Sunday, August 30, 2015

Advanced Placement Framework Is Pure Anti-American Propaganda

It is a sorry state of affairs that American public education is not much more than propaganda. The Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum and testing has made recent news for its abandonment of facts that support America’s exceptionalism. Leftists laughably pass it off as education to “redirect the course away from rote memorization of facts and toward historical thinking skills.” But such revisionism of our nation’s past is dangerous for its future.

Only after public outcry did the College Board “revise” the APUSH framework to include a patronizing reference to “American exceptionalism.” That checked the proverbial box so as to prevent state legislatures controlled by conservative believers in America-first to refrain from the termination of taxpayer funding. The Leftist educrats have not substantively improved the APUSH curriculum or testing. Instead, they perpetuate the type of education that lives up to famed Communist and Soviet leader, Vladimir Lenin, who declared, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

Keep in mind a chilling fact that makes the reversal of this “framework” critical: The American History portion will be followed by AP European History and AP U.S. Government rewrites. Unless the College Board and its committed cultists are met with impactful opposition to their efforts to destroy the best of American history, additional aspects of our children’s education will soon follow suit. The educrats will continue rewriting facts to fit their false narrative of America and its impact on the world.

The College Board makes money for each test taken by students seeking college credit for work in their junior and senior years of high school. High schools are praised and rewarded by the percentage of students that take the advanced placement coursework and participate in testing. And who foots the bill for public schools? Taxpayers.

The College Board is overseeing a complete transformation of America’s story. Far from relaying a set of facts about events that have set the course of the world, the educrats offer a new version of history that’s nothing but telling teenagers what to think, not how to think.

The financial conflict of interest alone should set Americans into action to halt the use of their hard-earned tax dollars to fund educrats. Add to that the revelations of a few AP teachers who have confronted and exposed this a pure anti-American propaganda.

Elizabeth Altham of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy, a private, Catholic K–12 college-preparatory school in Rockford, Illinois, is an award-winning master of AP History who has been faithful and effective in equipping students with the facts. Yet Altham has dared to risk the certification by the College Board in order to publicly call into question the revisionist nature of the curriculum.

Yes, another little conflict is that the College Board provides the certification to those who follow the breadcrumbs.

Altham observes that the APUSH framework has “placed inordinate emphasis upon the bad behavior of European invaders and colonists, and upon ‘trends and processes,’ while neglecting the good behavior of many of those men, and the importance of the characters and choices of individuals; also, it neglected the philosophy of government the colonists brought with them.”

The conflict for Altham, as with other good teachers, is whether to do what’s best and right or succumb to the requirements of the College Board for certification and teach a curriculum based on falsehoods and assumptions that disfigure America.

Altham is joined by Marc Anderson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force. Now a public school teacher in Pennsylvania through the “Troops to Teachers” initiative, Anderson’s infuriation at the APUSH fraud is his greatest obstacle to fulfill his duties in teaching.

Anderson, a Christian who has served on America’s frontline of defense in our Armed Forces, has unapologetically taught his students that America’s founding arose from the desire for religious liberty — pilgrims fleeing an oppressive monarchy and a state-controlled church. He teaches them our exceptional history of standing on the side of good versus evil.

But Anderson had to join other AP U.S. History teachers in a College Board course that instructed teachers to relay the narrative blaming America first, last and always for the world’s problems.

As this leftist organization, the College Board, thrives on your tax dollars to distort the image of America into an oppressive, bigoted society where success only results from greed and harm to the collective good, a national school curriculum is being written by the socialist Left. As the cry against Common Core elicits immediate anger, the control of the story of the United States of America in the hands of those whose life experiences extend no further than a faculty lounge or their local coffee house with free Wi-Fi must now be rejected and halted.

In his 1985 State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan gloriously declared, “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

We’re watching the Left erect the walls of propaganda, constraining the human mind. They’re passing it off as education, but it will end the authentic progress of America in its exceptionalism and confine each to a social collective commitment to the state rather than individual liberty.


