- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

FREDERICK, MD. — Some Frederick County parents are upset over a third-grade textbook that they say promotes such ideas as government-sponsored child care and universal health care.

The county’s Board of Education met Wednesday to discuss “Social Studies Alive! Our Community and Beyond,” a book the county has used since 2004 but has come under fire in recent months.

The book examines culture, government and public service in the U.S. and other countries, but some parents have pointed to passages in the text they believe subtly promote foreign political systems while disparaging the U.S.

“The entire slant of the book is you’re getting used to the idea of government running your life,” said Cindy Rose, a parent who requested that the book be removed from the county’s curriculum.

“Government is setting the rules. We’re all going to live by it, and we’re all a collective society,” she said.

Board members chose Wednesday not to eliminate the book from the county curriculum, instead allowing it to come up for review next school year as part of a mandatory eight-year review cycle for all books.

Mrs. Rose was the lone parent to testify during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, after which board members discussed the text for more than an hour.

Mrs. Rose has taken issue with several chapters in the book, including one that explains how many Americans struggle to pay for health care while countries such as Canada and Sweden provide care free of charge or for a small fee.

The book states that those countries’ “communities pay the rest of the bill,” and asks the reader whether he or she believes health care should be a public service.

Critics have argued the text endorses expanded government but fails to fully explain that its public services are paid for by taxpayers.

“Do you get much pushback from an 8- or 9-year-old?” said board member James C. Reeder Jr. “It seems to me either were leading them in a certain direction or were trying to get them to evoke a certain response.”

School officials have defended the book, saying it provides important lessons in multiculturalism and is not a primary text but just one of various books the county uses to teach social studies in third-grade classrooms.

Jim Gray, the county’s social studies curriculum specialist, said the book serves a valuable purpose but that teachers are not forced to use it and have the option of replacing it with other materials.

The book “provides an opportunity for every culture in our community to see itself,” he said. “I think that’s a very important thing.”

While some school board members raised questions about the book, board member Angie Fish said she believes it highlights the differences between cultures.

“I don’t have a fear of my child learning about other sides’ or other countries’ political views,” she said. “I want her to be a critical thinker.”

Board members will meet in coming weeks to discuss possible changes to the county’s social studies curriculum and could form a task force to lead the process. The Board of Education has final approval over curriculum after public and staff input.

• David Hill can be reached at dhill@washingtontimes.com.

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