Textbook Loan Program

I am writing to express my disappointment that the Board of Education has asked the Education Committee of the Legislature to amend Neb. Rev. Stat. §79-734(2) (LB 1066, sec. 7) to severely limit the educational materials that private school children can access under the Textbook Loan Program. I also am disturbed that the Nebraska Department of Education has suggested to the legislature that funding for the Textbook Loan Program could be utilized for the Department’s technology initiative, thereby eliminating the benefit that private school students receive under the Textbook Loan Program.

The Textbook Loan Program is one of few government benefits that private school families receive in return for our education tax dollars.  Therefore, I urge you and the other members of the Board of Education to approve the Petition for a Rules Change submitted by the Nebraska Catholic Conference on January 8, 2016. The Textbook Loan Program should be implemented as intended, to give private school children access to the same educational materials as are used by public school children in the same district.

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Textbook Loan Program.

First, I’m a huge fan of Nebraska’s private and parochial schools. I commend you for making the sacrifices necessary to send your child to private school.

Second, the State Board of Education in no way is seeking to have the Legislature limit the educational materials that private school children may be loaned by public school districts under the textbook loan statute. Quite the opposite – we are seeking legislative revisions to more clearly support school districts in expanding what they loan to private school students under the loan program to encompass subscription-based licenses to access textbook content on-line from textbook companies.

Third, by law (Neb. Rev. Stat. §79-734 and Appropriations Bill LB 657, Laws 2015), the Textbook Loan Program is funded by a specific appropriation by the Legislature and distributed by the Department as aid to school districts for the sole purpose of purchasing and loaning textbooks for private school students. By law, the Department cannot use these funds for any other purpose.

Neither LB 10661, the Department’s technical assistance bill; nor LB 10262, Senator Morfield’s education technology bill; nor any other bill proposed or supported by the Department include language which would change or eliminate funding for the Textbook Loan Program.

Fourth, the publishing industry is replacing traditional hardbound textbooks “with a ‘subscription’ of hard copy ‘work texts,’ a series of write-in textbooks that are issued annually for six years.” What needs to be done to update §79-734 and Textbook Loan Program to address this change?

The Attorney General has offered an opinion3 on the Textbook Loan Program, which concludes:

We believe that Rule 4 could be reasonably construed to encompass electronic materials and work texts under the definition of “textbooks” in section 002.03. Our conclusion herein is premised on the fundamental concept that §79-734(2) establishes a loan program, and that any electronic materials are subject to the operational requirements set out in Rule 4 relating to loaning, returning, and maintaining separate inventory, etc., of items.

Under §79-734(2)4 textbooks are to be loaned to all children regardless of whether they are in public or private school.

(2) School boards and boards of education shall purchase and loan textbooks to all children who are enrolled in kindergarten to grade twelve of a public school and, upon individual request, to children who are enrolled in kindergarten to grade twelve of a private school which is approved for continued legal operation under rules and regulations established by the State Board of Education pursuant to subdivision (5)(c) of section 79-318.

Currently Rule 45 limits what may be loaned to private school students:

The following are not to be considered textbooks: library books, teacher’s editions, workbooks and other similar consumable materials, and any book or material designated for classroom, and not individual use (e.g. “Big Books” and the like).

While it’s understandable that teacher’s editions are not be loaned to public or private school students, ruling out “workbooks and other similar consumable materials” draws a distinction between what can be loaned to public school students and private school students that is not intended in §79-734(2). If workbooks can’t be loaned to private school students because they are consumable, by the same logic they can’t be loaned to public school students.
LB 1066 attempts to clarify the situation, though the meaning of reusable workbook is not clear to me:

For purposes of this subsection, textbook means a reusable set of printed sheets of paper that are bound together inside a cover which is used in a course of study in a school by a student, and includes any of the versions of a textbook provided by a publisher or manufacturer under section 79-734.01 to a school district for student use, including any reusable workbooks or manuals whether bound or in another medium provided to the school district.

Is a workbook reusable or consumable? If consumable can it be loaned? Again, the suggested definition of textbook applies to materials loaned to both public and private school students.

I support the Petition for a Rules Change6 submitted by the Nebraska Catholic Conference7. In the spirit of §79-734(2), it simplifies Rule 4 by eliminating the distinction between what can be loaned to public school and private school students. The Petition will be considered at our next regular meeting on March 4, 2016.

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Nebraska’s Children Left Behind

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (May, 2015)

Bert Peterson, a retired actuary from Hastings, recently published “Nebraska’s Children Left Behind: What They are Telling Us About Education”1. The book examines Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and Programme for Internationale Student Assessment (PISA) test scores.

Appendices trace the history of American Education from the colonial period to the increasing involvement of the Federal government including The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Race to the Top (R2T) and Common Core.

