Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Textbook That Should Live in Infamy: The Common Core Assaults World War II

Saturday the 7th of December will mark the seventy-second anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The commemoration of that “date which will live in infamy” brings up memories of more than Pearl Harbor but of the entire American effort in World War II: of the phenomenal production of planes and tanks and munitions by American industry; of millions of young men enlisting (with thousands lying about their age to get into the service); of the men who led the war, then and now seeming larger than life—Churchill and F.D.R., Eisenhower and MacArthur, Monty and Patton; and of the battles themselves in which uncommon valor was a common virtue: Midway, D-Day, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima, to name only a few.

Most of us today do not know those events directly but have encountered them in history books. And when we think of World War II, the people who come to mind first are our grandparents: the men and women of the Greatest Generation who are our surest link to the past.

One of the most vital questions for us—grandchildren of the Greatest Generation—is how we will preserve their memory. Ours is the much easier but still important task of making sure that subsequent generations understand the heroism and sacrifice needed to keep America—and indeed the world—safe, prosperous, and free during the grave crisis that was the Second World War. Presumably these lessons not only honor our forebears, who passed on a free and great nation to us, but they also set the example of how we must meet the challenges and crises of our own time. A glance at one of the nation’s leading high-school literature textbooks—Prentice Hall’s The American Experience, which has been aligned to the Common Core—will tell us how we are doing on that front.

The opening page of the slim chapter devoted to World War II called “War Shock” features a photograph of a woman inspecting a large stockpile of thousand-pound bomb castings. The notes in the margins of the Teacher’s Edition set the tone:

In this section, nonfiction prose and a single stark poem etch into a reader’s mind the dehumanizing horror of world war. . . .

The editors of the textbook script the question teachers are supposed to ask students in light of the photograph as well as provide the answer:

Ask: What dominant impression do you take away from this photograph?

Possible response: Students may say that the piled rows of giant munitions give a strong impression of America’s power of mass production and the bombs’ potential for mass destruction.

Translation: Americans made lots of big bombs that killed lots of people.

The principal selection of the chapter is taken from John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It is a description of ordinary men and women in Hiroshima living out their lives the day the bomb was dropped. A couple of lines reveal the spirit of the document:

The Reverend Mr. Tanimoto got up at five o’clock that morning. He was alone in the parsonage, because for some time his wife had been commuting with their year-old baby to spend nights with a friend in Ushida, a suburb to the north.

Further prompts from the margins of the Teacher’s Edition indicate how the selection is to be read and taught:

World War II has been called a popular war in which the issues that spurred the conflict were clearly defined. . . .

Nevertheless, technological advances . . . [and the media] brought home the horrors of war in a new way. Although a serious antiwar movement in the United States did not become a reality until the 1960s, these works by Hersey and by Jarrell take their place in the ranks of early antiwar literature.

Have students think about and record in writing their personal feelings about war. Encourage students to list images of war that they recall vividly. [Conveniently, there is a photograph of the devastation in Hiroshima next to this prompt].

Tell students they will revisit their feelings about war after they have read these selections.

The entire section is littered with questions and prompts in this vein and plenty of photos that show the destruction of Hiroshima. In case the students would be inclined to take the American side in this conflict, the editors see to it that teachers will remind the students repeatedly that there are two sides in every war:

Think Aloud: Model the Skill

Say to students:

When I was reading the history textbook, I noticed that the writer included profiles of three war heroes, all of whom fought for the Allies. The writer did not include similar profiles for fighters on the other side. I realize that this choice reflects a political assumption: that readers want to read about only their side’s heroes.

. . . Mr. Tanimoto is on the side of “the enemy.” Explain that to vilify is to make malicious statements about someone. During wartime, it is common to vilify people on the other side, or “the enemy.”

After a dozen pages of Hersey’s Hiroshima (the same number given to Benjamin Franklin in volume one of The American Experience), students encounter the anti-war, anti-heroic poem by Randall Jarell, “The Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner.” The last line in this short poem sums up the sentiment: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” The textbook editors zero in for the kill:

Take a position: Jarrell based his poem on observations of World War II, a war that has been called “the good war.” Is there such a thing as a “good war”? Explain.

