By Larry Sand
LOS ANGELES – Back in 2010, the American Enterprise Institute launched “The Program on American Citizenship.”
It’s a worthy project that is dedicated to
strengthening the foundations of American freedom and self-government by renewing our understanding of American citizenship. The ultimate goal of the Program is to deepen Americans’ appreciation for and attachment to those principles that are necessary to keep the United States free, strong, and democratic.
America’s public schools were founded in order to create good citizens who could sustain a new and fragile republic. As Thomas Jefferson famously opined, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thus, for nearly two centuries, schools have made civic education a priority in order to ensure the continued stability of our democratic republic and to provide an ever-more-diverse citizenry with a solid appreciation of the rights, opportunities and responsibilities that come with American citizenship.
Today, however, too many of our schools are failing in that mission. To understand the sources of this decline, the Program commissioned a groundbreaking, new survey of the teachers most directly charged with educating and shaping America’s new citizens–high school teachers of history and social studies.
Our survey work provided a clear policy directive: If we are to get better citizens, we need better civic education, which gives a central role to America’s history, political institutions, and ideals and is based on effective classroom practice.
The teacher survey points out that history is being given short shrift in our schools and that five out of six teachers think that the United States is a “unique country that stands for something special in the world” and that it is most important for high school students to “respect and appreciate their country but know its shortcomings.”
Growing up in the 1950s, teaching American exceptionalism was the norm and it seems to me that we need to return to that place in a hurry. For far too long we have been ignoring history, and when it is taught, it’s of the revisionist variety, coming from a left wing perspective where the emphasis is on which bad old white guys ruined the lives of…fill in the blank… minority.
What so many don’t realize is that without patriotism, a dirty word in some progressive circles, our nation is doomed. As Thomas Sowell pointed out,
Patriotism is not chic in the circles of those who assume the role of citizens of the world, whether they are discussing immigration or giving aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime.
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire was as much due to the internal disintegration of the ties that bind a society together as to the assaults of the Romans’ external enemies.
The pride of being a Roman citizen was destroyed by cheapening that citizenship by giving it to too many other people. The sense of duty and loyalty eroded among both the elites and the masses.
Without such things, there could be no Roman Empire. Ultimately, without such things, there can be no United States of America. In neither case have tangible wealth and power been enough to save a country or a civilization, for the tangibles do not work without the intangibles.
Laudably, AEI has just launched Phase II of its program, “Counting on Character: National Heritage Academies (NHA) and Civic Education” in which such things as character, traditional morality and virtue are stressed. NHA operates 74 schools nationwide with 60 percent of them in Michigan. In Grand Rapids, Ridge Park Academy, a typical NHA campus,
…starts every day with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Star-Spangled Banner, and the school creed: “I am a Ridge Park scholar. I strive to achieve academic excellence. I exemplify high moral character. I work diligently to prepare for the future . . .”
Character education is ubiquitous and relentless at NHA schools. Each month is assigned a “moral focus” or virtue, which teachers are supposed to weave into their lessons and students write about from kindergarten through eighth grade. Signs in classrooms and hallways honor examples of virtue.
Like other charter schools, NHA promises parents to teach a rigorous curriculum that will prepare their children for success in college. It also promises a moral education imbued with traditional values such as love of country and family. Good character is not just a private asset, NHA leaders believe. It leads to good citizenship.
Again, there is nothing new here. What is being emphasized was business-as-usual in American schools a half century ago. Nice to see it making a comeback, though. May it spread like wildfire.
And from the sublime to the ridiculous….That Bill Ayers, the America-hating zealot and terrorist extraordinaire, is still allowed to walk and breathe in civil society (let alone get to hold the title, “Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar” at the University of Illinois at Chicago) is outrageous.
In his 2001 memoir “Fugitive Days,” Ayers recounts his life as a 1960s radical and boasts that he
participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. Of the day he bombed the Pentagon, Ayers writes, “Everything was absolutely ideal…. The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.” He further recalls his fascination with the fact that “a good bomb” could render even “big buildings and wide streets … fragile and destructible,” leaving behind a “majestic scene” of utter destruction.
All told, Ayers and the Weather Underground were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S. “I don’t regret setting bombs,” said Ayers in 2001, ”I feel we didn’t do enough.” Contemplating whether or not he might again use bombs against the U.S. sometime in the future, he wrote: “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility.”
…In a December 2012 speech at New York University, Ayers emphasized the importance of using the education system, among other things, to indoctrinate young people and thereby transform American society. (Bold added.) Said Ayers: “If we want change to come, we would do well not to look at the sites of power we have no access to; the White House, the Congress, the Pentagon. We have absolute access to the community, the school, the neighborhood, the street, the classroom, the workplace, the shop, the farm.”
As a vile and violent revolutionary, should this guy be in a position to affect our kids? Well, the Association of Teacher Educators certainly thinks so. In fact, this group has invited Ayers to be a keynote speaker next month at its yearly conference.
The Virginia-based Association of Teacher Educators describes itself as a “membership organization devoted solely to the improvement of teacher education both for school-based and post secondary teacher educators.”
“ATE members represent over 650 colleges and universities, 500 major school systems, and the majority of the state departments of education. The ATE office is located in the Washington, DC area where it represents its members’ interests before governmental agencies and educational organizations,” according to the organization’s website.
“In addition, ATE has two voting seats on the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.” (NCATE is a useless organization set up by the National Education Association; its mission is to “help establish high quality teacher preparation.” You’ve probably noticed they have established no such thing.)
Then we have a school board race in Los Angeles in March. Board races in LA are major political events with boatloads of money being spent. One race of note is in District 2 – comprising Central and East LA, where reform-minded board president Monica Garcia is facing stiff competition, most notably from Robert Skeels, who is a card carrying member of the revolutionary International Socialist Organization. On his blog site, his bio in part reads
Robert is a committed member of both Coalition for Educational Justice and the International Socialist Organization. In addition to advancing working class struggles, Robert is an adherent of Liberation Theology.
The International Socialist Organization, according to its website, believes in
A world free of exploitation–socialism–is not only possible but worth fighting for. The ISO stands in the tradition of revolutionary socialists Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky in the belief that workers themselves–the vast majority of the population–are the only force that can lead the fight to win a socialist society. Socialism can’t be brought about from above, but has to be won by workers themselves.
Standing in the tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky? Who, you ask, would be in favor of letting this man be in a position of power affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of children? Seems that two unions – the United Teachers of Los Angeles (teachers) and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (principals) – are leading a nasty pack of America haters that have endorsed Revolutionary Robert to be on the school board.
Running for president in 2007, John Edwards noted that there were “Two Americas” – rich and poor. He was partially right. There are indeed two Americas, but we are not divided by economic status. We are separated by those who love our country and those who don’t and want to radically alter it. At the same time that some of us are behind a common sense historical and civic revival, attempting to strengthen our national glue, others are intent on transforming the country by mainstreaming revolutionary creeps like Ayers and Skeels. To restore American greatness, we must teach American values. Or, we can sit idly by while a fifth column – including “teacher education improvement” groups and unions – hiding in plain sight, works to destroy all things American.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.