Though focused primarily on Nebraska test scores this book serves as a valuable resource for all educators and policy makers. While Mr. Peterson finds a strong correlation between poverty and decreased proficiency on the standardized tests listed above he reminds us that correlation is not causation:

In our case poverty is not the cause of poor reading proficiency. That causal relationship is brought into question by the number of poor students that do achieve proficiency in reading (as well as other subjects). But Out-Of-School-Factors (OSF), which research show is the cause of poor education achievement, weighs much more heavily on children living in poverty than their more affluent counter parts. Thus POVERTY is a very good proxy for these OSF that represent 60% to 80% of the variation in test proficiency based upon credible research (see Background C.)2

The book cautions that drawing the wrong conclusions from testing data further exacerbate educational challenges with poorly designed policies:

NCLB is changing our educational system from:

  1. a school system that includes and promotes all the higher dimensions of learning including: collaboration, discovery, analyzing, evaluating and creativity to
  2. a school system driven by the lower dimensions of learning dominated by rote memorization of facts for students to regurgitate for tests required by NCLB at it’s core3

He suggests a “pilot program that increases the number of social workers assigned to a few schools … and see if the achievement gap can be narrowed significantly by these social workers addressing educational issues at the student’s home.”4

One criticism of the Kindle edition: some of the charts are too small to be readable. My Kindle app appears unequal to the task of rendering charts or graphics legibly. I would commend you to the author’s website, http://www.nebraskachildleftbehind.com/, which contains many of the charts in the book.

When examining the charts plotting proficiency against poverty level, it’s apparent that a few high poverty schools are performing on par with schools with far less poverty and in some cases exceeding those schools.

These outliers are interesting. Schools that beat the odds and succeed in spite of the challenges of poverty, mobility or large numbers of English Language Learners (ELL). “No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools” gives examples of some amazing success stories.5

The message of this book is that there is no excuse for this tragedy. All children can learn. The principals and schools profiled in this book have overcome bureaucratic and cultural obstacles that keep low-income children behind in most public schools. No Excuses schools have created a culture of achievement among children whom most public schools would condemn to a life of failure.6

“Consider the Alternative”7 is a film about Omaha’s own amazing success story. Miller Park Elementary Principal Lisa Utterback and her team changed the culture of the school. In five years the number of students proficient in reading more than doubled from 31% to 81%.8 In four years the number of students proficient in Mathematics doubled from 36% to 72%.9

“Nebraska’s Children Left Behind” provides many important insights into the impact of poverty on school performance. But “No Excuses” and “Consider the Alternative” demonstrate that students, teachers, and parents can succeed in spite of their circumstances. Let’s learn from these success stories, roll up our sleeves and get to work because, “The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.”10

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

2 Ibid., location 224.

3 Ibid., location 954.

4 Ibid., location 1213.

6 Ibid., p. 1.

9 Ibid.

No Child’s Wet Behind

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (February, 2015)

Last month’s column1 was about LB 617 “The Working to Improve Nebraska Schools Act.” LB 6172 is officially opposed by the Nebraska State Board of Education. I cast one of only two votes in favor of supporting the legislation. Nebraska State Board of Education president, Rachel Wise, explains:

Legislative Bill 617 which was introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, has a few good provisions but a requirement to retain 3rd graders not reading at “grade level” is quite disconcerting. The state should not make decisions about retention! That important decision should be a local decision between parents and teachers. Local school boards should make important decisions about the needs of the children they serve and determine retention practices. Do I think kids should be reading by 3rd grade? Yes! Do I know there are unique situations that affect children’s reading children who have disabilities or children whose first language is not English? Yes! But, most importantly, parents and teachers need to make decisions about retentionnot the Legislature!!3

It’s “quite disconcerting” that one-fifth of all Nebraska 3rd graders and nearly two-fifths of Nebraska’s minority 3rd graders do not read at grade level.4 Studies have shown that students who fail to read at proficiently at the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop of school without a high school diploma.5

LB 617 exempts from retention students with disabilities, students whose first language is not English, students who demonstrate grade level performance in alternative reading tests or a portfolio of their work, and no student will be retained more than two years between Kindergarten and 3rd grade6.

Rather than a diabolical plot to retain one-fifth of all 3rd graders, LB 617 proposes to identify students who struggle with reading early and build individual plans to help them get back on track. This fits nicely with the Commissioner’s mantra of “Every student, every day”7 and replicates policies of high-performing, high-poverty schools:

No Excuses principals see testing as an instrument of diagnosis, not of discrimination. Nor do they think that social promotion is any favor to children; they do not hesitate to require students to repeat grades, if necessary to master the material.8

The basic skill par excellence is reading. All of the high-performing elementary schools studied here make reading in kindergarten a primary objective—regardless of family background or secondary language. “I believe, and research supports, that when children are taught to read in kindergarten using a direct systematic approach, they are able to enter the 1st grade on the same level as their counterparts, no matter what their socioeconomic status,” says Thaddeus Lott. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has taken this point one step further: “Every child reading at grade level by the end of 1st or 2nd grade would do more than any other single reform to improve the quality and equity of American schooling.”9

Does “local control” mean the Nebraska State Board of Education is powerless to adopt successful policies from high-performing, high-poverty schools to address a problem faced by one-fifth of all 3rd graders and two-fifths of minority 3rd graders?

Recently the Nebraska State Board of Education approved the draft of Rule 11. Rule 11 “governs the approval of prekindergarten programs established by school boards or educational service units for children ages birth to kindergarten entrance age under the provisions of 79-1104 R.R.S.”10 Among the 25 pages of detailed requirements set forth in Rule 11, “Wet or soiled diapers shall be changed immediately and disposed of in a sanitary manner.”11

Just how serious is the Nebraska State Board of Education about promptly changing soiled diapers?

Any prekindergarten program in violation of any requirements specified in this Chapter shall submit a written plan to the Commissioner or his or her designee describing how violations will be corrected prior to the beginning of the next school year.

