Gov. Doyle signs AB 172

Apparently in Wisconsin the legislature and governor believe in the concept that politicians should mandate what is taught in the classroom. Last week the Governor signed a bill mandating the schools to teach the history of organized labor and collective bargaining in Wisconsin schools. This is the first such bill like this to be passed in the country and I believe sets a dangerous precedent. When elected officials can establish curricula and begin to micromanage our schools we are headed down a very slippery slope.

Here is a list of the donors and their donations by catagory to Gov. Doyle’s gubnatorial race:

Gov Doyle

If you notice the second donor on the list it is organized labor. This policy opens the door for politics to creep into the schools of Wisconsin.


  1. Thanks for the catch. Here’s the bill for AB 172.

    The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
    enact as follows:
    SECTION 1. 118.01 (2) (c) 6. of the statutes is amended to read:
    118.01 (2) (c) 6. Knowledge of state, national, and world history, including
    knowledge of the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining

  2. Randy, I know you hate when I change the subject, but you’ve touched on an important point that I don’t want to let slip past. I acknowledge your point about political contributions and influence on legislation. I will just add that we, as a nation, are well past the slippery slope point. Politics are all over our schools.

    Politics influence our text books and curricula, our teaching methods, class and teacher assignments, our choice of subject matter emphasis. Often that influence amounts to an honest opinion about what should be taught and how.

    Other times it results from big subsidies for districts that purchase certain materials, or from terrific marketing efforts by industry groups. For example, the National Science Foundation initially funded (via grants for school districts) certain math texts, making it easy for publishers of those materials to claim a large market share. Another example, “21st Century skills” is a phrase popularized by a consortium of technology companies, and their suggested practices may or may not have substantive educational value: teaching critical thinking requires also teaching something about which to think, in my opinion.

    Sometimes the politics is simply a reflection of economies of scale: whatever big states like California and Texas want, is going to be sold to the rest of us (along with a table that shows how it aligns to our state standards, too.) Standards tend to be broad and vague. Alignment to standards could mean anything.

    State-mandated content (this labor history piece isn’t the first instance by any means) limits what can be taught in local schools simply because there are only so many hours in a day. Some of that is appropriate, but it may be getting out of hand in Wisconsin. Our elementary teachers were opposed to foreign language instruction (something parents want) a few years ago because they felt their teaching time was being eaten up by other requirements.

    “Best practices” are influenced by what gets published in educational journals. Those publishing decisions are typically made by people in our education schools, and they in turn have their own agendas.

    Pretty much everyone has an opinion about education, and that means public education is political in every sense of the word. A whole lot of horse trading goes on before materials and practices ever reach a school district committee for consideration, much less a school board.

    All this competition for instructional time (and our tax dollar) is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that school boards need to be aware of the big picture and how it affects their choices.

  3. Randy, you missed something here. It looks like Wisconsin is following the precedent set by Texas and Kansas by legislating science curricula.

    We shouldn’t be mandating curricula, no matter if it is intelligent design or creationism (which i oppose) or collective bargaining and labor history (which i support). 🙂

  4. And we wonder why we’re falling behind in education….

  5. Bkfld Voter says:

    Here it seems the large donations by law firms may be backing the push to have students learn about organized labor and collective bargaining… practices which require legal counsel… and therefore take more of the individual’s income and give back to the law firms… all the while convincing the wage earner that he is lucky to participate in the union.

    Back in college, working my way through with a 3rd shift union job, there were the few “elite” who would come to work and sleep. The rest of us had to produce additional piece count to make up for them or the department wage would go down… for everybody.

    There may be stories of positive impact of unions, but there are many stories of abuse.

  6. Randy in Richmond says:

    We agree on this Lorax.

    Kathryn, I’m not sure if you have elected or appointed school boards but here in Virginia we have transitioned from all appointed to mostly elected. Personally I feel that is part of the problem and in fact, several counties here have gone full circle and are now back to appointing. Neither system is perfect and each has it’s pluses and minuses but I prefer an appointed school board. I understand all the nuances associated with what is taught but having it come directly from highly elected state officials is a bad idea. The next governor may be a conservative and believe the schools should recognize the NRA for all the gun safety and training it has done over the years. This would be absurd but the precedent is now set.
    And one sore spot in Gov. Doyle’s action is I live in a ‘right to work’ state and know what that means for workers and the state. I could argue that policy is historic and that it can be shown how much the right to work laws have benefitted the state’s workers and brought hundreds of thousands of jobs to all parts of the state.

    I’ve always been management but this past year I was forced to join a union (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, IATSE) to be able to participate in a job I really wanted. For me it was like paying the local heavy so he wouldn’t beat you up. And without my ID card I would not have been allowed into many venues across the country. Sorry, but I’m just not into that union mentality. I got into big trouble once for nailing two 2×4’s together to cradle some wires. I was told in no uncertain terms a person in the carpenter’s union had to do that. So I have some bias on this overall subject.

  7. Well Randy, I guess we agree on most of that. I’ll mark the calendar. 😉

  8. Just to let you guys know, Elmbrook has been teaching this stuff for ages, especially in the class 20th Century American History.

  9. Most schools do and SHOULD teach this material. It’s really important historically. How can you explain the industrial revolution without it? Or suburbanization?

  10. …or 8-hour days, weekends, migration from Appalachia to the upper Midwest (why do all those Detroiters have Southern accents?) and a big chunk of American literature and folk music…gotta love Pete Seeger…

    The issue was not really about teaching it, Anthony, it was about legislating the teaching of it and the motivation for such legislation.

  11. With everything else that is going on I couldn’t help expanding on the subject