Sunday, May 27, 2012

Parents don’t look the other way

Written by Lisa Nielsen | Edited by Lisa Cooley, The Minds of Kids

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Humans come equipped with a primitive defense mechanism aimed at reducing anxiety: "If I ignore it, it'll go away."  Very human, very natural, very understandable. We all do it. It may even have some evolutionary advantage. After all, facing away from a problem can lower blood pressure and keep stress under control.

But problems have a momentum of their own; they only get worse when they're ignored.

When we don’t face the truth because it might frighten and upset us,  we move to the place called Denial. But emotions have little to do with logic. (Article Source). If denial is a small dark room, joining with others and facing the truth together brings out the light of day.

But denial is where some parents are living. They are looking the other way. Ignoring problems or worse, justifying them.

I suppose it’s understandable. Parents across the nation are faced with the reality that the education system that they placed their faith in, that they experienced themselves, may have flaws that are not being fixed and they are led to believe they have no control over them. This is a hard reality to face and would turn the world of any parent upside down. So these parents sometimes turn their faces away. They throw down mattresses and close the blinds and live happily in their room of Denial.

This is exactly the reality that New York mom Christine Dougherty had to face after her 12-year-old son Joseph, with her guidance and support, decided he was going to opt out of his school’s standardized tests. Instead, he requested the right to engage in more meaningful learning. Despite the wishes of Ms. Dougherty and her child, bully principal Thomas Capone forced Joseph to take the test.  Joseph’s teachers called him a fresh little boy for not following their orders to do as he was told.  

Joseph’s mother fought back doing everything she could to counteract a number of manipulative tactics by her son’s principal and the teachers under his charge. The principal furthered the lie that parents have no rights when it comes to the best interests of their child. He flat out refused to respect the wishes of Joseph and his mother demanding they comply, “OR ELSE...he’d have no choice but to look into having Joseph taken away from his mother!”

Christine was not living in denial and was not dissuaded. She stood up to the principal and did everything she could to have her son’s wishes granted.  

Unfortunately, not all parents are as brave, strong, or able to face facts as Ms. Dougherty did. Instead, when they heard of the situation, some took up residency in a horrible state called denial.  

They went after this mother and defended the principal rather than looking at the facts behind what this principal had done. They refused to acknowledge that across the state New York  teachers, superintendents, and principals one and all were speaking out, starting petitions, writing to the ed secretary all expressing agreement with Ms. Dougherty’s belief that these tests are not good for children. Those who learned of this principal’s actions were horrified that a man, entrusted with the care of children, had overstepped his bounds in such a way and violated the rights of both parent and child.

There was also an explosion of Tweets by administrators, teachers, and parents alike appalled by the actions of this school’s leader and his minions. Fortunately, many citizens are guided by a moral compass that puts the rights of kids first; they did not condone this man’s actions.

Unfortunately, several of the parents at Ms. Doughterty’s son’s school found a comfortable home in their state of Denial and to solidify residency, they  started a  Facebook page that bashed the mother and those who outed the bully principal (like here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). What they did not realize was that instead of the support they expected, they received a flood of comments from those who supported the mother and did not agree with these parents or the principal. Since the intent of this page was to keep a Denial alive, all those who posted comments stating they supported the mother and disagreed with the principal were swiftly bashed, banned, and censored from sharing the other side of the story.

Such tactics are understandable when you take into consideration that they were made by those who have no intention in giving up residency in their state of Denial. (Perhaps the river in Egypt is nice and warm and good for swimming? Too bad about the crocodiles.)

Parents like those who rose up against this mother for standing up to the system and protecting her child represent an unfortunate segment of our population that has lost faith in themselves or other parents to decide what is best for their own children. We have come to a point in America where many parents are all too willing to hand their children over to an institution to raise them even when it is as clear as day that impositions such as these tests are hurting children like Joseph.

