An Interaction with the Montgomery Education EstablishmentBy
Back in the spring I agreed to serve on the Alabama Course of Study Committee for Social Studies. Pleasure, frustration, and intrigue have followed. And even though the committee has submitted its final report to the Department of Education, the end of it all is still not visible. I think you will find a few of the details interesting.
Now, the committee is assigned the task of designing a course of study (COS) for social studies in grades K through 12. It's the committee's job to propose to the Board of Education what our students will be taught in geography, history, economics and political science-- these four subjects. Once the COS is approved it is used as a basis for selecting textbooks and for designing that part of the graduation exam touching on the four subjects named. Since spring, the committee has met typically for two days or so each month.
I will say it without embellishment: What finally is approved by the Board is important. It is something in which every parent, indeed every citizen, should take the keenest of interest. It will set, and I think I go not too far when I say it will set in concrete, what ideas and attitudes will be inculcated in our children for years to come. Moreover, while other subjects may be relatively innocuous, the subjects of social studies are by their nature vulnerable to the absorption of ill-conceived values and attitudes. They are natural targets for those seeking to change our American culture. Against this we should all be on our guard, and during my tenure on the committee I was sensitive to this danger.
The committee had some 40 or so members, all but a few being teachers or school administrators. In general I was the only non-educator in the sub-group discussions in which I was a participant. And in general I was frequently a minority of one. At the end of the study the staff circulated a concurrence sheet asking for the signature of each member. All dutifully signed, except for one lone dissenter. I will waste no keystrokes giving you this pariah's name.
I submitted a minority report, and I was grateful to have Stephen King, another non-educator member of the committee, join with me. The majority report is on the Department of Education's website and can be read here. The minority report has been given no space on their web, so I am appending it below. I hope that you will interest yourself in this issue. Now that the COS is on the web and is in the public domain, it has become the object of concern to many. This is not necessarily the last of my comments on this subject.
Meanwhile I hope that you will let me have your comments. When you do please say whether I have your permission to publish your words.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF ALABAMA
A MINORITY REPORT
I am a member of the above cited Committee, and I object to the report scheduled to be submitted by the Committee to the State Board of Education on January 22, 2004. The final typed draft of the report is not yet available, and I key my objections to the December draft, together with my notes of modifications that were agreed to in the December 4-5 meeting of the Committee. My objections, as well as my recommended changes to the report in consequence of my objections, and the arguments that I offer in support of the objections and recommendations, are as follows:
I object to the use of the terms B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (in the Common Era) in lieu of or in addition to the terms B. C. ( before Christ) and A.D (anno Domini). The terms B.C.E. and C.E. appear in the December draft in paragraph 1 on page 57 and in the Glossary on page 110. At the December 4-5 meeting of the Committee it was agreed to delete entirely the Glossary, but the terms remain on page 57.
I recommend that the terms B.C.E. and C.E. be expunged from paragraph 1, page 57, and wherever else they may appear in the report.
For many centuries, the terms B.C. and A.D. have been used to divide historical time. Now someone, it is unclear exactly who, is proposing to substitute the terms B.C.E. and C.E. for these venerable older terms. This is a part of what Margaret Thatcher calls the "Attack Upon the West." And she is right. For reasons inexplicable to me, there are those, even among Westerners themselves, who resent our Western culture, and want very much to tear it down. Why they would want to destroy the greatest culture the world has known, or with what they propose to replace it, has never been said.
We who are living today are the fiduciaries of the culture that has been bequeathed to us from the past, and it is our duty to hold it intact for the future. Absent a few moments devoted to careful reflection, one might be tempted to conclude that here is only a minor point. After all, this discussion centers on a mere five letters of the alphabet. But this is no gnat perched on the tough skin of an elephant, but a pathogen circulating in its lifeblood. And it has the potential to infect the whole organism with its lethal toxin. Start with something small, slip it by when no one is looking, then go for something larger the next time. That is likely the ploy being executed.
In the discussion of this subject in the Committee I found one comment particularly compelling. This came from a person opposed to my point of view, that is from one who liked the use of B.C.E. and C.E. This Committee member said that "there are other calendars, there is the Chinese calendar, and there are others." Of course that is correct. There are other calendars, but invoking the proposed new terms does nothing to change our Gregorian calendar, nor does it enhance any other calendar. Its sole effect would be to sever the calendar we use from its cultural roots in Western Civilization.
