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Innocence Report: Bias and Indoctrination in the Iowa Core Curriculum April 2010 Executive Summary
In 2008 the Iowa Assembly passed legislation requiring that all primary and secondary schools (both public and private) implement the Iowa Core Curriculum (the “Curriculum” or the “Core Curriculum”). This Report examines parts of the Curriculum with respect to content, transparency concerns and parental-rights interests. In particular, it examines the Science, the Political Science/Civic Literacy, the Behavioral Sciences, the Economics, the History, and the Essential 21st Century Skills Curricula. The Assembly mandated that the Iowa Department of Education create the Core Curriculum. Unfortunately, that mandate allowed for implementation before educators and citizens had a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on its content and overall direction. The result is a Curriculum that allows (or even encourages) teachers to inject political bias into the classroom. That danger is most especially present in the presentation of environmentalism, economic theory, and political science. The Science Core Curriculum is heavily biased toward indoctrinating students in the principles of liberal environmentalism. Suggested activities include discussing the advantages of owning a hybrid car and determining one‟s carbon footprint. It even encourages students to take political action by speaking at a city council meeting about environmental concerns. Its emphasis on climate change, globalization, and population growth tends to echo the more extreme elements of the environmental lobby. The Political Science and Civic Literacy Core Curriculum omits some key concepts and incorrectly or ambiguously describes others. It suggests an ascendency of governments that do not reflect the founding documents and law of the United States. Its discussion of “rights” ignores the natural law basis of our fundamental rights and consequently fails to present them in the strength with which the American law and tradition holds them. Moreover, the directive to discuss the Bill of Rights shows no awareness of the need for guidance in discussion of controversial topics like privacy rights, gun ownership, free speech, and the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. These opportunities for political bias continue in the examination of America‟s role in global affairs. The Social Science Core Curriculum presents right and wrong as relative and subjective. It has hallmarks of being a “values clarification” course that deviates from traditional teaching on right
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and wrong, urging students to re-examine their values (and those of their parents) with a nondirective, non-judgmental attitude. Today, many schools and programs across the country use values clarification approaches. Also, UNESCO uses it for various social engineering purposes such as in population control and environmentalism programs. On the subject of economics, the Curriculum seemingly does not support the notion that, because it is based on freedom, capitalism is the economic sister of democracy. Nor does it relate capitalism to the Constitution and the Declaration. It does, however, provide more opportunities for bias on the subject of capitalism, labor, and even globalization. The History Curriculum has similar problems of relativism and openings for bias. With little discussion as to scope or basic historical literacy, it instead focuses on analysis of culture, process, and transition. Its directives to compare “minority” and “dominant” groups are a political minefield. The “Health Literacy” section raises still more questions. It introduces concepts and skills on “violence,” “bullying,” and “safety.” Such approaches are often subterfuges to encourage affirmation (and even promotion) of LGBT lifestyles. Similarly, language about public health, safety, and “violence” could also be the conduit for undermining support for the Second Amendment. This Curriculum intrudes upon the most private of personal and family values. It teaches students as young as third grade “wellness dimensions” that include “sexual and spiritual wellness,” but it offers no hint of what that might entail or how such concepts will be taught to such young children. Furthermore, its encouragement of healthy behaviors, while laudable in some respects, raises questions about maintaining the medical and general privacy of the family and student, and its discussion on educating students to obtain health assistance raises questions as to whether students might be directed to activist organizations like Planned Parenthood. For such a broad and influential work, the Iowa Core Curriculum is most startling in what it does not say. It is replete with opportunities for bias and indoctrination on a number of sensitive issues. This is a violation of the fundamental principle that parents have the right to guide their children‟s education and moral development. Moreover, the Curriculum opens the door for future political propaganda, as all sorts of social agenda can be introduced to the classroom by subsequent incorporation. Overall, the Curriculum and its implementation process is a great lesson in civics and government. Iowa has a proud tradition of excellence in education. That tradition includes strong local control. It includes a commitment to a fair and open decision-making process and a populist respect for the people of Iowa. Sadly, the legislature ignored that tradition through its Core Curriculum mandate. The Assembly must revisit the Iowa Core Curriculum.
