The Failure of No Fail

I must admit that when I first heard the phrases  “21st-Century Skills”, “Standards-Based Grading” and “Professional Learning Communities”, I thought they were nothing more than new buzz-words or catch phrases popular among educators. But they also struck me as great ideas. Of course, our students should be educated to compete in the 21st-century job market. They should be taught by professionals dedicated to insuring that their pupils learn. Everyone should be held to a standard… a high standard… don’t you agree?

Unfortunately, beneath the shiny facade none of these are what they seem.

Our children are our future

It wasn’t until I began to look below the surface I realized these are components of the Progressive Education agenda. They diminish educational content, erode student responsibility, accountability and excellence while promoting creativity, collaboration, innovation and problem solving skills. This agenda is, as a retired public school teacher aptly describes it, a “No Fail Policy”. A key component is the ushering in of standards-based grading because it enables schools to conceal the fact students are failing to learn.

The so-called 21st-century skills movement is an educational fad… a bandwagon. But for the professional development industry, it’s a gravy train. Schools spend billions of dollars a year on professional development, which is, in reality, more about controlling teachers than actually helping students learn.

The main criticism of so-called 21st-century skills is it removes the focus from academics, placing the emphasis on skills, instead. What good are skills without knowledge? There is no independent, scientific research suggesting this educational philosophy is valid and, to the contrary, there is ample evidence the opposite is true.

It was tried in Connecticut, some years ago, and was actually found to decrease student performance. They have since abandoned the fad, in favor of a more traditional model.  The list of 21st-century skills are nothing new, but are skills acquired by students who are offered a high-quality academic program – going as far back into history as Aristotle. Yes, these skills are important, but we would be well advised to stick with what works: a high-quality academic curriculum that sets high expectations for all of our students.

“The 21st-century skills movement could return Massachusetts to an era of low academic standards…. But critics, including the nonprofit Pioneer Institute, have made a powerful case that the plan could set back education reform efforts in Massachusetts by advancing a set of soft, vague skills at the expense of academic content… Ten years ago, students in Connecticut outperformed their Massachusetts counterparts on a national reading assessment test. But after education policy makers there shifted focus from an emphasis on content knowledge to the “how to” methods favored by the 21st-century skills movement, test scores plummeted. Acknowledging the error, Connecticut educators are reintroducing methods favored by Massachusetts. In fact, there is strong evidence that emphasis on basic skills leads to success at reasoning and problem-solving. Fourth-graders here ranked second worldwide in science and tied for third in math last year on the sophisticated Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study exam. Given such success, the burden should be on 21st-century skills proponents to prove their methods offer a better way to prepare students for college, and the workplace. So far, they haven’t done that. And while they say 21st-century skills will only complement the state’s current efforts, it’s not clear that the approach can be implemented without de-emphasizing academic content.” A 21st-Century Caution Globe Editorial, The Boston Globe (1/24/2009)

Follows, are comments from well-respected educational experts, as reported in Cultural Literacy in Retreat by Mark Bauerlein, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (6/9/2009):

“But while it is exciting to think we live in times so revolutionary that they demand entirely new skills, that assumption and others threaten to establish a false choice between teaching facts and teaching how to approach them – and to make the 21st-century skills movement another fad leading to little change in American education.”–Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a non-profit organization, education columnist for TIME.com, co-publisher Education Insider, founder Education Sector, former White House Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy during the Clinton administration

“How are millions of students still struggling to acquire 19th-century skills in reading, writing, and math supposed to learn this stuff?”–Jay Matthews, Harvard University alumni, author and education reporter for the Washington Post

“There is nothing new in the proposals of the 21st-century skills movement. The same ideas were iterated and reiterated by pedagogues across the 20th century.”–Diane Ravitch, educational historian, education policy analysis, former United States Assistant Secretary of Education, now a research Professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development

Others weigh in on the issue:

“At its heart, say Hirsch and others, the conflict is about what should happen in a school day:  Do kids learn to think by reading great literature, doing difficult math and learning history, philosolhy and science? Or can they tackle those subjects on their own if schools simply teach them to problem-solve, communicate, use technology and think creatively? If you pursue the latter, says University of Virginia cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, the rich content you’re after inevitably “falls by the wayside”. While kids may enjoy working together on projects, for instance, the amount of knowledge they get often ends up being shallow. Furthermore, he says, research shows that many teachers find it difficult to actually teach children to think creatively or collaborate. In the end, they rarely get better at the very skills that P21 advocates.What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ‘21st-century skills’? by Greg Toppo, USA Today

“But Michael Petrilli, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former US Department of Education official, said he disagreed with the new grading policies. “This is clearly about dumbing down expectations for our students,” Petrilli told FOXNews.com. “Some of these children are just a few years away from being in the workforce, in college or even in the military, and in none of those environments will they be coddled like they are in these programs.” Petrilli said the policy also sends the wrong message to students. “If you’re getting a zero, that usually means you didn’t turn the assignment or do the job correctly,” he said. “All this does is create cynicism among educators and send signals to students that the education system is not serious about achievement.” If anything, Petrilli said, overall standards at high schools across the country should be raised, not lowered. “It does not take a lot to pass a high school course,” he said. “If we have kids not meeting the standard, the answer is not to lower the standard.”Are ‘No-Fail’ Grading Systems Hurting or Helping Students? by Joshua Rhett Miller, FOX NEWS (4/27/2009)

The “No Fail” movement has failed in many other places. In Texas, the situation became so bad their state legislature actually stepped in, passing a law to outlaw “No Fail”:

“But [Texas Senator Jane] Nelson said the grading policies encourage students to game the system, knowing they don’t have to do much to pass. “Kids are smart and can figure it out,” she said. “A student in one of these districts with a minimum grade of 70 can sit and say, ‘I don’t have to do any homework, I don’t have to answer any questions on tests, and they still have to give me a 70 no matter what.’”

“Holly Eaton of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association acknowledged there are studies showing a correlation between poor grades and student dropouts. But she said teachers are still strongly behind Nelson’s efforts. “School districts with policies like this are harming the integrity of our grading system and undermining the professional judgement of teachers across Texas,” she said.”Texas Senate bill aims to stop no-fail grading in public schools by Terrence Stutz, The Dallas Morning News (4/13/2009)

“No fail” is epidemic in Canada and children are paying the price with their futures:

“Indeed, the institutionalized agenda to protect self-esteem has become in some quarters a massive deception that only the officious refuse to recognize. The unassailable doctrine that everyone’s a winner and everyone is the same is anathema to critical thinking. Ask any eight year-old with a closet full of trophies for showing up. The fact that a late assignment is not penalized does not reward knowledge, it erodes learning and respect for the basic necessity of rules. It invites the wily to opt out. That grammar only counts on assignments when a teacher says it does encourages sloppy work. If students can correct their tests to gain marks (or if they get a redo), study habits suffer. Such practices may explain why half the class is failing math even though a teacher is still reviewing last year’s material four months into the year. Children who are not allowed to fail or to see mistakes can cost them will eventually have a hard landing when work-for-pay involves deadlines, standards and regular swift assessment. The idea that school teaches reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic is long gone. Making it easy, however, for the unmotivated to succeed is as bad as failing a child because a standard is not just too high, but unjustly shortsighted. It lets the entire education system off easy. In a world where there is no failure, there is no learning.”–It’s simple: No failure, no learning, staff writer Winnipeg Free Press (1/18/2010)

Is this what we want to replicate?

I attended a professional development seminar promoting full-blown “No Fail” to an auditorium full of public school teachers. It was quite an eye-opener… revealing just how destructive the Progressive education agenda is to student learning.

