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More on Education Liberty Watch's fear of Big Government

For your weekend consideration, a few outtakes from this week’s reporting on the small but apparently mighty group Education Liberty Watch, which scuttled a series of revenue-neutral early childhood education initiatives that enjoyed near-universal support.

Early on, in its incarnation as first the Maple River Education Coalition, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s first proving ground, and later as EdWatch, the group’s members weren’t shy about describing their overarching fear as the clear path from government intrusion into the family to a national curriculum designed to churn out automatons ill-equipped to question authority who will not recognize that they are being groomed to prop up a planned economy (aka Communism) and, eventually, one-world government.

Karen Effrem
Education Liberty Watch
Karen Effrem

Pediatrician Karen Effrem, the group’s president and a dependable fixture at education-related hearings at the Capitol this year, has a history of lobbying on health care, mostly in opposition to mental health screenings and vaccination rules.

One fear: Health care reform literally opens the doors for Big Government to intrude in the home:

• “These odious home visiting programs send government workers into the homes of mostly poor families, although the Federal home visiting bill also wants to do the same with military families. These workers then make sure children are being raised according to government standards, collect massive amounts of data about every aspect of the family and their lives, and make sure that families are ‘helped’ into dependence on government services like childcare/preschool and mental health services.”

Home being the place where children are properly educated in their early years, according to the research Effrem has reviewed. By fifth grade, for instance, children who participated in all-day kindergarten display greater behavioral problems and struggle with math, she reports.

ELW board member and attorney Marjorie Holsten, who teaches constitutional law to homeschooled students, writes on the group’s blog that Minnesota’s proposed social studies standards are a PC disaster. They talk too much about slavery and indigenous peoples and too little about the Creator and American exceptionalism, in her opinion:

• “Students then move forward to ‘Expansion and Reform, 1792 – 1861,’ where they study westward movement and resulting conflicts ‘focusing on the dispossession of indigenous land and the impact on indigenous nations.’ This might be expected in a liberal college class entitled ‘Indigenous Studies about Evil White Supressionism,’ but not in a class to be taught to all public high school students in Minnesota.”

• “There are two opposing schools of thought relating to the New Deal, one of which holds that the unconstitutional government-expanding legislation comprising the ‘New Deal’ prolonged and worsened the depression.” 

• “I would also surmise that no mention would be made that it was the Republican party that fought for civil rights for all, the Democratic party that fought against such rights, and that civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican.”

(Fair warning: I lost a dangerous amount of time on Fox and the urban legend websites trying to fact-check this one. Suffice to say, the Internet can be a dark and murky place and by the time of his assassination, King had supported several Democratic presidential candidates.)

ELWers express similar concerns about the creeping spread of “globalism,” which is why they oppose the expansion of International Baccalaureate programs.

Likewise, the group has lobbied against curricular standards at both the state and federal levels. In the recently concluded legislative session, Effrem lobbied hard against both Minnesota’s adoption of the Common Core Standards, a states-led initiative to insure that academic proficiency means the same thing everywhere, and the state’s proposed social studies standards.

“These unconstitutional, academically weak standards that contain the elements of the federal/internationalist agenda will become the basis for the MCAs in reading and writing,” Effrem warned. 

Never mind that Tim Pawlenty was a proponent, ultimately lawmakers voted to prohibit Common Core and the Minnesota Department of Education has delayed adoption of the social studies guidelines.

Indeed, the former governor’s conservative bona fides don’t pass muster with the group: He is referred to alternately as the “supposedly conservative Pawlenty” and as a “putative conservative.” (Remember Bachmann’s 2006 assertion that Pawlenty supported a “homosexual agenda?” I didn’t either.)

The business community receives similarly harsh judgment: “Sadly, instead of advocating for free markets and economic liberty, big business, via the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Partnership, and the Business Roundtable, are the ones most involved in pressuring the Republicans to implement government control over the private schools.”

Lastly, Effrem was critical of Your Humble Blogger’s March coverage of early ed’s disappearance from House omnibus legislation. She suggested I should engage in “a little more reasonable investigative reporting.”

I’m afraid I have to concur. I am chagrined that I was on ELW’s radar screen months before they were on mine. I hope they’ll cut me a little slack. I am, after all, the product of Minnesota’s badly broken public school system.

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Comments (8)

Though the ELW is obviously extreme in most of it's views, it is deplorable and misleading to write only about the most extreme and obviously disagreeable positions they hold. I should not be surprised that this blatantly liberal "article" is coming from MinnPost, but I think a small attempt at remaining objective could lend a small portion of credibility to the website. "A Thoughtful Approach To News" should include more than just opinion articles hand selected to pursue an agenda.