Here is a point on which we should do our fiduciary duty and stand our ground. I am confident that our financiers, that is, the taxpayers, will stand with us, and I am equally confident that our clients, the parents and their children, will too. On the other hand, if we are seen as allowing our culture to be eroded, if we stand by idly while enemies of the West gnaw away at the foundations of our country, we can expect their reproval. And with their reproval will come diminishment of their support.
Multicultural/Global PerspectivesDuring the meeting of the Committee December 4-5 this position statement was split into two statements, and other revisions were made. The resulting two statements are shown below:
The United States is a nation of many cultures. Understanding that our nation's strength lies in the diversity of its citizens and their contributions, past and present, and respecting the different viewpoints that may exist are the essence of multiculturalism. Activities that encourage students to examine events from the perspectives of other races, genders, religions, and language groups are essential in helping students question their own attitudes and broaden their viewpoints beyond themselves. These activities also allow students to appreciate differences among United States citizens as well as those things that bind them together as a nation.
In today's world, it is not enough to think of one's self as merely a citizen of a nation. In order for the United States to continue to lead and prosper, students must also be prepared for responsible citizenship in the world. Fostering a global perspective requires that students be given opportunities to examine, and to attempt to understand, perspectives of those outside the United States. Today, more than ever before, students need an understanding of the many peoples who have developed ideas, institutions, and cultures different from their own. In studying others, students can better understand themselves and thus be more responsible citizens of the nation and of today's global society.
MulticulturalismI recommend that these two statements be omitted and the two shown immediately below substituted for them.
Many cultures have come together to form the United States. Much of our nation's strength lies in the diversity of its citizens and their contributions past and present. Respecting the different viewpoints that may exist is the essence of multiculturalism. Activities that encourage students to examine events from the perspectives of other races, genders, religions, and language groups are essential in helping students examine their own attitudes and broaden their viewpoints beyond themselves. These activities also allow students to appreciate differences among United States citizens as well as those things that bind them together as a nation.
In order to be a responsible United States Citizen, one must have global awareness. For the United States to continue to lead and prosper, students must be given opportunities to examine and to attempt to understand perspectives of those outside the United States. Today, more than ever before, students need an understanding of the many peoples who have developed ideas, institutions, and cultures different from their own. In studying others, students can better understand themselves and thus be more responsible citizens of this nation and of today's global society.
The "Melting Pot" is a figure of speech which refers to the phenomenon of assimilating foreign immigrants into American culture. In the past it has worked with remarkable efficiency, and has been important in maintaining a unique American cultural unity, which in turn has propelled America into a preeminent position among nations. This is in contrast to other countries which have attempted to integrate diverse peoples with different languages and cultures into a single nation, only to experience tragedy and bloodshed. It is important that students understand the uniqueness of this American experience, and to understand that it is unity, not diversity, that produces national strength.
Knowledge of the World
The United States is more heavily involved in the world today than any other country. This increases the need for today's student to understand the geography, history, and beliefs of other regions of the world. Some countries have radically different worldviews than ours, and can be difficult for Americans to understand. Although the study of other histories and cultures must be subordinate to the study of our own, a careful allotment of time in the curriculum must be made for the examination of other peoples' cultures.
We lecture our students on the importance of history and admonish them to study it
carefully. Why? Not in order to impress friends at parties with their knowledge of dates and of events of the past, nor to win at the game of Trivial Pursuit, but because in the wisdom of our adulthood we understand the intimate connection among the past, the present, and the future, and we want our charges to acquire that understanding. We want them to know history in the hope that they will not have to repeat it. Our wish is, that as adults, they will have the wisdom to use their historical knowledge to recognize hazards as they loom up on the road ahead, and to steer around them. But do we really mean what we preach, and do we practice it?
I hope so, but let us see. Imagine that you work for a high-level government official, and he has received a proposal to increase diversity and multiculturalism in the country. He hands it to you. "Evaluate this proposal," he says, "and tell me how you think I should respond. I need your answer in a memo by Monday."
What memo would you write? Being a student of history and a patriotic American, I would suggest that the memo you would turn in on Monday should go something like this:
I have given careful thought to the proposition before us, and, as the past can be the best guide to the future, I have searched my memory for what historical precedents might be germane to the question presented.
