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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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[WATCH] This Astonishing Ultrasound Video Proves That Unborn Babies Just Want to Have Fun

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Researchers say that babies as young as one or two days old have a definite sense of rhythm and they can detect changes in a musical beat, even when they’re sleeping.

But Baby Cardinal, an obvious overachiever at only 14-weeks gestation, was caught on ultrasound clapping along to music in his mother’s womb!

His mother, Jen Cardinal, wrote in a note accompanying the amazing video she posted on YouTube, “At our 14 week ultrasound our baby was clapping, so I sang a song with our doctor as my husband filmed.”

In the ultrasound video you can clearly see the tiny baby clapping his (or her?) hands together as his parents sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands.”

Amazing that he’s able to do this just 3 1/2 months after he was conceived!

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Mike Rowe Singing the National Anthem in a Baseball Uniform Will Blow Your Mind

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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Who knew? The popular star of the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs (and the tireless promoter of all-things-that-are-good-about-America) is also an opera singer!

According to his Wikipedia biography,

Rowe sang professionally with the Baltimore Opera. He says about this job, “I joined the opera to get my union card and meet girls. I was a saloon singer, so I went down to the Baltimore Opera and learned an aria and auditioned. I figured I’d do one show and quit. But the girls were everywhere and the truth is, the music was really decent.”

How can you not love a man who works hard, gets dirty, and knows what an aria is? Here he is “performing” the aria he sang for his Baltimore Opera audition (in Italian!) on CNN last fall. Is there anything Mike Rowe can’t do?

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Is This Billboard Sexist or Good-Natured Fun?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

 

A group of students from Siena College protested in front of a billboard in Newtonville, New York, saying the sign is sexist and promotes gender stereotypes.

The advertisement on the billboard, from Teakwood Builders, Inc., features a luxury kitchen with the text, “Your wife wants me.”

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Siena student Delaney Rivers said in an e-mail to News10.com:

[The billboard] implies that men are the primary financial supporters of women and that women are materialistic and portrayed as having no other value outside of the kitchen. This is especially egregious towards students at our institution as many of us are working towards financial independence in hopes to have successful careers and equality in our relationships.

The feminist protesters held up signs with slogans like, “I can buy my own kitchen,” “Women left the kitchen decades ago,” and “Men can make their own sandwiches.”

Jim Sasco, president of Teakwood Builders, issued a response to the protesters:

Thank you for the message regarding the report on our billboard in Newtonville. A vast majority of Teakwood’s clients are women. Frequently they are the decision makers about major expenditures. This billboard – and the entire “Your wife wants me” campaign is good-natured, tongue in cheek fun meant to appeal to women who have a sense of humor, a sense of history and healthy self-esteem.

We applaud the students involved in the protest for their excitement about their cause.
And we thank them for drawing attention to the gorgeous Teakwood kitchen on the billboard.

I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but I’m guessing that there is some correlation between those three things — a sense of humor, a sense of history, and a healthy self-esteem. The strongest women I know — those with the highest self-esteem — generally also have a well-developed sense of humor.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere for the “concern trolling” crowd.

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If You’re Really Serious About Getting Rid of Common Core, Here’s What It’s Going to Cost You

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

During a speech in New Hampshire last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said that education is too important “to be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Washington.” He said that education should be at the state level, or even better, at the local level, where parents could have direct input into the curriculum and what’s being taught in the classrooms. He went on to explain:

If you don’t like what’s being taught to your kids you can go down to the local principal, the local superintendent, the local school board, and you can make your views known. If they don’t listen to you, you can say, ‘You know what? I’m going to run for school board.’ You can have a direct impact. On the other hand, if education decisions are decided by some bureaucrat in the bowels of the Department of Education, he or she doesn’t care what you or I think. It needs to be close to the people because it’s too important, and education should reflect the values of each community at the local level.

Is there any parent who would disagree with that? Unless you’re a hardcore ideologue with an unwavering faith in the benevolence and competence of the federal government, you must believe that local elected officials are going to be more responsive to the needs of families and more accountable to the community than the unelected central planners working in a massive ’70s-era concrete building in Washington.

