Taking exception to gripes about social studies text
By xxxx firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2011 8:28PM
Updated: November 2, 2011 3:20PM
Glenn Beck, the man who’s too embarrassing even for Fox News, is now going after a third-grade social studies textbook. All I can say is something with a lot of pretty pictures is right up his alley.
Labeling it “liberal propaganda,” “Social Studies Alive!” has the temerity to cover health care, labor unions and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Beck took particular offense at the book’s declaration that countries such as Vietnam provide child care as a public service, issuing a pouty, “Well, let’s all move to Vietnam, everybody.”
St. Charles School District 303 just happens to use “Social Studies Alive!” and, like fleas jumping on a dog, one of Beck’s minions went right to work filing a complaint with the district.
“I am concerned that this book is being used in our curriculum,” parent Jennifer Nazlian told a school board committee, “I ask that you please review this book and figure out why it’s in our district.”
Of course, Nazlian found a quick compatriot in new D303 board member Judith McConnell, who also happens to be the coordinator of the Tri-City Tea Party Patriots. McConnell faced no opposition in her school board run.
To better understand their concerns, I got my hands on the specifics of Nazlian’s complaint, a copy of the textbook, and engaged in a cordial email dialogue with McConnell (she prefers email). As it turns out, their arguments are virtually identical.
Nazlian’s issues included Beck’s contentions, as well as her belief the book misrepresents discrimination against immigrants, it was pro-union, it contained “false and negative statements about the U.S.” on world trade, it lied when it said the U.S. isn’t energy-independent, there was a swastika depicted at a protest, and that the sentence “energy uses up resources that can never be replaced” was “propaganda.”
McConnell made the valid point that “free” child care really isn’t, but she also told reporters that the book “is really deleterious to our children and our community. It is not good for our children.”
When I challenged McConnell, who’s a writer and editor, on this potential book ban, she said she preferred to use the word “replace” and wrote, “…if I were writing history or social studies, you can be assured that what I would write would be balanced and accurate and would lean neither left nor right.”
But I’m not so sure about that. After taking a long hard look at “Social Studies Alive!,” while I don’t always agree with the authors, it is a reasonably balanced book.
In fact, I’m convinced the opposition’s real problem is that it doesn’t teach the brand of “American exceptionalism” that Sarah Palin and her tea party cohorts so like to preach. For better or worse, it covers this country, warts and all, which will never sit well with some folks.
The irony is, by their method of railing against this “liberal indoctrination,” can’t we accuse Nazlian and McConnell of engaging in the very same act? There’s a big difference between dissent and censorship.
The truth is, when it comes to student performance, despite spending more than any other country, we’re right in the middle of the educational pack. But you know what we’re No. 1 in? Believing that we’re No. 1 despite the evidence to the contrary.
While we’re devolving into a morass of endless ideological bickering, China is passing us by in education, economy, renewable energy, diplomatic gravitas, and dealing with climate change, because they don’t harbor the same kind of insipid egotistical delusions we do. Shouting “we’re No. 1” doesn’t make it true.
So my advice to Beck, Nazlian and McConnell is, stop it. You’re only embarrassing yourselves.
Your assault on this book is nothing more than the latest form of McCarthyism. When you find a “communist behind every bush,” it’s really nothing more than that age-old tactic of using fear to control what people think. To find the swastika in question, I had to go through the book twice — the second time without my bifocals.
I had high hopes for the tea party as a political alternative; but with a few exceptions, they’ve officially become a morally bankrupt movement. When you start seeing “propaganda” in third-grade text books, it’s already over.
Although the school board has the final say in its answer to Nazlian, D303 administrators said the state mandates teaching about discrimination, immigration, world trade and free speech, and that it has no plans to replace the book.
Since they’ll never believe me, I’m going issue a challenge to Nazlian, McConnell and all my tea party friends. Please take a copy of “Social Studies Alive!” to your pastor, voice your concerns, and ask for his or her opinion.
I think you’ll be surprised.
Jeff Ward contacted at email@example.com