experience and wisdom in the group could be combined and leveraged to provide leadership and innovative solutions to problems that arise in a doomsday scenario.

According to Carafano, decision-making during a crisis is crucial:

It helps to have a strong moral core to drive that decision-making. … Ethical decision-making helps individuals during stressful situations determine the right course. Further, the more collaboration there is among the right people at the right time focusing on the right issues with the right information, the better are the decisions that get made. That kind of trusting relationship makes it a lot easier to get the right things done.

Churches are well suited to the task of producing ethical leaders with a “strong moral core” in the wake of a disaster. In most churches, the individuals best prepared for leadership in a crisis (qualified in part by their good moral reputation) have already been identified and are likely already serving in the church in some capacity.

But Carafano warns,

Sadly, America is going the way of Europe. According to surveys, the number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly. By some estimates, the percentage has doubled since 1990. The best advice—if you want to up your odds of surviving a disaster—is don’t become a part of that statistic.

Which brings me back to Revolution. Other than a token nod to a religious relic now and then or a discussion between characters about “something out there,” no reference was made to organized religion. It left me wondering how the writers envisioned it. Did the disappearance of the churches in Revolution’s America precede the Blackout and the collapse of the government or was it the other way around? Did the churches die after everything collapsed?

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Watch the Frustration as 3 High School Girls Take a 6th Grade Common Core Math Test

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Three high school students from Elyria, Ohio, took a 6th grade Common Core math test last week and recorded their efforts. They described their experience in a post on an anti-testing Facebook page. Two of the girls are seniors and the third is in 10th grade.

We are taking the practice Math PBA [performance based assessment] PARCC test for sixth grade. Brooke is in Calculus which is only available on the track of honors math classes meaning during freshman year she started in Geometry, although students can get on the track and double up on math classes for a year and get up to calculus. I [Megan] took a quarter of calculus but dropped it because I did not need it for college and am taking statistics. Melanie is in honors classes but is a sophomore, she had more of a fresher memory to middle school math since she’s younger. This test was hard for ALL three of us.

“I can’t do this,” the girl in the middle says at one point when the test asks students to explain why an answer is wrong.

The girl on the right says she could probably figure out the answers if she had her graphing calculator, but her friend reminds her that 6th graders aren’t allowed to use the more advanced calculators.

“How are 6th graders supposed to take this?” the girl in the middle exclaims. “I can’t even do this. I’m 12th grade. I’m six years ahead of them!”

The girls complain that with the online test they can’t go back and check their work like they’re able to do with a paper test.

“I feel like I’m going to cry because I don’t know this and I feel so stupid,” says the girl in the middle.

Later in the video she admits, “I can’t do fractions. I couldn’t even do fractions in 6th grade.”

By the time they get to question 11 of 12 on the first section, the girls give up, completely flummoxed by the test, despite their team effort. When they try to view their scores, they are again frustrated when they discover that they must register for an account to see how they did on the practice test.

“Well, I’m not going to make an account for something I don’t support,” one girl complains (which raises some questions about the motives of this exercise).

Students in schools across Ohio are the first in the nation to take the Common Core tests, administered by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing consortium. All Ohio students in grade 3-8 are scheduled to take the tests this week — 100,000 children are scheduled to take the online version.

Ohio has become ground zero for anti-testing protests in recent weeks. A teacher in the same district (Elyria) recently made news when she publicly resigned — to gasps of disbelief – citing the “testing culture” and the “drill ‘em and kill ‘em” atmosphere in schools. There is an active testing “opt-out” movement in the state — driven in part by teachers — with parents across the state saying their children will not take the tests. Many districts have been forced to adopt procedures for allowing students to opt out and some have held meetings with parents to explain potential consequences for students who miss the state-mandated tests.

Sarah Fowler, a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, who has been a vocal critic of Common Core, wrote on her Facebook page that state Superintendent Ross confirmed to the board that there is no law permitting or prohibiting a parent from refusing testing in Ohio.

“Long-standing American tradition protects parent’s right to choose based upon their family’s unique needs and concerns,” Fowler wrote. She explained that Ohio students entering 9th grade have three options for graduation, only one of which involves the PARCC tests:

Students entering 9th grade this school year have three graduation options. 1. PARCC End of Course Exams, 2. Remediation-free score on SAT/ACT assessments, 3. Work/Skills assessment and Industry Credential. It was confirmed with ODE legal counsel that students who choose pathway 2 or 3 may change their mind and take the PARCC exams missed or refused this year in the future.

The Ohio House recently passed H.B. 7 in response to complaints about the new tests from parents and teachers. The law “declares an emergency” and would provide a safe harbor for students for the 2014-2015 school year in regard to testing. Schools would be prohibited from utilizing:

at any time during a student’s academic career, a student’s score on any elementary-level state assessment or high school end-of-course examination that is administered in the 2014-2015 year school as a factor in any decision to (1) retain the student, (2) promote the student to a higher grade level, or (3) grant course credit.

The bill would also allow students to take end-of-course exams at a later time in the student’s academic career if they do not take it on the scheduled administration date. The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate, where it must face Sen. Peggy Lehner, the powerful head of the Senate Education Committee, who is a staunch defender of the Common Core standards and who has called efforts to repeal the federally influenced standards “a circus.” Governor Kasich has not indicated whether he would support a testing “safe harbor” for the current school year.

You can take the PARCC Common Core practice test here.

I’ve pasted some screenshots of the 6th grade math questions the high school girls struggled with below, along with answers from the PARCC Alignment Document. Do you think they are inappropriate for a 6th grader? Should high school students be able to solve these problems?

 

Question 7:

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Field Test Note: I asked my husband and my son — both ‘math people’ — to try the golf ball problem. My husband, who has a background in engineering and computer programming and now works as a senior systems analyst, struggled with it because he wasn’t comfortable with the assumptions being made about year 4 sales. Students are supposed to assume that the rate of sales will increase at the average rate of the first three years, but that is not explained anywhere in the problem.
My son, who was homeschooled and minored in computer science in college (he’s now an IT manager), whipped out an answer in short order. He reminded me that he had learned to do problems just like this during the years we used Singapore Math in our homeschool program.

Question 8:

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Question 9:

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Question 10:

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Question 11:

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Question 12:

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The World Is Terrible Right Now, So Here’s an Adorable Valentine Calf to Cheer You Up

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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(Photo Credits: Lin-Dar Farms)

This adorable Holstein calf was born on Valentine’s Day — with a heart on the top of her head!

Charlie Klinefelter, who helps run Lin-Dar Farms in Wooster, Ohio, with his family, said the 85-pound calf was born on Saturday night, “with a little help from me.” She was standing on her own and drinking from a bottle within 24 hours.

Most of Ohio was under a severe winter weather advisory on Saturday night as white-out conditions made driving hazardous and temperatures hovered around zero (or below) for most of the day. The new calf was kept in the milk house so she could keep warm during the frigid weather.

Klinefelter said his family believes they are “caretakers of a small piece of God’s creation” and so they farm “in a manner that is honoring to God and that is beneficial to the land, to our animals, to consumers of our products and to us.”

