More Important Subjects

It's not just Christianity per se that is given short shrift. Our founding fathers are also in disfavor with the popular culture and so are sometimes written out of history or downplayed to the point of ignoring their contributions. As Dr. Paul Vitz demonstrated, history and social studies, along with other subjects, are manipulated in public schools to conform to the ideological bent of the education establishment. The New Jersey Department of Education recently omitted America's founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, from the revised version of the state's history standards until an outpouring of public objections caused it to reverse its decision."

Such actions are hardly unique to New Jersey. James Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate, says that history textbooks in Virginia schools in the 1960s contained ten times more coverage of Washington than modern texts. "It's shameful," said Rees, "how little we teach our children about Washington and other founding fathers." Some argue that this practice of removing these references is ideologically driven. John Fonte of the Hudson Institute says that New Jersey is not concerned with teaching the basics of American history. "Obviously," said Fonte, "there are anti-patriotic forces at work at the New Jersey legislature."

The anti-traditional establishment is often more concerned with indoctrinating students in its worldview than with teaching the essentials of core subjects. A brief perusal of the NEA's 19951996 handbook well illustrates the point. The union shamelessly speaks out on policy issues having nothing to do with education, from endorsing the pro-choice position on abortion to stricter gun control legislation.

The National Council of Social Studies (NCSS), with 26,000 members nationwide, is another arm of the education establishment. It consists of teachers from various disciplines, including history, geography, political science, and economics. The NCSS holds itself out as the organization that helps prepare students for citizenship. Its self-described mission is to "provide leadership, service, and support for all social studies educators." And training social studies teachers, boasts the NCSS, has profound consequences for America: "Social studies educators teach students in the content knowledge, intellectual skills, and civic values necessary for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy."

A credible case can be made, however, that instilling student pride in American history is not the goal of the group. Education expert and author Kay S. Hymowitz, of the Manhattan Institute, attended the NCSS's annual conference in November 2001. Keynote speaker James Loewen, wrote Hymowitz, "warned against patriotic displays like the singing of 'God Bless America: The Swedes," he noted, "and the Kenyans don't think God blesses America over all other countries."

Hymowitz also shared an exchange that took place at a meeting of the New York chapter of NCSS between a teacher and Alan Schulman, a member of a panel on "The Impact of September 11 on Social Studies Professionals." When the teacher explained that her students had been anxious to learn more American history after the terrorist attacks, Schulman responded, "We need to de-exceptionalize the United States. We're just another country and another group of people."

Sadly, this educator's attitude is not unusual among those in his profession. In 2002, the California assembly debated a bill that would require testing high school students on the essentials of American history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. Members from the Claremont Institute-an organization that established the Teaching Teachers Project to restore the teaching of America's founding principles to public schools-testified in favor of the legislation. They stressed how important it was to our society that students be educated in civics. They also reported that during their testimony, "several liberal members of the legislature were so uninterested they simply walked away." Worse, they related the testimony of a state teachers' union spokesman in opposition to the legislation. This man opined that the Declaration and Constitution are "non-essential materials," and that schools have "more important subjects they need to be teaching."

There are countless additional examples of what Claremont's Brian Kennedy describes as "a vast nationwide movement to declare irrelevant America's past and the principles on which it was founded." One high school American history textbook, said Kennedy, devotes a mere six lines to George Washington, but six and a half pages to Marilyn Monroe. Elsewhere, the California Teachers Association at one point eliminated from its calendar a reference to the Fourth of July, but included an entry for "Internment of Japanese Day." It featured a Buddhist Nirvana Day, but omitted Christmas and Thanksgiving." And some want to tell us that multiculturalism doesn't reek of an anti-American and anti-Christian bias?

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