Michelle Boulter’s Utah Capitol-Town Hall Speech.

'The is the fundamental unit of society and the state   school board should always keep this foremost% (1)

What is the purpose of education? I have thought a lot about this question.

We are now at a crossroads on how we proceed with education. Before us are two choices: continue in the direction we are going or come up with a truly unique Utah education for our children.  As we move forward let us not drift from the family values which have always anchored us in the past.

It is important to remember that parents have given schools a great trust with their children for most of their formative years. The lessons taught them will largely determine how they think and act throughout their lives. This is why we do a great disservice to our children when we implement programs and mandates that weaken the families we serve. The family is the fundamental unit of society and the state school board should always keep this foremost on their minds as they work to create the future of education in Utah.

School board members must represent the parents and families of Utah, not the Utah Office of Education. They should always reassert the primary right of parents in the education of their children. There is a growing tendency to shift this educational responsibility from the home to outside influences. We need a State school board with organization skills that will develop a better working relationship between schools and families. Schools in Utah should not be in a power struggle between parents and the state board of education. We need parents who are courageous enough to lead out in the education of their children. We can not forget the most basic principle, which is, that parents are the primary educators of their children. We need schools that are wise enough to recognize that basic principle and we need a state school board willing to stand and protect that principle.

The key to the future of education comes from lessons of the past. There is a beautiful heritage found here in Utah. It is important that we teach the character traits of the past so that we can add on to them for the future. This is the shaping of ideals and beliefs. Let me be clear when I talk about character. I am not talking about the character curriculum we are currently learning in schools. Although the character curriculum many Utah schools are using are cute and have fun songs for the children to learn, they fail to include what our ancestors knew was vital for their own character development. Our ancestors taught their children character through the trials and experiences within a family and close community settings.

One such example is that of Andreas Olsen who built the roof on one of the most beautiful buildings we have here in America. He was a Norwegian ship builder and had learned how to build sailboats. Having had no experience building roofs, he took the same principle used to build a ship and applied it for building a roof. He reasoned that a well built ship is solid and waterproof. He used the fundamental skills of his trade. The plans were drawn to build a ship and when finished they were turned upside down and used to construct the roof of the Manti temple. This is a great example of the character trait of perseverance. Seeing a problem and using innovation to solve it.

This Creative innovation has always shaped our land. Long before our pioneer ancestors came to this valley, the Anasazi cliff dwellers used large stone structures to build their community. We can learn a lot from these unique stone structures. Each stone had its own shape and characteristic that played an important role in building their community. Man made bricks that all look and act alike may be functional but lack the beauty and uniqueness that endure the test of time. We should follow the example of the Anasazi as we teach our children. Instead of making every child common we need to develop an educational system that encourages the uniqueness of each of our children, instead of focussing on the common traits that are so temporary.

Utah families deserve school board members that recognize that parents know best. But not only parents, but grandparents and great grandparents and on and on! Let’s use the lessons of the past to help influence the world. We don’t need to train our children to compete in a global economy, we need to prepare Utah children to lead in a global community! The only way to do this is to leave the global idea of education behind and turn to the lessons of the past.

Utah was innovative in bringing people from around the world in the mid 1800s utilizing their strengths, talents and skills and used the strength of each individual to build a beautiful society. They did not compete but rather worked together to build a thriving economy here in Utah. It is now our time to show the world how to do this. Let us follow the pattern our forefathers have taught us and work with the character, innovation and our individual uniqueness to encourage Utah students to become a great influence on the world around us.

Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children, linking the principles and truths of the past to build the future – that is the purpose of education.

With all the educational reforms, one aspect seems to be continually overlooked, that of personal agency. We seem to forget that personal agency trumps everything. Knowledge must be sought after and made a personal goal. Reformers need to stop trying to control our children’s outcomes. Just as the instruments in a great orchestra are different so are our children. Our job as parents is to nurture our children’s unique gifts and talents, then we will see their individual worth and be able to hear the beautiful music they bring into the world.