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1. Introduction In 2008 the Iowa Assembly mandated that all primary and secondary schools (both public and private) implement the Iowa Core Curriculum (the “Curriculum” or the “Core Curriculum”). This Report examines parts of the Curriculum with respect to content, transparency concerns and parental-rights interests. In particular, it examines the Science, the Political Science/Civic Literacy, the Behavioral Sciences, the Economics, the History, and the Essential 21 st Century Skills Curricula. Schools hold a position of public trust. We rely on them to educate children and work with parents in shaping character. Moreover, they must do this while demonstrating respect for the diversity of belief in our country and without undermining the authority of parents. It is all too easy for educators to slip into the indoctrination of their charges. Whether through stated intent or unconscious bias, the danger of education being used for political propaganda is ever-present. To avoid that requires a great deal of dedication and self-awareness on the part of teachers and administrators. And, it is noted, that in most cases teachers should be given the benefit of the doubt for the occasional slip-up and close call --lest they be too skittish to go the extra yard to answer questions and explain concepts. Policy-makers and administrators have a huge responsibility when it comes to curricula and academic programs. They should give parents full and fair notice of the content of their children‟s academic programs. They should not burden teachers with ambiguous and vague directives. And they should avoid putting teachers in confrontations with parents who were not apprised of objectionable curricula. Policy-makers and administrators compromise their position of trust if they use state-sponsored curricula to propagate political doctrine. Then, bias is not a mis-guided act in a random classroom, rather it is a system-wide effort at political indoctrination that undermines the prerogative of parents to be the principal and primary shepherd of their children‟s moral and civic formation. The Curriculum is an ambitious effort to create new goals and objectives for K-12 students. It spans the gamut of school subjects. In addition, it includes a special section meant to improve students' "Essential 21st Century Skills,” including civic literacy, employability skills, financial literacy, health literacy, and technology literacy. The Curriculum breaks down each school subject into "Essential Concepts or Skills" and includes suggested classroom activities. Its stated emphasis is on analysis and debate rather than on the accumulation of knowledge and facts. Unfortunately, the process leading to passage of the Curriculum lacked integrity and demonstrated utter disrespect for the people of Iowa. The Assembly passed the legislation without a finished product to study, without public input (except for limited input that state education officials had already solicited from their sphere of influence), and with relatively little
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debate. The Assembly even failed to assign a group of legislators to study its substance and implementation. It merely enacted broad and ambiguous legislation that granted wide-reaching authority to the Iowa Department of Education to create the Curriculum. It essentially excluded the people and the educators of Iowa from having a voice in the Curriculum‟s direction or content. The Curriculum‟s proponents told the people to simply put their trust in the Department. They inaccurately claimed it was necessary to comply with the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. 1 They promised that teachers would not be told what to teach or how to teach it and that they would simply be given worksheets and examples to be used “voluntarily.” And they said that, because the work had already begun, millions of dollars in consultant fees would be wasted if their version of the legislation were not passed. As the Public Interest Institute (PII) of Iowa noted in 2008, the Core Curriculum is susceptible to being used as a tool of political indoctrination. Specifically, PII issued an Institute Brief that focused on the environmentalist propaganda present in the Science Curriculum.2 The potential for indoctrination is also present in a variety of other subjects. Again and again, the Curriculum allows (or even encourages) teachers to inject political bias into the classroom. That danger is most especially present in the Curriculum‟s presentation of environmentalism, economic theory, and political science. Moreover, as Eric Goranson 3 argued in 2008, the Core Curriculum opens the door for future political propaganda directed at children: it is “the perfect vehicle to drive any number of social agendas right into Iowa‟s classrooms by simply attaching or incorporating these agendas directly into the mandatory Iowa Core Curriculum.”4 2. Environmentalism and the Curriculum The Science Core Curriculum boldly states that "[t]echnological advances have . . . decreased the need to memorize vocabulary and formulas,"5 and it instead focuses on developing students in the scientific method of inquiry. It further states that "[s]tudents must have the opportunity to
See Goranson, Eric, “Just My Opinion on Education in Iowa,” Caffeinated Thoughts, available at http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?s=%22On+Education+in+Iowa%22 (8/25/08) (noting that, to comply with NCLB, most states adopted a standards-based approach rather than a curriculum-based approach). 2 Deborah D. Thornton, “Core Curriculum or „Gore‟ Curriculum? Teaching Our Children Propaganda,” Institute Brief, Vol. 15, No. 23, Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College (August 2008). Presumably in response to PII‟s Brief, changes were made to the Core Curriculum. For example, it no longer references and promotes Vice-president Gore‟s An Inconvenient Truth. 3 Eric Goranson is presently the owner of Goranson Consulting, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Christian Schools, and the Iowa Director of the Preserve Innocence Project of the American Principles Project. 4 Goranson, Eric, “Just My Opinion on Education in Iowa,” Caffeinated Thoughts, available at http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?s=%22On+Education+in+Iowa%22 (Aug. 25, 2008). 5 "Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Science," p.1, Iowa Department of Education, available at http://www.corecurriculum.iowa.gov (Sept. 30, 2009).