No-fail often employs “second chance tests” so students can correct what they got wrong, then resubmit the test days later to have their grade raised. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “test” as “something measuring knowledge”. A “test” is no longer a true test of a student’s knowledge when they’re allowed to correct incorrect answers to raise their grade. This is an invitation for cheating, since students could simply look the answers up in their textbook or online, copy the correct answer and get credit for it. Why study? Where’s the learning?

The speaker emphasized the notion homework is just “practice” and shouldn’t count in the grade. They want schools to only grade on “summative” assignments – the students’ tests. Accordingly, homework, which he calls “formative” assessments, is used to “change student grades”. It’s an effort to move towards a system where, in his words: Effective assessment practices don’t average scores. Grade on end of semester, only.”

One of many problems with this, besides the lack of ethics, is children learn from repetition. We all do. Hence the old adage:  Practice makes perfect. If students know homework doesn’t count towards their class grade, or it only counts for a small portion of their overall grade, why should they bother to even do it – especially when there’s so many other fun things they’d rather be doing? And many students won’t. Once again, their work ethic suffers.

Deadlines are bad and late assignments are fine-and-dandy. At least according to this Progressive-minded speaker.  He actually told teachers to “do away with deadlines… and don’t lower grades for late work”.

Teachers are also told:  “Don’t penalize students with poor attendance.” So when attendance and tardy policies are ignored or tossed out the window, students learn promptness and deadlines are optional.

If they are not expected to be punctual and if class skippers are not held accountable, deadlines are meaningless and cheating is OK, these young people will have a difficult time holding a job in the real world.

Stop teaching from textbooks, page by page.” he said. “What used to be a 2-week unit can be condensed to 2-3 days covering just what they need to know for the test.”  Instead of providing students with a well-rounded education, teach to the standard or target points… teach to the state test. He advocated narrowing the instructional focus by teaching less content. And for those students who struggle the most, their education would be pared down to just what they need to perform on the tests.

Ah… the tests.

As a response to unrealistic provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law requiring 100% of our students to be “proficient” in reading and math by 2013-2014, DPI and many Wisconsin schools have lowered the bar. It’s evident in the disturbing trend of “no fail” programs and policies creeping into the public schools, an easier WKCE along with schools openly admitting they are “teaching to the test”. This is directly to blame for a degradation of the quality of education. It also explains why colleges and universities are finding it necessary to assign so many of their freshmen students to remedial courses… even those who graduated high school with “above average” grades.

A recent comparison of NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) shows Florida Hispanic schoolchildren are better educated than those in Wisconsin and 24 other states. We are also falling behind on a global scale due to a lack of discipline and rigor in our schools. We are not only negatively impacting our students, but are also putting our future workforce at risk.

Perhaps the most shocking thing I heard that day, and also the most revealing, was his advice to give a practice test a week before the final, then the practice test becomes their study guide. Yup… if all else fails, give them the answers. This is coddling the students, encouraging them to be unmotivated and irresponsible. It is, in my opinion, Educational Malpractice.

There’s an organized push for public schools to do away with A-B-C grading in favor of “standards-based” or, worse, yet, evolving to “effort-based grading” where they are graded by how hard they try – not whether they actually learn anything.

And the cherry on top of this professional development speaker’s presentation was when he told teachers  “We’ve been so focused on grades”…  and don’t give students zeros, incomplete or F’s… oh, and don’t retain kids – because of what he called “failure stigma” – which is another way to say if students don’t learn or if they don’t do their school work, just pass them along to the next grade. You now have a recipe for high school graduation diplomas which are entirely meaningless and worthless.

And I have a news flash for these No-Fail Pied Pipers:  You don’t want kids to experience failure stigma? Well, that’s exactly what you are setting them up to do as they fail to achieve their full potential.

“…grades measure results, not effort. It sounds charitable to “grade on effort,” rewarding hard work with higher grades even in the absence of measurable results. But this won’t work in practice. We have no way to measure how hard our students work. When you give one failing student a C for effort, are you sure you didn’t have another failing student who worked just as hard but didn’t tell you about it?

Anyhow, we give degrees for mastering course material, not for enduring drudgery, and a grade is part of a degree. Would you rather be operated on by a doctor who had an easy time in medical school, or by one who had a hard time and got his passing grade “on effort”? Grading on effort can conceal incompetence or, at best, send students into advanced courses for which they are not prepared.”What Should Grades Mean? by Michael A. Covington, Institute for Artificial Intelligence, The University of Georgia 

I believe education must raise the bar, challenging children to achieve. I’m not a teacher, but I truly believe No-Fail philosophy is destructive to young people because it coddles students as it rewards the unmotivated and punishes the over-achiever by promoting mediocrity. Students need a solid foundation of core knowledge. They need to be challenged to excel and to learn there are consequences for their actions. Accountability. Responsibility. Discipline. Without these traditional, time-tested, success-proven basics, how will they ever be able to hold a job, let alone succeed at life?

sources:

  1. The Foundation for Educational Choice: Advancing Milton & Rose Friedman’s Vision of School Choice for All Lessons for Tennessee from Florida’s Education Revolution by Matthew Ladner (2/9/2011)
  2. 21st-Century Skills Are Not a New Education Trend but Could Be a Fad by Andrew J Rotherham, U.S.News & World Report  (12/15/2008)
  3. How Public School Teachers Can Reverse the Educational Decline by Bruce Deitrick Price, Canada Free Press  (6/1/2010)
  4. The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad:  21st-Century Skills, by Jay Matthews, The Washington Post (1/5/2009)

Derailing the Gravy Train

Why do taxes, debt and government spending continue to skyrocket while public and elected officials claim they are making significant cuts? It’s a numbers game. A lack of fiscal savvy on the part elected officials often plays a contributing factor, as do those with a ‘kid in a candy store’ mentality. Either way, the solution is derailing the gravy train.

The principles I outlined for getting yourself out from under debt in Debt Makes Slaves of Those Who Owe and in Roadmap to Financial Freedom are equally as valid whether you own a business, are the CEO of a large corporation or an elected official representing your constituents at the federal, state or local levels… yes, even those we elect to our school boards. Debt is debt… and just like the law of gravity, the key for gaining financial freedom is the same at home, work and even for government. There shouldn’t be a difference between how a person responsibly manages their personal finances and how they would manage public finances, if elected to office. The common sense principle of  living within our means is as true as the laws of nature… that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Government entities have a difficult time comprehending this fact because they are addicted to spending. After all, it isn’t their money they are spending. No, they’re spending other people’s money… the taxpayers’ money…. your money.

“Are you entitled to the fruits of your labor or does government have some presumptive right to spend and spend and spend?”–President Ronald Reagan

Most government programs related to public education are out-and-out failures. Most government efforts at so-called educational reform are misnomers. In most cases, government programs do nothing to actually “reform” or improve student learning and typically, the interference makes things worse. Think about it. Kids in the Wisconsin Northwoods have different educational needs than kids in the inner cities or those living along the southern border of the US… or anywhere else, for that matter. Even within our own state there are different student needs from school district to school district. It doesn’t make sense for the state or federal government to try and impose on local school districts a one-size-fits-all approach to education, but that is often the case. The problem with the big government blanket approach is it doesn’t effectively target resources. Instead, it is your local school board, administrators and teachers who know best how to educate and meet each of their students’ unique needs.

So why doesn’t the state and federal government just get out of the way and let the local experts do it?

President Reagan said it best:

“We developed at the local school district level probably the best public school system in the world. Or it was until the Federal government added Federal interference to Federal financial aid and eroded educational quality in the process.”

It’s all about control, bureaucracy, politics and money. This is the root of the problem.

Government programs are never really intended to actually improve student learning, but if you read the small print, it becomes crystal clear the true purpose of these programs is to consolidate more authority and power over local public education at the state or federal level.