Academic Freedom Under Siege

Six weeks ago, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro wrote a fine op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered a ringing endorsement of academic freedom. As he observed, a university must have "a compelling reason to punish anyone -- student, faculty member, staff member -- for expressing his or her views, regardless of how repugnant you might find those views." Indeed, he added, "freedom of speech doesn't amount to much unless it is tested," and if freedom of speech isn't aggressively protected "on college campuses, where self-expression is so deeply valued, why expect it to matter elsewhere?"

It is therefore both surprising and disappointing that Northwestern University recently found itself embroiled in two embarrassing violations of the core principles of academic freedom. Sadly, a university that should be a national leader in promoting and protecting these values allowed itself to lose sight of its very reason for being.

The first of these controversies began a little over a year ago. Atrium is a journal published by Northwestern University's Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program. Each issue focuses on a different theme, and each contributor is expected to explore the theme "in different, thought-provoking ways." The Winter 2014 issue of Atrium, which was edited by Professor Alice Dreger, included a series of lively articles on the theme of "Bad Girls."

One of the articles, written by William Peace, then the 2014 Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Syracuse University, was titled "Head Nurses." In this essay, Peace, who is disabled, told the story of how 36 years earlier a young woman nurse, with whom he had grown close, provided oral sex to him during rehabilitation in order to address his deep concerns that, after a severe health problem left him paralyzed, he could no longer be sexually active.

Apparently, Peace's essay, which was written and edited in a responsible, mature, and thoughtful manner, so upset the authorities at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine that they ordered the story removed from the online version of Atrium. This act of blatant censorship, in direct contravention of any plausible understanding of academic freedom, remained in place for fourteen months, over the continued objections of Peace and Dreger.

Northwestern finally reversed course only after Peace and Dreger made clear that they would take the matter public if the university did not relent. Presumably, the university's concern was that the inclusion of such an "offensive" article in Atrium might put off some of the university's donors and the hospital's patrons, either because of its acknowledgement of oral sex or because it might be construed as demeaning to women. Neither concern is a justification for censorship. The journal, the issue, and the essay were all squarely within the bounds of academic freedom, and Northwestern University should have stood proudly in support of that principle.

As Bill Peace later noted, "obviously, sexual relations between patients and health care professionals is inappropriate," but "what I object to even more" are those "who are dedicated to branding medical institutions by censoring legitimate scholarship and attempting to erase the lives and experiences that they deem embarrassing."

The second controversy began several months ago when Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis wrote a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she raised important questions about the regulation of student-faculty relationships, the meaning of consent, the procedural irregularities that frequently taint the efforts of colleges and universities to address such issues, and the messy and destructive lawsuits that often follow.

Kipnis' article is a serious, provocative, and valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about these often difficult and vexing issues. Among other things, Kipnis charged that some of the recently enacted campus codes dealing with such matters have had the effect of infantilizing women students. This, she reasoned, is not a good thing.

In response to this essay, several students at Northwestern staged a protest demanding "a swift, official condemnation" of the article because they had been made to feel uncomfortable by her thoughts on the subject. One woman student went so far as to describe the essay as "terrifying." Shortly thereafter, a women student who had filed sexual assault charges against a professor at Northwestern filed a Title IX (sex discrimination/sexual harassment) complaint against Kipnis because of the publication.

As Kipnis traces in a powerful new article published this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for the past several months she has been subjected to a star-chamber proceeding in which outside investigators retained by Northwestern University have sought to determine whether her initial essay somehow constituted unlawful retaliation, "intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination" against the student who had previously filed the sexual assault charge against the faculty member at Northwestern.

As anyone who has read Kipnis' initial article can discern, the accusation is ludicrous on its face. An essay that takes aim at the substantive values and procedures employed by universities in their efforts to regulate sexual relationships on campus is not, and cannot rationally be taken to be, an act of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment directed against any particular student who may have filed such a complaint.

What Northwestern should have done in the face of such a complaint was to dismiss it as quickly and decisively as possible and to reaffirm the fundamental right of members of the university community to write, speak, argue, and complain openly and vigorously about matters of public concern. Instead, Northwestern put Kipnis through months of "investigation" for doing nothing more than writing an interesting and provocative article in a journal of considerable repute.