Continued violation of any requirements indicated in this Chapter result in probation, loss of approval and/or loss of grant funding…12

Are parents, teachers, and local school boards not to be trusted to arrive at their own satisfactory policies regarding soiled diapers? Why does the Nebraska State Board of Education feel the need to step all over “local control” in regard to soiled diapers, while decades of institutionalized failure to teach all 3rd graders to read continues unabated?

In light of the unwillingness or inability of the Nebraska State Board of Education to devise a policy to address the twin crises of 3rd grade reading proficiency and the achievement gap, LB 617 is worth considering. To oppose LB 617 would be to throw the baby out with the bath water which, though not specifically prohibited by Rule 11, is never a good idea.

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

6 Ibid. 2, Section 7.

7 Ibid. 3.

9 Ibid., p. 28.

11 Ibid., Section 005.13J.

12 Ibid., Section 008.01-02.

Working to Improve Nebraska Schools

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (January, 2015)

At the Legislative Retreat on January 28th the board voted 6-2 to oppose LB 617, The Working to Improve Nebraska Schools Act1. It was the only bill the State Board of Education voted to oppose. The bill places a strong emphasis on teaching all 3rd graders to read.

Why the focus on reading proficiency in the 3rd grade? “Sociologist Donald Hernandez found that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.”2

The NeSA Reading test found 21% of 3rd graders were below proficient, but 38% of American Indian and 37% African American students were below proficient.3 The Lincoln Public School Examiner reports, “For decades in Nebraska, poor and minority children have scored well below others on reading and math assessments. They even have a name for it: ‘The Gap’”.4

The Staff Analysis admonishes, “While NDE acknowledges the intent to provide a framework to improve reading instruction in Nebraska, the bill is weighted heavily with requirements that confound, interfere with, and supersede current practices and procedures.”5 But, that’s the point. Under “current practices and procedures”, “21% of third graders in Nebraska did not meet proficiency in the NeSA-Reading test.”6 The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

When did the Nebraska State Board of Education first became aware of this problem? How many “practices and procedures” have they adopted to address “The Gap”? The 2014 NAEP reading scores show that no progress has been made in closing “The Gap”.

  • In 2013, Black students had an average score that was 27 points lower than White students. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1992 (28 points).
  • In 2013, Hispanic students had an average score that was 22 points lower than White students. This performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1992 (19 points).7

That’s 22 years worth of data on “current practices and procedures.” How many children has the Nebraska State Board of Education failed to teach how to read in nearly a quarter of a century? Given the importance of reading proficiently in 3rd grade, you’d think parents and taxpayers would demand something be done – Nebraska Education Scholarships8, charter schools9, Reading First10, etc.

Last year we adopted revised English Language Arts Standards11, which deal with teaching children to read and write. In weeks of public testimony we heard from eight parents. Out of the whole state. Eight parents.

But a bad word appears on Pat McPherson’s blog and the gallery is jammed with people calling for his resignation. They’ve identified Pat McPherson as a threat to children’s education. Does “The Gap” not interest you, even a little?

Pat McPherson and I were the only votes in favor of supporting LB 617. “The bill has a strong emphasis on reading, supports strong research and practices to enhance reading outcomes for all students, and supports shared commitment for student success.”12 We’re willing to listen to anybody that’s got ideas to close “The Gap” and improve reading proficiency for all children.

If we could get as much public attention directed toward closing “The Gap” as Pat McPherson’s now defunct blog, we might really begin “Working to Improve Nebraska Schools.”

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

6 Ibid.

12 Ibid. 5.

APUSH back

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (October, 2014)

This year the College Board published a new framework for Advanced Placement US History (APUSH)1. In a letter to the Texas State Board of Education, the National Association of Scholars listed nine concerns with the new APUSH framework.

(1) The new APUSH attempts to impose national standards that will inevitably circumvent state standards and local control.

(2) It is a detailed curriculum deceptively put forward as a mere framework.

(3) It is ideologically slanted in favor of progressive interpretations of American history.

(4) It gives short shrift to or omits important topics.

(5) It purports to train students to be “apprentice historians” without laying a solid foundation in historical knowledge.

(6) Its emphasis on documentary sources lacks many seminal documents.

(7) It falsely presents itself as flexible for teachers.

(8) It fails to provide teachers with adequate preparation materials.

(9) It was written and reviewed by committees dominated by individuals hostile to traditional American history and fails to gives serious attention to American exceptionalism.2

In response, the Texas State Board of Education passed a resolution, “that the College Board revise the APUSH Framework so that it is consistent both with the course’s traditional mission and with the shared purpose of the CCRS, the TEKS and the Texas Education Code” and “that the College Board revise the key concepts of the APUSH Framework and examination in a transparent manner that accurately reflects U.S. history without an ideological bias and that restores and encourages flexibility to states, school districts and teachers in how to teach the course.”3

Stanley Kurtz connects the dots from a group of historians advocating a “transnational” version of US History to the redesigned APUSH framework.

Suffice it to say that in its downplaying of America’s traditional national story and emphasis instead on material causation and exploitation within the context of a transnational Atlantic World, the new AP U.S. History Framework is a huge step in the direction of precisely the sort of de-nationalized American history advocated by Thomas Bender and the La Pietra Report.