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examine the impact science has had, and will continue to have, on the environment and society." 6 It warns educators that: instruction should be engaging and relevant for the students. Strong connections between the lessons and students' daily lives must be made [emphasis in original].7 In the “Life Science” section, one of the listed Essential Concepts is for students to "[u]nderstand and demonstrate knowledge of the social and personal implications of environmental issues." 8 This directive (which applies to students of all grades) is followed by the emphasis that "Chapter 12 of the Iowa Administrative Code states that science instruction shall include conservation of natural resources; and environmental awareness."9 The Core Curriculum then directs that students be taught that "[a]ll organisms cause changes in the environment in which they live" and that "[h]umans change environments in ways that can be either beneficial or detrimental to themselves or other organisms."10 While this may initially seem like a minor point, the net effect of this lesson, when combined with the recommended science activities, is to indoctrinate even young children in the basic principles of liberal environmentalism. For example, suggested activities include: having students debate whether to abandon nuclear reactors because of the waste issues; 11 use candy (like M&Ms or Skittles) as part of a model for nuclear decay, then explain the environmental concerns associated with nuclear waste storage; 12 discuss the advantages of owning a hybrid car;13 examine the environmental impact (particularly the carbon dioxide emissions) of a coalfired power plant near a major forest;14 determine their own carbon footprint;15 research the health effects of nitrate levels related to global carbon dioxide levels and burning fossil fuels; 16 and use predictions about global climate change to predict the possible impact of global warming on Iowa‟s money crops and economy.17 Nor is the political aspect of global climate change ignored. The Essential Concepts include teaching students that:
Ibid, p.2. Ibid, p.2. 8 Ibid, p.67. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid, p.68. 11 Ibid, p. 6. 12 Ibid, p.26 13 Ibid, p.37. 14 Ibid, p.48. 15 Ibid, p.56. 16 Ibid, p.56. 17 Ibid, p.60. Page 6 of 19
Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors are threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.18 On the issue of global warming, one activity asks students to evaluate “claims and evidence presented by each stakeholder and possible impacts on ecosystems as viewed from each perspective.”19 It even encourages students to take political action by speaking at a city council meeting about additional run-off created by a new addition to their town.20 Some language echoes population control positions held by the more extreme elements of the environmental lobby, as students are taught another “Essential Concept” that “[h]umans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption.” 21 The message is underlined by emphasis on the concept that: Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but environments and resources are finite. The distribution and abundance of organisms and populations in ecosystems are limited by the availability of matter and energy and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials.22 The Core Curriculum‟s stated intent is for science classes to teach students to "[m]ake appropriate personal/lifestyle/technology choices . . . describe environmental effects of public policy, choose appropriate course(s) of action."23 Unfortunately, many of the Core Curriculum‟s efforts at connecting science with society and students' lives feed directly into politicized teaching. The suggestion for students to engage in political activism, even about a seemingly innocuous subject, further encourages intrusion into the parental prerogative to direct their children‟s political formation. Science curricula should not conflate fact with theory or with political agenda. And it should give due deference to parents as being the principal and primary director of their children‟s values formation. 3. Political Science/Civic Literacy
The Political Science and Civic Literacy Core Curriculum omits some key concepts and incorrectly or ambiguously describes others. For example, it suggests that students be able to: Describe the origins and evaluates [sic] the continuing influence of key ideals of the democratic republican form of government, such as individual dignity, liberty, justice, equality, and the rule of law at local, state, national and global levels. 24
Ibid, p.59. Ibid. p.59. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid, p.61. 23 Ibid, p.72. 24 Social Studies (Political Science/Civic Literacy) Core Curriculum, p.43. Page 7 of 19
That statement contains several troubling concepts. It implies --perhaps unintentionally-- an ascendency of governments from the local to the “global” level. However, the founding documents --and the law of the United States that flows from them-- do not recognize a superior “global” level of government. Certainly, the reach of our sovereign power sometimes extends beyond our borders, for example in the exercise of our national defense. On occasion, we enter into international treaties or agreements with non-sovereign associations (such as the United Nations) or with other sovereign powers in order to accomplish specific goals. But fidelity to the founding documents excludes the United States from creating or recognizing another government as superior to it. The statement quoted in the preceding paragraph notes, without specificity, “key ideals of the democratic form of government.” Here, the Core Curriculum should flesh out key concepts of the American system. Specifically, the United States was founded on the idea that: all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.25 Although it skirts around the issue, the Curriculum statement omits express reference to “rights.” Furthermore, it wholly omits reference to our unalienable rights as coming directly from the Creator. From a political science perspective, that reference is critical because it is the strongest possible recognition of our individual rights; it sources those rights in the infinite Creator that, unlike rights emanating from other sources, cannot be corrupted or compromised.26 The Core Curriculum states that the “opening statement of the United States Constitution, „We the people,‟ puts the citizen at the forefront of our government.”27 The truth is much more robust. The American political system rests on the idea that the sovereign power flows from the Creator to each individual and that the individuals then form the state and federal governments through limited grants of that power. Furthermore, government is formed by the people “to secure” the rights of the people.28 The Core Curriculum states that “[g]overnment exists throughout the world to organize humans and human behavior.”29 With respect to the United States, that statement is incorrect. As noted
The Declaration of Independence. Some people get queasy when reference is made to the source of our rights and sovereignty. But this is a matter of the political theory on which our country was founded. It has continuing relevance today as the driving force for this our continuing quest to uphold individual rights. It demands that we accord dignity to the least, the last, and the lost in our society. It has a continuing influence on our national perspective. And it is a philosophical dynamic that renews again with each individual‟s creation. It is a founding principle that students should know as a matter of civic literacy. 27 “Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.43, Iowa Department of Education (Sept. 20, 2009), available at http://www/corecurriculum.iowa.gov. 28 The Declaration of Independence. “29 Social Studies Core Curriculum (Political Science/Civic Literacy), p.45.
