We don’t know if this is happening in Washington state or not. It is something parents should be on the lookout for. This article is reposted here from the Missouri Education Watchdog where it was posted on Friday, August 30, 2013.
This came in from a mother in Missouri who’s high school daughter was frustrated with a class assignment to write an research paper.
My daughter told me a story a few weeks ago about doing a research paper for one of her classes this past Spring. (She was a freshman at the time). She was doing her paper on media bias. She told me that it was particularly difficult to do since she had to use the “common core approved” search engine “SIRS” for 4 of her 6 sources as required by her teacher.
She said that at the top of the search engine site it shows a “Common Core Approved” banner.
Just to highlight the facts here: A student was required to use a particular search engine to do their work. In order to get a good grade the majority of their sources had to be found with this search engine.
The mother did some research (bless you mothers who don’t take things at face value) and found this about the SIRS engine.
Targeted resources for student research
SIRS Knowledge Source (SKS) provides a portal to relevant, credible information carefully hand-selected by our SIRS editorial staff. When students use SKS, they receive best-of content designed to support student research, study, and homework in key curricula subjects. Databases cross-searchable within SKS will vary based on subscription. SIRS Knowledge Source offers National, State, Province and Common Core Standards aligned to content.
Use SKS to search these SIRS resources at once, or to link to each SIRS collection:
- SIRS® Issues Researcher—Covering the pros and cons Leading Issues most studied and debated by students
- SIRS® Government Reporter—Historic and Government Documents, Directories and Almanacs
- SIRS® Renaissance—Current perspectives on the arts and humanities
- SIRS® WebSelect—Collection of editorially-selected reliable and credible educational websites covering all curriculum topics
You will find this web site here: http://www.proquestk12.com/productinfo/sirs_knowledgesource.shtml
“Hand selected” and “Credible”? How do we know? Who is their editorial staff? What criteria do they use to determine something is credible? Why should we take their word for it?
The reason the mother even heard about SIRS was because her daughter said it was almost impossible to support her point of view by being forced to use that search engine to do her research. Her daughter’s thesis was very conservative and this search engine could not find conservative sources. Hmmmmmm.
The schools say they want to teach kids critical thinking skills. They want them to research facts and support their position, but they can only look for support in preselected places? Is this sending up red flags for anyone else?
Even more troubling for this mom was the fact that she could not access this search engine. It was only available to students through the school. This is in direct violation of the Protection of Pupil Rights Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98) which grants parents this right.
(a) Inspection of instructional materials by parents or guardians
All instructional materials, including teacher’s manuals, films, tapes, or other supplementary material which will be used in connection with any survey, analysis, or evaluation as part of any applicable program shall be available for inspection by the parents or guardians of the children.
To see the full text of PPRA which is a subsection of FERPA go here and click on the link to Protection of Pupil Rights.
This is akin to asking the press, in a world that has up to the minute reporting being done on Twitter, Facebook and indepth reporting being done on blogs, to only consider other main stream media sources for their stories. The press would find that limiting and absurd. Why would we put the same shackles on our kids?
Look into SIRS yourself. Ask your child if they have been required to use it. We don’t know if this is a limited case in this district or is more widespread. Please share your findings in the comments.
This mother wrote, “When our children are not free to do research from any credible source they choose in order to get a grade, yet they are directed to a site where the message can be controlled in order to indoctrinate, we have real problems.”
We must not allow learning to go on behind the iron curtain of the public schools.