It is also important to emphasize that the concept of American exceptionalism, which is systematically excised from, and contradicted by, the redesigned Framework, is an integral part of several state curriculum guides, including the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). That raises serious legal questions about the compatibility of the redesigned Framework with state standards.4

Nebraska Department of Education Rules and Standards, in accordance with State Statutes, mandate the teaching of American exceptionalism.

An informed, loyal, just, and patriotic citizenry is necessary to a strong, stable, just, and prosperous America. Such a citizenry necessitates that every member thereof be fully acquainted with the nation’s history and that he or she be in full accord with our form of government and fully aware of the liberties, opportunities, and advantages of which we are possessed and the sacrifices and struggles of those through whose efforts these benefits were gained. Since youth is the time most susceptible to the acceptance of principles and doctrines that will influence men and women throughout their lives, it is one of the first duties of our educational system to conduct its activities, choose its textbooks, and arrange its curriculum in such a way that the love of liberty, justice, democracy, and America will be instilled in the hearts and minds of the youth of the state.5

The purpose of the Nebraska Social Studies Standards is to teach our children to become young patriots who have an intellectual understanding of the genius of our country’s founding principles and who feel an emotional connection to our nation. Achieving this purpose requires teaching Nebraska students to become responsible citizens who are prepared to preserve, protect and defend freedom and democracy in our nation and in the world.6

Some have suggested that since AP courses are taught with the option of obtaining college credit, they are outside the reach of Nebraska Statutes and Department of Education Rules and Standards. High school history courses, AP or otherwise, are of interest to the parents and taxpayers that support Nebraska’s public schools. The statutes, standards and rules were designed to protect the interests of Nebraskans, not the political agenda of the College Board.

Nebraska’s State Board of Education is currently studying the issue. Just as Nebraskans have rejected the Common Core, we should take a stand against any attempt to nationalize or circumvent state standards and local control.

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

5 Nebraska Revised Statute Section 79-724.

Toward a true “common core”

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (September, 2014)

The Nebraska State Board of Education unanimously adopted the draft English Language Arts Standards at the September meeting. Representatives of higher education signed on the dotted line that indeed these were “college and career ready” standards. “College and career ready” standards are important in the effort to obtain a waiver from No Child Left Behind.

My article last month 1 was about the importance of studying classic works of literature. Professor Terrence Moore, in his book The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core2, finds that students who spend time studying classic works of literature are not only “college and career ready” but join an ongoing conversation about what T. S. Eliot called “the Permanent Things.”

A true common core is exactly what its name implies. Certain things are read and studied in common. And those things are the most important – the core – the heart of the matter Presumably, a genuine common core in American schools would be a set of books and other readings that everyone must know in order to participate in a common conversation about what it means to be an American and a human being. A common core is a remedy for the communication breakdown portrayed in the story of the Tower of Babel, a collapse in common conversation that is being repeated in this nation today. To overcome that breakdown, we cannot say that we should all read books of similar difficulty. We must all read the same books, or a number of the same books – the best books – so that we know how to talk to each other.3

What are the best books? in Chapter 9, “A True Common Core”, Professor Moore introduces a classical curriculum, attached as Appendix A, that everyone should study.

This is not (as is the Common Core) a tedious list of random books and obscure articles. Rather, it is a curriculum in the true sense: a course of studies that starts out at a clear beginning point and takes the student in a definite direction towards a clear ending point or finish line. Believe it or not, there is a rationale behind every book or document appearing in this curriculum. And these different texts speak to each other. If you were to take something out, it could very well affect the whole. Not only do all the history texts clearly follow a tradition and a trajectory (from Aristotle to Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address to “I Have a Dream”); not only is the literature arranged by time period in rough correspondence to the historical texts (ancient, British, American, modern); these readings work together to deliver the comprehensive story of human beings trying to achieve liberty and happiness through civilization.4

Over the course of the past few months I’ve blogged about Nebraska’s Draft(now official) English Language Arts Standards5, the Common Core’s two-bit literary criticism6, and Frankenstein’s Literature Textbook7. Professor Moore offers a classical curriculum that provides the true common core of liberal education.

Returning this country to a public education worthy of the name begins with recalling the true ends of education: the deepest reasons we send our children to school. Looking to schools only for “career and college readiness,” and then turning that readiness into a kind of formula, is a severe case of selling our sons and daughters short. The great and lasting purposes for sending our children to school must extend beyond the current job market or our infatuation with machines.8

