Monday, September 29, 2003

DO I STUTTER? Brendan Miniter wants to infuse the dreary social studies cirricula of our schools with good old-fashioned American history. So do I. Of course, Miniter feels the best way to achieve this lofty goal is to repeat GOP fundraiser anecdotes about people who "warned against singing patriotic songs like 'God Bless America'" in the days following 9/11. "Heroes? Pooh!" Miniter imagines such unpatriots saying about traditional history instruction, "Nationalism? Bah! Western civilization? You've gotta be kidding!" So much for consensus-building.

Miniter's piece is rich in sneers at "liberal educators" and "Social-studies theorists," as is the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation-funded document toward which he steers his readers. This document's contributors all have impeccable educrat credentials (CV sample: "Jonathon Burack, a former secondary school history teacher, has for the past 20 years produced secondary school history curriculum materials... He demonstrates the pervasiveness of postmodern cultural relativist epistemology in our nation's schools..."), but I suppose if you're right-wing, you can be forgiven even an education degree.

While these folks favor the same confrontational approach as Miniter ("The keys to Rome are being turned over to the Goths and the Huns"), they are very solicitous of the Bush administration, even though the No Child Left Behind Act signed by our "education President" ignores social studies altogether. "This was not meant, heaven knows, as a hostile act," contributor Chester E. Finn assures us. "The authors of NCLB are patriots..."

The swipes at multiculturalism and "moral relativism" are familiar, ceaselessly repeated, and tiresome, more an incantation than an argument, but if you can make it to the passage by J. Martin Rochester, charmingly titled "The Training of Idiots," you're in for a treat. Rochester blames ahistoricism and its fallout, including our depressingly low voter turnout rates, on "America-Worsters," and prescribes that "we need to create fewer doubters and cynics."

Fewer doubters and cynics! How is this to be achieved -- extra sessions of the Breakfast Club? Sorry, Principal Vernon, but if you want less doubt and cynicism in schools, you shouldn't be yelling at teachers -- you should be yelling at our political class, which has done far more to inculcate our young with these characteristics than any diversity program.

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