You see, unlike other areas of government… say the court system… where first a case is tried at the county level, then it can be appealed and work it’s way up the ladder to state or district courts before finally reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the highest in the land and final decision, in the case of your local school board, they hold the decision-making power in your local school district. It’s only when they take the carrot on the stick… when they sign on the dotted line to become involved in various government programs, usually in exchange for funding, which rarely, if ever, covers all of the costs… that they are actually selling out the local taxpayers, parents and students… and something which is priceless:  local control.

This is what’s meant when you hear school administrators, board members or other local officials complain about “unfunded mandates”… it’s really the proverbial strings attached to these various government programs and the realization the funding provided by the government as an incentive to participate was not nearly enough to actually cover the costs associated with it.

There are some government programs such as the controversial and infamous No Child Left Behind (NCLB), among others, which local school boards have no choice in the matter but to participate because these programs have been written into law as mandates. But there are many, many other state and federal programs where school boards do have full authority to decide whether to participate or not. School boards need to approach these programs, cautiously, to ensure they are truly needed and determine if they are a wise use of funds.

Government and public schools financing is not an easy topic to tackle. However, a fundamental understanding of the process and pitfalls is necessary if we are to get off the hamster wheel and actually fix it… so listen up.

One of the most glaring problems I see is the budget practice of Line-Item Budgeting and Traditional Incremental Budgeting which is a budget process utilizing Baseline Budgeting, a common practice at many levels of government, and is especially popular in school districts across the country. Line-Item Budgeting is akin to “accountant-speak” because unless you are an accountant, it can be extremely vague and confusing for the average person to understand exactly where or how the money is being spent.

An easy way to understand what Incremental or Baseline Budgeting is would be to think of it as if you were to apply this method to your personal finances:

Hypothetically, let’s say you spend $100 a week on groceries, which totals $5,200 in a year. If you were setting up your budget for the coming year, using the baseline method, you would automatically add to that total an anticipated increase in cost for food of $600 over the year, bringing your total up to $5,800.

Let’s say you want to add new spending in the form of hosting a huge party, once a month, which will cost an extra $200 per party or $2,400 over the course of the year. Now you’re up to $8,200. This amount becomes your baseline.

So, maybe you decide to “cut back” and only host a huge party twice during the year bringing your annual food budget down to $6,200… that becomes a “savings” of $2,000 out of your budget even though you are, in reality, adding $1,000 for two new parties plus estimated cost increases.

The other part of this is looking at the estimated $600 increase for food. Maybe costs won’t increase at that level and come the end of the year, the actual increase was only $100. You have $500 extra. Since you are using Baseline Budgeting and want to be sure to get as much or more money to spend the following year, you have to quick spend that $500… so it’s generally wasted, keeping your baseline going forward at $6,200… an $1,000 increase over the previous year.

This is a simple illustration of how government spends your tax dollars. It is, particularly in school districts, why, as the end of their fiscal year draws night there is a rush to spend every last cent remaining in the budget. By reporting any end of the fiscal year surplus, they will not get an increase in their funding. Many, if not most, public school districts, other local government entities and government agencies all tend to operate under this system, which, in reality, encourages wasteful spending and fiscal irresponsibility.

Governor Scott Walker's budget gives local governments tools to rein in spending

It also partially explains why school districts can claim they are making substantial cuts to their budgets, yet, year-by-year spending continues to increase. In Wisconsin, public schools operate under a funding cap, which normally includes a built-in annual increase. The current year, however, is an exception due to significant changes made at the state level in Governor Scott Walker’s biennial budget passed into law earlier this year.

It is thanks to Scott Walker’s changes to the collective bargaining law which has provided public school districts, towns, cities and counties across Wisconsin with the needed tools to rein in employee benefits costs while giving taxpayers a break. It’s a valuable opportunity, especially for school districts facing structural deficits which could very well cause them to go bankrupt, to right the ship and return to a course of fiscal stability. The question is, though, will public schools and local governments use this opportunity to effect long term solutions, heading off disaster… or squander it?

Well, that depends on whether or not those governing the purse strings have the strength and will to insist on rooting out waste and making fundamental changes to the budget process, itself.

The combination of using Line-Item Budgeting and Baseline Budgeting serves to obscure how a school district truly spends its funds. There is nothing “transparent” about it and basically, a person just about has to be an accountant to understand where the money is going. I believe a school budget, and particularly it’s annual report, should be written in plain language the common person can comprehend and understand… and all documents should be readily available for public scrutiny. Some public school districts are very open about their budgets. Many schools are actually posting their budget, broken down into easily understandable categories, along with supporting documentation, right on their websites. This is transparency. Anything less is not.

Even though the lion’s share of a public school district’s budget goes to paying employee salaries and benefits, out-of-control spending and budget bloat cannot be blamed entirely on the number of employees, alone. School boards must also take a critical look at the entire budget, ask questions and get answers, for instance:  How much money is being spent on Professional Development? What is the total amount spent on travel, both in-state and out-of-state? What is being spent on non-sick day substitutes who are used so teachers can attend meetings during the school day? What is being spent on food and beverages for meetings? How much money is being spent on mileage reimbursements to staff and administrators? Is the district paying for employee cell phone bills?

These are all examples of common costs which siphon money out of the classroom in favor of creating perks for administrators and staff. It’s one of the reasons why many school districts are on a continual treadmill of decrying budget shortfalls and touting their perennial “cuts” to supposedly “balance their budget”… yet, before the ink is dry on one year’s budget, they are right back to talking about having to cut as much or more from the upcoming year’s budget. It’s also a tactic some districts employ in an effort to wear down their taxpayers and pressure the public to approve a referendum to raise taxes while claiming “it’s for the kids”.

It’s time for perks to go the way of the dinosaur.

It’s not only the status quo in public school districts, but also at each step of government all the way to the top. This is why we have Government Gone Wild and taxes up through the roof.

There is nothing balanced nor fiscally responsible on the part of elected officials who allow this sort of smoke-and-mirrors financial mismanagement to continue, year after year… always on the trajectory of financial bankruptcy and ruin, just around the corner. “Cut” only what’s absolutely necessary to get the numbers to appear balanced, all the while continuing to spend and spend… and waste money like there’s no tomorrow. In reality, it is doing nothing more than paying lip-service to fiscal responsibility. Tell the public what they want to hear so no one will look too closely at how tax dollars are being spent or ask any questions… so the Gravy Train can keep on rolling.

Instead, why not actually FIX the problem? Wouldn’t that be the logical and common sense thing to do?

This is why, I believe, we must do away with Line-Item and Incremental or Baseline Budgeting practices in favor of the efficiency and transparency of Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB), a methodology for conducting the budget process which was predominant throughout public education from the 1950s and 1960s through in to the 1980s, when it fell by the wayside. It is now seeing a resurgence as boards of education are returning to the time-tested, proven budgeting model for efficient and improved school operation. Zero-Based Budgeting is popping up in districts from Vermont… to Georgia… to Oregon and many, many other locations.

A recent article published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports how the Penn Hills School District’s finances have benefitted by changing to a Zero-Based Budgeting model:

“Using a zero-based budgeting approach, in which all departmental spending starts at zero and must be justified in detail, the district was able to eliminate inefficiencies, officials said. Mr. Liberto said departments lowered their operational budgets by about 10 percent, as he and superintendent Tom Washington had requested.

“Over the past three or four years, we’ve gotten into a rut where we might have gotten out of one program, not eliminated it, and started something new, so we were picking up double expenses,” Mr. Liberto said. “We’ve noticed a lot technology wise … programs and things that we’ve been operating for years that we no longer need and can streamline. So, the zero-based budget has helped quite a bit.”