How can the mega billion industry of one-size-fits-few, standardized test-taking be mistaken for what is best for children? You can believe it is what’s best for the system if you choose, but that is a system that cannot bear the burden of criticism, and needs full compliance in order to survive.

There are parents who dig their heels in and continue to ignore the truth rather than acknowledge the harm that is taking place with children in their schools. There’s a name for what they’re doing. Denialism: which means choosing an alternate reality as a way to avoid an uncomfortable truth.

Because, here’s the thing: much of traditional education as we know it today is not good for children. Many of the practices we all know and have lived with are not serving our children best.

And that is so hard to face!

“The human mind isn't a terribly logical or consistent place. Most people, given the choice to face a hideous or terrifying truth or to conveniently avoid it, choose the convenience and peace of normality.” Jim Butcher, Turn Coat
Parents have been indoctrinated by the system that says: do as you’re told.  Drop off your children and parental rights at the door. They have been conditioned not to trust themselves or their instincts when it comes to their kids. They have accepted that (as shared on the Facebook page and in blog comments), “the best interests of their children are left to the experts.” They explained that, as a professional, the principal, NOT PARENTS, know what is best for children, explaining that Mr. Capone, “obeys rules because he has the experience that should be trusted.”

And here’s the scary part.  

The parents at Ms. Dougherty’s school who “liked” this Facebook page had this advice for her:
Do not let your heart decide what is best. There is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that the principal had best interests of the child in mind when he took this action.”
The action they are referring to was the disregard of the judgment of a parent who feared for his well being. These parents were defending a principal who forced a child to do something against the wishes of himself and his mother and falsely (informed his family that failure to follow orders could result in him being taken from his parents.


Despite the fact that they were surrounded by parents and teachers who told them they believed the principal was right and they should just do as they’re told, Joseph and his mother stood strong. Ms. Dougherty had done her homework and knew  that the government did NOT have the right over her as a parent to force her child to engage in an activity she did not condone.After contacting child protective services it was also revealed that had this principal wasted the time by making a false report of abuse and maltreatment, he would actually be endangering the ability to properly focus on the children who had real abuse issues.  Note opting out does not fall in the category of child abuse or maltreatment. Visit this link to learn what does.

Joseph’s mother had EVERY right to act as she did.  She took ownership of her son’s freedom to learn in the way that serves him best.  

If these parents had left their state of Denial behind, they’d have to face a hard reality.  For now, parents like these are much more comfortable defending the status quo.  Though several did admit that they understood that forced testing was wrong, they believed  their children still needed to do as they were told.

I hate these tests and that we are forced to give them, and what they represent..reducing children to numbers and data. However, unfortunately it is the law that children take these tests.”
She went on to say that as long as the principal forced her child to do this in a professional way, then he was right.  This well meaning parent goes on to explain, 
“The only way this testing goes away is if voting parents take an active interest in changing the politics surrounding education and voting for candidates who truly have the children’s interests at heart, and not statistics that make them look good.”

Americans never voted on a law that made our kids the mega billion dollar profit bearing guinea pigs of the school system! This was not a referendum placed on a ballot.  This is an illegal imposition that is hurting kids and making mega-billions for greedy corporations who care nothing about children but followed the money into the “Race to the Top” testing frenzy.   

It’s time to WAKE UP! Listen to your heart. Leave the dark room. It’s sunny out here; there’s fresh air and fresh debate and clear thinking about children and what is best for them. And our numbers are growing.

Don’t trust principals, politicians, or corporations that push bad policies that harm children. Be on your child’s side, and trust your instincts if you feel your child is suffering! Take back your parental rights. Give the freedom to learn to your children. Do not let anyone bully you into doing otherwise.  

Know the facts!
“Child protective services would not take a report on a parent who is opting their child out of standardized tests due to emotional stress or illness. Opting out of standardized tests is NOT something that teachers and principals should call in as mandated reporters.” -Jason DeSantis | Central Register for Child Abuse | 8006351522
Principals or others who convey this information are threatening parents and violating their rights.If anyone tries to do so, you have the ACLU and the Office of Civil Rights on YOUR side. Both are filing complaints against this principal and others like him around the nation. If your child’s rights are being violated, contact them. You may also want to contact your local child advocacy group.

