North Dakota DPI Official Attacks Common Core Opponent

The spokesperson for North Dakota’s Department of Public Instruction, Dale Wetzel, has been caught engaging in email smear campaign of Common Core foe, Dr. Duke Pesta, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.  Pesta also serves as the Academic Director of FreedomProject Education.  This led up to Pesta, who has been active in fighting the Common Core in Wisconsin, speaking at rallies in Fargo and Bismarck.

Wetzel publically criticized Pesta on the radio last week on the Jay Thomas Show in North Dakota:


Rob Port at the SayAnything Blog reported:

Yesterday, DPI spokesman Dale Wetzel appeared on the Jay Thomas show to address Pesta’s criticisms of Common Core and was…something less than civil to opponents of the policy. Not content to merely rebut the arguments against Common Core, Wetzel was dismissive to the point of belittlement to the policy’s detractors.

Port also noted that civility has been lacking on both sides.  Port then reported from North Dakota Watchdog about the email campaign against Pesta:

In the lead up to Pesta’s visits to Bismarck and Fargo this week, DPI public information officer Dale Wetzel used a Gmail account to forward information to members of the state Legislature and at least one reporter, Hannah Johnson of the Bismarck Tribune. Among the documents sent were a copy of IRS Form 990 for the American Opinion Foundation, a list of “talking points” about Pesta and a third document entitled “The Truth About Duke Pesta.”

“He is a traveling salesman who is bad-mouthing Common Core to sell his own educational product,” reads one statement about Pesta in the “talking points” document.

“What is Pesta’s motivation? Money,” states the “Truth About Duke Pesta” document.

Initially, Superintendent of Public Schools Kirsten Baesler, who holds a non-partisan office but was endorsed by North Dakota Republicans, told Watchdog these emails were not coming from the Department of Public Instruction, but after an email forward from state Rep. Mike Nathe, a Republican from Bismarck, indicated the emails were originating with Wetzel, Baesler acknowledged they were sent out by a member of her staff.

But Baesler insists the emails were not sent per her instruction, nor were they sent using DPI resources, something with which Wetzel agrees.

“I did this on my own time and with my own equipment,” Wetzel told Watchdog in an email. “No one at DPI told me to do it.”

“I started the email address to send out the Pesta stuff because I didn’t want to clutter up my name gmail account with Common Core stuff,” Wetzel said, referencing his personal email account. “I figured it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out it was me anyway.”

Wetzel said the email address, created Monday, was only used in his personal time, on his private laptop, and that he created the email address “so that members of the press and legislators in North Dakota would know more background about an English teacher from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who presents himself as an expert on Common Core.”

Wetzel acknowledged he talked about the same material from his emails while appearing on the Jay Thomas Show on WDAY AM970 in Fargo in his capacity as DPI spokesman.

We have had heated rhetoric on both sides of this issue.  Outside of pointing out organizations that have received Gates Foundation money to promote Common Core (which is verifiable) I’ve tried to stay away from personal attacks and to second guess motivations.  It is rather chilling that a state employee would use his platform to engage in a personal attack such as this.  We expect Common Core advocates to provide a defense of the Common Core and to address our criticisms, but this crosses the line.

Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s Superintendent of Public Schools, should acknowledge this.

Pesta responded to this email attack:

A response from Dr. Duke Pesta onDale Wetzel’s Department of Public Instruction “Hit Piece”

  • Dr. Pesta backs up everything he says with documentation, and he provides the websites for people to check out the facts for themselves.
  • Dr Pesta does not charge a speaking fee; he is reimbursed for travel expenses by the parents who invited him to come on behalf of Stop Common Core ND.
  • Far from using his speech to advertise his educational materials, Dr. Pesta says Common Core is the single best advertisement to come down the road for homeschooling in the past 50 years.

The truth about Common Core that Dale Wetzel and the Department of Public Instruction don’t want you to know:

  • Common Core was put together behind closed doors by an unholy alliance between the federal government and crony capitalists.
  • Common Core is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education that will decrease learning and ultimately rob North Dakota moms and dads of local control of their schools.
  • Common Core joins weak pedagogy with blatant sociological indoctrination to separate children from their families.
  • Liberal organizations across the country, including the New York state teachers union, the National Education Association, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, have joined with numerous conservative voices to oppose Common Core.
  • In those states that have had Common Core two years longer than North Dakota, a concerted effort is being made to remove it.
  • Currently there are 300 pieces of legislation pending in 46 states to remove Common Core in whole or in part, and there will be legislation introduced in North Dakota to do so next session.

4 thoughts on “North Dakota DPI Official Attacks Common Core Opponent

  1. Shane– I’ve been following this one closely, Kathy O’Brien, the woman Dale Wentzel said on POV TV, he felt he should rough up is a contributor to my website..

    Wentzel, the DPI spokes person and Anonymous Internet Troll has worked for the department less than two months. I haven’t seen any indication he had any involvement with Common Core, one way or the other, prior to taking the job,,

    As we both know from listening to him, he’s long on canned talking points, and short on actual knowledge about Common Core.

  2. I want to see proof of that there was parents/public involvement…. And if there was, did you take their input and apply it to the common core???? I want proof!!!! I want a list of teachers who helped development these standards…. Why are states pulling out if this is such a great thing???? Why is the federal gov punishing Indiana for pulling out???? We are being lied to!!! This is done for a greater move in our Federal Gov! Just because the Gov says it’s good, doesn’t make it good. Just like our food!!!! Eat this, it’s safe…. Years later we are realizing how terrible our food industry is. Same with healthcare. Fed. Gov will tell us what we want to hear to keep us asking more questions and researching that their words match what’s really being done.

    1. This is the only survey I was given…134 teacher and 4 parents. Wasn’t like they loved it either. Still waiting for the “other: survey Dale referred to…

  3. Why can’t he name these professionals who took our kids mental health in all this in consideration????? He doesn’t seem to know any hardcore details.

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