Possible response: [In the Teacher’s Edition] Students may concede that some wars, such as World War II, are more justified than others, but may still feel that “good” is not an appropriate adjective for any war.

So, class, what are your “feelings” about war—and World War II in particular—now that you have read these two depressing selections in “early anti-war literature”?

There is more than a little sophistry taking place here: an alarming superficiality and political bias that pervades all the Common Core textbooks (as I have illustrated in my book The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core). There is no reading in this chapter ostensibly devoted to World War II that tells why America entered the war. There is no document on Pearl Harbor or the Rape of Nanking or the atrocities committed against the Jews or the bombing of Britain. The book contains no speech of Winston Churchill or F.D.R. even though the reading of high-caliber “informational texts” is the new priority set by the Common Core, and great rhetoric has always been the province of an English class.

There is not a single account of a battle or of American losses or of the liberation of Europe. The editors do not balance Jarrell’s poem with the much more famous war song “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” that ends with the line, “And we’ll all stay free!” The rest of this chapter consists in a poster of a junk rally to gather metals for the making of munitions, a New York Times editorial, and a political cartoon penned by Dr. Seuss (who supported the war).

There is not a single document or sentence in the chapter that would make a young reader consider the Axis Powers anything other than “enemies” in quotes. Essentially, all of World War II has been reduced to dropping the bomb and consequently, we are led to believe, America’s inhumanity. In short, the entire presentation of the Second World War is not an exercise in critical thinking; nor will it make students “college and career ready.” This is not teaching. It is programming, pure and simple.

“But we did drop the bomb, didn’t we?” Yes, we did. But if we are to make World War II, and Hiroshima in particular, a subject of discussion in an English literature class, then we should at least provide a few facts. The Japanese never showed any sign of surrender until after Nagasaki, the dropping of the second bomb. That meant that an invasion of Japan was the only alternative to the bomb. The Japanese were prepared to defend the mainland with 2.5 million troops and a civilian militia of millions more.

American deaths would likely have been in the hundreds of thousands, and Japanese casualties, both military and civilian, could have been more than a million. Furthermore, a small detail that is left out of virtually every high-school textbook is worth considering. American planes dropped three-quarters of a million leaflets urging the people of Hiroshima to evacuate the city. That pamphlet is a document you will never see in a Common Core textbook.

Since the Prentice Hall editors are not above appealing to teenage feelings to make their point, let us give them a taste of their own medicine.

Imagine you are a ten-year-old child living in 1945. You have only distant and passing memories of your father, who enlisted in the Marine Corps as soon as the war broke out. You write him every week, and your mother writes him every day, but his letters come in spurts due to interruptions in communication. Your mother shields you from most of what goes on, but you know he barely escaped with his life at a place called Guadalcanal. Because of his experience and his unit, he will be either in the first or second assault wave on the Japanese mainland. He has an eighty percent chance of being killed. Would you want President Truman to order the dropping of the bomb to keep your father from being killed, as well as saving thousands more American servicemen and even Japanese civilians and soldiers?

This is not fiction. This was a reality faced by hundreds of thousands of American families whose husbands and fathers were deployed in the Pacific theatre. Somehow we have forgotten that reality.

It is really a very simple question. Do we want the memory of our grandparents to be left in the hands of progressive ideologues and armchair utopians who have the advantage of living in a free and prosperous country (for now) due to no expenditure of blood, toil, tears, or sweat of their own? Do we want the children just now entering school and in the years to come—who may have never met their great-grandparents—to be made ashamed of that Greatest Generation, of America, and of our resolution to remain free?


Evidence Of Indoctrination In The Schools!

For many children in the United States, the most influential adults in their lives will not be their parents but rather public school teachers, those which have been entrusted with the task of educating the youth of the nation. It is in the classrooms of these schools that the minds of the children will be shaped, and the influence that is exerted in those crucial years of development will stay with these young people as they transition into adulthood and throughout their entire lives.