The family milks a herd of 85 dairy cows of various breeds and they also raise crops (mostly for cow feed) on 200 acres in Wayne County, Ohio.

The Valentine’s Day calf doesn’t have a name yet, but the farm is taking suggestions. You can leave your ideas in the comments below or on Lin-Dar’s Facebook page.

Here are a couple more pictures of the precious new baby. Looks like she has a second heart on her tummy!

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Need more cow therapy? Enjoy some more pictures of the Lin-Dar cow family!

 

Here’s a sweet little newborn Jersey calf:

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Everyone has that one photobombing friend, even this calf who’s showing off her haute couture coat. Born last week, she’s the result of a Holstein heifer bred to an Ayrshire bull.

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Charlie Klinefelter said this is, “A first time mommy with her pretty stinking cute calf!” It doesn’t get much more stinking cute than this.

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This guy scoffs at winter. The Scottish Highlander cow has access to the barn, but even in the snow and the -11 degree wind chill, he still prefers to sleep outside.

 

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This Scottish Highlander bull is winning at life:

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Here’s what that talented Scottish Highlander looked like as a newborn:

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And finally, this little guy wants you to smile and enjoy  your day!

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Is Common Core the Obamacare of Education?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

This has become a top-down approach, just like Obamacare. We were told you can keep your doctor, you can keep your health plan. We were told this would be locally-driven, local curriculum. That’s not what it is. This is a one-size-fits-all approach from D.C.. We have never allowed the federal government to make curriculum decisions in our local schools and we will continue to fight against this.

That was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal explaining to Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, the reason he changed his mind about supporting the Common Core State Standards. Jindal initially agreed that his state would submit to the standards, a list of what children should know in each grade from kindergarten to graduation in English language arts and mathematics, but later changed his mind, citing concerns about increased federal control over state and local education decisions.

Like many other governors across the country, Jindal was lured into agreeing to the standards with the promise of federal dollars from grants through a program called Race to the Top, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Cash-strapped states were encouraged to compete for grants by submitting applications that would be judged, in part, on whether or not they agreed to adopt the Common Core standards. States were told that their applications would be more competitive if they agreed to adopt the new standards.

Forty states applied for the first phase of funding, many of them enthusiastically agreeing to adopt the common standards that would eventually come to be called the Common Core State Standards.

States that didn’t get on board with Common Core during the Race to the Top competition found that the federal government had another incentive — or perhaps threat is a better word. The No Child Left Behind Act had an absurd 100% proficiency requirement that was looming in 2014. No state was on schedule to achieve 100% proficiency and states faced federally mandated sanctions in 2014 if that unrealistic benchmark wasn’t met.  The Obama administration offered states waivers that would allow them to avoid the consequences of NCLB — as long as they agreed to jump on the Common Core bandwagon.

The idea of national standards wasn’t invented in President Obama’s Department of Education. The 1983 “A Nation at Risk” report (which some experts considered to be rhetorically too pessimistic and not evidenced-based) urged schools to adopt standards that were “more rigorous and measurable.” President George H.W. Bush embraced a “defined set of national education goals” at a 1989 summit and in 1996 the National Governors Association created Achieve, Inc., a non-profit group devoted to higher education standards. Funded by groups like the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Alliance of Business, Achieve, Inc. was an effort to “set tough academic standards that apply to every student in every school.”

In 2008 Achieve, Inc., the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association issued “Benchmarking for Success,” a report that called for national standards and federal incentives to achieve that goal. That same year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $22 million to the Hunt Institute to work with governors to promote national standards after being approached by Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, who would go on to become the architect of the Common Core standards. The Gates Foundation would eventually spend $200 million to promote the idea of national standards to state education departments, think tanks, unions, non-profit organizations, and education companies.

The infusion of Gates cash was a game changer and suddenly, without much debate or controversy, the nation was on the verge of adopting national standards, a development education secretary Arne Duncan called “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, discussing the Affordable Care Act, famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

In much the same way, the Common Core initiative was rushed onto the scene and states agreed to abide by the common standards before the public had time to comprehend the dramatic transformation that had just occurred. Americans, distracted with the housing crash, the recession, and the healthcare debate, were not focused on these complex educational issues at the time and so the discussions were mostly left to education bureaucrats. Before the final draft of the Common Core standards was released in June of 2010, dozens of states were onboard, which left little time for public review or debate. There was also no time for input from state legislatures. By the end of 2010, 39 states and the District of Columbia were on board with the initiative.

States that agreed to abide by the standards defended the decision, saying that federal law prohibits the federal government from meddling in state and local education decisions. Ohio Governor John Kasich recently insisted that control of education remains with local school boards. ”Barack Obama doesn’t set [the curriculum]; the state of Ohio doesn’t set it. It is local school boards driving better education, higher standards, created by local school boards,” Kasich told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

In theory (and on paper) that’s true. The reality is quite different.

The claim that the Common Core standards will not determine what is taught in classrooms — that states are still free to develop their own curriculum and local schools and teachers will still make decisions about individual lessons — should be rated as “half true” at best.

Let’s begin with the standards themselves. Schools do retain some measure of local control, but only to the extent that local schools stay within the confines of the mandated standards. For example, the math standards mandate that students “count to 100 by ones and by tens” by the end of kindergarten. There are no requirements for which textbooks must be used or how teachers should explain the concept to students, only that children need to know how to do this by the end of kindergarten. Teachers still have flexibility, but only within the limits of the common requirements.

One immediate result of the (nearly) national standards is that publishers, seeing an opportunity to make a profit, quickly jumped on board. Textbooks and curriculum guides nationwide began to sport “Common Core Aligned” stickers — even homeschool curriculum did not escape Common Core branding. In some cases, publishers found that books they currently had in print already aligned in some way with a standard here or there, so they felt justified in slapping Common Core stickers on them. In other cases, new curriculum and textbooks were (and continue to be) developed to align specifically with the new standards, which are being used to write tables of contents for math and English textbooks that will be used in classrooms across the country. The materials are so pervasive that reportedly 100 of 176 Catholic dioceses have adopted the Common Core standards, citing increased difficulty finding classroom materials and professional development programs for teachers that are not influenced by the Common Core.

Supporters say this is a great development; they cite greater efficiency in textbook publishing and an increased ability for teachers to share innovative ideas and lesson plans across the country. This might not have been the worst development in the history of education reform except that the federal government went on to increase its control — and the controversy — over the standards exponentially by spending $350 million in federal education dollars to fund consortiums to develop tests to ensure compliance with Common Core standards. Two testing companies — Smarter Balanced and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — agreed to create the tests and most Common Core states signed agreements to use one or the other. Some 40 million students nationwide will be subject to these two tests created with federal funding and under the influence of the federal government. According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education is providing guidance on the peer-review process for the standards and tests and “could exert a powerful influence on how states set academic expectations.”

Critics say this will result in “teaching to the test” on steroids. The tests will most certainly drive what is taught in classrooms, even though the standards do not have specific curricular requirements. The PARCC Assessment Blueprint and Test Specifications FAQ encourages teachers to use their materials to “guide thinking about classroom rubric use and design.” According to PARCC, “The ELA/literacy passage selection guidelines and worksheets should also be helpful tools to guide text selection for classroom instruction and assessments.”