It was only after Kipnis went public in her second article this week that Northwestern finally informed her that the charges against her were unfounded. As evidenced in both of these situations, it seems, not surprisingly, that the best way to get universities to stand up for academic freedom is to call them out publicly on their lack of commitment to the principles for which they are supposed to stand.

In fairness, I have to say that, at least in the Kipnis incident, this is not all Northwestern's fault. The Department of Education has run roughshod over colleges and universities in recent years by demanding, on pain of loss of federal funds, that these institutions take extreme measures, often inconsistent with basic notions of due process, to deal with complaints of sexual abuse. But this is not much of an excuse, because the Kipnis case was not an instance in which she was accused of sexually abusing anyone. She was accused, rather, of writing an article that upset some students. Turning that into a federal case is beyond the pale.

Northwestern, and other universities, must have the courage to live up to President Schapiro's ringing declaration that a university must have "a compelling reason to punish anyone -- student, faculty member, staff member -- for expressing his or her views, regardless of how repugnant you might find those views." That is, after all, what makes a university a university.


ACLU Files Lawsuit to Block School Choice for Nevada Children

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has just filed a lawsuit intended to block students from participating in Nevada’s groundbreaking near-universal education savings account (ESA) option. The ESA option was signed into law this spring by Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., and began accepting applications a few weeks ago.

More than 2,200 parents have already applied to participate in the ESA option, which provides students with a portion (roughly $5,100 annually) of the funds that would have been spent on them in their public school in an ESA account that they can then use to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers.

They can use their ESA to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, curricula, and a host of other education-related expenditures. As the name implies, parents can also save unused funds, rolling dollars over from year-to-year to pay for future education costs.

The ACLU’s lawsuit alleges that the ESA program “violates the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition against the use of public money for sectarian (religious) purposes.” Yet ESA funds go directly to parents, who can then choose from any education option that is right for their child.

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The Foundation for Excellence in Education explains that the Arizona Court of Appeals noted in a similar case in 2013,

    “The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs.”

The Institute for Justice, which will be defending the ESA option, is confident it does not violate the state’s constitution.

Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, declared that,

    “Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program was enacted to help parents and children whose needs are not being met in their current public schools, and we will work with them to intervene in this lawsuit and defeat it.”

    “The United States Supreme Court, as well as numerous state supreme courts, have already held that educational choice programs, like Nevada’s ESA Program, are constitutional. We expect the same from Nevada courts.”

Education director for the Goldwater Institute, Jonathan Butcher, had this to say,

    “Every child deserves the chance at a great education and the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Lawsuits such as this challenge parents’ ability to help their children succeed,”

    “Nevada has a unique law that makes flexible learning options available to every child attending a public school and a treasurer that has committed his team to listening to public comments and designing a successful education savings account program. Opponents should give students the chance to succeed with these accounts.”

Education savings accounts are one of the most promising paths forward on choice in education. They enable families to direct every single dollar of their child’s state per-pupil funding that is deposited into their account to a wide variety of education options. Arizona became the first state, in 2011, to enact the ESA model.

Today, five states, including Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Nevada have ESAs in place, with Nevada’s being notable because it will be available to every single child currently enrolled in a public school. It is the first program universally available to all public school students. Arizona, which has the longest-running ESA option, has had great success for participating families.

As Marc Ashton, father to Max Ashton who is legally blind and used the ESA prior to finishing high school explained,

    “A blind student in Arizona gets about $21,000 a year. That $21,000 represents what Arizona spends to educate a student such as Max in the public-school system.”

“We took our 90 percent of that, paid for Max to get the best education in Arizona, plus all of his Braille, all of his technology, and then there was still money left over to put toward his college education,” Marc explains. “So he is going to be able to go on to Loyola Marymount University, because we were able to save money, even while sending him to the best school in Arizona, out of what the state would normally pay for him.”

That type of customization and innovation is what the ACLU is threatening now in Nevada. It’s a shame that special interest groups continue to threaten choice in education, when choice is what is needed so badly, for so many.


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