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Data and Our Rights as Parents

Education quote here

When it comes to data collection and one to one technology (1:1 technology) parental rights must always be at the forefront of the discussion. Data is being collected on our children at alarming rates, and yes I understand it goes with the territory that comes from living in a technology rich world. However, the data that is being collected from our children, whether through tests, online assignments, or paperwork we fill out, is then being released to third party vendors, without the knowledge or consent of the parents. This is effectively turning our children into a commodity. When society views children as a commodity how does that change a child’s worth? Are we letting this data determine our children’s worth as individuals?

While at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, my concerns grew as I gained more knowledge and understanding with what was intended to be done with this data. I attended a United Nations meeting in which the discussion was centered around “What if…” The focus of this meeting was, what if data could be used to determine the outcome of individuals and the human condition. You must ask according to whose standards.

I sat and listened to a top United Nations official answer two concerns brought up by Jenny Baker and myself: 1. How will they protect personal data and keep that data within the family? 2. How will you assure us that our children will not be turned into commodities and parents won’t be referred to as stakeholders?

Kate Gilmore, Executive Director of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) said in response, “…we discovered that for millions and millions of women that marriage is not much better than an arbitrary detention cell; that the kitchen is a torture chamber; that the bedroom is a site for the gravest of human rights violations.  As much as we wish to uphold the responsibility and the burden of parenting to sustain people in that and to preserve the privacy, I am afraid by performance alone, we can neither trust nor leave alone the care of the most vulnerable to anybody who has power over them, whether it be the state, whether it be the church, whether it be the mosque, or the synagogue or unfortunately the family or the marriage.”

Again whose standards will be upheld in the use of this data and determining individual outcomes? Our children’s data privacy is a very real concern. Imagine the amount of data that will be collected once every child in school is given their very own tablet all in the name of “individualized instruction”. There is no way to guarantee the safety of our children’s data or of our children.

Many parents do not allow their children to have a personal electronic device. Many have a set age where they will give them a smartphone or tablet. This has always been a decision left to the parents. Now, school officials are circumventing those decisions in the name of “high stakes learning”. This parental right is being overlooked! As a parent, I feel that technology should be used as a supplement to my children’s learning, not as the main source, as it is currently being pushed with 1:1 technology. How many parents remember the warnings about the dangers of too much screen time? Now those warnings are being ignored in order to push forward an agenda. Parents are always being warned about the dangers of pornograph, currently being called the New Drug and recently declared a public health crisis in Utah. We all know how easily accessible it is via personal electronic devices. Will this access somehow be lessened on a school issued personal device?

We are told by school officials that they have safeguards in place to keep our children safe, yet our children are still being exposed to pornography while on school computers. Children as young as 3rd and 4th grades first encounter pornography on a school computer. Teenagers are sharing hacks to bypass any safeguard. These hacks also allow pornography to be viewed without any trace. There are apps that look and behave as something else when in reality it’s used to store files, videos and pictures. One such app is a calculator; this app behaves like a calculator but is actually a file cabinet. How will schools protect against those apps and hacks when those very hacks and apps are evolving just as fast as technology evolves?

We must slow down this momentum pushing these new reforms forward. Slow down and ask questions. The burden of proof must be placed on those asking us as parents to trust them with the welfare of our children. Parents must be brought to the table and allowed to ask the hard questions. After all, it’s our parental right.

Take time to watch the first 20 min.


The Fundamental Right of Parents

I firmly stand for and respect the fundamental right of parents to guide the educational decisions of their children and value the heightened protections declared in Utah State Code.

Unfortunately, this fundamental right of parents to guide their child’s education has been flipped on its head. Under the current educational reforms the state’s role is seen as primary, special interest groups secondary, and then parents. There is such a great momentum to push these reforms through that parents have lost control as to what is being taught to their children, so much so, that we are no longer consulted.

utah state code