At the very outset, it is impossible to ignore the cacophonous example of the Balkans. This region stands out as an erupting volcano in the midst of a calm ocean. Here we find the people in that land speaking five languages and practicing two religions, a cornucopia of cultures. It presents an extreme example of multiculturalism. And, if it is true, as some claim, that multiculturalism lends strength, the Balkans should be a veritable Utopia of strength, prosperity, and happiness. It is, I am sure, unnecessary for me to recount the abject tragedy of that place, so fresh is it in our minds. Diversity and multiculturalism have led to nothing good, but to hatred and bloodshed.
In the Mideast, Jews and Palestinians, two peoples of Semitic origin who share the same territory in the Levant, have been waging a bitter war against each other for half a century.
In Iraq, the Sunni and Shiite are both of the same race, of the same religion, and speak the same language. However they do differ on a few details concerning the successors to Muhammad, and they love nothing better than to kill each other.
But there is no need to strain our eyes to see across the ocean. Let us just look over our northern border to our neighbor Canada. Canada is largely an English-speaking country, but one province, Quebec, prefers French. We make a serious mistake if we ignore the historical example which Canada provides.
In 1967 the Parti Quebecois was founded in Quebec with the avowed purpose of having Quebec secede from the Canadian union, and in 1976 party leader Rene Levesque was elected Premier of Quebec. He referred to Canada as "this bilingual, bicultural monstrosity." Once Levesque's party was in power they placed restrictions on attendance at English schools, and passed a law mandating that French only be used on commercial signs. In 1995 a referendum was held in Quebec on a proposal to leave the union, and it was defeated by the narrowest of margins, 51 to 49 percent.
But this did not end the controversy, and it continues to this day. Multiculturalism may yet cause the dissolution of the Canadian union.
Nor is Canada the closest example of the problems wrought by multiculturalism. The closest one is right here in our own country. In our Southwest there is an organization called La Raza (The Race!) composed of Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, who openly and loudly proclaim that they are going to take over several states and cede them to Mexico. There is nothing clandestine about this movement. Members of La Raza stage giant parades and rallies, demand that only Spanish be spoken in their presence, and are completely serious in their goals.
From what we see here, history teaches a simple and unambiguous lesson: Diversity and multiculturalism create intractable problems for a country. Multiculturalism may have been put forth with the best of intentions, but the evidence is clear that it does exactly the opposite of that intended. It does not bring people together. On the contrary, by accentuating differences, it drives them apart.
Some think that multiculturalism is helpful to blacks. To any that might make this argument I would challenge him to put his finger on the globe at just that spot where blacks are better off than here in our country. We know that his finger will never find such a spot. And exactly why is this? It is precisely because of the American culture that has served us all so well. It is not perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is incomparable to all others. Use multiculturalism to fragment our culture and we, every one of us, will suffer a grievous loss.
Perceptive blacks understand this fully. Dr. Walter Williams, a black scholar who is John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, is a prolific writer and speaker. In an article for Jewish World Review early last year he couples the attack on Western Civilization with diversity and multiculturalism. "Western values are by no means secure." he wrote. "They're under ruthless attack…." "Multiculturalism and diversity are a cancer on our society, and, ironically, with our tax dollars and charitable donations we're feeding it."
In summary, the historical record traces an unbroken trail of failure after failure of diversity and multiculturalism. It seems that at no point is the trail broken by a story of success.
With most important questions there are factors that weigh in the balance on both sides, rendering it difficult to decide the case at issue. Here that is not the case. Here the scale tilts to the limit against multiculturalism and diversity.
And this makes my recommendation to you easy. I recommend that you respond to the proposal in question by suggesting that no effort be made deliberately to increase diversity and multiculturalism.
I am sure that in giving your response you would acknowledge that a degree of diversity already exists in our country, and that we should devote ourselves to dealing respectfully with the challenge which this presents, as well as to insuring fairness for all.
The motto of our country is E pluribus unum, out of many, one. This originally referred to the unity of the thirteen colonies, but later it took on the broader sense of the assimilation of immigrants from various cultures. It has always carried with it the transcendent importance of unity. After all, the word "United," as in the "United States of America," was first used in the Declaration of Independence to stress that the 13 colonies were indeed united in the cause of independence. And without that unity independence would not have been achieved.
We toy with fate if we allow multiculturalism and diversity to stand our motto on its head, if we allow it to become E Unum Pluribus. I ask the State School Board to keep this thought before them as they consider the recommendations offered in this report.
I concur with this minority report.