So why don’t parents and local school boards just tell the feds to take a hike on Common Core? After all, the 10th Amendment guarantees that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the states  – or the people. It should be as simple as state or local governments exerting their constitutional authority and in turn, local governments doing likewise.

The problem, of course, is the money that the federal government uses to subjugate the states and suppress meaningful local control. Unfortunately, in most states, federal dollars account for 7-8% of education budgets. In essence, it’s a huge money-laundering operation, in which taxpayers send money to the federal government, a whole bunch of it is wasted in the massive federal bureaucracy, and then the feds send what’s left of it back to the states — but only after attaching plenty of strings and issuing volumes of federal regulations.

Lawmakers in Washington talk a lot about “fixing” No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is arguably one of the most intrusive federal overreaches in our nation’s history, but you rarely hear anyone talking about eliminating the federal role in education altogether. Ted Cruz did say in New Hampshire that he thinks the Department of Education should be abolished completely, but most of the Republican establishment, including Rep. John Boehner, who co-authored NCLB, isn’t particularly troubled by continued federal involvement in education.

So, do states and local school boards have any recourse while they wait — maybe indefinitely — for the federal government to get out of the education business?

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What if they refused the federal money?

Realistically, no state is going to voluntarily turn off the pipeline of education dollars currently flowing from the federal government. But what about local school districts?

No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and most of the other burdensome regulations owe their existence to the fact that compliance with them are conditions of receiving federal funding. If you refuse the funding, you remove the conditions.

What would it cost a local district to refuse federal funding?

The funding varies by state and by individual district, but as an example, my school district in Wayne County, Ohio, receives 7.41% of its funding from the federal government, or $676.25 per student. The state averages are 8.28% and $980.45, respectively. My district has around 1450 students, so refusing federal funding would cost the district around $980,000. I realize that I’m oversimplifying. The federal dollars provide funding for things like services for children with disabilities and the school lunch program, among other things, but I’m just looking at raw dollar without assessing how those dollars are used here.

Would it be “fair” for taxpayers to continue to send money to the federal government for education while receiving nothing in return? The reality is that taxes were never meant to be a dollar-for-dollar return on your investment. We all pay for government services we don’t use. We fund bridges we’ll never drive over and firetrucks that will never come to our homes. Those of us who homeschool pay for schools in our community that our children will never attend.

If you feel like your local schools are getting their money’s worth out of the 7% they’re receiving from the federal government and you think the federal mandates are a small price to pay for that funding, then by all means, encourage your local schools to continue to pay.

But when the price of freedom — of meaningful local control — is less than $1000 per student, it’s certainly worth asking whether the Trojan horse of government money is worth the enormous loss of local autonomy that rolls in with that money every year.

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Image illustration via shutterstock / 

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You’ll Be Shocked to See What They Are Paying Babysitters These Days

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to the Care.com 2015 Babysitter Survey, the national average babysitter rate is $13.44 per hour, up 28% from the 2009 rate of $10.50. This is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and higher than the nation-leading $9.50 per hour that the District of Columbia mandates.

Care.com, which bills itself as the “world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care,” surveyed 1000 of their members and combined that with their own internal data to determine the going rate, which varied from a high of $16.55 in San Francisco, to a low of $11.31 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Katie Bugbee, senior managing editor and global parenting expert at Care.com, said, “It’s a babysitter’s market where sitters can not only determine their hourly rate, but they can also expect an annual raise and even a tip.”

Apparently, it wasn’t a babysitter’s market when I used to charge $1.00 per hour (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). In addition to babysitting, I always tidied up the house and washed any dishes that were left in the sink. The only hope for making more than ten bucks for an evening’s work was if the dad who drove me home opened his wallet and realized that he didn’t have anything smaller than a ten-dollar bill.

Two questions for our readers today:

1) How much do you pay your babysitters?

2) How much did you charge when you were a babysitter?

