Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tear Down this What? The Common Core on the End of the Cold War

The ninth of November marked the twenty-fourth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, probably the most important historical event since World War II and the most important lesson about human freedom experienced within the living memory of most of us.

Presumably, next year there will be more of a commemoration, but the salient question now is how this lesson is being taught in the nation’s classrooms. For while those of us in our forties and older remember the fall of communism and its causes, today’s teenagers are wholly in the dark. What, then, are the high-school students of today being taught about what exactly—what principles, what forces, which people—brought down the Wall?

It is actually fairly easy to answer this question since forty-five states are now controlled by the testing and curricular regime known as the Common Core. The Common Core documents themselves, admittedly, are sometimes what Churchill called the Soviet Union, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” If we just take a quick glance at Appendix B of the Common Core English Standards, which recommends “exemplar texts” for reading, we find the addresses of a host of worthy historical figures: Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and, yes, Ronald Reagan. What a model of non-partisan selection!

But it would behoove us to look at which speech of Reagan is being recommended: “Address to Students at Moscow State University.” Now that is rather odd. Would that speech be the first that comes to mind when we consider “the best of Reagan”? Was that address the most historically significant? Why not the First Inaugural or his acceptance speech at the 1980 Convention or his important addresses on foreign policy or even his 1964 “A Time for Choosing” on behalf of Barry Goldwater that launched him to political prominence? Might this be a case of the architects of the Common Core wanting to look non-partisan by having Reagan’s name on the list while actually trying to take away the force of his message to America? We can solve the mystery by finding out what will take place in classes across the land, neatly packaged for us in a textbook that bears the Common Core logo: two C’s inside a bright red ball.

On pages 403-4 of Pearson/Prentice Hall’s LITERATURE, Grade Ten, Common Core Edition, we see an editorial written on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It appeared in The New York Times. It begins, “The Berlin Wall was bound to fall eventually.” That’s interesting. Was the editorial board of The New York Times writing in 1980 that the Berlin Wall was “bound to fall eventually”? The editorial continues:

    "But that it came down as bloodlessly as it did 10 years ago this week is largely a tribute to one leader. Today Mikhail Gorbachev is a political pariah in Russia and increasingly forgotten in the West. But history will remember him generously for his crucial role in ending the cold war and pulling back the Iron Curtain that Stalin drew across Europe in 1945."

So there you have it. Gorbachev brought down the Wall. Why? Well, evidently because he was a good guy. In one line of the editorial we are treated to a masterful use of elliptical prose: “As political pressures began to build in the late 1980s, Mr. Gorbachev was left with two options.” Etc. What political pressures? Who or what brought those pressures? We are not told. The New York Times editors assign the words “enlightened,” “idealism,” and “pragmatic” to Gorbachev. Indeed, the General Secretary of the Communist Party is said to have had “a wisdom and decency that is sadly rare in international power politics.” Does that comment extend to American participants in international power politics, particularly at that time?

Those of us who lived through those years and kept up with events might wonder what role, if any, Ronald Reagan played in this drama, according to the textbook editors. Will the adjectives “enlightened,” “pragmatic,” “wise,” and “decent” be applied to him? His name is not to be found in any of the documents concerning the fall of the Berlin Wall. But on page 449, we do find, as promised in the Common Core, his Address to the Students of Moscow State University held up as a model “exemplar text.”

Unfortunately, the address is so heavily highlighted with shades of green, blue, orange, gray, purple, and pink—and so buried under the jargon of two-bit literary criticism (central idea and point of view, methods of development, organizational structures, rhetorical devices, figurative language, tone and word choice)—that it is hardly readable. Worse still, in the textbook editors’ introduction to the speech, students are told the following:

    "Led by Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviets were blazing through the greatest changes they had seen since the 1917 revolution. Although reforms were rapidly taking root, they were not far enough from communist ideology for Reagan. . . . In this excerpt, notice how Reagan restrains his strongly anti-communist sentiments while still extolling the ideals he represents."

The lesson? The enlightened, idealistic, wise, decent, and yet pragmatic Gorbachev had events well under control. The Soviets were “blazing through changes”; i.e. reform must have been their idea. But things were not moving fast enough for the strongly-anti-communist (i.e. stubborn, right-wing) Reagan. Nonetheless, we, the editors, have found a rare speech in which he actually moderated his tone. That’s Reagan at his best, insofar as he had a best.

What’s missing in this account? “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Those are the words that brought down the Wall. But they are not to be found in the Common Core and therefore in the classrooms of America.