Parents, not the government employees or corporations, have the best interests of your children at heart. Fight to protect your children! Protecting your child is your right.  


  1. "Americans never voted on a law that made our kids the mega billion dollar profit bearing guinea pigs of the school system! This was not a referendum placed on a ballot. This is an illegal imposition that is hurting kids and making mega-billions for greedy corporations who care nothing about children but followed the money into the “Race to the Top” testing frenzy."

    ***> Okay, do we need to review how a bill becomes a law? Americans live in a representative democracy and rarely, if ever, actually vote laws into being. In fact, that "rarely" has lately only applied to marriage equality and those particular referendums have been created by people who want to make sure people do not have rights.

    Anyway, back to NCLB and the laws that require testing. We, as a populace, in whatever state or district, elected representatives to two houses of Congress--the Senate and the House of Representatives. At some point during the terms of George W. Bush, this particular act was introduced and voted on with a fair amount of bipartisan support. As with all things in Washington, it has its special interest and corporate supporters and also as with many things in Washington, it is not a very good law and needs to be repealed (and not simply renamed).

    So therefore it is not an illegal imposition. It was done fully within the guidelines set in the United States Constitution. If you're going to wave a flag of protest, I suggest you get your facts straight (especially considering they are facts as basic as these).

    1. No. You are wrong. The schools can be required to do testing. They can not force a child to take them against parental wishes in many states including New York. Additionally, bullying and threatening a parent and reprimanding a child for doing what the parent as well as educators and even some politicians acknowledge is wrong for our children is erroneous and egregious.

      Check out current events where you will find that states like Texas are taking the lead in the opt out movement and taking back their rights. It is parents like Christine and children like Joseph who will lead the charge and make a difference. Rather than attack and tell them to follow orders, they should be applauded. Fortunately, that is what is happening not only in New York, but around the nation by parents and teachers who have woken up and are fully invested in doing what is best for children.

    2. You are WRONG Anonymous. Due to the way you were educated I do not expect you to, not only know, but also understand The United States of America. This dear Anonymous is a REPUBLIC. And it is worth keeping they it was. I was lucky. My education came before social justice and any left tipping thought. I hope to protect my children come next April. What my children were put through at age 7 will never happen again. I had no idea I would ever have to protect them from school. I hope I get the support this fine Mother and her son have. God Bless America even the idiots. Dale Lynn Franks

    3. You're using Texas as something to hold up? Shouldn't it be the opposite -- after all, this is a state where a group with fringe political views is driving massive changes in science and social studies curriculum that because Texas is the largest purchaser of textbooks will have a ripple effect throughout the country. And we're not talking about minor things, but things like the complete whitewashing, Christian-izing, and Republican-izing of American history.

      Plus, Texas is also the state where a judge sentenced a student to time in jail for truancy because she kept missing school in order to support her family.

      Texas? Really?

    4. Yes @Anonymous, the things you point out are not those which I would hold up. What the parents, ed leaders and others are doing to stand up to this madness is what I applaud.

    5. You should talk more about that stuff, too. In addition to testing being dangerous to our educational system, there are dangerous people who are making decisions based on the whims of their own beliefs, which aren't shared by everyone. This affects children as much as a push to test, test, test, and can be just as harmful.

    6. You can see what Texas is doing at the link below. In short, school districts, one by one, are passing a resolution that says an “over reliance” on standardized high stakes testing is “strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage.”

      So far, more than 100 districts have passed the resolution which asks state education officials to take a new approach to assessing students.

    7. But if the curriculum is still being changed to suit the political whims of TPTB, testing or no testing, there's still harm being done.

    8. Anonymous,
      You don't stop working on one issue just because another issue exists. I agree with the issues you point out and the more people working to address each of them, the better.

