Writing the Tucker Plan into Law

By Allen Quist

 An e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization. 

See EdWatch Index to recent reports

Posted on February 5, 2007

        Bills are being introduced in Congress that, if passed, will write much of the Marc Tucker education plan into law. The most significant of these bills so far is the SPEAK Act (S 224, HR 325), also referred to as the “Dodd-Ehlers bill.” Future bills will likely be forthcoming to implement other features of the Tucker plan.

        What does Tuckers’ plan hope to accomplish? The focal point of his proposal, says Tucker, is to “to adopt internationally benchmarked standards for educating” our students and workers [ Executive Summary of the Tucker Report, paragraph 1, emphasis added]. He says again that in order to improve education, we must enable students to “succeed against internationally benchmarked education standards” [ Executive Summary, p. 12].

        What are “internationally benchmarked education standards”?  In the field of education, the word “standards” means two things. (1) It means “content standards,” or “curriculum,” the subject matter schools are to teach, and (2) it means “achievement standards,” the level of accomplishment regarding the curriculum that students must achieve as measured by tests of some kind. “Benchmarks” are the detail of the curriculum and the tests. So the term “internationally benchmarked education standards” means international curriculum and international tests.

        What international curriculum and tests does Tucker have in mind? He clarifies on page 87 of his Report that he favors the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests and curriculum. PISA are the politically-correct international tests and curriculum favored by the postmodern left. They focus on fuzzy math instead of traditional math, and they disregard errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar while they ignore reading fluency and comprehension in favor of students being able to “construct” and “reflect” on what they have read.

        Not surprisingly, PISA tests give far different results than knowledge-based tests. When Tucker calls for “internationally benchmarked standards,” he wants to give the impression he is speaking of high expectations on academic knowledge and skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. The PISA tests are all about political-correctness and the leftist worldview; they do a poor job of measuring knowledge and skills.[Footnote 1] (For an analysis of fuzzy math and the damage it is doing to our children, see the author’s
America's Schools: The Battleground for Freedom .)

        All educational curricula and achievement tests are based on a political and educational philosophy. The philosophy of the PISA tests Tucker prefers is not consistent with the worldview and wishes of most parents and other citizens in the United States. Perhaps that is why his plan also calls for the elimination of locally elected school boards.

International Education
        The international PISA tests and curriculum are consistent with the international education system already being followed by the United States. President George Bush Sr., on behalf of the United States, signed the international education agreement known as The World Conference on Education for All (EFA) (1990), an accord overseen by UNESCO. This international agreement required the United States to establish a national system of education as opposed to a state and local system -- a feat largely accomplished by the Goals 2000 Act of 1994.

        The updated version of EFA was formulated in 2000 and is known as “ The Dakar Framework for Action.” It was signed by President Bill Clinton before he left office. This second international agreement, commonly known as “Dakar,” is an expansion of the 1990 Education for All agreement.

        On October 3, 2003, in a speech to UNESCO, U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige said: “Education for All is consistent with our recent education legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act.” Paige also said that the United States and UNESCO were pursuing a “common strategy” and were “implementing joint action” in education policy. The reason No Child Left Behind is consistent with Dakar is because it (NCLB) was structured to meet the requirements of the international agreements. [Footnote 2] 

The Content (Curriculum) of International Education
         The Education for All website explains the international curriculum participating countries are expected to teach. Paragraph 58 says education should: “strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] (Article 26).”  And what does Article 26 of UDHR say? It says education “shall further the activities of the United Nations.”  In other words, at Dakar the United States agreed to design an education curriculum that promotes the activities of the UN including treaties and documents America has not signed such as the UDHR, the Treaty on the Rights of the Child, Kyoto, the UN Treaty on Biodiversity, the Earth Charter and the treaty establishing the new UN Criminal Court, to name just a few.

        Like PISA, the curriculum required by the UN documents and treaties focus on attitudes, values and worldview, not high knowledge-based expectations
. The Earth Charter, for example, calls for legalized abortion, gay marriage, income redistribution within nations and between nations, military disarmament and education in Pantheism along with numerous other positions of the hard left. Dakar requires the United States to promote the political agenda of the UN in its education curriculum.

        Do these international education agreements have the force of law in the United States? No. Since the agreements have never been ratified by the Senate, they do not have the force of law in and of themselves. The signatures of U.S. Presidents on these agreements, however, mean the agreements are now the education policy of the executive branch of government. Since the Department of Education is an arm of the executive branch, it is expected to comply with the international agreements -- and it does.