So why do I favor Zero-Based Budgeting? Because it approaches the budgeting process with a clean slate as it bases the allocation of resources according to actual needs rather than simply adding across-the-board increases to previous spending levels. By forcing the justification of spending on a needs basis, it eliminates wasteful and obsolete spending practices, and avoids habitual spending while detecting inflated budgets. It puts an end to the end-on-the-fiscal-year “spend it or lose it” mentality. This sort of systematic review imposes fiscal discipline on the organization, improving operational efficiencies. It shines sunlight on the process and the end results. It increases transparency and accountability.

I believe, particularly given the country’s economic troubles, finding better ways to ensure good stewardship of tax dollars is more important than ever… and Zero-Based Budgeting is a valuable, common sense tool in accomplishing this goal.

Using a Zero-Based Budget, managers and administrators are forced to find cost effective solutions to improve operations while performing meaningful review. One of the inherent benefits of Zero-Based Budgeting is conducting analysis to critically evaluate program effectiveness on their merits as a part of the review process. It is the “big picture” which connects cost with results.

This is vitally important information as it can assist in improving the quality of elected board members’ decisions as they determine if or when a program should be sunset, based on facts. It also goes without saying, this process elevates board-level budget discussions to a more meaningful level and enables them to ultimately make better, more informed, intelligent decisions. Ultimately, this approach will have a positive impact in the classrooms as ineffective programs are eliminated in favor of methods which demonstrate proven success. It benefits both the children and the taxpayers… truly a “win-win” for everyone.

But Zero-Based Budgeting is not just for public school districts. Counties, towns and cities are rediscovering the benefits of Zero-Based Budgeting; from small towns like Wimberley, Texas and Nashua, New Hampshire… to major metropolitan giants like Phoenix and Chicago. Likewise, it’s winning favor in state legislatures, as well. Already eighteen states are using it, with legislation pending in many others. And it’s not just a growing trend, here, in the US as it’s catching on in Canada and the UK, too.

Mr Marc J. Lane, a Chicago business and tax attorney and a financial advisor recently wrote an Op-Ed published in Chicago Business entitled Zero-based budgeting holds much promise for Illinois’ fiscal future:

“An unheralded provision of last spring’s budget legislation adds Illinois to the growing roster of states committed to performance-driven budgeting. “Budgeting for outcomes” was introduced by former Washington Gov. Gary Locke in 2002, when he faced a $2.5-billion budget shortfall. Mr. Locke reformed the way state officials prioritized and spent taxpayer dollars and, by 2003, had closed a nearly 15% budget gap. Since then, state after state has followed Mr. Locke’s lead, demanding that budgets be designed from the ground up, a common-sense practice now mandated in Illinois for fiscal year 2012 and beyond.”

Here’s how it works:  The various departments of the particular government entity or building level, for public school districts, prepare and submit their budget proposals under the guidance and watchful eye of the Chief Financial Officer or Accounting Department. Within schools, this would include the input of teachers at the department level before presenting to to their building principals. This should include alternative levels of funding:  with a Minimum Level below current spending, a Base Level reflecting current costs and an Improvement Level. The “Decision Package”, as it is called, is advanced to the administrator, if there is one, along with the elected officials, who sit down… to review these proposals. Then, the elected officials set priorities and make decisions as to what should be cut, changed or approved… just as we should all do with our own personal finances.

It’s not the job of a hired administrator, in my opinion, to decide on their own or with their hand-picked, small inner circle behind closed doors, what the spending priorities should be, because typically, they usually tend to be more concerned with implementing their own personal agenda, padding budgets, expanding costs and staffing – and, unfortunately, in some cases, how to enhance their own resume – rather than in what is best for the taxpayers and community.

But it’s not their job to care about the strain their spending places on taxpayers.

Think about it. When decisions as to how tax dollars are to be spent are made exclusively by paid administrators – and when they are operating within a system of Baseline Budgeting, it’s no wonder so many of our public schools and other levels of government are drowning in red ink.

I firmly believe it is the sworn duty of those whom the citizenry elects to represent them to have an active and participatory role in the budget process. This is what’s meant by having a representative form of government and is why our Constitution begins with the words: “We the People”. If it were otherwise and it was, in fact, the paid administrator’s exclusive right to make these budgetary decisions in a process which excluded those who sit on an elected board, I ask you, why even have elected officials at all? In such a situation you have taxation without representation… exactly what our ancestors fought against and died for during the American Revolution… and something which is a principle cornerstone of the founding of our nation.

A hired administrator’s job is limited to acting in an advisory capacity to the board – be it school, town or at county levels. You see, setting goals each year, establishing priorities, planning and making these kinds of decisions is the job of those we elect to represent us. Each of these components are vital to the creation of a successful budget and in operating an efficient, effective organization.

When a budget is written in a one-year vacuum, without considering its impact and ramifications going forward into subsequent years, it becomes simply a “placeholder”… or worse, like putting a band-aid over a life-threatening wound. At minimum, I believe public school districts should create a three-year balanced budget plan – and share it with their community in the interest of openness and transparency. It’s only by taking the time to map out a long-range view where we can solve these public schools and government’s dire financial problems… while actually working to avert any bankruptcies looming on the horizon so these organizations can become fiscally responsible.

Isn’t this what the voters and taxpayers expect?

Listen up… it’s not just all about money:  Zero-Based Budgeting is very much tied to student performance and realistically improving both the school district’s cost-effectiveness, as well as the level of student learning. It’s about financial and educational accountability. Forget all the media and political hype about needing “educational reform”. Look at it this way, if you have educational accountability, you won’t need any “reform”.

Let me say it again. If you have educational accountability, you won’t need any “reform”.

In a nut shell, Zero-Based Budgeting pulls back on the reins, steering the organization onto the path leading to fiscal reality, soundness and sanity. In times of economic upheaval or even prosperity, it’s about living within our means – whatever that may be.

Critics claim it is too much work, but what they’re really afraid of is how Zero-Based Budgeting upsets the apple cart in that it exposes waste, inefficiencies and ineffective programs as it Derails the Gravy Train. Did you hear that? I’ll say it again:  Zero-Based Budgeting exposes waste, inefficiencies and ineffective programs as it Derails the Gravy Train. It changes the paradigm as it eliminates the old status quo in favor of accountability and true transparency.

sources:

  1. Penn Hills School District cuts 44 jobs, contracts bussing to balance budget by Zak Koeske, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (5/26/2011)
  2. North Hampton School Board pushes zero-based budget for 2009-10 by Tamara Le, Seacoast Online (11/25/2008)
  3. Zero-Based Budget Committee Page, Burlington School District (8/1/2011)
  4. Catskill looks at zero-based budget on March 1 by Paul Smart, WGXC Newsroom (2/25/2011)
  5. Plans for zero-based budgeting by Lynh Bul, The Arizona Republic (6/25/2011)
  6. Council adopts zero-based budgeting in preparation of future city budgets, The Hays County RoundUp (7/25/2011)
  7. OpEd:  Zero-based budgeting holds much promise for Illinois’ fiscal future by Marc J. Lane, Chicago Business (1/10/2011)

Canadian Occupy Leader Plans Overthrow of United States

The Occupy circus of crime and chaos has consumed the entire spectrum – from left to right – of the media’s attention non-stop since September. Reportedly, it all began with a call to Occupy Wall Street from Adbusters editor, Kalle Lasn. But why would a self-described “anti-consumerist” magazine based in Vancouver, British Columbia… Canada… even care about Wall Street, let alone attempt to declare war on the U.S. economy? Surely, in a country as large as Canada they could find plenty of real or imagined injustices to keep their band of activists busy launching protests on their own side of the border. It begs the questions of who is Kalle Lasn and why does he despise the United States?