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in the preceding paragraph, American government exists for the primary and ultimate purpose of securing, or protecting, the rights of the people. In contrast, socialist, statist, totalitarian and tyrannical governments exist for the primary and ultimate purpose of organizing human behavior. The Core Curriculum repeatedly refers to “levels of local, state and national government.”30 However, the United States consists of a system of dual sovereign governments --those of the states and of the federal government. The people of each state directly grant sovereign power to the federal and their state government. Referencing “levels” of state and federal government incorrectly implies that the state government is a creature of the federal government rather than of the people. Furthermore, the word “federal” embodies the system of dual sovereign governments, and in these discussions the Core Curriculum should use that term rather than “national.” These are not mere technicalities. They address the essence of our system and go to the heart of the importance that we accord to our rights, our equality and sovereignty. A careless description of our founding principles serves only to convey an imprecise, confused, and incorrect understanding of our country and our culture. The Civics Curriculum suffers from other poorly formulated directives. For example, although it places emphasis on broad objectives, such as ensuring that students are able to “[u]nderstand the Bill of Rights and can create contexts to appropriately use each of the rights identified in the Bill of Rights,”31 it provides insufficient notice to parents as to what their children will actually be taught. In light of the many controversial issues that emanate from, for example, privacy rights, gun ownership, free speech and the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, this task calls for substantially more guidance for teachers and more notice for parents. Similarly, the process by which a bill becomes a law is a necessary feature of civics education. But the additional tasks of analyzing how that bill “is influenced by party politics . . . public opinion, individual citizens and lobbyists” 32 combined with the goal of debating “the influence of media and interest groups on proposed legislation”33 requires in-depth analyses of activities that are often not reported in the media or are incorrectly characterized by the media. Such a discussion would also beg for complimentary or critical characterizations about the organizations involved —especially given that students are to “[d]escribe and critique strategies of groups who are seeking action on an issue.”34 Given how little guidance the Core Curriculum provides, an
See, e.g., ibid, pp. 44 & 45. “Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.43. 32 “Iowa Core Curriculum: 9-12 21st Century Skills,” p.7, Iowa Department of Education, available at http//www.corecurriculum.iowa.gov (Sept. 20, 2009). 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. Page 9 of 19
educator could easily mis-characterize --either intentionally or in good-faith-- the facts, including the rationale, the actions and the motivations of the interested groups. Again and again, the Political Science/Civic Literacy component of the curriculum leaves broad loopholes for political bias and proselytizing. The Essential Skills for that subject recommend that students “[e]xamine candidates‟ promises and how they align with the offices they seek” 35 and that they “[d]escribe and critique strategies of groups who are seeking action on an issue.”36 It even prompts students to make their own politics part of their schoolwork, as one essential skill is to “[d]evelop and carry out an action plan for political action at the appropriate level.” 37 Other activities include having students track bills they support38 or prescribe “a pathway for political action on an issue of personal importance.”39 These opportunities for political bias continue in the examination of global affairs, which emphasizes America‟s role and influence in international agreements and economics. For example, the Curriculum encourages students as young as third grade to: Analyze how U.S. economic aid affects other nations‟ views of the United States and actions of its government; Compare the value of acting individually (as a nation) vs. acting collectively (groups of nations) to solve problems; Recognize that international factors such as exchange rates and child labor affect relations between and among nations; and Compare realities of life in the United States with perceptions held by people from other countries.40
The above phraseology is problematic at best. Is the Curriculum implying that American economic aid causes other countries to have an unwarranted positive view of the United States? In other words, does it imply that such aid does not reflect America‟s good will but rather masks its nefarious intent? Does the Curriculum imply that America is, as a rule, strategically misguided or somehow unauthorized when it acts on its own to protect its interests, to protect mankind, or to help other people? Does it imply that acting as part of an international coalition is always the more efficacious, more prudent, or more moral course? Does it imply that American exceptionalism is an unwarranted theory given the “realities of life in the United States” and that other people who look up to America simply do not understand the reality? And given that “international factors” by definition “affect relations between and among nations,” what is the underlying purpose of the third bullet point above? The Core Curriculum should not leave the door wide-open for indoctrination.
“Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.47. Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 “Iowa Core Curriculum: 9-12 21st Century Skills,” p.5. 39 Ibid, p.6. 40 “Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.50.
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4. Behavioral Sciences The Core Curriculum includes studies in social sciences 41 for children in grades K-12. It defines “social studies” as: coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.42 To start with, that definition is problematic. As used in civics and political discussion, “citizen” usually refers to membership by birth or acceptance in a political sovereign or a sub-divison thereof. In contrast, “society” has a more open meaning that includes people bound together by traditions, by institutions, or by nationality. 43 Although it can be used to denote members of a political sovereign or sub-division thereof, “society” can also be used to denote a group of people that include more than one nation, a whole continent, or even the whole world. Given that the Core Curriculum states that “the mission of social studies” is to promote “civic competence” so that citizens can effectively “participate in society,” the Curriculum should at the very least be more precise in stating its definition of “citizen.”44 Additional scrutiny raises more cause for concern. As noted above, the Core Curriculum states that the purpose of teaching social studies is to help students “make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world” (emphasis added). It further states that its “mission” is to help citizens meet their “need to adapt to” a changing life that creates varying social circumstances. 45 But framing the objective as teaching children to make informed and reasoned decisions for “the public good” (or similar formulations such as the “common good” and the “collective good”) is ambiguous. On one hand, it could mean that children should be taught to make good decisions regarding the structures that protect our rights (e.g., defense, the administration of justice) and that they do civically responsible things such as refraining from littering and driving responsibly. Under that description, a citizen would use his values to inform or guide his determination of what is good for the country.
The social sciences are the “branches of study that deal with humans in their social relations.” The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed. 2008). 42 Ibid, p.1 (citing the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) definition of “social studies”). 43 See Merriam-Webster‟s Online Dictionary. 44 See Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.1. 45 Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.1.
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On the other hand, “public good” could also mean that children be taught that they should subordinate their values, beliefs or rights for a collective “good.” Statist and totalitarian governments often make use of that tool; they give a nod to individual rights but trump those rights with reference to a supposedly “greater” collective good. In turn, the state and the power elites define what is collectively “good.” That point bears further scrutiny. Statist and totalitarian governments do more than simply trump individual rights. They indoctrinate their citizens to believe that they should suppress their individual rights for the collective good. Here, of course, such nefarious intent is absent. However, the state must be careful, given that the audience consists of children, not to subordinate or cheapen individual rights. And it should be careful not to inflate or expand the role and importance of the public or common good. Further perusal only raises more questions. The Social Studies Core Curriculum continues that: As we work to carry out the ideals of the founders, we are compelled to revisit our fundamental beliefs and institutions and to construct new social contexts and relationships.46 In the context of decisions and views, “revisit” usually means “to reconsider something such as an issue of public policy or a course of action, especially when additional facts indicate that an earlier decision was inappropriate.”47 This begs the question: is the Core Curriculum truly suggesting that students be taught to reconsider our fundamental beliefs and institutions? At another point, the Curriculum defines “social issues” as: Matters which directly or indirectly affect all members of society and are viewed as problems. They tend to be controversial and are typically related to moral values [emphasis added].48 The Curriculum‟s goals include the examination “theories of the self … and the interplay between society and the individual”49; and the examination of “the role of values and beliefs  in establishing the norms of a society” 50 and  in “the development of social issues.” 51 It directs students to “identify current social issues” and formulate “a personal opinion or position regarding those issues.” It suggests that they illustrate “the interplay between politics, economics, history, and social issues on a national and international level” and analyze “the role of values and beliefs in the development of social issues.”52
Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.1. See Encarta Dictionary. 48 Ibid, p.8. 49 Social Studies Core Curriculum, p. 3. 50 Social Studies Core Curriculum, p. 3. 51 Ibid, p.4. 52 Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.5. Page 12 of 19