        In addition, Goals 2000, School-to-Work and NCLB have written key features of the international agreements into our law. The Tucker plan does more of the same. Following is a description of how it will work.

Writing the Tucker Plan into Law
        Tucker explains that his plan will require students to pass new Board Exams. He says:
Our first step is creating a set of Board Examinations. States will have their own Board Examinations, and some national and even international organizations will offer their own. A Board Exam is an exam in a set of core subjects that is based on a syllabus provided by the Board. So the point of the exam is to find out whether the student has learned from the course what he or she was supposed to learn” [Executive Summary of the Report, p. 10].
        As stated by Tucker, these Boards will determine the content that students must learn and will also write the tests to see if the students learned what they were supposed to. But Tucker says he is speaking of content and tests written at three levels of government: state, national and international. (Tucker also indicates that we need a singular national curriculum.) How can curriculum and tests written by three levels of governance be brought into conformity? The answer to that question is provided in the SPEAK Act (S.224, H.R.325), the Dodd-Ehlers bill. According to the bill summary of SPEAK provided by the New America Foundation, this bill does the following:
Purpose: To create, adopt, and implement rigorous, voluntary American education content standards in math and science in grades K12 and incentivize states to adopt them. [The bill]: 1. Tasks the National Assessment Governing Board …with creating … national content standards in math and science for grades K-12 [emphasis added].
        These “American education content standards in math and science” have already been written. (See Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How It’s Enforced.); that is why the bill says the board can “adopt” as well as “create” national standards (curriculum). (Look for other bills to add in the other subject areas.)  The effect of the Dodd-Ehlers bill is to (1) legitimize the national education content standards (national curriculum) already written, (2) authorize the National Assessment Governing Board (NAG Board) to adopt or change the curriculum, (3) give this non-elected board the authority to dictate the educational content and tests for all our schools, and (4) equip the NAG Board to “incentivize” (translate “force”) the states to adopt its curriculum. [Footnote 3]

Non-elected Education Gatekeepers
        Since the voting members of the NAG Board are appointed by the President of the United States, one non-elected board will now have the authority to dictate the education content for all public schools as well as the authority to write the important tests. According to Tucker’s plan, the resulting Board Exams, first given in tenth grade, will determine if a child can continue in school or not. A second Board Exam will dictate if students may attend college or not. This non-elected Board, therefore, serving at the wishes of the President, becomes the education gatekeeper for the children of our country.  As explained above, these Board Exams will be more interested in measuring the attitudes and values desired by the hard left than in measuring knowledge-based academic achievement.

        As noted above, the United States already agreed to teach the UNESCO curriculum when our Presidents signed Dakar. The Dodd-Ehlers bill gives Dakar the force of law. In this way the central features of the international education agreements will become law in the United States without ever facing hearings or a ratification vote in the U.S. Senate. The Constitution of the United States will have been effectively bypassed.

International Baccalaureate as Prototype
        The UNESCO curriculum is now being taught in 680 American schools in the form of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. In 1996 the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) formed a “partnership” with UNESCO to form a pilot program for what the IBO and UNESCO websites describe as an “international education system.[Footnote 4]

        The IB curriculum focuses on students and faculty becoming what IB calls “world citizens.” Faculty and students are expected to memorize the 10 values of world citizenship. (The Ten Commandments have been replaced with the 10 values of IBO-UNESCO.)  These IB values are vague and non-academic. IBO refers to them as the “attitudes and values” that are central to the IBO curriculum. Like PISA, the IBO curriculum does not focus on knowledge, it focuses on the attitudes and values of the internationalist left.

        The central theme of these IB values is explained in a power-point presentation on the IBO webpage. One frame asks the question: Freedom fighter or terrorist? [According to] Mahatma Gandhi: Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” This frame defines the moral relativism and multiculturalism that is central to the IBO curriculum --- terrorists only exist in the minds of some people, it’s all a matter of one’s perspective. In direct contrast, the United States creed, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, insists that truth and morality are real and universal -­ not mere cultural constructs.

Which Direction Will We Take?
        Other details in the Tucker plan make his agenda easier to accomplish. Those details include: (1) having teachers be hired by the state, (2) having states take over teacher certification (3) requiring that teacher education be based on the Board’s curriculum, (4) establishing universal pre-school (the structure already exists to force the same international curriculum on pre-school education (see
Quotes and References from Early Childhood Testimony); and (5) establishing merit pay for teachers who help facilitate the system.

        The big question in education “reform” today is this: What values and worldview will form the foundation for the curriculum and tests? Will we follow the fundamental principles of the United States as stated in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution? Or will the foundation be the ideology of the postmodern, internationalist left? That is the question.