“America, the great liberator, is in desperate need of being liberated from itself — from its own excesses and arrogance. And the world needs to be liberated from American values and culture, spreading across the planet as if by divine providence.”–Adbusters founder Kalle Lasn, in his book Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — and Why We Must

“What makes you think you have the right to drive around with a ton of metal wrapped around you, the right to twist a tap and get hot water, the right to flick a switch and get your house warmed up?”-from the September/October 2003 issue of Adbusters magazine

If Mr. Lasn were to have his way, we would all be living a primitive lifestyle devoid of modern conveniences and eating nothing but veggies. No cars. No indoor plumbing. No McDonalds.  Although he preaches the simple life, he readily admits he, himself, does not adhere to these beliefs.

British news reports:

“…If you think this sounds like the rantings of a deluded Bolshevik, it’s worth noting a few things about Lasn and his cohorts at Adbusters, who have been producing the bi-monthly magazine from their Vancouver office since 1989. Lasn, an Estonia-born, former high-flyer in the advertising industry, now pushing 70, started Adbusters as an antidote to corporate greed, and what he saw as an aggressive pro-consumerist message that was being rammed down our throats.”–Buy Nothing Day:  Adbusters’ role in the global Occupy movement by Lena Corner, The Independent (11/20/2011) 

Apparently, there isn’t enough Canadian corporate greed to keep Lasn busy up north.

In my previous Occupy-related articles, Reaping What We Sow, The Puppeteers and The Tides Turn on the Occupy Movement, I exposed an effort to indoctrinate school children into the Occupy mentality through several stick figure, anti-consumer, anti-American films, beginning with Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, shown in many public schools over the past four years – and most recently with The Story of Broke released earlier this month. Ms. Leonard’s leftist benefactor, the Tides Foundation & Tides Center, also funds Adbusters. And just like Annie Leonard, who was a former Greenpeace employee, Adbusters has a close working relationship with the like-minded  environmentalist organization founded by American draft-dodgers who, at the height of the Vietnam War in 1969, fled to Vancouver.

Is it mere coincidence both recipients of Tides Foundation funding happened to have their fingerprints all over the Occupy movement? I think not.

One thing I find puzzling is why Adbusters would identify Wall Street as a target when a key donor to the publication, and reported friend of Mr. Lasn, Robert S. Halper, is a retired Wall Street trader and former Vice Chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange. A perplexing pair of extremely odd bedfellows to say the least. Apparently, the New York Times agreed as they did a focus piece on the irony last month.

“The whole thing is very surreal to me — the fact that I spent my whole career right across the street,” he said in an interview last week on a marble bench near the park. “It makes me a little anxious, to tell you the truth. It could go anywhere. I just pray that it ends peaceful.”

Mr. Halper said he first heard about the plan for protests in June when he visited Kalle Lasn, the editor in chief of Adbusters, a Canadian anticorporate magazine, in Vancouver. Over a steak dinner, the two longtime friends discussed Mr. Lasn’s project, a plan to fill Wall Street with protesters as a way to galvanize anger on the political left into a revolutionary movement resembling the Arab Spring.

“I rolled my eyes,” he said. “I was more interested in talking about health care.”–He Made It on Wall St. and Used It to Help Start the Protests by J. David Goodman, The New York Times (10/17/2011)

Even after learning of Lasn’s desire to spawn a revolution against everything he had spent his career building, rather than rebuke his threat against our Republic, Halper meekly went ahead and wrote another$20,000 check to Lasn. Perhaps that explains the dynamics of their relationship.

Occupy leaders plan spring Occupation... and more

Supposedly, we are told, Occupy is a leaderless movement. So then, why is Lasn being referred to as the “godfather of Occupy Wall Street” and why is he calling on his foot soldiers camping out in protest to pack it in until spring? Could it be an effort to save face because most of the protesters have already voluntarily gone home and slow-to-act city officials, weary of the stench… disgraced by the crime wave accompanying these refugees from reality camps… and hounded by public outrage have finally sent in their police forces – in full riot gear – to clear out the squatters?

It seems to me, Kalle Lasn is claiming ownership of the Occupy movement and has much more on his agenda than just reviving the hippie counterculture and spawning silly protests as an annoyance to law-abiding citizens and local governments. It’s time to wake up and read the handwriting on the wall:

“We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next Spring.”

He said he expects the Occupy movement to re-emerge with more focus next spring and predicted it would rise to a third political party in the United States.

“Basically, we will try to get the money out of our political systems and start creating a new model of democracy,” he said.

“Permit me to be grandiose for a moment, but I can feel it – I can feel this movement is the beginning of a deep transformation of capitalism. It’s a game changer.”–Adbusters, the Occupy Wall Street innovator, says movement should wind down and start up in spring: suggests Dec. 17 as good day to scale back movement by Helen Kennedy, New York Daily News (11/15/2011)

The New York Daily News got the headline wrong. It should have read:  Canadian Occupy Leader Plans Overthrow of United States 

The Tides Turn on the Occupy Movement

A funny thing happened on the way to releasing The Story of Broke, a film designed to indoctrinate and attract youth to the Occupy mentality and shown in many schools, it… the Occupy movement… became a hot potato.

Since writing Reaping What We Sow and The Puppeteers exposing Annie Leonard’s series of leftist propaganda films, the crime wave associated with the Occupy movement has turned off mainstream Americans. After a barrage of reports exposing Occupy encampment sex attacks, pedophilia, public masturbation, hate, riots, vandalism, theft, drug use, violent crimes and murder, the only thing most Americans would like to see “occupied” by these miscreant deadbeats are jail cells. And finally, traditional news media outlets are reporting on the Occupy mayhem:

An association with the Occupy movement has now become a liability. So Green Communist, pied piper Annie Leonard and her like-minded backers at the Tides Foundation couldn’t afford to risk any unpleasant backlash. Never mind the fact over the past couple of years her Story of Stuff series of films have been brainwashing youngsters into a bitter, anti-American belief system while urging them to take to the streets… exploiting their ignorance.

Mob "throws" politician from office... inciting violence?

When the preview for The Story of Broke appeared, it actually showed an angry mob protesting on Wall Street, complete with signs saying “Occupy” and “We are the 99%”. Scenes of little stick figure protesters thrusting clenched fists into the air, throwing a boot at a politician’s face and physically throwing him out of office suggest a support for physical violence against elected officials. A logical person might even draw the conclusion they were inciting riots.

But when the film was actually released last week, after it became evident the tide of public opinion was strengthening against the Occupy movement and it’s violence, these scenes were scrubbed from the film and replaced with a suggestion to just vote them out of office. Interesting.

Ms. Leonard’s newest film, The Story of Broke, is premised on the false belief we really aren’t. According to Leonard, our government has plenty of money but is spending most of it on the military and corporate welfare for greedy companies bent on poisoning our environment and the people, too. She claims if the U.S. Government stopped funding the military, subsidizing big agriculture and giving “hundreds of billions to prop up the dinosaur economy” there would be plenty of money to pay for all the goodies the me-generation wants.

Obviously, she ignores our $15 trillion national debt.

Before I continue, I must say there is one point I do agree with and that’s government subsidies. The government has no Constitutional authority in using tax dollars to prop up any business. Let them sink or swim in the free market economy on their own merit. Consumers should decide, not the government. But that’s where I’m back in disagreement with Ms. Leonard because actually, it turns out, she isn’t against government subsidies if they are used to prop up the kind of industries which meet with her approval:  education, health care and the green economy. Hypocritical, to say the least.

The fantasy of a so-called green economy is a boondoggle. Solar panels and wind turbines, for instance, are poor investments because the amount of time it takes to gain enough savings to justify their cost is far longer than the product’s expected life. In The Story of Broke Leonard wants the federal government to play Santa Clause and pay for residential solar panels.