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Appendix A

A True Common Core for High School by Professor Terrence Moore9

Freshman Year Ancient Literature:Homer, The Iliad (the whole thing)
A couple of Greek plays, e.g., Oedipus Rex, Antigone
Selections from Plato’s Republic (on the poets, Allegory of the Cave)
Plato, The Apology (or read in history)
Virgil, The Aeneid (the whole thing)
Roman poetry (students would also be third-year Latin by ninth grade and reading some poetry)
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (read in English class when Roman Civil War studied in history)
Addison’s Cato (if time)
Genesis 1-4
The class focuses on grammar and composition and also entails the study of the classic essays by Bacon, Addison, Swift, Johnson, Orwell, et alia
Western Civilization I (Ancient History):Herodotus, The Histories, on the Persian Wars, esp. on the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, (selections, esp. Pericles, “Funeral Oration,” “Plague Speech”; The Melian Dialogue; debate on Sicilian expedition)
Plutarch, Lives of Lycurgus, Solon, Pericles, Alcibiades
Plato, The Republic, Book VIII on the regimes (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy)
Plato, The Apology (may be read here if literature pressed for time), also The Crito may be read, time permitting
Aristotle, The Politics, Book I
Livy, selections on early Rome
Polybius, The Histories, Book IV
Plutarch, Lives of Cato the Elder, Julius Caesar, Cicero
Cicero, Catiline Oration (1st); sel. letters to Atticus and Quintus; De Officiis (selections)
Caesar, The Commentaries (selections)
Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti
Tacitus and Suetonius on the Roman emperors
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Documents from the Judeo-Christian Tradition
Ten Commandments, life of David, Sermon on the Mount
Sophomore Year British literature:
Le Morte D’Arhur (selection) or Bewulf
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (three or four tales)
Shakespeare, Hamlet and Macbeth, sonnets
Sir Francis Bacon, selected essays, incl. “Of Studies”
Milton, Paradise Lost (books IX and X at least)
Joseph Addison, select papers from The Spectator
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (or Persuasion)
Charles Dickens, Hard Times (or A Tale of Two Cities)
British Romantic poetry
Western Civilization II (Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment):Tacitus, Germania
Acts of the Apostle (selections)
Augustine, Confessions (Books, I, II, VIII), City of God (short selection)
Gregory I, Account of Benedict’s Life
Rule of Saint Benedict
Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne (selection)
Walter Scott, “Chivalry”
Magna Carta
Documents on the Investiture Conflict
Thomas of Celano, Life of Saint Francis
Petrarch’s Letters (to Homer, Cicero, et al.)
Petrarch, “The Ascent of Mount Ventoux”
Vergerius, “On Liberal Learning”
Leon Battistta Alberti, On the Family (sel.)
Castiglione, The Courtier (sel.)
Vasari, Lives of the Artists, esp. Michelangelo, Leonardo
Art of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, et alia
Machiavelli, The Prince (sel.)
Luther, select documents incl. 95 Theses
Luther and Erasmus on the will
Council of Trent
The Thirty-Nine Articles (Anglican Church)
James I, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, on the state of nature
Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica (sel.)
John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government (esp. Books II-V, IX)
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, “Of the Division of Labor,”(chs. I and II of Book I);
“Of the Expences of the Sovereign or Commonwealth,” (ch. I of Book V)
Rousseau, Discourse or Inequality (if not enough time in sophomore year, to be at beginning of senior year as prelude to French Revolution)
Junior Year American Literature:
Poetry of Anne Bradstreet
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (or in history)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Herman Melville, Moby Dick (yes, the whole thing)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, essays, esp. “Self-Reliance”
Henry David Thoreau, selections from Walden
Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Poetry of Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, Dickinson, Hughes, Cullen, Frost, et alia
If time, a novel of T.S. Eliot
Two or three short stories of Flannery O’Connor
American History to 1900 (two semesters):
The Mayflower Compact
John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity”
Other colonial documents
Documents on the Great Awakening, including “Sinners”
Benjamin Franklin, “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One,”
“An Edict by the King of Prussia”
Debate over Independence
Tom Paine, Common Sense (selections)
Virginia Declaration of Independence
George Washington, select letters, Circular to the States
The Northwest Ordinance
The Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights
Debates on the Constitution, including Anti-federalists
The Federalist, nos. 1, 10, 39, 51 (overlap with Govt.)
Thomas Jefferson, on education and agriculture
Alexander Hamilton, Report on Public Credit and Report on Manufactures (selections)
George Washington, Farewell Address, Last Will
Other documents from early national period including Alien and Sedition Acts, Va./Ky. Resolutions and Massachusetts Counter-Resolution (also in Govt. class)
Documents from Jacksonian period
Ante-Bellum documents, include. Calhoun on nullification and Dred Scott v. Sanford
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (sel.)
George Fitzhugh, The Sociology of the South (sel.)
Fredrick Douglass, Narrative of the Life . . .(or read in English)
Abraham Lincoln, “A Fragment on Slavery,” Speech on Dred Scott, “A House Divided,”
the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (sel.), First Inaugural, Emancipation Procl. Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural
Fredrick Douglass, “Self-Made Men”
Post-Civil War documents on Reconstruction, rise of wealth, Andrew Carnegie on wealth
Documents on populism, include. Bryan’s “Cross of Gold”
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery & The Story of My Life and Work (sel.)
Man as a “political animal,” Aristotle, The Politics, Book I
