Martin’s ruminations about knowing the nation’s past to preserve its future preceded the release of the national history exam results by a day. The exam results were published on June 14th (Flag Day no less).
The National Assessment of Education Progress history exam was given last spring to a representative sample of 7,000 fourth graders, 11,800 eighth graders and 12,400 12th graders nationwide. Among the results, most 4th graders did not know why Abraham Lincoln was important and only 35% knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Only 17% of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam. Proficient means students have a solid understanding of key historical events, the basic principles of democracy, and America’s role in the world. More than half the seniors posted scores at the lowest achievement level, “below basic.”
It’s no wonder. The process of destroying our children’s knowledge of their heritage began long before 2011.
In 1979, the Heritage Foundation published an analysis of elementary and junior high school social studies texts by a group of Arizona parents. However, the content that concerned those parents did not originate with these texts. Progressive educators have dominated education for a long time. They believed, and still believe, that schools have a responsibility to change society for the better or, more accurately, what they believe to be better.
The document introduction states in part: “Our country is grounded on certain ethical precepts which can be traced back to a time long before our beginnings as a nation. When we deny or divorce our children from these precepts we abandon them to a sort of collective amnesia, unknowing of where they have come from and with no guideposts to precedence for the future. That is why “the brave new world “of the reformers and social planners is predicated upon alienating the rising generation from their heritage. We can think of no better instruments for this purpose than the textbooks we have reviewed.”
What follows are 13 closely printed pages of citations from major publishers as well as from influential education organizations. Only a few examples are reproduced here. Interspersed with the citations are reviewers’ observations. One of those observations is of particular interest today.
“Change, compromise, and conflict are all favorite themes of textbook authors. Change takes on a life of its own. It is not so much presented as spontaneous innovation or improvement but is placed in the context of something that should be deliberately induced and encouraged as if it has some intrinsic value of itself (they would have the student believe) for the greater welfare of all.”
Reviewers attested to “a constancy of ideological content…”
Among the categories of that constancy are:
1. Liberty vs. Government Control
As we look into the increasing complex world of the future, is more liberty really a desirable goal? Is it possible that, in a world of advancing technology and larger populations, it will prove necessary to place more restrictions on people’s actions? Stated differently, can this new kind of world afford more freedom? Does this suggest new ways of thinking about the old relationship between liberty and the law? (American Book Company, grades 7/8, American Society page 63, 1978.)
The politicians had grown up with the idea that it is best to have as little government as possible. The old idea was one that Thomas Jefferson had especially liked. The people who believed as Jefferson had were not willing to try new ways of solving the growing American problems. (Rand McNally, grades 7/8, The Free and the Brave p. 522, 1977.)
The growing problems of our society, generated in part by the failings of our economic system, intensifies the need for a government role in restructuring and regulating the economy. The profit motivated operations of private business have led to inequalities of wealth and income, unemployment, inflation, urban blight, pollution and other problems. (A Working Economy for Americans, National Education Association et al, no date provided.)
A Follett text asks
What of our future? Will more government spending, control, and regulation take away some of our basic economic freedoms? Are Americans willing to sacrifice some of their economic freedom for the greater welfare of all? (Follett, Civics, grades 7/8, p. 393, 1978.)
The Teachers edition of the same text advises:
… loss of individual freedom should not ever be equated, however, with governmental tyranny. Students should be made aware of the many practical efforts and accomplishments of our institutions in behalf of the rights of individuals. (Follett, Grades 7/8, Civics, Teachers Edition, p, 16-17, 1978.)
You might help children to explore the extent to which great differences in income should be controlled by government. You might arrange a role-play in which one child, or a group of children, plays a wealthy businessman while another child or group plays a person who is poor, ill and out of work. (Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Grade 6, The Social Sciences: Concepts and Values, Teachers’ edition. Page 236, 1975.)
A second grade Teachers’ Edition advises:
Introduce the pupils to the concept of urban renewal. Tell them that the federal government has helped many cities with programs of urban renewal. (Noble and Noble, Grade 2, Groups and Communities page 140, 1974.)
Originally, democracy was considered only as a political relationship. Today we speak also of economic democracy and social democracy. By economic democracy we mean the right of all people to share in some way in the better life that our economic life is producing….We have often had to change our concept of democracy to fit the changing needs of our society… (Follett, Grades 7/8, American History, page 636, 1971.)
Another text by the same publisher states,
There is no necessary relationship between a certain type of political system and a certain type of economic system…There is no reason why a system of government cannot combine a democratic political system with a socialistic economic system. (Follett, Grades 7/8, Civics, p. 62, 1978.)
More than just a regulator of business, government in the united States is itself a business. It is also a producer of goods and services. (American Book Company, Grades 7/8, American Society, p. 374,1978.)
Do we really need 50 state governments plus one national government? Recent critics of the federalist system believe the old state borders make little sense in modern times. (Scholastic, Grades 7/8, Scholastic American Citizenship Program, p. 118, 1977.)
Does democracy mean that people have the right to share fully in the good things they help produce? (Follett, Grades 7/8, American History, p. 693, 1977.)