In other words: if teachers want their students to succeed on the tests, they should use the PARCC-recommended materials in the classroom.

And students will find no respite from Common Core in the ACT and SAT college entrance exams, both of which are being aligned to the new standards. College Board president David Coleman (the architect of the Common Core who first approached Bill Gates about national standards in 2008) has vowed to radically redesign the SAT. Education reformer Diane Ravitch called Coleman the “de facto controller of American education.”

Ultimately, the buck stops at the tests. Testing drives everything from publishing, to local hiring decisions, to the way math is taught in kindergarten. Advocates of the Common Core standards claim there will be no erosion of local control and deny there will be any federal influence on state and local decision-making. But it won’t be local teachers and school board members — or even states — deciding what will be on the high-stakes tests, and within a few years those tests will be the primary driver of what is taught in most of the classrooms across the country.

The Common Core standards will eventually lead to a one-size-fits all, top-down education with little opportunity for individual choice or state innovation because all children will have to pass the same tests. As Common Core takes root in local districts and classrooms nationwide, local control and state innovation will be abandoned as schools move increasingly toward a nationally directed approach to education with decisions overseen by officials at the Department of Education.

See Part I of this series devoted to making sense of the “tangled web of unanswered questions and competing interests” behind Common Core. Have a question you want to see explored in a future installment? Reach out to @PBolyard on Twitter. Also check out this collection presenting 150 of Paula Bolyard’s top articles over the years.

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An Adult Conversation About Common Core: Part 1

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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Over the next several weeks I plan to devote some space here to unraveling the tangled web of Common Core, the educational standards for math and English adopted by 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The attempt to blanket the country in national standards as a way to improve educational achievement has become one of the great political and philosophical debates of our time and it deserves a serious and substantive discussion apart from the hyperbole and the talking points on both sides of the issue.

Should there be common standards so student achievement can be compared across state lines? If so, who should decide what the standards are and how should achievement be measured? Should the federal government have a say in the process? How about the states? If not, what should be done instead? How should taxpayer-funded schools be held accountable and how will parents know if their local schools can provide a quality education for their children? How can parents be assured that the teachers are skilled at teaching and imparting knowledge to children?

About the only thing that nearly everyone agrees on is that U.S. standards and student achievement have been heading in the wrong direction for decades. Beneath the surface of these debates we are faced with more important philosophical questions. What is the purpose of education in the first place? What does it mean to be an educated person? Does the meaning change as technology (and society) evolves or is there a static definition for what we consider to be an educated American? Is it based on some set of measurable, testable skills and something education reformers like to call “college and career readiness” or should career preparation be secondary to more intangible qualities like morality, love of country, and preparation for self-government?

Even if Americans could agree on what a good education should include and which standards to use, there is a separate discussion related to Common Core about accountability. Should teachers be held accountable when students fail to learn or progress and should tests be the way we determine a student’s success or failure? Should the federal government, which contributes 7-8% to most state education budgets, hold states accountable for how those dollars are spent through testing or should they just let the states determine how to spend the money, free from federal oversight?

These are all important questions that deserve more than soundbite answers and random examples of incomprehensible classroom lessons. Moreover, it is important to examine the history of American education — and education reform — so that we can move forward instead of repeating the same mistakes and failing another generation of children.

Just for the sake of comparison, let us consider the nation’s first comprehensive education law. The Massachusetts School Law of 1789 (passed just two years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified) gives us some insight into what the Founders thought the purpose of education was and explained why education was important to the success of the state and the nation. The law noted the duty the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had (as expressed in the state constitution, penned by John Adams in 1780) to provide for the education of youth because “a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue is necessary to the prosperity of every State, and the very existence of a Commonwealth.” The law declared that school masters of good morals should be appointed to teach children “to read and write, and to instruct them in the English language, as well as in arithmetic, orthography, and decent behavior.”

Teachers were admonished to “take diligent care” to instruct students in,

the principles of piety, justice, and a sacred regard to truth, love to their county, humanity, and universal benevolence, sobriety, industry and frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance, and those other virtues which are the ornament of human society, and the basis upon which the Republican [Massachusetts] Constitution is structured.

You’d be hard-pressed to find students in any public school in America today being instructed with “diligent care” in even one of the listed virtues, many of which are considered outdated by progressive education reformers, the relics a bygone (and oppressive) society.

Compare the Founders’ view of education to the less lofty goals of the Common Core State Standards, which seek to “ensure that students make progress each year and graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, career, and life” and to “lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person who is prepared for success in the 21st century.”

Success in “life” isn’t really defined in the Common Core standards, but seems to be related to ”the expectations of colleges, workforce training programs, and employers” and the ability to “compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.”

Over the last 225 years, education — at least the purpose of education — has evolved into something our Founding Fathers would likely not recognize. “College and career readiness” and preparation for a “21st century global economy” (hallmarks of the Common Core philosophy of education) have replaced the virtues that the authors of the Massachusetts School Law of 1789 believed were essential for the fledgling Commonwealth’s very existence — virtues they said were necessary “to secure the blessings of liberty, as well as to promote their future happiness; and the tendency of the opposite vices to slavery and ruin.”

Whether this philosophical change to an emphasis on college and career readiness will be an improvement in education has been the subject of much debate. Many supporters say that virtually anything would be better than the current scheme under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), where states were required to test students and hold schools accountable for student achievement. Because it left the determination of cut (passing) scores on achievement tests up to the states, critics of NCLB say it led to a “race to the bottom” and a lowering of standards as states set scores intentionally low to avoid the perception of failing grades and the resulting NCLB penalties.

Common Core opponents counter that the new standards will make things worse. They say a one-size-fits-all program of educational standards will crush innovation and creativity in the classroom and will drive all schools to teach to tests which are heavily influenced by a dubiously motivated federal government and corporate interests. They also point to an increased reliance on informational texts and a reduction in the amount of literature in the standards and say there is a strong progressive political bent to the standards.

Through it all, Common Core has become a monstrous, unwieldy political football. Lawmakers are encouraged by lobbyists and supporters of the new standards to ride out the storm and see the project through, assured that the untested education reforms will work and improve student achievement. At the same time they face the ire of teachers (and their unions) who despise testing-related accountability and forced compliance with standards their local districts do not control. Along with these competing interests, elected officials face a daily barrage of criticism from parents, some of whom have legitimate and substantive concerns and others who have made the standards a scapegoat for everything they don’t like about their child’s school.

Amid the shouting and debate and political tussling, the majority of the nation’s public school children learn in an atmosphere of uncertainty as schools continue in the direction of Common Core implementation, which has been anything but smooth. While politicians and parents debate whether or not the standards should be repealed (and even if they’re outright harmful to students), teachers are also left in limbo, not knowing if they’ll be held accountable for the (nearly) national standards and wondering if they’ll need to retool their classrooms (yet again) if Common Core is repealed in their state.

Untangling the complicated Common Core web — politically and philosophically — will take leadership and political courage, qualities that are often severely lacking in our modern political discourse. The shouting must give way to reasoned debate and genuine legislative solutions, lest Americans settle for the status quo and miss this unique opportunity to do the hard work of real education reform and lest we fail yet another generation of children.