Natural rights studied through John Locke, Virginia Decl. of Rights,
The Declaration of Independence
Selections from debates at the Constitutional Convention
The Constitution of the United States
More intensive look at The Federalist, nos. 10, 39, 51, 57, 70-74 (selections), 78
The Bill of Rights
Hamilton, Jefferson on the Constitutionality of the Bank
The Marshall Court, select cases, especially Marbury v. Madison,
McCulloch v. Maryland, Gibbons v. Ogden
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, selections on the energy of democracy, associations, and tyranny of the majority
The Taney Court, esp. Dred Scott v. Sanford
Lincoln on Dred Scott
Abraham Lincoln, War Message delivered on Fourth of July,
1861 (argument vs. secession)
Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments
Plessy v. Ferguson (and, later, Brown v. Board of Topeka)
W. Wilson, “What Is Progress?” “The New Freedom”
Amendments XVI-XIX
Franklin Roosevelt, “The Commonwealth Club Address”
The New Deal Court, e.g. Schechter Poultry v. U.S.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “A New Bill of Rights,” S/U 1944
Ronald Reagan, “Encroaching Control,” March 1961
Lyndon Baines Johnson, “The Great Society”
Moral Philosophy (one semester):Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, ch. 1.
Allan Bloom, “Our Virtue” and “Self-Centeredness” from The Closing of the American Mind
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Francis Hutcheson, James Q. Wilson on the moral sense
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (selections)
Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, on the def. of virtue
Aristotle and Pieper on the four cardinal virtues
Cicero, De Officiis (On Duties), selections
George Washington and William Manchester on civility
Cicero and C.S. Lewis on friendship
Benjamin Franklin, et alia on work and entrepreneurship
Genesis 3-4 on man and woman
Traditional and Contemporary Marriage Vows
Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth visits Pemberley
David Fordyce, Elements of Moral Philosophy, marriage and parental duties
Richard Brookhiser, on Washington’s “fatherhood”
George Washington as Cincinnatus, his sense of duty
John Adams/Thomas Jefferson correspondence (sel.)
Shakespeare, Henry V (read prev. as summer reading)
Douglass Adair, “Fame and the Founding Fathers”
Herbert Butterfield, “The Role of the Individual in History”
Senior Year Modern Literature:Brief recap/discussion of literature from previous grades
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
George Orwell, 1984
Modern Poetry
One or two short works of modern literature depending on time left in the semester.
All students write 20-page senior thesis, anchored in two or more great books (or readings), one having to be from grades 9-11, on a topic meant to explain some aspect of human nature/society (e.g., heroism, faith, love, justice, etc.)
American History Since 1900 (1st sem. of senior year):Fredrick Jackson Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (sel.)
Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, “Honest Graft”
Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography (sel.), “The New Nationalism”
Woodrow Wilson, “The New Freedom”
Calvin Coolidge, speeches on the Boy Scouts, world peace, the press, the rule of law,
and the Declaration of Independence
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Commonwealth Club Address; First Inaugural;
State of the Union Address, 1944
Walter Lippmann, “The Dominant Dogma of the Age”
Harry S Truman, “The Fair Deal”
Congressional Rejection of the Fair Deal
Lyndon Baines Johnson, “The Great Society”
Ronald Reagan, “A Time for Choosing”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail, “I Have a Dream”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “The Negro Family”
The Sharon Statement
The Port Huron Statement
Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural, Remarks on Tax Reform Act, Farewell Address
Foreign Policy (in American History class, mostly in senior year):George Washington, Farewell Address
Monroe Doctrine
W.G. Sumner, “The Fallacy of Territorial Extension”
Albert Beveridge, “The March of the Flag”
Woodrow Wilson, War Message and Fourteen Points
Charles Lindberg, “America First”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, War Message, December 1941
The Atlantic Charter
Winston Churchill, Address to Congress; “Iron Curtain” Speech, Fulton, Mo.
Harry S Truman, “The Truman Doctrine”
George F. Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”
NSC-68, U.S. Objectives and Programs for National Security
Ronald Reagan, Address to the British Parliament; Christmas Day Radio Address, 1982;
Remarks to the National Association of Evangelicals, 1983 (“Evil Empire”);
Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate, 1987
Modern European History (two semesters):Jean-Jacques Rosseau, Discourse on Inequality
Abbe Sieyes, “What Is the Third Estate?”
Edmund Burke and Tom Paine on the French Revolution
Maximilien Robespierre, “Principles of Political Morality”
Benjamin Constant, “Ancient and Modern Liberty Compared”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (selections)
British Parliament, Debate on the Ten Hours Bill
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species (sel.)
Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (sel.)
Otto von Bismarck, on German Unification
Max Weber, “On Bureaucracy”
V.I. Lenin, on Marxism, “What Is to be Done?”
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, selections
Winston Churchill, selected speeches incl. “Bolshevist Atrocities,” “Lenin,”
“The Follies of Socialism,” “Wars Come Very Suddenly,”
“Germany Is Arming” (1934), “A Total and Unmitigated Defeat,”
“Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat,” “Arm Yourselves and be Ye Men of Valour,” “This Was Their Finest Hour,” “Give Us the Tools,”
“Never Give In” (at Harrow), “This Is Your Victory”
Economics (one semester):Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, selections
F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, chs. II, III, VI
Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, chs. I-III
John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory . . . selections
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty, chs. III-VI

