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Education Reporter

Teaching Civics & Government in the New Federal Curriculum 
Federal laws enacted over the past nine years, including 1994's Goals 2000 Educate America Act, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the 1994 funding bill known as H.R. 6, and more recently, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, have spawned a new federal curriculum. This new curriculum establishes national standards for academic subjects and entrusts the subject of civics and government to a single institution, the Center for Civic Education (CCE).

As author, political science professor, and former Minnesota State Representative Allen Quist explains in his 2002 book FedEd: The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced, the teaching of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is now done selectively to serve the goals of world government rather than our constitutional republic.

In his review of FedEd on LewRockwell.com (2-22-03), author and Ludwig von Mises Institute Fellow Steven Yates explains that one of the new curriculum's key texts is National Standards for Civics and Government, which makes 81 references to the First Amendment but none to the Second Amendment. "This is unsurprising," Yates writes, "the goal, after all, is not merely dumbed-down subjects but disarmed ones as well, a people encouraged to fear guns." Yates adds that the Tenth Amendment "also disappears" from National Standards, because "it would suggest to thoughtful readers that the entire federal-educratic edifice is unconstitutional. Out of sight, out of mind."

What's in a Lesson? 
What does the new federal curriculum teach about civics and government? Prompted by a tip from a researcher and pro-family activist in Idaho, Education Reporter reviewed the sample lessons on the Center for Civic Education's website (www.civiced.org). The topic of Lesson 6 is "What are the Possible Consequences of Privacy?" Teachers are directed to divide their classes into groups to discuss the benefits and costs of privacy based on a series of scenarios.

The lesson initially equates privacy with people's freedom "to think and act as they please without unreasonable and unfair influence or control by others." But it goes on to suggest that individuals who have "too much privacy" can become lonely and have "poor relations with others." It equates "too much privacy" with "loss of stimulation and intellectual growth," stating: "People correct errors in their thinking and learn new ideas and ways of doing things by interacting with other people." [Emphasis added.] The lesson does not state who decides how much privacy is too much or who determines what ways of thinking are "errors." Could the implied solution be more government?

Lesson 6 links privacy with "misbehavior and lawlessness." "Privacy may prevent unlawful behavior from being discovered and punished," it states, and includes these examples: "If there are private places where people are not watched, they can go there to commit crimes or to hide evidence of their crimes." It also pits privacy against financial cost: "Building homes with separate rooms to provide privacy costs more than building a single large room."

Finally, Lesson 6 ties privacy to lack of accountability. "Privacy enables people to do things that cannot be observed by others," it states. "As a result, there may be no way to hold them responsible for wrongdoing." Examples given are: (1) "If they are not being supervised, people might take shortcuts in doing their work, or cheat on a test, or steal"; and (2) "Other people might never discover what has been done, or there may be no way to prove who is responsible."

Reading Lists 
The Center for Civic Education also publishes "Comparative Lessons for Democracy," which it bills as "A Collaborative Effort of Educators from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Russia, and the United States."

These "Comparative Lessons" are apparently taught by class assignments based on a list of recommended books. An introduction to the list states: "This annotated bibliography is designed to tap the rich resource of children's literature to stimulate discussion of violence and of alternative, peaceful ways to resolve conflict. Its focus is on books appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students, though a number of books can be used in the earlier grades as well."

Not included on this list are books celebrating the legacy of freedom made possible by American constitutional government, and the wonderful examples of pioneering spirit, invention, entrepreneurship, and innovation that resulted. Stories about American heroes who built, sustained and defended the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth over the past 225 years are excluded. Instead, we find the following books recommended [descriptions in quotes are from CCE's website]:

  • The Big Book for Peace: "A compilation of short stories . . . addresses the many kinds of peace needed in today's world . . . It has a pacifist, nonviolent-resistance bent."

  • Smokey Night: "It is set against the fires and looting, the anger and excitement, the danger and the fright of the Los Angeles riots in 1992."

  • Mrs. Moscowitz's Last Stand: Friendships "blossomed under the ginko tree in front of [Mrs. Moscowitz's] house. Now the tree is threatened by a city order to cut it down . . . When all else fails, she resorts to civil disobedience by chaining herself to the tree. The resultant publicity works. The tree is saved and the neighborhood celebrates."

  • Pink and Say: " 'Mother, this war has to be won or this sickness that has taken this land will never stop' . . . This powerful 'picture book' is for older children, those who can begin to understand the cruelty of this civil war as well as the strong bonds that were forged amid the horror . . . It raises the question of conflict between states around a policy that created a great moral dilemma."

  • Cesar Chavez, Hope for the People: " 'I am convinced that the truest act of courage...is to struggle for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice.' "

  • Scorpions: "Jamal is a twelve-year-old in New York City, caught in a web of loyalties: first to his family, including a hard-working mother, a brother in jail for drug dealing and a young sister, then to his brother's gang."

  • The Fighting Ground: "Against his father's wishes, 13-year-old Jonathan goes off to fight in the American Revolutionary War . . . There is no glory here, but killing of friend and enemy; combatant and civilian."

  • The Great Peace March: "The words for this book come from a song written for the 1986 Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament."

  • The Secret of the Peaceful Warrior: "A nine-year-old boy moves to a new neighborhood where he is confronted by the neighborhood bully. He is helped to deal with his fear and anger by a grandfather named Socrates, who stresses that one's goal should not be to run away, or to fight, but to become a 'peaceful warrior.'"

  • I Dream of Peace, Images of War by Children of Former Yugoslavia: "Pictures and short writings by children, ages 6 to 15, were gathered by UNICEF from refugee camps and schools . . . [The book] serves as 'a protest against the violation of [children's] fundamental right to be free of the torments of war,' and calls for the people of the world to join with the children in saying 'enough is enough.'"

  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes: "In real life, 12-year-old Sadako became a heroine to children in Japan and throughout the world for her spirited fight against leukemia caused by atomic radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima . . . Making origami cranes has become an annual ritual throughout Japan and internationally, in order to remember the human cost of war and to stress the need for peace."

  • Out of Control: "This Newbery Honor book author has written an insightful story about sexual harassment of teenage girls by their male classmates."

  • Don't Hurt Laurie!: "Laurie is beaten by her mother, regularly, unexpectedly, and with increasing severity . . . Finally, when she becomes fearful for her life, Laurie reaches out for help . . ."

  • The Great Brain Reforms: "In a small Utah town, a young 'con artist' swindles his peers out of everything they hold dear . . . When he goes too far and endangers life itself, the children find a unique way to resolve the conflict . . ."

  • Death of the Iron Horse: "In August 1867, an 'Iron Horse' was derailed by Native Americans - the only time in history such an event happened. This is the true story of that act, characterized by the author as 'a tale of courage and pride and of a people caught up in an unequal struggle to preserve a sacred way of life."

  • Violence in the Schools: Developing Prevention Plans: "Students examine the problem of violence in a hypothetical mid-dle school, in their communities, and in the nation and develop a prevention plan . . ."

What to do 
If you do not believe that the Center for Civic Education's lessons and bibliography provide proper instruction in American constitutional government and civics, Allen Quist, Steven Yates, and many other concerned parents, educators, and activists urge you to get involved. For more information, Allen Quist's book, FedEd, is available from the Maple River Education Coalition, 1402 Concordia Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104. The coalition's website is www.edwatch.org.

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