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Editor’s Note: See some of Paula’s previous blog posts and articles about Common Core and stay tuned as she explores the subject further. Have any questions you’d like to see Paula address in the series? Please leave your comments below or reach out on Twitter: @PBolyard

Gasps of Disbelief as ‘Live with Kelly and Michael’ Top Teacher Winner Resigns Over Common Core Testing

Chinese-American Mom Says Common Core Is Just Like Education in Communist China

10 Signs Common Core Has Gone from Fringe Issue to Mainstream

10 Terrible Common Core Homework Assignments

How Common Core is Coming to Homeschoolers

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Those GoDaddy Superbowl Ads, Cruel Click Bait, and Other Ways Media Manipulates You

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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Unless you’ve been living in a bunker for the last week,  you’ve probably seen the controversial GoDaddy ad where the lost puppy returns home only to find out he’s been sold online. The ad has been pulled from the Super Bowl lineup and the online version was removed after vocal protests by PETA and other animal rights groups. Now viewers are waiting with eager anticipation to see the replacement ad (which will no doubt feature a large-breasted, scantily clad woman who is not talking about the product GoDaddy actually sells).

“This was not a stunt,” a representative for GoDaddy told FOX411.

That might be a credible statement if GoDaddy’s entire marketing strategy wasn’t built on controversial ad campaigns.

GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons explained in an interview with Inc.com how his company’s strategy originated:

“I decided to advertise nationally, and the Super Bowl was coming up. I thought, That would be a hell of a debut, but how do I get a bunch of drunk people’s attention? If we explained what we do, we’d be dead in the water,” he said. “So then I thought, be outrageous. It doesn’t take Harvard Business School to figure that one out.”

He said the scantily clad GoDaddy girl was his idea. He told the ad agency, “I want a really well-endowed, good-looking gal in a tight T-shirt, with our name right across her breasts.”

GoDaddy bought two slots that first year, but because of the uproar, the network pulled the second one. “I was doing interviews for days,” Parsons said. “The media called the ad inappropriate, which got even more traffic to our site. Our market share shot up to 25 percent, and my mother’s very proud that I’ve established a standard for indecency in broadcasting.”

Every time I see a story like this I’m reminded of a book by Ryan Holiday called Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. In the book Holiday, the former director of marketing for American Apparel (a rather liberal-leaning guy), describes how he would intentionally create provocative ads designed to generate controversy and outrage.

“If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites,” he wrote in the book.

He described the time he ran a series of completely nude ads featuring a porn star on a couple of low-budget websites.

“A naked woman with visible pubic hair + a major U.S. retailer + blogs = a massive online story,” Holiday wrote.

Predictably, the ads were picked up by Nerve, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Jezebel, Refinery29, NBC New York, Fleshbot, the Portland Mercury and others.

“Some blogs wrote about it in anger, some wrote about it in disgust, and others loved it and wanted more. The important part was that they wrote about it at all,” Holiday said. “It ended up being seen millions of times, and almost none of those views was on the original site where we paid for the ads to run.”

He said he had “substantial data” to back up the fact that “chatter” over such controversial stories resulted in increased sales. He claims his guerrilla marketing tactics rocketed online sales at American Apparel from forty million dollars a year to sixty million in three years.

And so we have two examples of how viral marketing works and how public opinion is manipulated for profit.

Fair enough, you might say. It’s the word we live in and besides — go capitalism!

And you’d have a point. Questionable (and sometimes outright dishonest) sales tactics have been in use for as long as people have been trading. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware and all of that. If you’re the type of person who chooses your web hosting company based upon the breast sizes of the models in the commercials, more power to you. I wouldn’t want my business associated with a company like that, but it’s a free county.

This isn’t really hurting anyone, is it?

Unfortunately, the same tactics used to propel a brand into the national spotlight can also be used to destroy someone’s life.

Holiday describes the phenomenon of online “degradation ceremonies” in his book:

Their purpose is to allow the public to single out and denounce one of its members. To lower their status or expel them from the group. To collectively take out our anger at them by stripping them of their dignity. It is a we-versus-you scenario with deep biological roots. By the end of it the disgraced person’s status is cemented as “not one of us.” Everything about them is torn down and rewritten.

You may remember the congressional staffer who dared to write something critical about the Obama daughters on her personal Facebook page. The young woman wrote about Sasha and Malia’s eye-rolling at the White House turkey pardoning ceremony and criticized what the first daughters were wearing at an official event. One of her Facebook “friends” leaked the post to someone who knew exactly what to do with it.

The story (which I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to give it more air) went viral. You couldn’t open up Facebook or any website that covers news (or even entertainment) without seeing her picture and reading about what a terrible person she was. The young woman quickly apologized for her Facebook post and resigned from her job, but that wasn’t enough to quell the rage of the mob. The broadcast networks devoted an astonishing 14 minutes over two days to this non-story about a mid-level congressional staffer’s personal Facebook post. The Smoking Gun ran a story about an alleged arrest when she was 17 years old (but neglected to provide any documentation, which calls into question the veracity of the story). There were allegations that Obama staffers were complicit in pushing the story out.

The young woman criticized the first daughters — and by proxy, the president —  and she needed to be destroyed.

Holiday described in his book how the process works. He said that blogs (by which he means all online publishers) level accusations on behalf of an outraged public. “If you don’t feel shame, then we will make you feel shame,” Holiday says. “The onlookers delight in the destruction and pain.”

Another recent example is the young woman who became a Twitter sensation after posing with a Bible and a gun in front of a Chick-fil-A. A blogger (who claims to be a conservative and who I won’t bother to link to) thought it would be a great idea to expose a moral failure in her life from a few years ago. The blogger bragged on Twitter that he had outed her and exposed her sins to the public. (A week later the same blogger attacked conservative talk radio host and Blaze contributor Dana Loesch, which is ill-advised, at best).

Holiday wrote,

Blogs lock onto targets for whatever frivolous reason, which makes sense, since they often played a role in creating the victim’s celebrity in the first place, usually under equally frivolous pretenses. You used to have to be a national hero before you got the privilege of the media and the public turning on you. You had to be a president or a millionaire or an artist. Now we tear people down just as we’ve begun to build them up. … First we celebrate them, then we turn to snark, and then, finally to merciless decimation. No wonder only morons and narcissists enter the public sphere.

These days, anyone can become a target and a victim, whether because of a craven quest for page views or because of a more sinister motive — a deliberate attempt at character assassination. Your risk increases exponentially if you do anything that puts you in the public eye (especially if you’re a conservative), but there are plenty of examples of people who were leading perfectly normal lives and became overnight viral YouTube sensations because they woke up one day and said or did something stupid (or brilliant, or controversial, or funny). Suddenly, through no real fault of their own, they’re famous and they’re a target.

And there’s not a thing you can really do to prevent this from happening to you, except for perhaps unplugging completely and heading for the bunker. And even that won’t really protect you (but at least you won’t have to endure the public humiliation).