The United States already spends more on education than any other country except for Switzerland. Yet, our students rank mediocre in global comparisons. PISA international rankings of 15-year old students are embarrassingly dismal for the United States. In mathematics, South Korea and Finland and ranked top honors, while our students placed 25th – behind Luxembourg and Hungary. We fared somewhat better in science, at 17th, behind Hungary, Belgium and Iceland while Finland, Japan and South Korea topped the category. US students ranked 14th in reading, as South Korea, Finland and Canada rated top of the class. Clearly, more money is not the answer as it does not equate to better educated students.

According to Leonard, “taxes are how we invest in great schools, healthy environment, clean energy and good jobs,” and so, she’s happy to pay her “fair share”. After all, she believes in income redistribution.

In The Story of Broke, the message is:  people need to force the government to fund schools, college education, health care and the “green” economy… solar, wind and recycling industries – and the Occupy movement is key in accomplishing the goal.

The leftists are biting at the bit to push our country over the edge into the abyss of Communism. Those orchestrating riots and chaos across the country ought to be arrested and charged with sedition. The Occupiers, most of whom cannot voice a coherent sentence explaining any goals or objectives for their protests, are little more than useful idiots. Although you won’t hear the “C” word in any of The Story of… films, Leonard’s foolhardy utopian transformation of our country is, without a doubt, a form of Communism.

“For us in Russia, communism is a dead dog, while, for many people in the West, it is still a living lion.”–Alekksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) Russian historian and 1970 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

The Puppeteers

The Story of Stuff and Annie Leonard’s other films are cartoonish, stick figure propaganda tools full of disinformation used to indoctrinate youth into the Occupy mentality. Leonard, a former Greenpeace employee, promotes Green Communism, but clearly has some influential benefactors and like-minded puppeteers lurking in the shadows.

Have your kids been propagandized into the Occupy mentality by this series shown in some schools?

Let’s connect the dots… shall we?

The Story of Stuff was backed by the Tides Foundation, a far-left organization advocating social justice (equality  at the expense of liberty), economic justice (wealth redistribution) and reproductive justice (contraceptives and abortions for all). It’s founder, Drummond Pike, is also a director of billionaire George Soros’ partisan Democracy Alliance (funding ACORN, Sierra Club, etc…). Interesting to note, former Tides Foundation directors included:  Wade Rathke, who was also the founder and Chief Organizer of the notoriously corrupt ACORN and Dan Carol, the co-founder of the Apollo Alliance, a project of the Tides Center. Here, the spider’s web becomes even more interesting as an intricate part of the effort to push the so-called Green Jobs agenda, the Apollo Alliance was a prominent member of former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming.

Apollo Alliance director and resigned White House Green Czar, Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones, was a founding member of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), which was a self-proclaimed Communist Marxist-Leninist group of radicals, formerly active in the San Francisco Bay area. He was also involved in the formation and operation of an educator movement called PENCIL (Progressive Educator’s Network Creating International Liberation).

STORM’s manifesto beliefs & goals included the following:  involvement in community organizing, social justice, commitment to revolutionary Marxist principles, radical youth and student organizing in high schools and colleges. The group is anti-police, viewing them as “state repression”. They are self-described supporters of communist politics desiring to build revolutionary power by exploiting any crisis to create an uprising and gain power. STORM is racist against whites. They seek to defeat US “imperialism”, and to develop young revolutionaries. This stuff should be a huge red flag to every parent and patriotic American because it’s exactly what’s happening right before our eyes.

In my last entry, Reaping What We Sow, I exposed the communist mind-set Leonard’s Story of… films cultivate. But where did these radical ideas portrayed in The Story of… films and mimicked by those Occupiers, at least those who can actually voice a reason for their involvement, originate? Here’s a blast from the past that ought to knock your socks off:

Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all.

Communism–the effort to give all men what they need and to ask of each the best they can contribute–this is the only way of human life. It is a difficult and hard end to reach–it has and will make mistakes, but today it marches triumphantly on in education and science, in home and food, with increased freedom of thought and deliverance from dogma. In the end Communism will triumph. I want to help to bring that day.

The path of the American Communist Party is clear:  It will provide the United States with a real Third Party and thus restore democracy to this land. It will call for:

  1. Public ownership of natural resources and of all capital
  2. Public control of transportation and communications.
  3. Abolition of poverty and limitation of personal income.
  4. No exploitation of labor.
  5. Social medicine, with hospitalization and care of the old.
  6. Free education for all.
  7. Training for jobs and jobs for all.
  8. Discipline for growth and reform.
  9. Freedom under law.
  10. No dogmatic religion.

These are not crimes. They are practiced all over the world. No nation can call itself free which does not allow its citizens to work for these ends.”–Request to Join the Party by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, 1868-1963, NAACP founder, joined the Communist Party in 1961 at 93 years old, subject of FBI investigation; letter published in Communism in America:  a history in documents by Alfred Fried

It’s chilling to read DuBois’ vision for the Communist Party.  What we are reading in today’s headlines, hearing many of our young people parrot and are witnessing in the transformation of our great nation by the hand of the powerful in Washington DC was laid out in in DuBois’ blueprint fifty years ago. It is a realization which is far beyond disturbing.

Just as crimson and scarlet are shades of red; Socialism and Marxism are shades of Communism. To argue whether a person adheres to the dogma of Lenin, Marx, Stalin, Trotsky – or anyone else – is splitting hairs. All preached the gospel of Communism. The common thread of all stripes of Communism is the singular goal of destroying the United States, as we know it. Communism seeks to annihilate our free market economy, prosperity, independence and the rights of the individual… especially property ownership, liberty, religious and personal freedoms.

The proof is best stated in their own words:

“I am for socialism, disarmament, and, ultimately, for abolishing the state itself… I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal.–Roger Nash Baldwin (1884-1981) founder and executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

“National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable.” –Martin Bormann (1900-1945) prominent Nazi official

“Even now we feel that Stalin was devoted to Communism, he was a Marxist, this cannot and should not be denied.” –Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894-1971) Soviet Premier 1958-1964

“The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.” –Karl Marx

“Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer which we use to crush the enemy.” –Mao Tse-Tung

“Democracy is the road to socialism.” –Karl Marx

“The goal of socialism is communism.” –Vladimir Lenin

Is this the future we want for ourselves, our children… and grandchildren? Are Americans willing to allow their children to become deluded into believing living in a Communist country could, in any way, be desirable? Is your local school showing children Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff film series?

Are “We the People” willing to lose God’s blessing of Liberty on this great nation by completely turning our backs on Him? A god-less nation… isn’t that the true goal of Communism?

Will we be the generation who stands by watching as the last golden rays of Liberty fades in the twilight of our great Republic?

Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin,
“Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded,
“A republic, if you can keep it.”–recorded by Constitution signer James McHenry in his diary (1787)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit  of the Lord is, there is liberty.”–II Corinthians 3:17 (New American Standard Bible)

“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”–Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) US Founding Father

Reaping What We Sow

Seeds of a pro-Communist world view and an anti-Capitalist, anti-American bias have been sowed in public school classrooms for decades. The weeds of globalism, multiculturalism, and communitarianism have flourished unchecked, choking out an understanding of our nation’s founders, the founding documents, the fact we are a Republic – not a Democracy, and how liberty and freedom are based on the God-given rights of the individual.