3 Ibid. 2, Chapter 9.

4 Ibid.

8 Ibid 2, Conclusion: Wither We Are Tending

Frankenstein’s Literature Textbook

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (August, 2014)

September’s State Board of Education meeting will take another look at the draft English Language Arts Standards. It’s still not too late to get involved in the conversation. Review the standards here http://www.education.ne.gov/StandardsSurvey/index.html and email your comments to nde.standardsinput@nebraska.gov.

One thing missing from the draft English Language Arts Standards is literature that all well educated Nebraskans should have read by the time they graduate from high school.

When I was a lad, we were given actual books to read: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities, etc. Nowadays students are given a “literature textbook,” a book about literature containing, as we shall see, little actual literature.

Professor Terrence Moore underscores the importance of classic works of literature. In his book, The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core1, he offers valuable insight into what helps elementary and high school students become “college and career ready”.

They [the authors of the Common Core] even overlook studies that have been done that show students who are avid readers of literature in high school perform better on college exams and in their college classes. These studies are simply validating common sense and the practice of good schools over the centuries. I know this to be true based on the performance of my freshmen every year. The students who can really read great books, students who have been to a classical school or home-schooled with a classical curriculum, take to reading complex historical documents and even difficult works of philosophy like fish to water. The students who have not carefully studied great works of literature struggle with these difficult readings.2

How do literature textbooks remove literature from English Language Arts classes? Professor Moore examines Prentice Hall’s The British Tradition:

I predicted that the editors would waste an opportunity for reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As it turns out, those editors encourage teachers to have students talk about monsters (and perhaps their dreams about monsters), draw pictures of monsters, write an autobiography of a monster, dress up as monsters, talk about Saturday Night Live and share their favorite skits from that program and act out a Saturday Night Live script. According to the “time and resource manager” provided next to the Common Core logo in the teacher’s edition, these various discussions, activities or whatever you want to call them, would take four days. I know that the things described would easily exhaust a week or more. At no point during that week would the students have read and discussed the actual book called Frankenstein.

Any guess as to the grade level at which all this “critical thinking” would take place? The senior year in high school. The second semester of the senior year in high school. That’s right, seniors in high school are supposed to dress up as monsters and write their own autobiographies of monsters. Editors at Pearson/Prentice Hall, I ask you, as a real (not imaginary) college professor: How in the world will such superficial reading and Mickey Mouse assignments make students more college ready?3

In chapter 9, titled “A True Common Core”, Professor Moore points us back to the classics as a way to help students become truly “college and career ready”.

Yet experience hath shown that revivals in education begin by embracing not so much the past but the permanent: the true classics, the best that has been thought and said and done and discovered. Just as the Renaissance began with a conversation with the ancient world, just as nineteenth-century British elites sent their sons to school to study Rome so they could learn to speak eloquently and to run an empire, so should all modern American children have the chance to study the classics of the Western tradition, the Founding of America, and the great literature emerging out of the true American Experience.4

What are your children reading? Great works of literature or a literature textbook? As you can see, there’s a big difference between the two.

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

2 Ibid. 1, Chapter 1.

3 Ibid. 1, Chapter 7.

4 Ibid. 1, Chapter 9.

Two-bit literary criticism and Nebraska’s draft English Language Arts Standards

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (July, 2014)

The summer has flown by. The draft standards for English Language Arts (ELA) have been posted on the Department of Education website and received 290 comments. Only 3% of the responses were from parents. Most of the comments came from teachers and administrators. It’s still not too late to get involved in the conversation. Review the standards here http://www.education.ne.gov/StandardsSurvey/index.html and email your comments to nde.standardsinput@nebraska.gov.

The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core1, by Professor Terrence Moore, explains why we should be concerned about the the Common Core English Language Arts. Since Nebraska’s standards are being aligned with the Common Core2, it’s worth understanding his critique.

In chapter 6, titled “Two-Bit Literary Criticism”, Professor Moore states, “The lesson to take home is that even when the authors of the Common Core recommend (or seem to recommend) great works of literature, their superficial, limited, and silly means of studying these books only ends up killing great stories.”3

Professor Moore taught literature in classical charter schools and now teaches at Hillsdale College. His opinion on college readiness is worth considering.

Whenever I ask my college freshman, who come from around the nation, what they have learned or remember about some of the great works of literature, I find they know very little. Though they are smart, they are not well-educated. … The students who cannot say anything meaningful about those books remember them being assigned. They remember class time being devoted to them. They just cannot remember learning anything that is in the books – and for a very simple reason. They didn’t. The reason owes primarily to the intellectually bankrupt methods of teaching literature in this country.4

He explains these methods as follows:

The teacher does not invite students to read a literary work and understand it on its own terms: through the lives of the characters, their virtues and vices, their longings and heartbreaks, their attempts to find happiness in the confusing arena we call life. Rather, the teacher requires the student to dissect the story indirectly through speculation about how the author created the story. False categories are imposed upon the story such as “author’s point of view,” “main themes,” “main idea,” and so on. Much attention is placed on literary devices. Plot structure is a big component of this approach (rising action, falling action, climax, etc.). Students do not get to know the characters but rather “characterization,” that is, how the author created the characters.5

 But why would they do that?

Reading character, then, getting at the root of another person’s soul, is hard. Therefore reading literature is hard. There is no way around it. But it is a simple matter to force a story into a contrived plot graph. The Little Mermaid? Rising action, climax, falling action. War and Peace? Rising action, climax, falling action. It’s easy!6

How does all this relate to Nebraska’s draft English Language Arts Standards? Consider the reading comprehension curricular indicators for fifth graders.

LA 5.1.6.a. Examine text to determine author’s purpose(s) and describe how author’s perspective (e.g., beliefs, assumptions, biases) influences text.

LA 5.1.6.b. Analyze and describe elements of literary text (e.g., characters, setting, plot, point of view, theme).

LA 5.1.6.c. Identify and explain why authors use literary devices and figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, alliteration, onomatopoeia, imagery, rhythm, personification, hyperbole, idioms).