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There’s a Gun in My House

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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Last April, right after the horrific bombing in Boston, I wrote about how I “evolved” on guns the night of the manhunt for the two men thought to be responsible for the bombings. Here’s what I wrote last year:

First, a confession: I’ve never owned a gun. I never wanted one in my home and, like a lot of moms, I wanted to raise non-violent children and thought keeping guns out of our home was one way to do that … Then came the day of the Boston Marathon, where bombs set off by baby-faced terrorists killed 3 individuals and injured another 264. I spent the evening, all the way  into the next morning, listening to the Boston Police Scanner and followed social media online so I could see the progression of the search for the subjects in real time during the manhunt. At one point, someone tweeted this: “I’m halfway across the country but if someone knocked on my door right now I’d pee my pants.” A moment of levity during a very serious, very scary night. It was the moment I evolved on guns — the moment my support for the 2nd Amendment went from abstract to concrete.

I decided then and there that I could shoot someone in that situation and I wanted the ability to do it in case a terrorist ever walks through my front door, because merely “sheltering-in-place” isn’t going to protect me from the bad guys. My husband, being an experienced marksman, fully endorsed the idea of getting a gun.

The decision process became a little more complicated after that initial decision to purchase a gun for home protection. Figuring out which gun was right for us (out of the gazillions of choices) was even more difficult than finding the exact, right, blingy, perfect shoes to wear to my son’s wedding. Both are life-altering decisions and you want to choose wisely (the difference being that the wrong wedding shoe choice won’t result in a chalk outline of a body at the end of the day). It’s not a decision we took lightly.

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7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives

Thursday, January 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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The conservative movement faces many challenges as we turn the calendar to 2015. There are ongoing battles with those on the left who think we are stupid or evil (or both) and with those in the Republican Party who find more in common with the big-government Democrats than with those on the right who favor smaller government and traditional values. As we look forward to a new year, it’s a good time for all of us to consider how we can be more effective activists, so I offer a list of some areas for improvement. This is in no way an indictment of the entire conservative movement or an attempt to stereotype anyone — I am fully aware that most movement conservatives already do these things. But I’ve needed to work on all of them at one time or another (and need to do so on a continuing basis) and so I thought perhaps they might inspire you to set some new goals for 2015.

1. Talk to People with Whom You Disagree

It’s tempting to think of people on the other side of the political spectrum — both those in the other party and those within our own party — as enemies. And while it’s true that there are some extremists who are literally trying to destroy this country from the top down (and the bottom up), the vast majority of people we have disagreements with are really decent people who see the world differently than we do. They have children and families and go to work every day and really do want to make the world a better place, however misguided their efforts may be.

The truth is we have very deep divides in this country and they’re not going to be healed if we demonize our opponents and shun dialogue, so let’s resolve to have more meaningful conversations with those on the other side of the political spectrum in 2015.

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Chinese-American Mom Says Common Core Is Just Like Education in Communist China

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Lily Tang Williams, a mother of three, testified before the Colorado State Board of Education that Common Core was similar to the education she received growing up in Mao’s Communist China.

“Common Core, in my eyes, is the same as the Communist core I once saw in China,” Williams said. “I grew up under Mao’s regime and we had the Communist-dominated education — nationalized testing, nationalized curriculum, and nationalized indoctrination.”

In a post at FreedomWorks, Williams wrote about her experience with the Chinese education system:

Our teachers had to comply with all the curriculum and testing requirements, or lose their jobs forever. Parents had no choice at all when it came to what we learned in school. The government used the Household Registration and Personnel File system to keep track of its citizens from birth to death.

“I came to this country for freedom and I cannot believe this is happening all over again in this country,” she said in the meeting. “I don’t know what happened to  America, the Shining City on the Hill for freedom.”

She said Americans should not compare their children (or their kids’ test scores) to those being educated under the Chinese system.

“I am telling you, Chinese children are not trained to be independent thinkers,” said Williams. “They are trained to be massive skilled workers for corporations. And they have no idea what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989 where government ordered soldiers to shoot its own 1,000 students.”

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Ebola Nurse Demanding a Refund for Bridesmaid Dresses

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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The nurse who caused an Ebola scare that closed many Ohio schools and businesses is demanding a refund from the bridal shop she visited during her trip to Akron last month.

The attorney for Amber Vinson, the Texas nurse who traveled to Ohio after treating an Ebola patient, sent a letter to the owner of Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal shop in Akron requesting a refund of $480 in deposit money that her bridesmaids paid to the store for dresses for Vinson’s upcoming wedding.

The bridal shop closed for several weeks after being notified that Vinson had tested positive for Ebola. Anna Younker, owner of the Akron store, said she paid to have the shop cleaned using ultraviolet light technology. In addition, she lost business during the 21 days her store was closed and had customers cancel orders because of fears of infection.

When Younker received a letter from Vinson’s attorney, she thought it was an apology for the inconvenience she caused. The Beacon Journal reported:

Instead, Dallas attorney Stephen F. Malouf requested the refund and notified Younker that Vinson has decided to use another bridal store for her nine bridesmaids’ dresses “in order to minimize additional public scrutiny.”

“Would you kindly advise whether this is agreeable to Coming Attractions?” Malouf asked. “If it is not, would you ask your attorney to contact me to discuss this matter?”

“Are you kidding me?” Younker thought as she read the letter.

Younker said she never received a phone call from Vinson or any of her bridesmaids before getting the request from the attorney.

“This is like the icing on the cake for her to ask,” the bridal store owner said. “By canceling completely because she wants to go somewhere else, that’s like a slap in the face to me.”

The store’s policy typically prohibits refunds or order cancellations, but Younker said she makes exceptions in special circumstances.

“I couldn’t believe she didn’t at least call me and have some discussion on why,” Younker said. “Maybe I would have considered it differently.”

In the letter, Malouf acknowledged that “Amber’s Ebola infection brought significant attention to Coming Attractions, not all of it positive.”

Nevertheless, he asked for refunds of $107 for two of the bridesmaids and $132.92 for two other bridesmaids “due to the most unusual circumstances.” He said it would be best if Younker kept the matter “strictly confidential.”

Malouf said he tried to contact Younker before sending the letter. “I’m sorry that the shop is upset,” he said. “This was an effort to help the shop and Amber. Amber feels strongly that the publicity was such it was harming the business and she didn’t want to add any further scrutiny to it. This was a purely innocent request and I’m sorry it wasn’t received in the spirit in which it was sent.”

“If that’s how she feels, I can’t force her to continue to order,” Younker said. “But for me to hand over a refund, it’s not feasible. It doesn’t make sense. I’m out a lot of money.”

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Louie Gohmert Blasts Obama for Cherry-Picking Bible Verses

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert joined Sean Hannity on Thursday to discuss President Obama’s speech announcing his executive action on immigration. Rep. Gohmert took issue with Obama’s use of a verse from Exodus to defend his actions:

“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too,” Obama read in his prime time speech, quoting Exodus 22:21.

Gohmert said that people here illegally are not legally allowed to work. He said the president is flaunting the law, which is an offense to the Constitution and to African Americans and Hispanic Americans who have an enormously high unemployment rate. Gohmert said Obama is “going to leave five million people out in the cold” when their jobs are taken by illegal aliens who now have the ability to work here.

