Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
The reason the explosion over outcomes-based education occurred in Pennsylvania ("Pa. Parent Becomes Mother of 'Outcomes' Revolt,'' Sept. 22, 1993) was that parents identified with Anita Hoge. She was an ordinary parent whose request to see a state-mandated test turned into a four-year nightmare of red tape, hundreds of letters, and secretive "evaluations'' that no one was allowed to see. This kind of bureaucratic shuffle has happened again and again to parents across the country, but a book has been written about Anita Hoge's ordeal. And videotapes have been produced and hundreds of town-hall meetings have been held using the documentation she collected to expose the agenda of the "education elite.''
I should know: I am Anita Hoge.
What Patte Barth ("The Education Holdup,'' Commentary, Oct. 20, 1993) does not understand is that the current push for educational reform has been a social experiment in Pennsylvania for over 23 years. We were the national pilot in testing and scoring attitudes, values, opinions, and beliefs, a process now called "political correctness.''
When I first filed my federal complaint against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I didn't know the national impact I would have proving that managed social engineering in our state was a reality. Lecturing nationally about outcomes-based education and Pennsylvania's role in validating national curriculum and objectives (called outcomes), I have found over 25 states mimicking nearly identical outcomes in their restructuring plans as was experimented in the Pennsylvania test, the Educational Quality Assessment. Actually, the E.Q.A. mirrored the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the 70's ... and O.B.E. is following the same garden path towards Goals 2000.
When the Pennsylvania state school board began the push toward "performance-based education,'' parents asked a strange, fanatical question: What does my kid have to do to graduate under this new state education system? The education elite would not respond. Parents began blasting the "elite'' in public over these subjective tests and vague outcomes. We framed our debates over local control, parents' rights, psychological manipulation, privacy, and social engineering. As a result, labeling was the only ammunition the "losing team'' could muster. So, the "elite'' began spouting slanderous hate remarks about religious people to create fear.
Fear is not an obstacle, however. Not having facts and knowledge about prior research and past experimentation are the key barriers to the challenge of the "new'' reform.
The magical questions in the debate over O.B.E. that blindsided the elite are as follows:
1. How do you measure that outcome? For example: If an outcome states that "all children must have ethical judgment, honesty, or integrity,'' what exactly is going to be measured? How do you measure a bias in a child, in order that he may lose it and graduate? Must children be diagnosed? Will they be graded by observation or take a pencil-and-paper test? How will performance or behavior be assessed?
2. How is that outcome scored, or what is the standard? What behavior is "appropriate'' and to what degree? For example, how much self-esteem is too much or not enough to graduate? Can government score the attitudes and values of its citizens?
3. Who decides what that standard will be? The state has extended its mandated graduation requirement, or exit outcomes, down to the individual child. This bypasses all local autonomy. What about locally elected school directors, will they become obsolete? Are we talking about a state or government diploma?
4. How will my child be remediated? What are you going to do to my children to change them from here to here in their attitudes and values in order to graduate? How do you remediate ethical judgment, decisionmaking, interpersonal skills, environmental attitudes? What techniques will be used? What risks are involved? What justification does the state have to change my child's attitudes?
5. What if parent and state disagree on the standard or how it is measured in the classroom? Who has the ultimate authority over the child ... parents or the state? What about privacy? Can parents opt out of a graduation requirement mandated by the state?
As commonsensical as these questions are, the Pennsylvania parents who posed them were labeled radical--radical because they asked the right questions.
The key point is, what is the purpose of the school? Communities must answer that question for themselves. Not all outcomes are equal. Some are based on curriculum or content. But that is an area not advanced by outcomes-based education. That is results-oriented. The clairvoyant William Spady, in his futuristic, transformational O.B.E., would eliminate competition, stop comparing students to each other, and quit distinguishing ability levels or aptitude. All children would meet the same fixed standard of "future citizen.'' The "bad'' bell curve would be lost, and that natural phenomenon of random distribution would be blamed on "seat time'' and not the differing levels of ability or intellect. Is that what parents want? Socialized education?
As for poor Patte Barth, she must realize that she did not meet the outcome for "demonstrating her skills of communicating, negotiating, and cooperating with others'' under the goal of citizenship. She would not get to graduate in Pennsylvania because of not demonstrating "tolerance toward others.'' Too bad, Patte.
West Alexander, Pa.
To the Editor:
I don't know which is most horrifying, Patte Barth's snide attempt to marginalize Christianity as "strange'' and "fanatical,'' and its champion Peg Luksik as "politically ambitious,'' her vast ignorance of American political and moral history, or her brazen claim that the "reformers''--of which she is apparently one--"refuse to accept lower expectations for the neediest American children'' ("The Education Holdup,'' Commentary, Oct. 20, 1993).