    9. I never said that you should stop working on one issue to work on another, I just think that you need to look at the entire picture here, because as much as there is an attack on students' learning via high-stakes testing, there is a coordinated attack on students' learning via politically motivated changes to statewide curricula (sp?). It's an issue to take on and pay attention IN ADDITION TO testing.

    10. Of course we look at an entire picture. This is but one of more than a thousand articles in just one blog, but in relation to the focus of this particular article, Texas is taking actions that are leading the way when it comes to standardized testing.

    11. Fair enough. So ... what's your take on the opt-out application process for NCLB? It seems overly complicated (shocking, I know).

      If the administration wants to change the law and is concerned that Congress hasn't done anything to change NCLB in five years because they can't agree on what to do (again, this is shocking), why don't they just put a temporary freeze on the testing requirements for a particular number of years and ask for student date from states after that freeze period so it can compare it to data from testing and they can show that testing isn't necessary?

    12. Agree. Overly complicated. i believe that testing is the most expensive and least effective ways to assess kids. I also believe parents have rights over schools in protecting kids.

      Crazy I know, but I think this should be left to folks as follows: parents, schools, communities/districts, states.

      Look all these politicians send their kids to private schools where this crap doesn't exist for a variety of reasons. This whole thing is a sham and a debacle, but in the meantime, some folks are getting very rich and some kids are getting very sick.

    13. At the same time, an ideal (emphasis on the word ideal) strategy would be a "squeeze": pressure from the top down and bottom up. If you get the right prominent voices attached to a movement like this, there may be greater influence in Washington.

      Oh, and I think we need a "Roger and Me" type of documentary that is a muckraking look at testing/textbook companies like Pearson. It might get mainstream people thinking some more about what's happening.

    14. Sounds like you have a guest post in ya Anonymous. Feel free to email me a submission. I think readers here would love an elaboration on these thoughts and ideas.

  2. Furthermore, can you provide a link to those who were bashing the mother in this case? It's hard to take your word for it.

    1. Sure anonymous. You must not be a regular reader of this blog though as those who are, have always known I only speak and share the truth. You can see some of their words on my uncensored blog comments and others on the Facebook page linked to. Unfortunately since these parents censor and often feel uncomfortable about their words, many of their posts have been deleted. The comments from them that I shared, however, were directly copied and pasted from what they shared publicly.

    2. So ... when's your book on all of this that you are obviously writing coming out? That's the million dollar question ... or at least the [amount of advance] question.

    3. Ha. Anonymous. You are funny. I'm sure it would be easier for you to believe there was an ulterior motive, but alas, tis not true. I've shared the 1000+ articles that I've published on my blog (that has no advertising) because I work to support and do what is best for children. I'm happy to say my reward is knowing of all the children, parents, and educators who have benefited as a result.

  3. Where in the law/regulations/guidelines in New York State does it say that kids MUST take this test regardless of a parent's consideration of a child's health and well-being? Why is it kids opt out all over New York State, and it is only this principal (as far as we know) who takes the Gestapo approach?

    There are a lot of rules, regulations, laws and guidelines, and there is also considerable wiggle-room for those carrying them out, in this case.

    The actions this principal took were his choice.

    1. Wow ONE reply and you've slammed into Godwin's Law! Congratulations!

    2. Not familiar with the reference, but how about replying to the substance of what I said?

    3. Courtesy of Wikipedia:

      "Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies[1][2]) is an observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990[2] that has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."[2][3] In other words, Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes some comparison to Hitler and the Nazis."

    4. Well, this happened right at the beginning of the discussion Anonymous. Not at the end. When we have teachers like those who say, "I hate these tests and that we are forced to give them..." it sounds familiar. Teachers carrying out orders that they hate. Parents being threatened with having their children taken away. The reason the analogy comes to mind early on is because forcing a child to do things that parents and even teachers know can cause harm reminds us of others who also carried out the orders they were forced to do even though they knew they were wrong. The heroes are the ones who stopped following the heard and led the way into doing what is best for society.