LA 5.1.6.d. Summarize and analyze a literary text and/or media, using key details to explain the theme.

LA 5.1.6.g. Use textual evidence to compare and contrast the characteristics that distinguish a variety of literary and informational texts.

LA 5.1.6.h. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in literary and informational texts, citing textual evidence to develop a national and international multicultural perspective.7

High school juniors and seniors have corresponding standards.

LA 12.1.6.a. Evaluate the meaning,reliability, and validity of text considering author’s purpose, perspective, rhetorical style, and contextual influences.

LA 12.1.6.b. Analyze and evaluate literary text (e.g., characterization, setting, plot development, internal and external conflict, inferred and recurring themes, point of view, tone, mood).

LA 12.1.6.c. Analyze the function and critique the effects of the author‘s use of figurative language and literary devices (e.g., allusion, symbolism, irony, foreshadowing, flashback, metaphor, personification, epiphany, oxymoron, dialect, tone, mood, transitional devices).

LA 12.1.6.d. Summarize, analyze, and synthesize the themes and main ideas between multiple literary and informational works (print, digital, and/or other media).

LA 12.1.6.g. Cite specific textual evidence to analyze and evaluate the effects of historical, cultural, biographical, and political influences of literary and informational text written by culturally diverse authors, to develop a national and international multicultural perspective.8

If we want our students to read and appreciate great literature we must not celebrate the fact that Nebraska’s English Language Arts Standards are being closely aligned with the Common Core. Let’s turn our teachers loose from the straight-jacket of two-bit literary criticism so that they can teach great literature as it was meant to be taught.

In summary,

So ingrained in our minds is this manner of treating literature that it must seem highly irregular that there might be another way, a better way. Yet the proof is in the failure. Today’s children and young people do not understand literature. Two-bit literary criticism is the reason. The absurdity can easily be exposed. Do we really think that the great Mark Twain, who made fun of most everything, would have written his great novels so that a century and a half later students in somnolent high schools could trace meaningless plot graphs?9

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

3 Ibid. 1, Chapter 6.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

8 Ibid., p. 16-17.

9 Ibid. 1, Chapter 6.


English Language Arts Standards and the Common Core

Glen Flint, District 2, Nebraska State Board of Education (April, 2014)

First, it’s a great honor and privilege to be appointed by Governor Dave Heineman to serve District 2 on the Nebraska State Board of Education. It’s an exciting time to be on the State Board of Education as the new Commissioner of Education, Matt Blomstedt, assumes his duties. Many challenges face the Department of Education as they implement the new Accountability system and revise standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts.

The draft standards for English Language Arts (ELA) have been posted on the Department of Education website awaiting your comments. Please join the conversation to improve Nebraska schools by providing your feedback here: http://www.education.ne.gov/StandardsSurvey/index.html

Several parents, teachers, and school administrators I’ve spoken with in State Board of Education District 2 express concern about the Common Core standards. Many of these concerns are examined in the movie http://commoncoremovie.com/.

Nebraska is one of only 5 states that have not officially adopted the Common Core. But as recently as 2010 Nebraska’s application for federal “Race to the Top” funds stated, “Nebraska will adopt the Common Core Standards and ensure they are adopted by all participating local school districts in the state.”1 In addition, the 2010-2011 Update on Standards, Accountability and Assessment reported:

Nebraska is among the vast majority of states who have participated in the discussion of the Common Core Standards for reading and for mathematics. In fact, individuals from the NDE have been contributing to the development of the Common Core Standards. As part of the process of standards revision in Nebraska, the Nebraska standards are being aligned with the Common Core Standards. Districts are encouraged to continue with their local curriculum alignment, assuring that the Nebraska standards, aligned with the Common Core Standards, are available as learning opportunities for each Nebraska student.2

The Nebraska Department of Education commissioned McREL to study how their standards measured up to the Common Core. McREL found, “The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS-ELA) are strongly aligned to the Nebraska English Language Arts Standards (NELAS) in the general concepts and content necessary for students to be college and career ready by the end of their K-12 schooling experience.”3

However, in their paper “How Common Core’s ELA Standards Place College Readiness at Risk”, college professors Mark Bauerlein and Sandra Stotsky write,

The deficiencies in Common Core’s literature standards and its misplaced stress on literary nonfiction or informational reading in the English class reflect the limited expertise of Common Core’s architects and sponsoring organizations. Its secondary English language arts standard were not developed or approved by English teachers and humanities scholars, nor were they research-based or internationally benchmarked. 4

You might be interested in comparing the Nebraska’s English Language Arts standards to the Common Core’s. http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/

In testimony to the State Board of Education, Henry Burke explained the differences between “an exemplary, classical education (Type #1) and the project-based, subjectively assessed philosophy of education as exemplified in Common Core Standards (Type #2).” Henry Burke’s testimony recommending the English Success Standards as an alternative to the Nebraska English Language Arts Standards is available at http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/testimony-regarding-proposed-nebraska-english-standards/

The inscription over the main entrance to the state capitol reminds us that “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen.” Please take a few minutes to inform yourselves about Nebraska’s draft English Language Arts standards and the differences between Type #1 and Type #2 standards. Your input is needed to help the Nebraska Department of Education develop standards that will improve the education offered by our schools. Be involved.

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at Glen.Flint@nebraska.gov. View the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.