Gohmert then pulled out his own well-worn Bible. “But I also want to point out he quoted Exodus 22:1 here. But if you just go over to the next column,” Gohmert pointed to a page heavily highlighted in in yellow, “maybe he hasn’t seen these verses, Sean.”

You must not spread a false report. Do not join the wicked to be a malicious witness. You must not follow a crowd in wrongdoing. Do not testify in a lawsuit or go along with the crowd to pervert justice. Do not show favoritism to a poor person in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)

“This man is showing favoritism and he is lying about Congress,” Gohmert said. “And I’ve seen this in another politician that I went up against who would call you everything in the book and would say, ‘Now we’re going to be gentlemen. We’re not going to talk bad about each other.’ Try to keep you from defending yourself. But we’re going to defend ourselves.”

Now, obviously Gohmert engaged in the same kind of cherry-picking that Obama did when he cited a verse that he liked from that same passage of Exodus. I suspect that Gohmert was trying to point out the absurdity of taking one verse out of context (though I wish he had taken a few seconds to explain that).

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Virginia Man Claims PETA Kidnapped, Euthanized Family Chihuahua

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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An Accomack County, Virginia man says that PETA employees came onto his property and stole his family’s beloved chihuahua. Days later PETA representatives came to his home and told him the dog had been euthanized.

According to WAVY.com, Wilbur Cerate noticed Maya missing one Saturday in October when she failed to greet him when he arrived home. “My chihuahua, when she sees my car, she come to me,” Cerate said. “That Saturday she did not come.”

He said the dog, which was well cared for and has a good home, brought comfort to his daughter, who moved to the area from Mexico.

When Cerate checked his security camera, the video revealed that a van with “PETA” on the side had backed into his driveway and two women got out. One of the women walked onto his porch, grabbed Maya, and put her in the back of the van.

Three days later, the two women from PETA were back — with a fruit basket. They told the family that poor Maya had been euthanized. When they failed to provide proof of the dog’s death, Cerate called the police.

“I was angry. I understand they pick up my dog, if it was in a tree or another place, but this is in my house,” Cerate said.

Wavy.com reported:

Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin told WAVY.com he charged the PETA workers with larceny. He said pets are considered personal property. But the local commonwealth’s attorney told WAVY.com he dropped the charges because there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. He said the video does not show criminal intent, so he declined to take the case to court. Now, the Cerate family may never get closure.

“We don’t have an answer about why,” Cerate said.

WAVY.com made several attempts to contact PETA to get proof about what happened to Maya and to figure out why she was taken. None of our calls were returned.

Last year the Daily Mail reported about the sickeningly high euthanization rates at PETA’s Virginia facility:

Animal rights charity PETA killed almost 90 per cent of dogs and cats placed in the care of the shelter at its Virginia headquarters last year, it has been revealed today.

The charity, well-known for attention grabbing publicity campaigns such as the ‘I’d rather go naked’ anti-fur campaign, euthanized 1,647 cats and dogs last year and only placed 19 in new homes according to the data submitted to the Virginia Department for Agriculture and Consumer Services.

A spokeswoman for PETA told the Daily Mail, “We have a small division that does hands-on work with animals, and most of the animals we take in are society’s rejects; aggressive, on death’s door, or somehow unadoptable.”

Wilbur Cerate told WAVY.com that his daughter is devastated at the loss of her beloved Maya. “She didn’t want to go to school, she didn’t want to do jobs, she’s crying,” he said.

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Ohio May Allow Elimination of Music and Phys Ed Teachers, School Nurses, Librarians, and Social Workers

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Calling it a “horrifying spectacle,” education reformer Diane Ravtich wrote about an upcoming vote by Ohio’s State Board of Education:

On November 11, the Ohio State Board of Education will vote on a motion to eliminate crucial positions at elementary schools. The Board will vote on whether to eliminate “specialist” positions, that include elementary schools arts teachers, elementary school music teachers, elementary school physical education teachers, school nurses, school library media specialists, school counselors, and school social workers. Will they call it “reform”?

Education blogger Peter Greene said the Ohio Board was “gunning” for specialists:

The appeal for districts is obvious. Let’s have one music teacher for 10,000 students. Let’s have no music teacher at all. Great…Do we really need to argue that the poorest, most vulnerable students are the ones who most need these sorts of services and enrichment? Is there somebody in Ohio prepared, seriously, to argue that nurses and music and art and phys ed are unnecessary luxuries, and kids should just pack up their grit and do without?

Is this true? Does the State Board of Education in Ohio really want to deprive poor children of music and art education and social services?

Actually, no.

Currently, the Ohio Administrative Code requires that for every thousand elementary students, schools must have in place five of the following eight specialists: art, music, counselor, school nurse, librarian/media specialist, visiting teacher, social worker, or phys ed – called the “5 of 8″ rule. The state board is simply considering allowing boards to have local control over staffing decisions rather than enforcing an arbitrary number of specialists, regardless of the individual district’s needs.

Tom Gunlock, the board’s vice chairman, told the Plain Dealer that the proposed change (the vote won’t likely take place until December) isn’t intended to eliminate those positions, but to let districts make their own choices.

“I’m sure they’ll do what’s right for their kids,” Gunlock said. ”For years, people have been telling me about all these unfunded mandates and that we’re telling them what to do. They keep telling me they know more about what their kids need that we do, and I agree with them.”

This is actually a good thing. Instead of treating children like numbers and treating all school districts the same, it returns control to local districts so they can decide which (and how many) teachers and specialists they need. As we’ve seen with Common Core, one size does not fit all and local control is better than top-down national (or even state) authority. If you don’t like something your local school board does, you can walk down the street and complain to someone who lives in your community. They’re your neighbors and their kids likely attend the public schools in your district. If they make decisions you don’t like, you can vote them out in the next election and get a new school board.

Nevertheless, near panic has set in in Ohio as word has gone out that very soon, art and music will cease to exist in the state — along with the union jobs that must be protected at all costs (whether they’re needed or not):

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Taylor Swift as the Psycho Girlfriend in Her New Video

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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I think we’ve finally solved the mystery of why Taylor Swift has trouble staying in a relationship. In her new video, “Blank Space,” the usually sweet country star transformed into a nightmare of a psycho girlfriend, trashing her boyfriend’s car, slashing his picture with a knife, and shredding his clothes with scissors — all for (apparently) the crime of spending too much time on his cell phone.

If you listen to Taylor Swift for very long, you’ll notice that in approximately 78.5% of her songs (the “science” is not settled on this) poor Taylor ends up in the middle of the street at 2 a.m. crying over some guy. (I’ve said for years that if she would just go to bed at a reasonable time she could avoid this problem.) All this time we’ve thought if Taylor could just quit chasing after these ne’er-do-well guys, she could find someone nice to settle down with.

After watching “Blank Space,” the second single from Taylor Swifts’s album 1989, I’m now wondering if this freaky, axe-wielding Taylor might actually be the problem.  The liner notes about the song say “there once was a girl known by everyone and no one.”

Is it autobiographical?

I suppose only Taylor’s ex-boyfriends know for sure.

But one thing we do know for sure: Taylor looks spectacular in this video and her gowns are breathtaking.