Just as we label cigarette packs, all automobiles should have written on their dashboards and above their exhaust pipes in large letters: ’Caution: Air pollution produced by this vehicle is damaging to health and may result in early death…What laws could be passed by your local government that would discourage drivers from using their cars too often? (Scholastic, Grades 7/8, Scholastic American Citizenship Program, p. 257, 1977.)
2. The Group, Society and World Community vs. Individual, State and Nation
In a section entitled “World Order and You” another text affirms:
That we need some kind of world order, under law, can hardly be denied…World order is needed not only for protection but for progress…But we are still far short of true world order under the rule of law. What would be the best way to bring about world order? (Addison-Wesley, Grades 7/8, Civics in Action, page 357, 1971.)
…World history…state and American history remain standard courses, All these subjects, but particularly the last two need to be globalized…to offer students a more realistic look at their total world environment…State and national histories tend to perpetuate the ethnocentric outlook which restricts young people from seeing how their lives and their futures are intimately tied to what is happening in the rest of the world. (National Endowment for the Humanities, Grant ES-22300-76-362 Global Perspectives grades 7-9, page 2.)
3. Relative Values and Group Needs
Students learn that right and wrong don’t exist. They are merely cultural artifacts.
The Ashanti’s way of bringing up children is different from the American way because their values are different. In the context of their beliefs and values, human sacrifices did not seem wrong to the Mayas… To them it was the correct, proper, and right way to behave. Without this understanding, it is all too easy to say that we are right and they are wrong. (Silver Burdett, Grade 4, People and Ideas, pages 241 and 248, 1976.)
Freedom means different things to different people. Students may be asked to define freedom from a Bedouin’s point of view. (Rand McNally, Grades 7/8 People and Culture, Teachers Edition, p 177A, 1975.)
Does your family have rules you do not like?… Stress the fact that it is important for all people to be able to be able to form opinions based on their own judgment. (Noble and Noble, Grade 1, You and Your Family, p. 38,1974.)
Have students act out examples of conflicts in home or classroom situations. (Addison Wesley, Grade 1, Working, Playing, Learning, Teachers’ Edition p. 54, 1976.)
A series of quotes in the same vein from six different publishers follow.
The Inquiry-Discovery Method, in vogue at the time, was widely used. It was supposed to teach children to think like social scientists, to draw conclusions and make “objective” decisions based on the evidence presented. However, the evidence was carefully selected to produce favored conclusions. Two examples will suffice.
The invasion failed, but the people of Cuba still do not feel safe from American military might…This photograph shows Castro making one of the speeches for which he is famous. Cubans sometimes sit several hours at a time listening to a Castro speech. Why do you suppose Castro is so much admired in Cuba? (Addison-Wesley, Grade 6, The Human Adventure, Teachers Edition, p. 401, 1976.)
The new nation—the United States of America—was ruled chiefly by white slave owners, lawyers and businessmen. These men did not share Jefferson’s thoughts about the coming end of slavery. In 1787 fifty-five of them, representing their states, met in Philadelphia. There they wrote the new Constitution for the new country. It shows they were not willing to take steps to end slavery. (Globe, Grades 7/8, Minorities, p. 70-71, 1976.)
Many, if not most, of the publishers listed are now part of large conglomerates. Are textbooks today significantly different than they were in 1979?
Last year, the Lexington Institute reported on the results of a survey conducted for the American Enterprise Institute:
Nearly half of American history teachers believe it is less important that their students understand the common history, ideas, rights, and responsibilities that tie the country together as Americans than that they learn to celebrate the unique identities and experiences of its different ethnic, religious, and immigrant groups.
Advocates of radical “social-justice” multiculturalism in many university schools of education—the places where most K-12 teachers are trained—continue to oppose assimilation with a common culture while instead seeking to radically transform an ‘oppressive’ America.
…Not surprisingly, only a little more than one-third of the teachers deemed it “absolutely essential” for their students to “know facts” (such as the location of the 50 states) or dates (such as the attack on Pearl Harbor).”
The reviewers’ concerns predate Martin’s by 32 years, but they are much the same: “Democratic institutions cannot survive the manipulated man—when education succumbs to conditioning and indoctrination, liberty is at risk. It need not be taken by force when it is willingly surrendered…”
At the time of their writing, the public education system was an impregnable, unresponsive monopoly. Dissident parents either home schooled, or if they could afford it, patronized carefully selected private or religious schools. That has changed in Arizona and is in the process of changing in other states as well.
This writer recently attended a charter high school graduation. The headmaster remarked that his students read original documents, the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s Farewell Address, among others, because the faculty does not want to rely on “interpretations.”
May such schools prosper and multiply, and may parents protect and defend them from imposition of a national curriculum through so-called “common core” standards.
C.S. Lewis had something to say about such an eventuality:
….Hitherto the plans of the educationists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we have read them …we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers…But the man molders of the new age will be armed with the powers of the omnipotent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please…They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce… The Abolition of Man, 1943