Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Howard Zinn’s History Book is anti-American

It is self-evident fact that the books children are exposed to in public schools shape their worldview. Which is why the editor’s over at National Review Online are right to praise Governor Mitch Daniels’ (R-IL) now public condemnation of Professor Howard Zinn’s magnum opus, A People’s History of the United States, as nothing more than a left-wing and historically illiterate work of propaganda:

    "Mitch Daniels, whom some Republicans would like to see president of something more than Purdue University, is under attack because as governor of Indiana he objected to the use of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States in public-school curricula. In recently published e-mails, the plainspoken Governor Daniels described Zinn’s work as “anti-American” and “crap,” which, when expressed in sufficiently polite language, is the professional consensus: “a polemicist, not a historian,” says Arthur Schlesinger; his work a “deranged” “fairy tale,” says Harvard’s Oscar Handlin; a man who traded in “every left-wing cliché with which the academy has abetted its sense of election these past several decades,” says Roger Kimball.

    The book is full of errors and deliberate distortions, as Handlin noted in The American Scholar, and these are not limited to minor issues. Zinn misrepresents everything from slavery in the Chesapeake colonies to American involvement in Cuba to the Tet offensive. He reports as fact the story of Polly Baker, a woman persecuted for having an illegitimate child, when the story is in truth a work of fiction, penned by Benjamin Franklin.

    Zinn himself described A People’s History as “a biased account,” that bias being in favor of socialism, a political tendency that Zinn favored and thought would be popular but for the fact that “the Soviet Union gave it a bad name.” Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro didn’t help much, either, though Zinn had kind words for their revolutions. Zinn denied being a member of the Communist party, though he was identified as such by several other members and served as an officer in a CPUSA front group. Presented with evidence (including a confession) that Soviet spies Zinn had defended were in fact guilty as charged, his response was: “To me, it didn’t matter whether they were guilty or not.” Later in life, he trafficked in 9/11 conspiracy theories."

What’s more, the editor’s make an important distinction between censorship and good-judgment:

    "Governor Daniels’s illiterate critics notwithstanding, it was not an act of censorship – there was no talk of banning publication of the bestselling book, only of declining to use it in school curricula. From kindergarten through graduate school, American education is a sewer of left-wing ideology, and Zinn’s work is an especially ripe excretion. Governor Daniels’s office was right to bring attention to it — shoring up the integrity of public institutions is part of what governors are there for."

Given that the book is (a) historically inaccurate and (b) widely regarded as having a strong left-wing tilt, is Daniels’ objection to teaching this book in government schools really all that controversial? After all, the dissemination of these types of works is harmful to our constitutional republic. The purpose of a public education is to teach civics and responsible citizenship -- not to mention to equip students with the basic tools and skills to be successful.

Left-wing indoctrination undermines the very institutions the nation was founded upon at least in part by completing ignoring (or trivializing) historical events of great importance. According to NRO’s editors, the Gettysburg Address, the Normandy Invasion, and the U.S. moon landing are all completely omitted. This is an immediate red flag. At the same time, they write, “[t]he thought of Joan Baez receives more prominent attention than does that of Alexander Hamilton.”

It’s hard to have a deep appreciation for one’s country when civics lessons are wrapped in revisionism and the chief architect of the “American experiment” is all but ignored. Still, this is not to say that the Left’s favorite failed utopias of the twentieth century -- communism and socialism -- should not be taught in public schools. They definitely should be. But they should be presented in ways that are factually accurate and do not inspire anti-Americanism.

Isn't that a reasonable request?


Girls of NINE told they can't wear skirts: British school introduces trousers-only rule after youngsters copy celebrities

A school has become the first to ban skirts for girls aged nine as youngsters tried to copy risque pop stars such as Rihanna by raising their hemlines.

The middle school, for children aged nine to 13, is bringing in a trousers-only rule from September.  It is also introducing a blouse ban next year, after which girls will be required to wear shirts like their male classmates.

The ban comes as increasing numbers of young girls copy the ‘sexy schoolgirl’ look popularised by celebrities such as Rihanna and Katy Perry. Pupils of TV’s fictitious Waterloo Road school are also often seen in short skirts.

David Doubtfire, headmaster of Walkwood Church of England Middle School in Redditch, Worcestershire, said the ban would eliminate ‘unladylike’ short skirts.

He added: ‘Some of the older girls were beginning to wear extremely short skirts. It was becoming difficult, especially when it came to them sitting down in the hall. It was very unladylike. We would ask them to make their skirts longer, but they would just roll them up again when we turned away.

‘Parents seem to be all right about it, although 20 have written to us to say they are not happy.’

But one parent, who did not wish to be named, said the ban was ‘crazy’. The mum-of-one added:  ‘You hear about the over-sexualisation of children but to call a nine-year-old girl unladylike is absurd.  ‘They aren’t ladies, they are young girls. And to stop them wearing skirts is going to confuse them.’

The campaign group School Skirt Ban has asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission over whether skirt bans are legal.

A spokesman for the group said: ‘We were told that the Commission would strongly advise schools against doing this because such an action would be considered a case of indirect discrimination.’

He said skirt bans exist in 63 secondary schools, but none had been imposed on nine-year-olds before.


International Baccalaureate: no government intervention, no grade inflation

While Britain's A-level students wait expectantly for their results, for IB students the wait is already over. That's just one advantage of the qualification, writes John Walmsley

This year's IB (International Baccalaureate) results – published earlier this month – showed that for the fifth consecutive year, pass rates for the diploma have remained unswerving, with an international pass rate of 78.54 per cent and 108 IB students obtaining the maximum score of 45 points (equating to roughly five A*s at A-level).

Such consistency in exam results rarely makes the headlines. It seems that it is far more exciting to see year-on-year increases and claims that exams are getting easier. But the net result of such claims has led to the government’s latest series of reforms to state exams.

These changes aren’t without justification; few teachers will deny grade inflation exists in state education. My aim is not to self-righteously condemn the state controlled examination system – plenty of others are already doing that.

I simply want to point out that the IB system, which was created by and is governed by educators, is not crippled by the burdens of league tables and politically orchestrated reform.

Of course, IB comes in for some criticism. It has been suggested that the nature of the IB is best suited for a particular type of student, those who are commonly referred to as ‘all-rounders’. But isn’t that the same with A-levels?

The IB's goal to develop young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect has also been called idealistic. But its academic successes have made the IB universally accepted by universities around the world – Harvard, Cambridge, Ivy League and top tier universities around the world all recognise that IB students are proven independent thinkers.

Moreover, the IB has developed a reputation for preparing its students for the demands of undergraduate higher learning courses.

While it is by no means the most important benefit of the IB, at this time of year we must also address university Clearing. The fact that IB results are published ahead of A-levels does not give students first pick of clearing places, but what it does is provide UK-based IB students with an extra six weeks to contemplate their next move should the need arise.

But don’t be fooled, the IB is not a soft route to university. The academic standard required from IB students is highlighted by the fact that while 45 is the top mark in the IB, a score of 36 will get you into medical schools which require A*s at A-level.

Though the numbers of students studying the IB are comparatively low compared with state education, the IB has achieved a 45 year legacy of success. The sustained year-on-year achievements of over 1 million students studying in over 3,600 schools worldwide cannot be ignored.


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