Watch “Blank Space”on the next page:

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Why Kelly Ripa Doesn’t Care That Her Daughter Doesn’t Like Her

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to “Live with Kelly and Michael” co-host Kelly Ripa, her 13-year-old daughter Lola isn’t her biggest fan. Yahoo News reports:

“I don’t think she likes me, but I don’t care. I’m like, ‘I’m not your friend, I’m your mom,’” Ripa told Wendy Williams. “I just feel an obligation as her mom to keep her living in the real world. I don’t care who you are or what you do, if you’re a mom, you’re a mom.”

Ripa, 44, explained that not only is she a source of embarrassment for her teen, but recently, she and her husband, Mark Consuelos, were forced to punish their daughter. Ripa said she revoked their daughter’s phone and Internet privileges because she was using her phone when she was supposed to be studying Spanish.

It’s an interesting insight into the private life of a very public figure. As if parenting isn’t fraught with enough perils and pressures, Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, are raising kids in the spotlight — where they’re expected to smile for the cameras and perform anytime they’re in public. Their children are privileged — one percenters by almost any standards — so raising children who are not spoiled brats (see: the debacle they call the Kardashian family) increases the degree of parenting difficulty exponentially.

Kids need to learn early on that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they’re not the center of the universe — they shouldn’t be permitted demand to worship and adoration (things that should be reserved for God). All things considered, Ripa seems to be trying to keep her kids grounded and as she said, “living in the real world,” which is rather refreshing in a culture where discipline and accountability are increasingly out of fashion and parents want their kids to be their BFFs.

But about Ripa’s comment that she doesn’t care if her daughter likes her. Should she care? Should you care if your kids (in particular, kids of the teenage variety) don’t like you? Should your popularity with your kids guide how you respond to them and make decisions about parenting? Or is it better to plow ahead with your decisions, ignoring how your kids feel about you?

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10 Signs Common Core Has Gone from Fringe Issue to Mainstream

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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When people like Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin first began to sound the alarm on Common Core a few years ago, many people viewed it as a right-wing cause, one of those issues that split cleanly along party and ideological lines and would remain in the conservative camp. The promoters of the Common Core, including the Republican Governors Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and others, surely never saw the tsunami of opposition that was headed their way and now threatens to take down the standards that were adopted by forty-four of the fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Here are 10 Signs Common Core Has Gone From Fringe Issue to Mainstream:

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Should Psychological Identity Trump Physical Identity for Transgender Persons?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently addressed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the subject of transgender.

Saying that the gay marriage battle is all but over, Burk believes “sexual revolutionaries are turning their attention to the ‘T’ in LGBT” which will lead to significant cultural changes.

Burk, author of What Is the Meaning of Sex?, said,

At the heart of the transgender revolution is the notion that psychological identity trumps bodily identity. In this way of thinking, a person is whatever they think themselves to be. If a girl perceives herself to be a boy, then she is one even if her biology says otherwise. If a boy perceives himself to be a girl, then he is one even if his biology says otherwise. Gender is self-determined, not determined by the sexual differences that the Creator has embedded into every cell in our bodies.

He doubts that most Americans have thought through the implications of accepting without question that psychological identity should trump biological identity when there is a conflict.

Burk gave the example of a man named John who was featured on Fox News a few years ago. He felt like he was a one-legged man trapped in the body of a man with two legs. “When I see an amputee — when I imagine the amputee — there is this inner pull that says ‘why can’t I be like that?’” the man asked. It wasn’t until after 42 years of marriage that he revealed this “secret” to his wife. He suffers from what psychiatrists call “body integrity identity disorder.” The only known cure is amputation of the offending body part.

“The primary ethical question is whether a man in John’s position would be right to amputate an otherwise healthy limb,” Burk said. “Would it be right for a doctor to remove his leg so that John can feel whole? If John feels himself to be a one-legged man inside a two-legged man’s body, why not encourage him to have his leg amputated? At a gut level, most people recoil at the suggestion. Nevertheless, this is the implication of the view that psychological identity trumps bodily identity,” he said.

Typically, individuals who suffer from such a disorder cannot find physicians to accommodate their requests for amputations, and they are not encouraged to amputate otherwise healthy limbs. Most people would say the individual’s thinking needs to be altered rather than taking drastic steps to alter the body.

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You Won’t Believe the Super Sweet Thing Kid Rock Did for a Fan with Down Syndrome

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Dan McGurk from Toledo had one wish for his 30th birthday — that singer Kid Rock would come to his birthday party to help him celebrate.

“Hi, my name’s Dan and I’m the No. 1 Kid Rock fan,” said McGurk, who has Down Syndrome, in a YouTube video that garnered thousands of hits.

In the video, McGurk shows off his bedroom that is filled with Kid Rock gear —  t-shirts, albums, a blanket, and walls covered with posters. “Please be there for my 30th birthday. … I hope you’ll come!” McGurk begged in the video.

This week, McGurk’s dream came true. During a celebration at Clarkston Union restaurant in downtown Clarkston, Michigan, Kid Rock surprised the 30 year old, joining the party and singing “Happy Birthday” as the birthday cake was served. The look on McGurk’s face when he sees Kid Rock is priceless. The singer put his arm around the man and hugged him and then sat down to chat with McGurk for a bit.

“I love that it worked out for me that I was going to be home,” said Kid Rock, who hails from Detroit. “Are you surprised?”

“Yeah! Yeah…yeah!” McGurk said. The two high-fived.

McGurk said that he had seen Kid Rock six times. “I’m the biggest #1 fan of you!”

Kid Rock didn’t come to the party empty-handed. He presented McGurk with a hat, a numbered poster (which he took the time to explain to McGurk), and a custom Kid Rock guitar, which he signed, after receiving permission from McGurk. “I’ll sign it for you if you want me to. You don’t want me to mess it up,” he said.

Before the evening ended, McGurk got Kid Rock to promise to let him hang out with the band the next time they played in Detroit. “He’s smart!” Kid Rock said.

Watch the sweet moment on the next page.

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Halle Berry Says Women Should ‘Be Prepared’ with Fabulous Lingerie

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to Halle Berry, who is hawking a new lingerie line at Target, women need to be prepared “in that area” because you never know who’s going to see it.

Style.com reports that Berry told reporters at a preview of her new Scandale lingerie line,

I have some friends—who will remain nameless—that wear the same janky bras for, like, five years straight. As Americans, we can go there, but what I learned about the Frenchwomen is that they’re always updating their lingerie. … They’re not going to get caught in the emergency room not prepared. If they have to cut their clothes off, they’re going to be fabulous under there.

Lingerie marketing schemes aside, Halle (I can call her by her first name because we went to high school together and I put shaving cream in her hair during band camp hazing initiation) does have a really good point. While I wish that I could have the freedom that men enjoy — I guarantee you that my husband has spent zero time in the last decade thinking about how ER personnel might be judging him on his undergarment choices — the truth is that because of science (having something to do with the Y chromosome, I think) I am forced to think about what would happen if someone had to cut my clothes off in the emergency room. (In fact, that did happen to me when I broke my leg skiing in the 9th grade and it is every bit as mortifying as you might imagine.)