The Core Curriculum directs that students examine how values are formed. It states that each student “needs to understand the context in which a social problem [or “issue”] develops.” 53 It instructs students to explain “how „acceptable‟ human behavior varies from one culture to another over time” and “why some behaviors are „unacceptable‟ in almost all cultures.” 54 It also directs that students identify “major social institutions”; evaluate “their role in society”; and analyze and predict how those institutions “shift and adapt to a changing society and a global world.”55 All of those directives could be viewed as promoting a relativist view of morality wherein right and wrong fluctuate according to influences such as “major social institutions,” a “changing society,” and a “global world.” This Curriculum suggests that students apply this type of analysis to themselves. It states that an individual‟s personality consists of “patterns of behavior” that “are shaped by components of a person‟s culture, such as parents, siblings…[and] institutions…” It suggests that students “articulate the nature/nurture debate”; analyze the process of internalizing culture; analyze major agents of socialization and the role each plays in the development of self, social norms, values and beliefs.”56 In other words, it presents the child‟s personality --and the child‟s views and actions-- as a function of the circumstances into which he was born. The Curriculum suggests that children in grades K-2 should be taught that “as the world changes, people also change”; that “working collectively is more powerful than working individually”; and that an individual makes choices based on individual, family, neighborhood, and community perspectives.”57 Children in grades 3-5 are to be taught that “‟acceptable‟ human behavior varies from one culture to another over time”; that “change affects people‟s perceptions and interactions”; that “components of culture such as religion, media and language impact and help shape individuals”; that “perspective reflects personal beliefs, experiences, and attitudes”; “how people adapt and learn about culture”; how global issues affect the United States”; and “how historical events impact personal development and belief systems.” 58 Children in grades 6-8 are to study “the changing nature of society” including “how world cultures impact local cultures”; “how internalizing culture begins at birth”; how people and institutions that teach values, norms and social expectations play a role in the development of the self; how one‟s perspective reflects personal beliefs, experiences, and attitudes”; and “how people adopt and learn about culture.” 59 Parents do not all share the same values and world-view. Most parents likely share the views of the Founders that individuals are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights and that there is an objective right and wrong. But regardless of whether they
Ibid, p.8. Ibid, p.9. 55 Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.5. 56 Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.5. 57 Social Sciences Core Curriculum, pp. 11-12. 58 Social Sciences Core Curriculum, pp. 9-10. 59 Social Sciences Core Curriculum, pp. 6-7. Page 13 of 19
subscribe to those founding beliefs, the vast majority of parents try to instill in their children their own particular world-view and set of beliefs. They want their children to respect themselves and others and to conduct themselves with dignity and grace. They take more than just a “nanny” role in their children‟s lives, and they take seriously their right to be the primary and principal shepherd of their children‟s moral formation. They also tell their children to go to school, to listen to their teachers, and to learn from them. The great problem with the Social Science Core Curriculum is that, intentionally or not, it takes apart what parents are teaching. It presents right and wrong as relative and subjective --as something that changes from society to society and from one era to another. It presents right and wrong as something that arises from “agents of socialization” and implies to children that an individual‟s views of right and wrong really depend on that person‟s background. The Curriculum encourages students to consider what “agents of socialization” impact their views. Then, through suggested group exercises and its content, the Curriculum promotes “compromise” and the idea that “working collectively is more powerful than working individually” 60; but in reality, those ideas or goals are sometimes false or undesirable especially when values or individual rights are at stake. It essentially seems to present parents‟ teachings as optional and relative. And it directs these teachings to children starting in kindergarten when their moral development is in its infancy and when children could easily confuse sociology and psychology as substitutes for the moral compass offered by their parents.61 The Social Sciences Core Curriculum has hallmarks of being a “values clarification” or some other non-directive course. Such courses deviate from the premise of traditional teaching that “some beliefs, behaviors and procedures are right and others are wrong.” 62 In the 1960s, that traditional approach began losing ground to “the widespread introduction of non-directive teaching methods (sometimes referred to as values clarification, critical thinking or life skills).” 63 Those courses take a non-directive, non-judgmental attitude toward values in which each person has to “discover his own values, and no person [can] say that one value [is] superior to another.”64 In 1972, the non-directive movement picked up steam with the publication of Sidney Simon‟s Values Clarification, which “taught students to „clarify‟ their values, i.e., cast off their
See, e.g., Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.11. For elementary school students, the complexity of human decision-making is boiled down to socialization and selfishness, where students “[i]llustrate/demonstrate how human beings tend to repeat behaviors that feel good or have pleasant consequences and avoid behaviors that feel bad or have unpleasant consequences.” See Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.10. 62 Gramckow, Jerry, “Amygdalas, Anatomy and Autonomy, Focus on the Family Issue Analysis, available at www.citizenlink.org/FOSI/abstinence/parents/A000001021.cfm. 63 Ibid. 64 Ibid (quoting Kilpatrick, William, “Experiments in Moral Education,” at the Seventh International Congress of Professors World Peace Academy, Nov. 24-29, 1997). Page 14 of 19
