Education in Crisisby Dr. Steve Elwart
In the United States, there is a movement toward what is called a Common Core curriculum standard. There is more to this initiative than meets the eye.
You are to teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they’re to go and the things they’re to do.
— Exodus 18:20 (ISV)
We have been charged to educate our children, not the state, and many parents have taken that admonition to heart. However, a case is working its way through United States courts now that has implications not only for that country, but for other countries around the world. These implications could very well affect the way our children are educated.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are devout Evangelical Christians from Germany who wanted to homeschool their children rather than send them to the local public schools because they believed the secularist agenda being promoted in the German public school system was detrimental to their children.
In the United States, the right to homeschool ones’ own children has been generally accepted, though it has come under attack in recent years.
Even with the new strictures being imposed on homeschoolers by government at all levels, the homeschool movement is thriving in the United States, but in Germany it is illegal, a holdover from Nazi-era law.
On May 1, 1937 Adolf Hitler declared:
This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but it will take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.
In 1938, a national law was enacted specifically to prevent parents from interfering with state control of their children. Homeschooling was no longer an option. This law forms the genus of the law that the Romeikes sought to avoid.
Faced with the potential of imprisonment for not turning their children’s education over to the state, in 2008 the Romeikes fled to the United States. The Romeikes sought asylum, and were granted that asylum by Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman in a January 26, 2010 decision. In his decision, Judge Lawrence O. Burman wrote,
…this is not traditional German doctrine, this is Nazi doctrine, and it is in this Court’s mind, utterly repellent to everything that we believe in as Americans.
The Obama Administration disagreed with the decision. The government appealed to the Immigration Board of Appeal, which reversed Judge Burman in a May 4, 2012 decision which contested not only Judge Burman’s recitation of the law, but also Judge Burman’s findings of fact on many issues including the Nazi-era foundation of the current law.
The Romeikes appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that appeal was denied, with the court finding that the Romeikes were not singled out for persecution on religious grounds, since all Germans were forced to comply. A request for a rehearing was also denied. The attorneys for the family have pledged to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, a petition was filed on the We the People website, requesting that the Obama Administration grant the family “full and permanent legal status” and “the same freedom our forefathers sought.” Over 125,000 signatures were gathered for the petition, well over the 100,000 required for a White House response. The White House responded:
To the extent that these petitions request a particular law enforcement or adjudicatory action, or address a matter before the courts, we cannot issue a comment.
This response took people by surprise, since it was this same White House that commented on a case in Florida that the Justice Department currently had under review.
The legal wrangling the Romeikes are being subjected to makes one wonder if they would have been better off if they had just entered the country illegally as “undocumented aliens.”
The desire the Romeikes have to educate their own children is a reflection of attitudes of people throughout the United States and the world to take back control of their children’s learning. It is a move with merit, as countries such as the United States and Germany are trending toward a common educational platform.
In the United States, there is a movement toward what is called a Common Core curriculum standard. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative Website:
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
There is more to this initiative than meets the eye. It is claimed that Common Core Standards were “developed by states” when, in fact, they were not: the Standards were promulgated by the National Governors Association, not the states.
Also, the states were pressured into accepting the standards under the threat of losing Title I funding for disadvantaged students if they did not do so. They were also forced to accept the standards before the final standards had even been published.
Written mostly by academics and assessment experts, the standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Few of the members on the Common Core review panels were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to lend legitimacy to the results. According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education will start a “technical review process” to create national tests to go along with the standards. Teachers fear this will continue the practice of “teaching to the test.”
Supporters of Common Core argue that Common Core can help school choice. They argue that the common standards provide a common platform that’s open to an “endless supply” of different applications (curricula, lesson plans, activities, etc.) that can be customized by users.
This argument ignores that fact that Common Core-aligned tests (including college entrance exams) will essentially dictate course content. It is reminiscent of Henry Ford’s quote that “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
The Common Core curriculum is only the latest in a parade of federal government mandated programs. The United States has already tried a decade-long experiment with a standards-based, test-driven school program called No Child Left Behind.
Again, under threat of losing federal funds, all 50 states adopted the program and began testing students from grades three through eight and again in high school. Common Core has been called “No Child Left Behind on Steroids.”
The insistence on establishing national standards puts the federal government in control of what almost all schools teach.
What is promoted as education in schools today is truly frightening. At their last national convention, the National Education Association adopted a business item that encourages members to incorporate into the classroom lessons promoting the homosexual lifestyle. One student handout from a suggested reading (page 49 of the “Stories of LGBT History” material) offers guidelines on how to be an “ally” to transgender people. One guideline suggests referring to some transgenders using gender-neutral pronouns—“hir” instead of his/her, “sie” or “zi” instead of he/she; another encourages students to “think expansively about gender and be open to new ideas and ways of thinking about the issue.”
In the interest of “diversity,” studies in non-Christian religions such as Islam are being introduced into course curricula. Students are not allowed to share the Gospel at school, but are learning about Mohammed, the Quran, and the Five Pillars of Islam in the classroom.
Students are being subjected to moral relativism that teaches that what is “bad” to one person is good for another. In the interest of “tolerance,” they are told that all points of view are valid; not to judge these people; and, recognize that calling something bad, wrong, or immoral is being intolerant and divisive.
It is obvious from the White House response to Romeike’s petition for asylum that there is the belief that the State knows best on how to educate our children and if that belief is allowed to become reality, it will be the government, not parents, that will “teach them the statutes and instructions.”
Shirer, W. (1960). Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon and Schuster. ↩