In an effort to ensure that today’s youth develop in a predictable and uniform fashion, the United States government is in the process of implementing new standards for public schools. These standards, which are known as the Common Core State Standards, have been adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia, and four American territories. (1) In an effort to entice state governments to embrace these standards, the Obama Administration announced a grant program in 2009 which would allow states who have implemented Common Core standards to compete for government payouts. “The $4.35 billion Race to the Top program that we are unveiling today is a challenge to states and districts. We’re looking to drive reform, reward excellence, and dramatically improve our nation’s schools,” announced Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2009. (2)

As more schools continue to implement these new educational standards, numerous news reports have surfaced indicating that American children are now undergoing an onslaught of indoctrination in their classrooms. One such example is an assignment published by a company from New Jersey known as Pearson Education. In this so-called English assignment, students are instructed to make a series of sentences less wordy by replacing underlined words with a possessive noun phrase. The sentences which the students are instructed to restructure include the following: “The job of a president is not easy,” “He makes sure the laws of the country are fair,” “The commands of government officials must be obeyed by all,” and “The wants of an individual are less important than the well-being of the nation.” (3) This lesson sounds very much like a brainwashing session masquerading as an English assignment. It espouses absolute and unquestioning submission to the government and propagates the collectivist notion that our actions must be for the good of society even if it violates the rights of individual people.

In another assignment, students from the state of Arkansas who attend schools in the Bryant District were given a worksheet that presents a hypothetical situation in which the students have been called upon by the United States government to make modifications to the Bill of Rights. A portion of the assignment’s instructions reads as follows: “The government of the United States is currently revisiting the Bill of Rights. They have determined that it is outdated and may not remain in its current form any longer. Their aim is to ensure that our personal civil liberties and the pursuit of happiness remains guarded in the 21st century.” The assignment further instructs the student, “You have been charged with the task of revisiting and editing the Bill of Rights. More specifically you will need to prioritize, prune, and add amendments, and then turn your ideas into a revised Bill of Rights.” (4)

Meanwhile, a company known as Scholastic, which produces educational materials for public schools, has released a math worksheet intended for fifth grade students, which features a smiling young girl holding a handful of money and instructs the student to “distribute the wealth.” (5) This subtle lesson in socialist doctrine fits hand-in-hand with Barack Obama’s agenda to “redistribute the wealth.” His support for such a concept was expressed in a 2001 radio interview at which time he was still a senator for the state of Illinois. In this interview, Obama stated the following: “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution…” (6)

Additionally, a school assignment given to 14 and 15-year-olds in the state of Illinois presents students with a hypothetical situation wherein they are instructed to choose who will live and who will die in a random group of people at a hospital who are in need of kidney dialysis. Instructions for the assignment state, “Unless they receive this procedure, they will die. The local hospital has enough machines to support only six people. That means four people are not going to live. You must decide from the information below which six will survive.” (7)

Reports have also surfaced indicating that some public schools have introduced their students to the religion of Islam. Such was the case when a recent field trip for a group of students in the state of Tennessee involved visiting an Islamic mosque where the students were given punch, cookies, and copies of the so-called Islamic holy book known as the Koran. (8) Some parents expressed outrage over this development. “Our kids are being indoctrinated and this is being shoved in their face,” declared one of the student’s father. (9) Another incident, which occurred in the state of Texas early in 2013, also sparked outrage. According to a report released in February 2013, a geography teacher brought burqas, the traditional garb for Muslim women, to her classroom and invited her female students to wear the clothing. (10) This particular incident was especially odd since Islam is a religion, not a geographical location, and this was supposed to be a geography class. One of the female student’s father expressed his consternation over this exercise. “She went from learning about Mexico to learning about Russia to learning about Islam. Islam is not a country. Islam is not a continent,” the man said. (11)

Although some of these examples may not have been a direct result of the implementation of Common Core State Standards, one would reasonably surmise that many of them were, and that the lessons being taught in schools today have taken a drastic turn since 2009 when the standards were introduced. In fact, one of the stated goals of the curriculum’s developers is to prepare the youth of today to embrace globalist ideologies. A portion from the official website of the Common Core State Standards Initiative states the following: “The standards are designed to be robust and relevant in the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” (12)

It has become abundantly clear that public schools in this modern age have become halls of indoctrination. If you have children and they attend public schools, it would be advisable to take an active interest in their education and keep a close watch on what they are being taught.


PISA report finds Australian teenagers education worse than 10 years ago

AUSTRALIAN teenagers' reading and maths skills have fallen so far in a decade that nearly half lack basic maths skills and a third are practically illiterate.