        If the internationalist plan is not what we want, what can be done to stop it?  We must (1) prevent the Tucker plan and the Dodd-Ehlers bill from becoming law. (2) The United States should withdraw from the international education agreements. (3) The U.S. Department of Education should be prohibited from writing a national curriculum, regardless of it being “voluntary” or in the form of “education standards.” (4) The United States should once again withdraw from UNESCO. (5) Curriculum decisions must always be in the hands of elected people who are accountable to the public. (6) Pre-school education needs to be protected from the ideological and political curriculum being imposed on it, and (7) for real academic progress, we need to go back to the pre-progressive education policies that produced far better academic results than we see today. That includes giving parents much more choice than they have today.

Allen Quist is adjunct professor at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. He served three terms in the Minnesota legislature and has authored three books on education: The Seamless Web , Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How Its Enforced, and America's Schools: The Battleground for Freedom.

Footnotes to "Writing the Tucker Plan into Law"

1.   Following is the first sample reading test question in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA),
supplied on the OECD website (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development):

Did you know that in 1996 we spent almost the same amount on chocolate as our Government spent on overseas aid to help the poor?
Could there be something wrong with our priorities?
What are you going to do about it?
Yes, you.
[The second PISA sample question on math is all about global warming.]

2.     Following are some of the similarities between Dakar and No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

1.  Dakar requires that nations bring all students up to a minimum level of competence no later than 2015. NCLB requires states to bring
all students up to a minimum level of competency by 2014.

2.  Dakar requires that nations eliminate gaps based on race, ethnicity and economic conditions no later than 2015. NCLB requires states to eliminate gaps based on race, ethnicity and economic conditions by 2014.

3.  Dakar requires nations to take regular measurements of progress toward those goals. NCLB requires states to take yearly
measurement of progress toward those goals (AYP).

4.  Dakar calls for major increases in early childhood education. NCLB includes major funding for early childhood education.

5.  Dakar stipulates that nations make major increases in education funding and that rich nations provide debt relief for poor nations. In describing the international forum that composed the Dakar agreement, the “News In Brief” publication of UNESCO reported that Gene Sperlingfrom the United States  announced: “at the forum today that his government will increase by 50% its funding of education this year,” and that it will “expand debt relief to countries that make a commitment to basic education.”  The UNESCO publication
 obviously  saw the commitments made by Bush’s economic advisor Gene Sperling as statements indicating the United States would comply with Dakar.

6.  Both NCLB and Dakar have the same twin theme­having all students meet a minimum standard of competence and closing the learning gaps. Neither Dakar nor NCLB show much interest in helping average and gifted students.

3.     Is the national curriculum in the Dodd-Ehlers bill “voluntary”?

The Dodd-Ehlers bill says that the national curriculum will be “voluntary”-- just as Goals 2000 and NCLB claimed to be voluntary. But the bill laments the fact that various states have different standards. The bill indicates that it exists to solve the problem of differing standards. The clear intention of the bill, therefore, is to force the national curriculum on all the states. Just as the federal government essentially forced Goals 2000 and NCLB on all 50 states, it will force the national curriculum on all 50 states. It can use the withholding of federal education funds as well as waivers on the NCLB timelines to do so. Look for other bills and amendments to provide the teeth for Dodd-Ehlers.

The Bill Summary for Dodd -Ehlers, provided by New America Foundation, actually said the bill would authorize the Department of Education to extend the NCLB timelines for states which adopted the national curriculum. Since the timelines of NCLB are impossible to meet, that stipulation would give the Department of Education effective control over having states adopt the national curriculum. Interestingly, both the “incentivizing” language and the extension of NCLB timelines disappeared from the bill by the time the language became public. It may be that having the enforcement language in Dodd-Ehlers made it too obvious that this national curriculum would not be voluntary at all but would be forced on the states. In the case of Goals 2000, the enforcement language was hidden away in the appropriations bill, HR6. Look for a similar strategy for Dodd-Ehlers. 

4.    UNESCO international education standards website

UNESCO now has a website dedicated to its international education standards.

Following are some excerpts from this website that define what an international UNESCO curriculum looks like:
Education shall … further the activities of the United Nations … (Art.26 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights) …Technical education standards [shall include] Sustainable Development [which is defined as follows:] Education is not only an end in itself, it is also a key instrument for bringing about the changes in knowledge, values, behaviours and lifestyles required to achieve sustainability ….
That is, the international education content standards written by UNESCO focus on all the documents and activities of the UN including the “knowledge, values, behavior and lifestyles” preferred by the UN.

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