During the 1960s, it was the rare mother of a fellow classmate who worked outside of the home. As the 20th century drew to a close, that pendulum swung in the opposite direction as the new issue of “latchkey children” spawned “after school programs”, which extended the influence of public schools on children’s lives – from school breakfast programs right up to suppertime. Parents quickly grew to rely on the public school to provide almost everything from preschool and child care to feeding their children, dispensing medications and helping them with their homework. Schools have assumed an ever larger role in students’ lives as they advise them on career choices and accompany students on visits to perspective colleges. They’re intricately involved in nearly every aspect of children’s lives far beyond serving as a role model or mentor to becoming confidants.

Reaping what we sow... or weeds?

It wasn’t that long ago when these were strictly the personal responsibility and duty of parents. Now, because parents have come to rely on so much assistance from public schools… the government… many have come to view them more in a partnership role, than as an institution whose purpose should be limited strictly to provide an education. It is this blurring of the line which has caused many parents to be lulled into a blind sense of trust of schools, as they are able to direct more of their attention to work, leisure or other interests – and less to their own children.

Progressive educators have taken full advantage of this opportunity.

The anti-establishment theology being spoon-fed to our children was spawned from the counterculture: the hippies, yippies, flower children, rebels, rioters and bra-burners of the 1960s… many of whom entered the field of education after putting away their bellbottoms and psychedelic tie-dyed shirts.

One means by which some are working to villainize American exceptionalism is by exposing students to a video entitled The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard. The engaging, cartoonish, short film is an outrageous, in-your-face, anti-capitalist, anti-consumer sermon that is staunchly biased and full of disinformation. Clearly, it advocates Socialism through fear mongering and hysterics. Employing propaganda, the film heaps guilt on children as a vehicle to indoctrinate them into believing what is being sold as a democratic economic system is “good” while American Capitalism and the free market economy is “evil”. This new democratic economic system is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: Communism.

Students are being conditioned to view Communism, or a “control economy” in a favorable light and preferable to our Constitutional Republic form of government and free market economy in some history or social studies textbooks. Why? Because in a “control economy” the government takes care of people’s needs.

The film maker and those who funded the project obviously hold a deep sense of contempt for the American way of life. They want to replace the ideals of working hard to advance oneself in their chosen career; individuality, ingenuity and invention; success; the concept of risk and reward… with collectivism, economic egalitarianism and an acceptance of poverty. The Story of Stuff brazenly promotes Green Communism.

One of the most disturbing and dangerous aspects is its demonization of the manufacturing sector – claiming companies are greedy, they deliberately poison the environment as well as their products, and those who work in factories are exposed to toxins that result in cancer, especially for women. The Story of Stuff openly denigrates Apple Computers, Radio Shack and WalMart through thinly disguised attacks on their businesses.

The Story of Stuff pushes the “economic justice” agenda, meaning they envision a day when there will no longer be corporations that own businesses, but all businesses will be owned by a one world government where the workers will all have an equal share in the decisions and profits. This is an unrealistic, foolhardy utopian notion cleverly designed to appeal to our youth… the audience of The Story of Stuff.

Some of the outrageous lies in this film include:

“50% of our tax dollars goes to the military” Official sources identify the total spending budget for the U.S. Government during fiscal year 2009 as $6,434 billion dollars. Of that, just 13.4% went to defense. (2009 is the year this film was released.)

“40% of our waterways are undrinkable” This is a ridiculous attempt at a scare tactic. People don’t drink directly from waterways. Even hikers in the backcountry cannot drink directly from the most pristine source of natural water without risking natural bacterial contamination or infestation by parasites, so must rely on purification measures. Drinking from waterways has always posed a health risk due to fecal contamination. Most households drink well water or water from municipal sources that has been tested and deemed safe. Ms Leonard’s claim is pure hysteria.

These are just a couple of examples of the inaccuracies this film uses to propagandize children.

Unfortunately, The Story of Stuff has expanded into an ongoing series. More recent titles include The Story of Cap & Trade, The Story of Citizens United v. FEC and the soon to be released, The Story of Broke.

Communications Coordinator at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Lee Doren, has put together critique films of some of these titles, doing a commendable job of pointing out and correcting Annie Leonard’s disinformation.

I recommend viewing Lee Doren Critiques:

The Story of Stuff…  part 1 ; part 2 ; part 3 ; part 4 and Story of Cap & Trade

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC promotes the complete restoration of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold law. In it, Ms. Leonard identifies several corporations by using fat stick people with company logos emblazoned on their chests:  Exxon, Shell Oil, Toyota, BP, WalMart, Pfizer, Cigna, GE, Bank of America and Wall Street … criticizing their success because they are profitable and demonizing them for donating money to fund political advertisements. Never mind the fact these companies provide employment for millions of Americans, directly or indirectly. Not to mention the products, health, financial services and oil or gasoline necessary to heat homes and fuel the rest of our economy.

But, of course, as we learned from viewing her earlier attack, The Story of Stuff, she actually would much rather see American’s standard of living fall to that of a third world nation. If her misguided utopian view of society were to become a reality, we would see wealth redistribution, economic destruction, mass poverty, famine and an end to freedom and prosperity.

As Ms. Leonard states: “corporations can decide to spend unlimited dollars from their huge corporate coffers to influence an election, without consulting its shareholders”. She goes on to say Washington DC politicians are ready to promote a new Constitutional Amendment because “1st Amendment isn’t meant for ‘for profit corporations’”. This leaves no doubt there is some major political clout behind her quirky little stick people films.

How interesting and revealing it is that the planned Constitutional Amendment would only apply to “for profit” corporations but not non-profits or unions. Especially when considering most of the campaign advertising I saw or received in 2010 and during the 2011 Wisconsin recall election originated with unions or non-profit front groups for the Democrat Party.

Ms. Leonard claims to be all for “free speech”, but in reality, she and those who wrote and support the McCain-Feingold law, as well as this planned Constitutional Amendment do not. What they’re saying and doing are two different things because it is evident by their actions they only support “free speech” if it agrees with their own position… their own warped views and advancement of their Communist utopia.

If you watch this film closely, you’ll notice how the little stick people take to the streets in protest. Acting as a mob, they are depicted as physically throwing politicians out of office. Hmmm…

And the protest theme continues in her newest film, The Story of Broke, due to be released on November 8th. Clearly, the little stick people are now part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The premise of this piece of propaganda is we really aren’t broke. The US Government has plenty of money. Instead of giving it to their fat cat cronies and crooked Wall Street bankers, “the people” need to force the government to spend it, instead, on creating a Green Economy… so we can all live happily ever after. Cue the Kumbaya music.

How curious a small budget, stick people film most adults have never heard of could have coincidentally sermonized the same themes over the past couple of years as are now unfolding before our eyes. It makes a person wonder if there may be a direct cause and effect?

Annie Leonard has every right to live her life in a hut denying herself modern conveniences, if she so chooses. But she has no right to impose or force her beliefs and choices on anyone else. That is a big part of the problem with teachers showing these propaganda films to their students. These films are not factually accurate and do not present a balanced view of any issues. They simply do not belong in public school classrooms – but are often shown on Earth Day and at other times, as well. As parents and taxpayers, we have a right and a responsibility to ensure children are educated and not propagandized.

OK… so, who is behind The Story of Stuff? Stay tuned…

Modern Day Eugenics

It’s not uncommon for individuals and families of those diagnosed with a genetic condition to be asked to donate blood for genetic research purposes. Many do, desperately hoping and praying their participation in the project will result in the discovery of a treatment or cure to help their affected child or loved one. But these families are unaware they are actually pawns in a modern day eugenics.

God cherishes each and every baby... so must we


Deceived into believing identifying “the gene” meant hope for a treatment or even a cure, my own family participated in a blood draw about twenty years ago. Genetic research can be slow, tedious work and as the ensuing years slipped by, hope for a breakthrough dimmed.

