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Saturday, August 17, 2013

How Textbooks Push Children to the Left

Are you surprised that leftist ideas have penetrated the minds of the people?  Chalk up this reality to the leftist teachers and, especially, to the left-oriented textbooks now in use in our secondary schools.  One book in particular that has been gaining traction in New York City in recent years is “The Americans.”
Although even the leftist teachers claim not to like this textbook used in U.S. history (a one-year course required in NYC for all juniors) because it is so skimpy on facts and is written in an opaque style, any informed reader would have to agree that it is one of the most politically correct textbooks one could imagine. Reading this book, one gets the message that the history of America is a theme of victimization. The list of victims is well known: Native Americans, women, labor, immigrants, blacks, farmers, urban dwellers, the mentally ill, migrant workers, unions, etc. “The Americans” is a somewhat diluted version of Howard Zinn’s openly communist college textbook, “A People’s History of the United States.” It is also worth adding that this reference to Zinn’s “communism” is not putting labels on anyone, and is not a McCarthy-like type of red-baiting of an innocent individual; Zinn openly announced his communism decades ago when he taught at Boston University.
This author surveyed the index of “The Americans,” and found that in the 1,045 pages of text, there were only two references to Christianity, no references to Protestants, and five references to Roman Catholicism. There were zero references to God, zero references to Jesus Christ, and only one reference to evangelicals. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are described as “minor activists,” not as traitors who sold out their country for $10,000. Their being traitors is no longer supposition or in any way debatable, but has been revealed conclusively by Harvey Klehr et al. in their monumental study The Secret World of American Communism based on documents made available after the collapse of the USSR. Prof. Klehr is a professor at Emory University and the book was published by Yale University Press, hardly right-wing organizations.
The same textbook has no index reference to John Calvin and the powerful Reformation currents that were alive and well in the 17th and into the 18thcenturies. And in the textbook’s sections on the “Pilgrims and the Puritans,” the focus goes from Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson (essentially depicted as the first feminist victim of an uptight male patriarchy) to King Philip’s War between the Puritans and Wampanoag Indians in 1675. Although it’s not said outright, the book means to suggest that there was a certain bloodthirsty aspect to the Puritan culture. They were encroaching and exploitative, so the Indians had to fight back. The textbook fails to mention anything about the fifty-year peace treaty between the Wampanoags and the Puritans, which held up beautifully until Chief Massasoit and the Puritan leader John Winthrop died.
It fails to mention Thomas Hooker who founded Connecticut and, with his co-founders, wrote the first state constitution – “The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” – that was a model for representative government in the colonies. The book does not mention that Anne Hutchinson, though she was a woman, was permitted to lead Bible discussions at her home in Massachusetts. Only when she began teaching antinomian doctrine (i.e., that it was not necessary for a Christian to follow moral law) was she reprimanded, and banished when she failed to submit to the teachings of the colonial leaders. Moreover, the book fails to highlight the incredible faith of the Puritans as they actually succeeded, despite some flaws, on building that “city on the hill” out of the wilderness, and the debt of gratitude we owe to the righteous and faithful Puritans, people who walked the walk of faith wearing the whole armor of God.
Further, under their original charter, the Puritans set up a kind of primitive communism where everybody shared equally in the town of Plymouth, but they soon perceived that this did not work, and divided the land into portions for each family, where the efforts of each person would decide his well-being up to a point (they never stopped being good neighbors and helping each other). All of this information is not noted in any form in the textbook and, although it is not said outright, an inexperienced young reader will come away with the impression that the Puritans and Pilgrims were a narrow-minded and racist group, and besides that they were Christian fanatics (like those terrible evangelicals of our own era).
Would not an even-handed approach to colonial U.S. history discuss William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania?  In that colony, there were no armed conflicts with the Native Americans during the colonial period. Pennsylvania had no army until the French and Indian War in the 1750s.  William Penn was an incredibly righteous and informed Quaker.  He wrote many books, including the marvelous book “No Cross, No Crown,” as well as others about politics, Christianity, and history.  His moral excellence and writing gifts are not even alluded to, nor are those of Thomas Hooker of Connecticut or Increase and Cotton Mather of Massachusetts (more than 500 works between them on a variety of topics).  Is there any governor among our fifty states who could write a theology book today?  Or any other book of clear intellectual merit for that matter?
The skewed and distorted information and disinformation in “The Americans” is too extensive in over 1,000 pages to catalogue completely in this article.  However, it reflects a mindset that is not unique to this volume.  This textbook represents a besetting ignorance as well as congeries of biases that are epidemic in our country and disrupting the minds of the people.
Jeff Ludwig is a Harvard University master teacher and has taught at Harvard, Penn State, Boston State College and in urban high schools.

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