    5. Well, I guess I walked into that one,'s there for means of comparison. A principal doesn't have to to be autocratic in application of New York's rule about high-stakes tests. He opted to be autocratic.

    6. I'm not sure it'd be far off the mark to say that taking the autocratic approach might be the result of the workings of a limited mind.

  4. I find it so cowardly that 'Anonymous' refuses to reveal his true identity yet is quick to criticize and inflame the conversation about testing, Nazis, etc. if a parent feels it is in the best interests of his/her child to abstain from taking the state standardized test so the child does not have to suffer emotionally or psychologically, I wholeheartedly support that. I taught over 20 years in Texas and we 'talked' testing from day 1 to the last day to prepare for the next year. I tried to absorb much of the pressure put on us as educators but the students feel the pressure and recognize the significance of the high stakes tests. Many times I had students with severe stomach aches, throw up or crying because they were so afraid they were not going to do well on the tests. I wouldn't want my child to go through that for 6 hours a day for two to three days straight during testing week for an eight year old.

  5. The primary purpose of any educational establishment is to provide a service. This case was a customer service failure plain and simple. Had this happened to my son, I may well have been in the Principal's office giving him a dressing down for his impertinence. But, in fact, I would have expected to have had a close enough relationship with the school and its staff for my request to be readily acceded to, since I was never a parent who could be satisfied with dropping my child off at the school gate and hoping for the best, and maybe that's an issue in there somewhere. One thing I learned from my years as a stay-at-home dad, however, is that many people believe it's perfectly okay to behave towards mothers in ways that they wouldn't dream of behaving towards me and the only reason for that was because I'm a man. Perhaps the world needs more Boadiceas and fewer acquiescent sheep who have forgotten their responsibility to their children.

  6. I am old school. I do things like corporal punishment. I certainly don't go around touting student rights on floats in 21st century Ed parades. However, I agree with this article 100% because true old school respects parent choices. I only lay out what to outcomes are, then ask the parent what they want. If they opt out of all of my options, they are saying that they want to deal with it. Ergo, I tell them to come on up. That's on discipline. This test thing isn't much different.
    Me: Your kiddo needs to test.

    Parent: I don't want him to test.

    Me: Okay, but what will he do during the test? Most of the school is testing. I'll honor parent choices, but I won't do favors.

    Parent: That's your call.

    Me: Nope, it WAS my call.

    Parent: Just have him work on homework.

    Me: Which teacher should I especially assign to watch you kiddo do this HOMEwork? Sounds like a favor there.

    Parent: Fine, I'll keep him home.

    Me: Sounds good, I'll just need something in writing saying that you kept him home Bc you didn't want him tested. Also that you recognize this affects his attendance, any attendance incentives, test reward incentives, etc. That way I can justify a blank test to this silly state that issues the nonsense.

    There are enough natural consequences in the system. I don't need to invent new ones.

  7. The problem is the conversation. Look NO up. You can do what you feel forced to do and I will do what is right for MY family. Do you really think incentives, test rewards and etc is praticed at my home. NO. The reward is a good life. Self worth. But you weren't talking to me, because I do not have conversation after the word NO. Dale Lynn Franks (wish I could make a profile, time is short and my kids brains are to calling) Good Day

  8. wow. The poor children who are not FREE. Free to explore what interests them and to have parents who send them off to be babysat at an institution where they are punished by rewards and dangling carrots. Where they are taught to sit down, be quiet and laughed at if they ask questions. Where they are humiliated by having to even ask to use a rest room. ACK!
    The old and vastly growing obsolete notion that a system can teach anything will only be a faint memory in the near future, unless we can have *schools* like Summer Hill~ A FREE school. Somehow those words are an oxymoron though when put in the same sentence. We do not need teachers, just people of all ages who are interested and excited about learning new things.

  9. If you dare ~watch how any child can learn ANYTHING if interested just as we do as adults!