The dumbing down of a generation of Australian teenagers is exposed in the latest global report card on 15-year-olds' academic performance.

Migrant children trumped Australian-born kids while girls dragged down the national performance in maths, the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, released in Paris last night, reveals.

Australia's maths performance dropped the equivalent of half a year of schooling between 2003 and 2012.

And rowdy classrooms and bullying are more common in Australia than overseas, the report says.

China tops the latest league table of 65 countries in maths, science and literacy.

The average 15-year-old student from Shanghai is nearly two years ahead in science, and a year and a half ahead in maths, than a typical Australian teen.

Four out of 10 Australian students flunked the national baseline level for mathematical literacy - compared to just over one in 10 in Shanghai and two in 10 in Singapore.

At least one in three Aussie students fell below the national baseline level for reading and science.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) called on governments to "act now to stop the slide".

The ACER director of educational monitoring and research, Sue Thomson - who wrote the Australian chapter of the PISA report - said Australia now has fewer top-performing students, and more at the bottom.

She said the reading results showed Australian students were illiterate in a practical sense.  "It's not saying they're totally illiterate or innumerate," she said.  "But they don't necessarily have the skills they need to participate fully in adult life."

A year after former prime minister Julia Gillard set the goal for Australia to rank among the top five nations for reading, maths and science by 2025, the latest PISA report shows Australia has fallen further down the ladder.

As the debate over school funding continues, the results also reflect how increased spending on education has failed to arrest the slide of other countries, including the United Kingdom, which despite an increase of billions of dollars in funding is producing high school graduates who trail almost every other developed country.

Australia still performs above average for developed countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - but its ranking has dived over the decade.

Poland has now leapfrogged Australia in maths, helping push Australia from 11th place 2003 to 19th in 2012.

Australian teens came fourth in PISA's world literacy rankings in 2003, trailing only Finland, Korea and Canada.  But they now rank an equal 13th with New Zealand.

The ranking for science fell from 6th place in 2006, to 16th place in 2012.

Australian girls' performance in maths has fallen to the OECD average - dragging down Australia's result.  But boys are a year behind girls in literacy levels at the age of 15.

PISA exposes an educational underclass in Australia - with a two and a half year gap between the performance of students from poor or indigenous families and those from well-off households.

Dr Thomson said taxpayer funds should be targeted to disadvantaged students.  "Just putting more money in won't work, but targeting money will work," she said.

Dr Thompson said Asian education systems, such as Singapore, gave more remedial attention to children lagging at primary school so they did not fall behind.

The PISA report shows that migrant students performed best in the Australian test.

Even in English literacy, 14 per cent of foreign-born students were top performers, compared to 10 per cent of Australian-born students.

Indigenous students or those living in remote areas were twice as likely to do worst in the PISA tests.

Students from wealthy families were five times more likely than the poorest students to excel.

But results also varied widely within schools, between classes.

"A larger-than-average within-school variance means that, for Australian students, it matters more which class they are allocated to than which school they attend," the report says.  "(However) the choice of school still has a significant impact on outcomes."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne - who this week pledged to give the States and Territories an extra $2.8bn in funding for schools over the next four years - said Australia's results had declined despite a 44 per cent increase in education spending over the past decade.

"These results are the worst for Australia since testing began and shows that we are falling behind our regional neighbours," he said.  "For all the billions (Labor) spent on laptops and school halls there is still no evidence of a lift in outcomes for students."

Australian students also reported a higher frequency of noise and disorder, and teachers having to wait for students to quieten down, than the OECD average.

More than 40 per cent of Australian students reported that "family demands" interfered with their school work.

One in five students felt they did not belong, were not happy or were not satisfied at school.

Australian Greens spokeswoman for schools, Senator Penny Wright attacked the Abbott government for handing the States "no strings attached" schools funding.

"It is deplorable that in the 21st century, Indigenous students are two and a half years behind non-indigenous students, and that kids in remote areas are as much as 18 months behind children in the city," she said.

The Australian Education Union blasted the results as a "wake-up call" for the Abbott government to increase funding to schools in poor areas, and set higher entry standards for teachers.

Nearly 15,000 Australian students aged 15, from 775 schools, were selected at random to take the PISA test last year.  More than 51,000 students in 65 developed countries took the test.


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