parents‟ values and make their own choices based on situation ethics.” 65 Today, values clarification programs are widespread in the nation‟s schools as well as in social engineering programs such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) where it is used to indoctrinate on, for example, population control and environmentalism.66 5. Economics and History On the subject of economics, fuzzy relativism gives way to more opportunities for bias on the subject of capitalism, labor, and even globalization. The Curriculum contains scant evidence that, because it is based on freedom, capitalism is the economic sister of democracy. Nor does it relate capitalism to the Constitution and the Declaration. Moreover, statements such as the “unequal distribution of resources locally and throughout the world creates conditions of wealth and poverty” and its directive to “[s]ummarize the wide disparities between the „haves‟ and the „have-nots‟ of the world” seem inherently biased against capitalism. Nor are they tied to foundational concepts such as economic freedom, the right to own property, and the consequences of government intrusions in the economy to favor one group over another. 67 An anti-capitalist instructor would have a great opportunity to interject bias while teaching about the concept of scarcity or the impact of interest rates.68 Likewise, the political elements of economics are given extensive attention. Essential Skills in the economics unit include: “Evaluate labor unions, using collective bargaining, to negotiate for workers with corporations on the issues of wages, fringe benefits, and work place conditions”; “Identify not-for-profit organizations and their purposes and explains the rationale for tax exemption”; “Explain the value of various government services on the U.S. economy”; “Compare and contrast government services to delivery of the same services by the private sector”; and even, “Evaluate the use of taxes at the local, state, and national levels.”69 In keeping with the pro-environmentalist theme of the curriculum, one essential skill is that the student “[u]nderstand the development and evaluates the impact of „green‟ technologies.” 70 For younger students, the potential for bias is even stronger, as the slight hostility toward capitalism becomes more pronounced. Middle school students are to “[c]ompare the wide
Schlafly, Phyllis, “Public Schools Define American Culture,” Education Reporter, available at www.eagleforum.org/educate (Nov. 2006). 66 See, e.g., “Teaching Methodologies for Population Education: Inquiry/Discovery Approach, Values Clarification,” UNESCO available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0006/000693/069359EB.pdf; “Values Education,” UNESCO available at http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/TLSF/theme_d/mod20/uncom20t03.htm; International Bioethics Education Network, UNESCO available at http://www.unescobkk.org/rushsap/programmes-andactivities/ethics-of-science-and-technology/bioethics/international-bioethics-educatio/. 67 See Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p. 19. 68 Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.13. 69 Ibid, p.14. 70 Ibid, p.15.
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disparities that exist across the globe in terms of economic assets and choices”; “[d]istinguish between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations” (though the purpose of this exercise is unclear and unstated); and “[e]xamine the impact labor unions have had on working conditions over time.”71 Students are even asked to “[a]nalyze cost of living and wage data across geographic regions.”72 Again, for younger students, the tension between environmentalism and capitalism is made more obvious as students are simply asked to “[d]escribe how personal decisions regarding the economy and natural resources can affect people‟s lives locally, nationally, and internationally.” 73 For third to fifth graders, the economics lesson is even starker. Here, they are simply taught that the “unequal distribution of resources . . . creates economic conditions of wealth and poverty which in turn have an impact on how people live.”74 Then, students simply need to “[s]ummarize the wide disparities between the „haves‟ and „have-nots‟ of the world in terms of economic well being.”75 Unsurprisingly, the study of geography largely returns to the environmentalist theme, with additional forays into population issues. The “positive and negative impacts” of human settlement and competition for control of land and resources 76 are a common theme, as is analysis of population trends and density. The section on history once again returns to problems of relativism and openings for bias. With little discussion of scope or basic historical literacy, the focus is instead on analysis of culture, process, and transition. Goals such as “[c]ompare and contrast the culture of the politically and economically dominant groups with the culture of minority groups” 77 manage to be a political minefield with no direction as to how to approach the issue in a larger historical context. Directives like “[a]nalyze the role of economic factors in conflicts and in decisions to use military force”78 suggest a very limited view of history and historical analysis biased to a specific position on the intersection of economic interest and warfare. And the instruction to “[e]valuate how structures of power affect various groups in different ways” 79 seems almost meaningless when applied indiscriminately to any era in history, but still creates prime ground for Marxist or other politically biased interpretations of historical events.
