- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

The New Jersey state Department of Education has decided to add the names of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to the state's proposed history standards after coming under fire for omitting the Founding Fathers from the original revisions drafted last month.
State Board Commissioner William L. Librera, who took office last month, had the proposed standards changed Thursday to include the Founding Fathers as well as major U.S. presidents. The decision to include the names came less than two days after state legislators and members of the public learned from a report in The Washington Times that the original draft left out the Founding Fathers.
Several state lawmakers even proposed legislation to "encourage" the state board to include the Founding Fathers in the history standards.
The original revisions included only a requirement that students "recognize the names of some major figures in American history." The revisions now require fourth-grade students to identify Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other Revolutionary leaders "who fought for independence from England."
"The names of these individuals must remain in the curriculum," Mr. Librera said in a written statement. "We have an obligation to make sure that our schools are helping our young people understand the critical role these leaders have played in our state's and our nation's history."
The Times first reported Monday that the names of the Founding Fathers and other significant historical figures were excluded in the state's revised history standards.
The Times also reported that the Pilgrims and the Mayflower were left out of the original draft, as was the word "war," which has been replaced with "conflict," in lessons about the early settlers, colonization and expansion. Also gone were most references to the inhumane treatment many American soldiers endured in wars overseas during the 20th century.
As of yesterday, the wording in those lessons was not changed, according to a copy of the latest revised history standards.
The article quoted state board officials who said they didn't think they needed to list all the well-known historical figures because teachers will know they have to talk about the Founding Fathers when the lesson on the American Revolution comes up.
After reading The Times story, state Sen. Gerald Cardinale and state Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio, both Republicans, sponsored several bills, demanding that the Education Department refrain from implementing the first set of proposed standards.
One bill sponsored by Mr. Cardinale proposes that the state dismiss any school official who does not teach about the Founding Fathers.
Mr. Cardinale said yesterday he was pleased with Mr. Librera's revision that includes Washington and Jefferson. But he said the battle is not over yet. Mr. Librera's revisions now have to undergo at least 20 public hearings this month and next and be approved by the board.
"If we maintain our vigilance, then I don't think they have the nerve to defy the new revisions," Mr. Cardinale said. "But if we go to sleep, God knows what will happen. It's unconscionable that some politically correct bureaucrats in the state Education Department are trying to hijack the history of the United States of America."
For the past 13 years, Mr. Cardinale has pushed for a measure that would require public school students to recite a passage from the Declaration of Independence. The measure was rejected by the state legislature last summer.
Mr. Pennacchio said yesterday that he was pleased with the latest revision and is prepared for what he calls the long fight ahead.
"This whole thing struck me as dumb from the beginning," Mr. Pennacchio said. "I didn't care for the excuses the board officials gave that teachers will know to teach about Washington and so forth. Then why bother in having a commission in the first place? Why bother having standards?"
School board officials told The Times last week the state board does not set a state curriculum but rather a general guideline, which local school districts then use to come up with their own lesson plans.
In addition to learning about the Founding Fathers, fourth graders under Mr. Librera's revisions would be expected to understand the background, major issues and personalities of the American Revolution.
Mr. Librera also added the names of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King, all of whom were missing from the original revised version of the standards.

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