For 'Common Core' context:

For 'Common Core' content:

On Social Studies standards revision process:

All three of the above links are entries of:

Gregg, your comment doesn't make any sense.

The point of this series is to highlight how a group with extreme views that peddles false information wields so much influence. There is nothing misleading or non-objective about the way this was reported. To say that the article is flawed because it doesn't talk about the non-controvertial things this group does is like complaining that a story about the racist activities of the Ku Klux Klan doesn't take into account all the good work the Klan does.

What would you have the story say that would make it more objective? That not everything they believe in is crazy? That not everything they say is an outright lie? You could say that, but it wouldn't change the point of the story - which is that its shocking that people like this have so much influence.

The fact that the Republicans are more swayed by the ELW than extensive research on the value of preschool education reflects the fact that their actions are based on an "anti-big-government" ideology rather than on factual, empirical evidence.

As reported in the StarTribune, a study published in the journal Science, that tracked 1,000 children over a 25 year period found that those children who had pre-school experiences acquire a number of benefits not afford to those children in a control group who did not have pre-school experience. The pre-school graduates were more successful in school and in their careers. In contrast, the ELW has no empirical data published in peer-reviewed journal to support their contentions about the presumed negative effects of early-childhood education.

Public education advocates here in Stillwater, Michele Bachmann's hometown, are very familiar with the Maple River Education Coalition (aka Ed Watch, aka Education Liberty Watch). This article tells it like it is. It would be difficult to be more "objective" because, believe it or not, all of their positions are extreme and disagreeable to the thinking person. They are a group with a singular agenda.

Thanks again, Beth, for following up on this story, and for providing names (Senators Dave Thompson, an EdWatch board member, Pam Wolf, and Roger Chamberlain; House members Mary Franson and Steve Drazkowski) of the legislators who carried this travesty of a bill. One hardly knows where to begin, and my comment on yesterday’s segment got lost in the web’s alternate universe, apparently, so I’ll revise and start over.

I thought Carol Logie’s comment yesterday was right on the mark. The people in EdWatch aren’t really interested in education. What they’re interested in is indoctrination, and of a particular, theocratic and neofascist bent. That they have the ear of people in the legislature does not reflect well on those people, and having a board member of the organization carry the bill eliminating the quality ratings program in the State Senate qualifies as a subversion of the legislative process.

I’ve been to their website, looked at some – by no means all – of their purported research, and can only conclude that it’s simply more of the same right wing lunacy that pollutes the current political atmosphere from top to bottom. While it’s certainly true that parents are a child’s “first teachers,” it’s also true that a majority of families in the country are no longer of the “Ozzy and Harriet” type, with a college-educated Mom who’s home all the time to attend to every question and need that a child, or children, might have. Moreover, in many families, the “first teachers” are themselves ill-educated – something that EdWatch spokespersons conveniently ignore – and lack the necessary background knowledge to adequately prepare their children for education in anything beyond the most rudimentary, 18th-century way.

EdWatch folks may not like what they’re citing as examples of PC overkill, but I don’t see any factual counter argument in the examples Beth cites, nor on their website. I’m a retired history teacher, a charter member of an organization devoted to the preservation of the history of our western expansion, especially as it relates to overland migrations, and what EdWatch is citing as PC, “…the dispossession of indigenous land and the impact on indigenous nations” is, in fact, the basic story of western expansion. This was not an empty continent when my European forebears arrived. All the members of EdWatch, all Minnesotans, are living on land that used to be occupied by native populations. Some of Minnesota still is.

Railing against the evil spectre of increased federal funding (i.e., our own tax dollars coming back to us), while simultaneously raising a host of rhetorical straw men as reasons to oppose early childhood education goes well beyond ordinary hypocrisy and into its own kind of alternate universe. I’m sure I disagree with former Senator Benson on many policy issues, but when a Republican, and former Senate Minority Leader, pens a letter that systematically destroys seven of the most egregious falsehoods perpetrated by EdWatch in its opposition to preschool programs and quality ratings, it’s worth paying attention to.

EdWatch is despicable. The sort of ignorance they’re pushing simply makes it even more difficult for the United States to remain competitive in the world, and the social/educational discrimination the organization promotes in unconscionable.

Gregg, by their fruits ye shall know them. God forbid the GOVERNMENT should screen kids for mental health issues, provide preschool, and, horror of horrors, actually provide vaccinations for school kids, things that parents unfortunately often can't or won't take care of themselves.

Used to be that the lunatic fringe was appropriately marginalized by people with brains. What on earth ever happened to that?