Fast forward to April 2009 when, out of the blue, I heard from the doctor, who is considered to be the foremost expert in the world on our children’s genetic condition. He also heads the research project at the prestigious Baylor University in Texas. When he called, asking for another blood donation for the purpose of continuing the work, he told me they had run out of our samples and felt they were very, very close to discovering a completely “new” gene, unique to our family. Flickering hope reignited and without hesitation, I agreed. Soon, a package containing vials and consent forms was on it’s way to our doorstep.

Curious as to the status of the research, and since the doctor had mentioned the name of a fellow researcher at Duke University who was focused on working to discover “our” gene, I Googled. Checking online sources, I soon found a paper detailing the researcher’s work on our children’s genetic condition originating from a presentation he gave to colleagues. It was an eye-opening read. As I read, the truth became crystal clear. My hope was snuffed out, stomped and drowned by buckets of betrayal. I was stunned and bitterly disappointed to discover there’s no hope of preventing, treating or reversing blindness, physical or mental disabilities or any of the other symptoms associated with the condition. NO HOPE. Absolutely no hope, at all.

Because it’s a rare syndrome, funding is extremely limited, but beyond that and contrary to everything we were led to believe, the researchers and experts, themselves, admit the likelihood of a cure or treatment for any of the associated health problems is non-existent. It’s nothing more than a fairy tale told to desired blood donors to exchange false hope for vials of blood – potentially worth a fortune.

I learned the only expected outcome of the research described is in the development a screening test for use prenatally… to identify unborn children with the condition. Surely an end goal of enormous financial benefit to the researchers, universities, and most certainly the genetic testing and abortion industries, which is the ONLY reason why the research has continued all these years. It is fueled by their expectation of a big financial payoff down the road. No one had mentioned this fact to me… ever, and the stack of consent forms accompanying the vials conveniently omitted this information, as well.

“Their throats are open graves. Their tongues practice deception. Their lips hide the venom of poisonous snakes.”–Romans 3:13 (God’s Word Translation)

Undoubtedly, our unwitting participation in the genetic research project would eventually result in the creation of a test designed to identify this condition in unborn children and facilitate the murder of God only knows how many innocents.

This raises serious moral and ethical concerns because many pregnant women undergoing genetic testing and counseling could – and do – decide not to carry what they perceive to be a “defective” child to term. Such a decision could be based on misinformation, false perceptions, prejudice or fear about the quality of life for children with disabilities… or even unreliable test results. Prenatal genetic testing, which can now include approximately 6,000 so-called “defects”, stacks the deck against the unborn child. It puts the mother in a position of being pressured to quickly make the decision so the child can be aborted, while she is still processing the shock of the test results and fear of the unknown.

When a child is born who has a challenge, it is not always evident at birth. Often, it may be many years before the condition is apparent and a vast number of so-called “defects” are not life-threatening or even life-altering. Without prenatal genetic testing, the natural process of forging the mother and child’s bond of love is able to progress, as God intended. Someday, when the challenge presents itself, the family does the best they can to deal with the situation because the child is loved and rightfully viewed as part of themselves.

Families, like ours, with exceptionally challenged children, experience life’s ups and downs… triumphs and difficulties… joys and heartbreaks… just like any other family. Our children are normal. Just like everyone else, they deserve equal respect… and the opportunity to enjoy their God-given right to Life. These children are a precious gift from God. They are truly a blessing to our lives. How empty our lives would be without these children my husband and I deeply respect, admire, cherish, adore and love so dearly. They are our family and our life.

The very thought that our family’s blood, given in good faith, could ever be used for such a detestable, evil purpose, contrary to our Christian moral beliefs and without our knowledge or consent is unthinkable, inexcusable and absolutely infuriating. Genetic research is the new genocide. It threatens to exterminate an entire social class of people who do not fit into society’s ideal of “normal”… those who are viewed as “defective”… those who are labeled as mentally or physically disabled. It is disability racism… the extermination of an ‘undesired’ population group… which is eugenics:

“Indeed, parents of babies diagnosed prenatally with DS [Downs Syndrome] reported in the study mentioned above that 23 percent of the physicians or genetics counselors they spoke with either “emphasized the negative” aspects of parenting such children or “urged” parents to choose abortion.”–Politically Correct Eugenics by Wesley J. Smith, published in the Weekly Standard

“Still, social policy may be unable to sway a seemingly strong personal preference for avoiding children with perceived genetic defects. About 90 percent of women who learn they are carrying a fetus with the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome choose an abortion. Studies have shown that many women choose to abort for diagnoses of less serious conditions.”–Genetic Testing + Abortion = ??? by Amy Harmon, New York Times

“There are troublesome implications to those statistics and the new testing,” says Dr. Mary Mahowald, a University of Chicago ethicist. “They suggest an attitude that deems the lives of people with disabilities not worth living. They’re also troublesome because the fewer people with disabilities there are, the more likely they are to be victims of discrimination.”–Baylor Offers Fetal DNA Test Sheds Light, But Stirs an Ethical Battle by Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle

Upon learning the truth, I immediately telephoned the doctor at Baylor University to inform him we would NOT be a part of any effort to identify the gene, now knowing the intended use for the information would be the development of such a test – one that could and would undoubtedly be used as a “reason” to abort children. He made no attempt whatsoever to deny the facts – nor did he even bother to offer an apology for the deception.

After our conversation, I immediately followed through to ensure that our family’s past participation would likewise be purged from their files and records, along with any remaining blood samples in their possession. Had we trustingly and unknowingly contributed the requested blood to this research project – with an end result of facilitating the discovery of a prenatal test, it would have been devastating to know our family was indirectly responsible for the abortion deaths of untold numbers of innocent unborn children as well as the lifelong guilt and emotional suffering abortion wrecks on the parents’ lives. This is the face of modern day eugenics… right here, in the “land of the free”.

I firmly believe it is unethical for genetic researchers to deliberately deceive and exploit donor families by omission – but that is exactly what’s happening. The genetic research industry is deliberately deceiving potential blood donors by employing fabricated lies manufactured for the sole purpose of manipulating and exploiting families like ours. Because they are not providing full disclosure, families and individual blood donors are denied the opportunity to make a fully informed decision as to whether or not they wish to participate. This is morally and ethically wrong.

“In any event, in the minds of many ethicists, the testing suggests the arrival of a new eugenics, not state-run but voluntary. They debate whether it’s a “good or bad eugenics,” noting that before Adolf Hitler gave it a bad name, eugenics was science’s hope for a better future, the answer to economic inequities and social ills.”–Baylor Offers Fetal DNA Test Sheds Light, But Stirs an Ethical Battle by Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle

Families asked to participate in genetic research deserve honesty with the respect and right of full disclosure so as to avoid violating their personal ethics, religious and moral beliefs.

As a Christian mother devoted to protecting ALL unborn children, I would like to see legislation written to require Full Disclosure notification to all families and individuals, who are either solicited to participate or who are seeking inclusion in any genetic research project – as well as to all past and present participants. The whole truth must be provided so each and every participant fully understands the possibility their cooperation in efforts to identify specific genes could result – or already has resulted – in a screening test used to identify and abort unborn children who carry the same gene. It must be clearly given both verbally and in writing to each participant to prevent any individual from being unwittingly exploited. Anything less than full disclosure is unethical and unacceptable.

“Let it not seem to you that one of these little ones is of no value; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels see at all times the face of my Father in heaven.”–Matthew 18:10 (Bible in Basic English)

“The King will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth:  Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me’”–Matthew 25:40 (God’s Word Translation)

There is a clear choice to be made:  either you believe in LIFE… or you believe it is OK to kill babies. Will you stand up for all unborn children – or look the other way? Please share this message with others.

God cherishes, each and every baby, born or unborn… so must we.