- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In his Jan. 11, 1989 farewell address after eight years as President, Ronald Reagan warned that the teaching of U.S. history could be going into irreversible decline in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools.

If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are, he said. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.

The Great Communicator’s words have a poignant ring now that we know the memory-robber called Alzheimer’s was about to afflict him. But his words were prescient in anticipating the assault on study of U.S. history that grows ever more intense almost two decades later.

The multicultural doctrine promoted by academic elitists is a prime culprit.

In Texas, academics have prepared a set of college readiness standards for the high-school curriculum that emphasize diverse human perspectives and experiences while omitting pivotal events and heroic movers and shakers.

For instance, while ignoring the enormous sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation to defeat fascism in World War II, the standards ask students to explain the impact of that war on the African-American and Mexican-American Civil Rights Movements.

While the standards make no mention of Pearl Harbor or the Battle of Normandy, they invite students to second-guess President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

Instead of probing the intellectual roots of a Declaration of Independence that still motivates oppressed people around the world today, the proposed Texas standards imply that the American Revolution was nothing special.

Specifically, students are to identify how revolutions such as the American, Cuban, French, Russian and Iranian Revolutions affected the functions and structure of government in those countries.

The academics who drafted the standards up for adoption by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board on Jan. 24 boasted that their approach was consistent with that of other states and national organizations. About that much they are right. Multiculturalism is weakening the study of U.S. history in many school systems.

Chicago is a case in point. There the public school system uses a voluminous curriculum guide for teaching history to its Latino students — Mexican history, that is, with U.S. history a mere footnote. The guide expresses hope that the instruction, pegged to state education goals, will awaken in each child the joy and pride of the Mexican heritage.

In tracing the Mexican independence movement, the guide praises Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla for ringing church bells as a call to the faithful to battle the Spaniards. So Chicago students learn of his exploits, but not of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride to warn American patriots of the British Army’s advance on Lexington and Concord.

Later, Chicago students are taught in detail about Benito Juarez, a leader in developing the Constitution of 1857 limiting the power of the Mexican army. So they learn about him but not about James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution. They also learn much about guerrilla fighters like Francisco Pancho Villa. But nothing about General George Washington.

The guide is full of time-consuming classroom activities to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. Students can spend hours and even whole days making confetti eggs, pottery, blankets and goody bags for parties. Surely that time would be more productively spent teaching immigrant children to speak English, the primary language of their parents’ adopted country.

Another exercise asks students to compare and contrast Independence Day celebrations in Mexico (Sept. 15) and the United States. As background, they are told of Father Hidalgo’s bell ringing and address from the balcony of the palace in Mexico City. As for Independence Day in the U.S., the guide states that it is celebrated on July 4 with elaborate fireworks displays throughout the country. That’s it — nothing about Thomas Jefferson’s stirring evocation of mankind’s unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence.

The anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s farewell provides an occasion to pause and to take his warning to heart. We need to insist that schools teach all children how America came to be, how it has striven to overcome its imperfections, and what it represents that is so special in the long history of the world.

Speculating about diverse perspectives ought to be secondary to teaching history — United States history.

Robert Holland is a policy analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

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