TCS Daily


Liberty Starts in School

By Bill Costello - November 21, 2010 12:33 PM

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 08:  Second graders watch a...

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American public schools are not currently producing students who can think independently. How can we expect to maintain our liberty when our citizens lack the ability to reach independent conclusions on the issues of the day?

Students learn to think by hearing both sides of an issue, weighing the evidence, applying reason, and forming independent conclusions. However, American public schools are not presenting students with opposing views. Instead, students are disproportionately hearing issues from the perspective of the political left.

It does not matter which perspective is correct. If students only heard issues from the perspective of the political right, they still would not be learning to think independently. Students should be taught to gather relevant facts from both perspectives and then form their own opinions. After all, teachers will not always be around to tell them what to think, and some students may find they don't always agree with their teachers.

Educational propaganda is not new, or uncommon. During World War II, it contributed to the loss of liberty in France. During World War I, the French fought four long years to protect their liberty; they were patriots, and they fought like patriots. After the war, however, they became pacifists when French primary schoolteachers promoted pacifism over patriotism in the classroom. This moral disarmament prevented the French from stopping Hitler when his forces were still weaker than theirs. Hitler was able to build up his forces and invade France during World War II. This time the French did not fight four long years to protect their liberty. They surrendered in just six weeks.

In America, patriotism is not promoted in public schools. Instead, American values and principles are attacked. Students are hearing only one side of the story. They need to hear the good and the bad to get the real story and to learn to think on their own.

While history classes could be contributing to social cohesion by teaching students about America's achievements, they are instead contributing to social exclusion by focusing on blame, grievances, and victimhood--both real and imagined. Somehow it has become trendy to disparage America. Producing an educated electorate requires a balanced presentation of history; not one that would swap perceived naivete for self-flaggelation.

In order to teach history from an impartial perspective, teachers need to focus on facts--not feelings and rhetoric. However, a new survey of high school social studies teachers by the American Enterprise Institute found that: "Teaching facts is the lowest priority for social studies teachers when it comes to instruction in citizenship. Of the five priorities high schools may have around the teaching of citizenship, only 20 percent of teachers put teaching key facts, dates, and major events at the top of their list. Furthermore, it is the last of twelve items rated by teachers as absolutely essential to teach high school students: only 36 percent say it is absolutely essential to teach students 'to know facts (e.g., location of the fifty states) and dates (e.g., Pearl Harbor).'"

Part of the problem, according to journalist Tucker Carlson, is "the hard-edged propaganda that now suffuses history textbooks. A thorough cover-to-cover reading of almost any high school history text leaves you with the impression that the United States is at best embarrassing, and at worst a menace to world peace. The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two gets almost us much emphasis as the American liberation of Europe."

History textbooks are rewriting history with a heavy emphasis on America's shortcomings. This emphasis is not balanced with a discussion of the shortcomings of other nations and cultures--and they all have shortcomings. Instead, these nations and cultures receive every benefit of doubt, while American misdeeds are effectively highlighted, italicized, and underlined.

The Texas State Board of Education recently approved a resolution arguing that numerous history textbooks favor Islam and demonize Christianity. Specifically, the resolution states that the board: "will look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage spacewise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others." In these textbooks, Islam receives every benefit of doubt. Shortcomings are not mentioned. America and Christianity, however, are not afforded the same treatment.

Part of the problem stems from the liberal indoctrination teachers themselves receive from professors in college, which then trickles down to their students. A study by political science professors Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Neil Nevitte found that 72 percent of American professors are liberal and 15 percent are conservative.

In that atmosphere, what are the chances that teachers are in the habit of weighing both sides of an issue, objectively assessing evidence, and forming independent conclusions? And if teachers are not in the habit of doing this, why would we expect the people they're teaching to be any different?

Without the ability to reach independent conclusions on the issues of the day, generations of Americans will be ill-equipped to provide the independence of thought that allows all free people to govern themselves and maintain their liberty.


Bill Costello, M.Ed., is the president of U.S.-based Making Minds Matter, LLC and the author of Awaken Your Birdbrain: Using Creativity to Get What You Want. He can be reached at www.makingmindsmatter.com.

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1 Comment

This has been going on for a long time. I remember picking up my teacher girl-friend's junior high American history book in '88. The World War II section had several pages of foldouts about women in the war, the Navajo codetalkers, African-American contributions, etc. The actual description of wartime events was less than one-half page of text, and ignored dates and actual events. I was aghast.

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