Ibid, p.16. Ibid, p.18. 73 Ibid, p.17. 74 Ibid, p.19. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid, p.24. 77 Ibid, p.32. 78 Ibid, p.33. 79 Ibid, p.34. Page 16 of 19
6. Health “Literacy” The Core Curriculum includes the subject of “21st Century Skills” that address topics such as financial and health literacy that are outside of traditional school curricula. While enriching a student‟s “health literacy” may seem like a laudable goal, it is fraught with opportunities for politicization and indoctrination—as well as with lessons and activities that intrude on the sovereignty (and privacy) of the family. The political problems in the directive to “[e]valuate the impact of health care access . . . on health status” along with the goal that students “[e]ngage in media and legislative advocacy efforts to promote positive health for self and others” 80 should be clear to anyone who has witnessed the turbulence of the health care reform debate. Less wellknown, however, is the danger in concepts and skills directed at lessons on “violence,” “bullying,” and “safety”; this is often a formula to encourage affirmation of LGBT lifestyles. Similarly, goals that tie “public health and safety issues” to “personal and family health status” and that encourage students to “[a]dvocate for health, violence-free behaviors by using knowledge of the dynamics of power and position”81 could be the conduit for undermining support for the Second Amendment.82 There are other large, unanswered questions present in the health literacy section. Students as young as third grade are taught of “wellness dimensions” that include “sexual and spiritual wellness,”83 but with no hint of what that might entail or how such concepts will be taught to such young children. Nor is there any hint as to how the state suggests evaluating “spiritual wellness.” Will it suggest to the child, through the teacher or materials, that the child is spiritually sick? Would such sickness be the fault of parents? And how are teachers supposed to wend their way through such exercises? Efforts to encourage healthy behavior (such as “[e]ngage in behaviors that promote risk avoidance;”84 or “[c]ollaborate to improve family and community health,” 85 or “[d]emonstrate
Ibid, p.54. Ibid. 82 There are, of course, ongoing debates as to the role that government regulation should play in health and safety matters. There are also recurring interjections of public health and public safety arguments into gun and Second Amendment discussions. See, e.g., Hemingway, David, Private Guns, Public Health, The University of Michigan Press (2004); “Suicides Half of Gun Deaths in the U.S.,” The Huffington Post (blog site), posted by Daric Snyder (06-30-2008) available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/30/suicides-half-of-gun-deat_n_110043.html; Editorial: “The Feds Take a Shot at Guns,” The Washington Times (10-22-2009), available at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/22/the-feds-take-a-shot-at-guns/print/; “CDC Report Validates NRA Positions on Crime, Gun Safety,” NRA-ILA (4/13/2001) available at http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=77&issue=007. Accordingly, a classroom discussion ambiguously characterized as public safety or public health might well be a discussion on Second Amendment and gun control issues. 83 21st Century Skills Core Curriculum, p.56 (6th-8th grade) and p. 59 (3rd-5th grade). 84 Ibid, p.56. 85 Ibid, p.57. Page 17 of 19
appropriate responses to negative and positive health influences” 86) raise questions about how the privacy of the family and student regarding personal health issues and decisions will be respected. It is clear that goals like “[i]dentify personal, family, and community health needs” 87; and “[d]escribe ways to improve family and community health,”88 and, for the youngest children, “identify behaviors that contribute to total wellness for individuals, families, and communities” 89 seem vulnerable to encouraging students to relate their family habits to the school. And while it may seem like a good thing to teach students to be aware of what to do in emergency situations, the broadness of the directive to “[s]tate methods of obtaining help for self and others” 90 raises questions of how students will be directed in sensitive areas involving health issues like pregnancy, contraception, or sexually transmitted diseases. In a similar vein, having children “[d]emonstrate the ability to seek assistance when making health related decisions” 91 or, for the kindergarten crowd, “[i]dentify trusted adults/professionals who can help” 92 is disturbing. Will children be guided to seek help from their own parents or from some outside organization? The Curriculum does not say. 7. Conclusion For such a broad and influential work, the Iowa Core Curriculum is most startling in what it does not say. It is replete with opportunities for bias and indoctrination on a number of sensitive issues. Vague language and semantic loopholes allow schools to introduce controversial or objectionable content without the knowledge, participation, or approval of parents. This is a violation of the fundamental principle that parents have the right to guide their children‟s education and moral development. Society suffers dearly when the schools undermine the stature of parents and of parenthood by encouraging --whether intentionally or not-- children to question the values taught by their parents. Furthermore, as it excludes parents from the education of their children and the policy and curricula decision-making process, the state is increasingly reducing parents to a nanny-like status. Children, schools, and teachers need the opposite; they need strong parents who are intimately involved in the education of their children. And to that end the state should be trying to affirm the institution of parenthood, not denigrate it. Overall, the Curriculum and its implementation process is a great lesson in civics and government. Iowa has a proud tradition of excellence in education. That tradition includes strong local control. It includes a commitment to a fair and open decision-making process and a
Ibid, p.58. Ibid, p.60. 88 Ibid. 89 Ibid, p.64. 90 Ibid, p.60. 91 Ibid. 92 Ibid, p.63. Page 18 of 19
populist respect for the people of Iowa. Sadly, the legislature ignored that tradition through its Core Curriculum mandate. The Assembly must revisit the Iowa Core Curriculum.
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