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Who Needs Michelle Obama’s Healthy Diet? 104-Year-Old Woman Drinks 3 Dr. Peppers a Day

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

A woman in Fort Worth, Texas, is celebrating her 104th birthday and she proudly told reporters this week that despite her doctors’ admonitions, she has been drinking three Dr. Pepper sodas a day for 30 years.

“People try to give me a coffee for breakfast,” Elizabeth Sullivan said, “but I’d rather have a Dr. Pepper.”

“I started drinking about 40 years ago — three a day — and every doctor that sees me says ‘It’ll kill you’ but they die and I don’t, so there must be a mistake somewhere.”

Elizabeth is living proof that the doctors — and the food police in the White House — don’t always know best. Many people manage to live long and productive lives even when they don’t subsist on a diet of twigs and acorns.

“I’m feeling good! I’m glad I’m still here and I’m glad I’m not in a rest home,” Sullivan told reporters. “I’m glad I can read books and watch TV and have people come by to say hello.”

I raise my can of Dr. Pepper to you tonight, Mrs. Sullivan! Wishing you a Happy Birthday and many blessings in the coming year!

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Study: Hunting Increases Levels of Love Hormones in Men

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

From the Daily Mail:

Whether it be in the boardroom or on the hunting ground, male competition can cause a sudden spike in testosterone levels.

Now a new study has found a link between testosterone and the caring side of men when they return home from the ‘hunt’.

The study revealed that the higher a man’s testosterone has risen during the day, the more the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin he tends to produce on his arrival home.

The researchers also found that the increase in oxytocin was greater for those men who were absent longer

The study was based on Tsimane people, who are an indigenous population of forager-farmers and hunters who live in the lowlands of Bolivia’s Amazon basin.

Researchers tracked the Tsimane people, an indigenous population of foragers and farmers in the lowlands of Bolivia’s Amazon basin, and found that male testosterone levels spiked during a day of hunting. Men who had large testosterone spikes during the day experienced corresponding increases in oxytocin, a hormone thought to promote intimacy and romantic feelings in relationships and to increase empathy and trust. Scientists also think the hormone is an important factor in monogamous pair bonding.

For decades, feminists (and their self-loathing male accomplices) have been trying to browbeat men into acting more like women under the premise — false as it turns out — that emasculated men would be better partners and we could finally achieve societal Utopia (or something). Men have been told that if they could only free themselves from the wicked effects of testosterone, all would be well in the world (and the women would finally stop being mad at them all the time).

As it turns out, the science wasn’t settled on this and it looks like we’ve been going about it all wrong. It seems that pistols — not Pinterest —  are the path to a happy relationship.

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You Do Know That American Apparel Hopes Their Racy Ads Will Get Banned, Right?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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From the UK Daily Mail:

Bosses at trendy clothing firm American Apparel have been rapped for a ‘too sexy’ advert showing a female model wearing a ‘thong bodysuit’.

The firm, which has more than 270 stores across the world, regularly has its raunchy ads banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

In 2012 the firm had a string of ads banned in four different rulings after using photos of women exposing their breasts, showing off their bare bums and posing with their legs spread in its ad campaigns.

At American Apparel, banned ads (and the free publicity that follows) is baked into the company’s marketing plan.

Ryan Holiday, former director of marketing for American Apparel, explained the strategy in his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator:

When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well … 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.

Holiday goes on to explain that he would invest a small amount of money to run a racy ad on a low-traffic blog, knowing that it would be picked up by other blogs and, eventually, the mainstream media. “The publicity from the spectacle generated tens of thousands of dollars in sales, and that was my intention all along,” writes Holiday, adding that he had “substantial data” to back up his claim that the controversy led to an increase in sales of whatever the ad was hawking.

You’ll notice that I didn’t provide a picture of the ad, or even a link to it because I am not willing to give American Apparel free advertising. Here’s a suggestion: when you see an outraged article about the banned ad in your Facebook feed or on your favorite website, vow not to share it if the article includes the racy picture of the adolescent-looking model in the thong. Let’s stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated and stop rewarding them with free advertising.