Since these reformers have been in the driver's seat since 1960 and have done no worse than share the driver's seat since the time of World War I, it is little short of amazing that Ms. Barth thinks that name-calling will obscure the connection between the national disaster of forced government schooling and the creeps who have "psychologized'' our schools, from Stanley Hall, through Kurt Lewin, right down to Will Spady.
Outcomes-based education is an educational strategy that focuses on end results imposed by the state, government-controlled and -dominated national curriculum and national testing. It is a terrifying example of what people have to look forward to if we accept the view that a human being is the property of the state. This is the consequence and triumph of 19th-century strong-state Hegelianism and behavioral psychology beginning with Wundt. Both reject the concept of individuality which is at the core of American historic development.
Ms. Barth and her gang are light years behind the mobilization of resistance to this new religion. In the past two years since resigning my teaching job in the middle of my title year as New York State Teacher of the Year (1991), I have spoken before 180 audiences in 42 states, including engineers at NASA, the Colorado Librarians Convention, and the Farm Commune in central Tennessee, and tremendous anger is abroad in our nation and growing toward agents of the state, divorced from any recognizable human reality, who have stolen the nation's children.
Last week I came back from Walden, Vt., where a band of neighbors, simple craftsmen and farmers, has risen up to strike down the state's plan to consolidate their one-room schools into a factory school. The week before that, I stood with Mary Foley, a brave and sane woman from Cape Cod, while she told the League of Women Voters in Chatham, Mass., that she would send her child into hiding and go to jail before she would submit to state approval of her curriculum.
And I guarantee Ms. Barth and Mr. Spady this is just the beginning.
John Taylor Gatto
New York, N.Y.
To the Editor:
I wish to address several items in B.K. Eakman's diatribe because they are factually wrong ("It's About Mental Health, Stupid,'' Commentary, Oct. 20, 1993). Perhaps Ms. Eakman has spent so much time with phonics that she has not had the time nor the disposition to acquaint herself with the facts.
Since I was responsible for the daily operation of the Educational Quality Assessment program at the time mentioned in Ms. Eakman's article, I would like to set the record straight. Ms. Eakman uses this program as an example of evil in educational circles. She obviously has little understanding of the program.
First, E.Q.A. was not produced by the Educational Testing Service. The E.Q.A. program started in 1967 and continued until 1988. The E.T.S. was involved in the initial design of the program but the E.Q.A. questionnaires were developed with the assistance of committees made up of persons representing the entire educational spectrum. The program was initiated by the state board of education and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The E.Q.A. program was charged with developing assessments based on 10 very broadly stated goals, thus providing data to school districts on achievements in each of the 10 areas. Most of the areas assessed by the Educational Quality Assessment were cognitive; Ms. Eakman neglects to make that point.
The noncognitive items she does quote are taken out of context, and in some items she substitutes terms; for example, "retarded'' was not used in the E.Q.A. questionnaire. Ms. Eakmen then goes on to invent her own "correct'' answers.
The noncognitive items were scored by E.Q.A. to reflect conformity to the U.S. Constitution, the laws of Pennsylvania, and the ideals embraced by most Pennsylvanians. If that is a conformist mentality, so be it.
Ms. Eakman is also wrong when she writes that "most states use similar tests, put out by E.T.S. and other testing contractors, such as Psychological Corporation.'' Some states used similar cognitive tests during this time period but few included noncognitive items. Other states had similar goal statements but only tested the cognitive areas; the Pennsylvania state board refused to offer just lip service to vital goals and insisted that data be produced on all goals.
Ms. Eakman also errs when she discusses the identification and disposition of the test results. The E.Q.A. was a program assessment, thus no responses from an individual child were identified. Scores were aggregated at the school level. E.Q.A. data were not ever provided to any federal data bank.
The E.Q.A. results were provided to districts for district use. Ms. Eakman implies that low-scoring schools took time away from basic courses to improve the areas where they scored low. Since I was responsible for the follow-up studies on the use of the E.Q.A. results, I would be most interested in what evidence she has to substantiate that use of the data. It was never indicated in the studies we did. I suspect Ms. Eakman made it up.
I find most of the other remarks in the Commentary lack merit and are designed to conjure in the minds of readers that programs like E.Q.A. are sinister and designed to erode the values held by most U.S. citizens. The E.Q.A. program was based on goals similar to those embraced by citizens throughout this century, and the program was designed to assist local school districts in developing programs to meet those goals. Ms. Eakman has blatantly distorted the purposes and processes of the program; anyone who subscribes to what this person writes must enjoy fiction.
J. Robert Coldiron