The architects of the Common Core plainly do not want the young people of America to read or to watch—for it is on the Web—that speech. The progressive bureaucrats who are now in control of the nation’s schools do not want the young people of America to know that the Cold War was won on principle, that courage and resolution on the part of Americans were essential to the ending of tyranny in the communist-controlled countries and the protecting of freedom in the rest of the world. They certainly do not want young Americans thinking that we were in the right and had to be prepared to use force against an evil empire. Above all, the arch-testers do not want today’s youth and tomorrow’s voters to know that in this contest for right and freedom a former actor named Ronald Reagan played the starring role.


National Motto "In God We Trust" Too Religious to Hang in School

A North Carolina school refused to hang posters depicting an American Flag and the national motto “In God We Trust” because their legal counsel feared the signs would be seen as promoting religion.

The American Legion offered the free posters to the Watauga County School District, but found the 130 framed images unwanted.  As reported by Fox News:

    “We got an email from the school saying thank you but on advice of their legal counsel they could not accept the posters because of separation of church and state,” American Legion member Rick Cornejo told me in a telephone interview.

    I suspect the school board is wary of militant anti-Christian bigots and their army of legal minions – poised to attack God-fearing Americans with lawsuits.

    Cornejo, who is also a local Baptist preacher, said the decision to ban the posters has resulted in a lot of hurt feelings.

    “It’s disappointing, it really is,” he said. “Educators are asking us for those posters so they can put them in their classrooms but right now they can’t do it – because the school board won’t let them.”

    The 16x20 inch framed posters include the words “In God We Trust,” with an American flag in the background.

    It reads: “The national motto of the United States, adopted by Congress, July 30, 1956.”

    A spokesman for the school district told the Watauga Democrat newspaper that “In God We Trust” was banned on the advice of their legal counsel. They feared someone could see the poster and construe the district was promoting religion."

A 2012 Gallup poll found the majority of Americans still claim to be of a religion:

“In God We Trust” starting appearing on American currency in 1864. That is almost 150 years. Surely there have been millions of non-religious Americans in that time span. So why the power shift now? Why does only 23 percent of the population have authority over the other 77 percent? This instance is merely a continuation in the rise of the minority rule. Apparently, not even a school district snuggled in the Bible Belt is safe from the growing threat.


British school pupils who wore their Air Cadets uniforms to show respect for war dead kicked out of class for breaking uniform rules

Angry parents have criticised a school after senior teachers sent home children wearing their Air Cadets uniforms on Armistice Day because it breached its uniform rules.

Pupils at Smestow Sports Academy, in Wolverhampton, had donned their blue uniforms in honour of Britain's fallen soldiers on Monday.

Aman Nanglu, 15, Rezanne Willis, 16, and Elle Phillips, 15, made the decision to pay their own tribute while the nation fell silent during the two minute act of remembrance.

But they were stunned when teachers threw them out of class just after 11am - because the cadet uniforms broke school rules.

They were told by headteacher Martyn Morgan they could only return once they had changed out of the military attire and into their school uniform.

Today the families of the schoolchildren - who are all members of the 1047 City of Wolverhampton Air Training Corps squadron - branded the decision 'disrespectful.'

Elle's father, Paul Phillips, 47, from Merry Hill, West Midlands, was contacted at 11.30am by the school to inform him his daughter would be leaving lessons at midday.

The project engineer said: 'I don't think there is anything wrong with it. In fact, I am proud that Elle wanted to wear it.  'She is a very good student and she feels strongly about it.  'We thought it was just respectful to show it wouldn't just be a normal day.  'We wanted to show it does actually matter.'

Aman's mother Meena Kumari, 45, added: 'I'm utterly shocked.  'These youngsters take a lot of pride and they are on the right track. 'Why can't the school see why they are doing it?'

Another parent, who did not wish to be named, said: 'You would think the school could make an exception on such a day - its not like they were going along in fancy dress.  'The Air Cadets uniform is smart and always impeccable - they were not going to lessons dressed like scruffs.  'They were raising awareness for a great cause.

'It is a disgrace, you would think common sense would prevail on such an occasion as Armistice Day.'

Students were told they could not return to the school until they had changed back into their jumpers and ties.

Headteacher Martyn Morgan said it was school policy for children to wear their uniforms at all times.  He added: 'They were not wearing school uniform.  'They were asked to return to school once they had changed into school uniform.

'As is our normal practice the parents of the students were contacted first and we made it explicit that they should return to school once changed.

'This process is in line with the guidelines in the Department for Education publication 'School Uniform A Guide for Headteachers, Governing Bodies, Academy Trusts, Free Schools and Local Authorities'.'


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