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Angry Feminists Keep Trying to Ruin Everything — Now It’s Cinderella

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Scott Ott has a very sweet review of Disney’s Cinderellaobserving:

With Cinderella (2015), director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz have done the almost unimaginable. They’ve displayed sincere affection between a prince and a servant girl, without post-modern angst or politically correct messaging.

The angst-ridden feminists have obviously reached the same conclusion —  and they’re not going to stand for it. They’re swarming social media to promote a sad, angry — and they say honest — trailer of the Disney classic, produced by Screen Junkies. Taking nearly five torturous minutes to spout feminist talking points about how Cinderella teaches girls “to be pushovers, do all the housework, and that their problems will disappear if they’re hot enough to land a rich husband,” the “Honest Trailer” is a humorless attempt to suck every last drop of fun out of childhood make-believe, imagination, and the enduring joy of fairy tales.

Predictably, the feminist opinion leaders are helping to promote the Cinderella deconstruction video, just to make sure our impressionable daughters are gobsmacked with their sad, un-fun worldview before they ever get a chance to dream about princesses, glass slippers, fairy godmothers, and talking mice.

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Heartwrenching Video: Mother Compares Common Core to Her Abusive Marriage

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Deborah Torres Henning, a mother of four, appeared at a March 9 meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature in New York to read the heartbreaking testimony of Gwendolynn Britt, who suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. Britt’s testimony, which was read in her absence, compared the abuse she experienced in her marriage to the suffering that children are enduring under the Common Core standards. Britt warned that our children are being conditioned to accept abuse through the implementation of the Common Core Standards: “It took one final, massive beating for me to leave. By then my brain had been hardwired to accept bad as good, good as bad, and to believe that I was a small-minded crazy woman who didn’t deserve better.”

Henning read more of Britt’s story at the meeting:

I was the victim of abuse at the hands of my husband. For years, he emotionally and verbally abused me. This may sound strange, but I was relieved the first time he beat me. I finally had something to show others. I finally had something he couldn’t twist and manipulate. Something tangible that he could no longer claim was my imagination. When I look at Common Core assignments I see them as a physical manifestation of the abuse that is occurring right now, across our country, directed squarely at our children.

For a decade I was told by my “loved one” that I was stupid and crazy. I was told that things I knew in my heart were right, were really wrong. I was told things that I really felt in my heart were wrong, were really right. If I said, “I have an idea!” I was told, “Don’t think.” If I said, “I feel like this is wrong,” I was told, “I make the decisions. This is my domain.” If I cried after being yelled at for four hours and asked to be allowed to care for our four small children, I was told I was crazy. You see [I was told] my priorities were backwards. My allegiance should be to my husband first, not our children. It’s been four years since I left him and to this day I cannot think or speak the words, “I have an idea” without hearing him yell back, “Don’t think!”

Britt said that when she looks at her children and sees what’s happening with the Common Core standards, alarm bells go off in her head. “I ignored these bells in the past and I vowed never to ignore them again.”

She said it’s abusive to test children on developmentally inappropriate math standards and then fault them for failing. ”You are essentially giving them a task they cannot do and then telling them they’re stupid. Now do that over and over and over again,” she said. “Are these rigorous results we are looking for or is this simply abusive?”

Many of these students are then diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, Britt said. ”Now we are telling the child there is something wrong with them mentally. We are telling them that they are crazy.”

“Children naturally want to please. They want their parents and teachers to be proud of them. Let me tell you from experience, if your hand gets slapped every time you reach out, guess what you learn to do? You stop. You just stop trying. Do you want your children turning away? Do you want them giving up? That’s what they will have to do to protect themselves. They will retreat away from their parents and teachers. They will no longer feel safe to take that next step. To reach out — to venture out and grow,” she said.

Britt warned that Common Core will cause the hearts, minds, and spirits of children to atrophy. “We’ve only begun down this path. Imagine what it will look like in ten years,” she asked.

Henning and other parents appeared before the Dutchess County Legislature to ask them to send a resolution to the New York State Legislature supporting repeal of the Common Core.

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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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