Last week I was telling a friend about my son’s wedding in September, sharing the events of the morning of The Big Day as we all got ready for the afternoon ceremony. I didn’t realize how early we were going to get our hair done in the morning and as a result, I didn’t end up getting a shower before we all headed out to the beauty shop. So I had to settle for schlepping together a sponge bath and shaving my legs in the bathroom sink before slipping into my formal gown, a memory which, as I’m sitting here more than a month later, still horrifies me.

And it’s no better when it’s not a formal occasion. Last night, my husband had a late meeting, so I decided to run out and grab some carry-out food. Before heading out, I changed my clothes, put on some eyeliner and put lipstick on –as if the fast food workers were going to notice!

Honestly, I wish I could be free from this vanity and narcissism. I have friends who don’t give a hoot about how they look when they leave the house and they own it. Beauty is on the inside, they say, daring people to reject them for the way they look. They seem happy.

The problem is, of course, that our culture screams at women constantly that we must look a certain way, dress a certain way, wear this makeup, weigh this much.

People judge us, we judge others, we judge ourselves. Are we doing it mostly for ourselves — because we’re narcissists — or to impress others? I wrestle with that sometimes.

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How to Win (and Lose) on the Life Issue

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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In his endorsement interview with the Plain Dealer, Ohio Governor John Kasich joined Democrat Ed FitzGerald, and Green Party candidate Anita Rios (who decided to run after she lost her job at an abortion clinic) to discuss issues relevant to the campaign, including abortion, with the newspaper’s editorial board.

Kasich, said to be considering a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, says he is pro-life and has taken some steps since he became governor to regulate abortion in the state. He has closed unsafe abortion clinics, beefed up health code regulations for all abortion clinics, and directed state funding to crisis pregnancy centers. Critics complain that he has ignored the “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions in the state once a baby’s heartbeat can be detected by ultrasound. They also say the governor hasn’t taken any other steps in the direction of actually banning abortion rather than just regulating it.

All of the political maneuvering and legislative issues aside, I think it’s important to consider how we talk about the issue of abortion, whether it’s on the campaign trail or in our in our daily lives among our friends whom we wish to convince that unborn children deserve to be protected and valued.

Earlier this year I wrote “How Republicans Should Talk About Women’s Issues for Ohio Conservative Review. This advice is not exclusive to Republicans, but applies to anyone who wants to effectively communicate the importance of the life issue:

When accused of denying women “reproductive services” we must reframe that issue to express our alarm that a baby is being denied life. While there is a certain radical segment of the population that will continue to oppose us, the tide is turning in the direction of the right to life for the unborn. A recent Quinnipiac poll found most Americans support some restrictions on abortion. A total of 55 percent want a 20-week limit on the procedure and only 23% of women believe abortion should be legal in all cases. When a candidate is asked why he wants to deny a woman the right to “control her body,” he should passionately advocate for the right of a baby to live — citing scientific facts about heartbeats and fingernails and brain waves. He should pull a 3-D ultrasound picture of his child or grandchild out of his suit pocket and ask how a compassionate, just society could tolerate destroying tiny people with little arms and legs. Refuse to accept the narrative that this is only about the rights of the woman. Unapologetically defend the personhood, and therefore the liberty, of unborn children. The truth of the humanity of the unborn is so inconvenient that many will cease asking about the issue if we insist on discussing the personhood of those babies and the tragedy of their deaths.

This should be a no-brainer for candidates who say they are pro-life. The science is settled, as they say, that those flailing arms and legs we peer at on the ultrasound monitor belong to a living human being. No sane, cognizant person can look at a 3-D ultrasound picture and say, “That’s just a blob of tissue” and deny the reality of the life contained within the mother’s womb.

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If Hillary Had a Daughter She Would Look Like Monica Lewinsky

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Monica Lewinsky spoke recently to young entrepreneurs and achievers at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia about her sex scandal with the President of the United States and about how her life was forever altered by the experience.

Sixteen years ago, fresh out of college, a 22-year-old intern in the White House — and more than averagely romantic – I fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of a way. It happens. But my boss was the President of the United States. That probably happens less often.

Now, I deeply regret it for many reasons. Not the least of which is that people were hurt. And that’s never okay.

But back then, in 1995, we started an affair that lasted, on and off, for two years.  And, at that time, it was my everything. That, I guess you could say, was the golden bubble part for me; the nice part. The nasty part was that it became public. Public with a vengeance.

Lewinsky, now 40, wrote in Vanity Fair in May that although the affair was consensual, nothing could have prepared her for the aftermath, when attacks came from seemingly every direction:

Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position. . . . The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.

Monica’s bad and immoral decision – every salacious detail of it – was published on the internet:

Now, my brother – and all his fraternity brothers – were privy to my most intimate details. As were my dad and his fellow doctors. And my stepdad, and his World War 2 war buddies. My stepmom and her knitting circle. Even both my grandmothers, then in their 80s, knew about the internet. My whole family. My friends. My friends’ parents. My parents’ friends.

All of this left Hillary Clinton — the supposedly great defender and protector of all women everywhere forever and ever Amen– in a terribly awkward position. She knew her husband was a serial philanderer. Six months earlier Kathleen Willey had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and there was also the 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers and another with Paula Jones and probably others. But Mrs. Clinton had a presidency to save and her own political future to think about so there wasn’t a lot of time to think about a 22-year-old young woman who had been taken advantage of by the most powerful man in the universe. Feminism and all the implications of what it really means to defend the rights of women and that whole glass ceiling business would have to wait.

In public Hillary played the victim. She appealed to viewers of the Today Show on her husband’s behalf, blaming the “vast right wing conspiracy” for all the scandals plaguing his presidency.

Behind the scenes, Hillary was the mean girl.

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10 Comic Book Ads That Destroyed Your Faith in Humanity Before You Hit Puberty

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Comic books that circulated from the 1950s to the 1970s were jam-packed with ads that promised everything from fame and fortune to live miniature puppies. You could buy a shrunken head, print your own money, or grow 3″ taller, all for 99 cents, C.O.D. (which meant you paid the mail carrier cash on delivery). Most of the items were junk and for many of us, it was the first buzzkill of our idyllic young lives. Millions of boys were disappointed that they didn’t end up with bodies like Charles Atlas and millions more were devastated when the x-ray specs didn’t allow them to see under the dresses of the girls at school. It was probably a good thing that the FTC eventually stepped in and put some regulations in place so kids could find more productive uses for their allowances, like Wacky Packages and Bubble Yum. Nevertheless, it was fun to dream about what might arrive in the mail after you filled out the coupon from the back of the comic book and waited 4-6 weeks for delivery. Because you never knew…

Here are 10 comic book ads that destroyed your faith in mankind before you hit puberty…

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The Top 10 Reasons to Avoid a Homeschool Co-Op

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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I recently wrote about the top 10 reasons to join a homeschool co-op, where I discussed many of the positive aspects of joining with other families in a collaborative effort to educate your children. But like most good things, there can be drawbacks and parents need to consider both sides of the equation before signing up for a co-op.

Here Are the Top 10 Reasons to Avoid a Homeschool Co-Op:

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