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  • Writer's pictureCorey Lee Wilson

Patriotism Starts in the Classroom

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

Progressive doctrine is replacing traditional curricula in our K–12 schools. If not reversed, we could lose the next generation of Americans.

The effort to indoctrinate students in progressive, anti-American ideologies that pervades our universities is also ravaging K–12 education. State education departments issue standards that public and charter K–12 schools, and their teachers, must follow. Particularly in larger states, these standards determine the content of textbooks and standardized tests, influence private and homeschool curricula, and impact public-college admission requirements.

Traditional standards are aggressively being usurped by the principles of critical race theory, social justice, and “action civics,” which promotes student involvement in protests for progressive causes. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has identified at least 45 state education standards in 25 states that incorporate radical doctrine, including CRT, the 1619 Project, and other expressions of anti-American animus.

More than twelve federal and 200 state bills have been introduced that would incorporate progressive civics education in K–12 schooling. By July 2020, more than 4,500 schools taught the 1619 Project as truth, despite its author’s admission that it is a parable. That number is likely considerably greater today.

At the Current Pace—We Can Expect a Steep Drop in Patriotism Among Our Youth

Concurrently, states are eliminating or dumbing down tests and otherwise lowering standards, imposing, for example, “equitable grading,” which excludes factors such as class participation and returning homework on time. The motivations for doing so vary but consistently include an effort to reduce or obscure performance differences to promote “equity.”

This debasement is occurring against a backdrop of declining test scores, with proficiency ranging from just 12 percent to 46 percent in the eleven subjects included in the Department of Education’s national assessment of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders. As in our universities and colleges, if a radical canon supplants traditional content standards in K–12 schools, we can expect a steep drop in patriotism among our youth, and in their understanding and support for American institutions and principles.

The Mathematics Framework of the California Department of Education (CDE) is illustrative of the problem. Both last July’s draft and a revision to be voted on by the CDE board in July guide teachers to replace math with discussions of social justice, starting in pre-kindergarten. Less than 6 percent of the revised framework is devoted to implementing math standards. The remainder covers such topics as systemic racism, the inappropriateness of traditional pedagogy for minority students, anti-racism, and social justice. By contrast, approximately two-thirds of the 2013 California Math Framework was devoted to implementing math standards.

According to CDE data, less than 40 percent of California students met its achievement standards for math in 2018–19. In post-Covid testing, math scores of average eighth-graders were at the fifth-grade level.

Teaching Less Math in Math Class is Unlikely to Help

California also requires all high-school students to take an ethnic-studies course. The guiding principles governing the state’s standards are “political contributions to anti-imperial and anti-colonial movements” and critiques of “empire building in relationship to forms of power and oppression.”

Instead of being drafted by academic subject-matter experts in history, civics, geography, and economics, Minnesota’s social-studies standards were prepared by a committee of political activists, community organizers, and their allies. Committee member Jonathan Hamilton described the extant standards as a “white supremacist puzzle that must be taken apart and exposed for the lie it is.” The new ethnic-studies standards encourage students to disrupt, dismantle, and transform America’s fundamental institutions.

Louisiana’s draft social-studies standards included a radical curriculum aligned with CRT and action civics, and ignored America’s history of liberty. Following widespread criticism, the draft was revised. The final version is better but still includes identity politics and radical activism, replaces Western civilization with world history, and minimizes instruction on liberty and the sources of American ideals.

Douglas Murray well describes the hostility to Western civilization in our universities. If strong remedies are not swiftly applied, our K–12 schools are about to catch up. Eliminating the foundations and premises of Western civilization, American exceptionalism, and liberty leaves students uninformed about America’s history and unique story. Even after tests have been watered down, national scores in history and geography have declined, and scores for civics are flat. In 2018, only 15 percent of eighth-graders scored “proficient” or above in U.S. history, along with about a quarter in civics and geography.

Many students do not even know why the American Revolution was fought, how a city differs from a state, or how to locate the United States on a map of the world. Replacing history, geography, and civics with ethnic studies and protest politics will not fix this.

So Many Americans Are Graduating Ignorant Of, and Estranged From, America’s History and Ideals

It is particularly disturbing last Fourth of July weekend that so many Americans are graduating ignorant of, and estranged from, America’s history and ideals. A 2020 Echelon Insights poll of high-school and college students underscores how progressive indoctrination in college changes beliefs.

For example, 66 percent of high-schoolers view the U.S. as exceptional and unique, compared with 47 percent of college students; 63 percent of high-schoolers are proud of the U.S., compared with 40 percent of college students; 70 percent of high-schoolers have a favorable view of U.S. history, compared with 44 percent of college students; and 58 percent of high-schoolers are patriotic, compared with just 35 percent of college students. In other results, high-school students were consistently more supportive than college students of American institutions.

This conclusion is bolstered by a poll that the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School conducted among Americans 18 to 29 in October and November 2021. Those with a college education were 82 percent more likely to identify as liberal. Sixty percent of respondents with a college degree, and 52 percent of those who did not attend college, believed that America’s democracy was “in trouble” or “failing.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents with a college degree believed that there were “other nations as great or greater than America,” compared with 44 percent of those who did not attend college. Just one-quarter of respondents with a degree said that America was the greatest country, compared with a third of those who did not attend college. In other poll results, those with a degree were consistently less supportive of American institutions than were those who had not attended college.

If progressives achieve the same success degrading K–12 standards that they have achieved in our universities, there is no reason to expect a different result.

The American Birthright Coalition Has Developed a Model K–12 Civics Standards

In an effort to change the paradigm, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) announced earlier this week that it has organized a broad coalition of educators, research fellows, and testing specialists who have developed comprehensive K–12 social-studies standards for history, civics, geography, and economics. Referred to by NAS as the American Birthright Coalition, the group also developed a model K–12 civics code as the basis for legislative action. The coalition also includes about 150 conservative policy-makers, opinion leaders, think tanks, and similar organizations.

In drafting the model standards, the coalition drew on both red and blue states, particularly Massachusetts and Florida. Its goals are to help students identify ideals, institutions, and examples of liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government, and then assess the extent to which civilizations have fulfilled these ideals. These goals, once universal in American education, are anathema to progressives.

The substitution of racial dogma for an understanding of, and respect for, the history and principles of Western civilization has become a dividing line in American pedagogy. The situation is dire but not yet terminal. However, if the states do not immediately change course, America risks losing the trust and support of its youth. If that happens, the nearly 250-year American journey we celebrate this Independence Day weekend is in considerable jeopardy.

This July 3, 2022 article is courtesy of Kenn M. Spivak from the National Review.

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