Date: August 7, 2003
Subject: "You can't handle the truth(?)"

Yesterday afternoon I was a guest on a talk radio show called "In Focus with Joyce Harley." It's on AM 980 KKMS at 1:00 pm, and every Wednesday the topic is education. I have been on Joyce's show occasionally, and I hope to be her go-to guy on the academic standards process through the next legislative session.

Someone who called into the show referenced David Barton's web site as a possible resource for the history standards. The URL, which we did not cite on the air, is http://www.wallbuilders.com/. David Barton is a historian who knows an awful lot about how Christianity and the Bible in particular influenced the Founders as they were trying to figure out how the government of the new United States should look and work.

I do not favor a state religion or using our government schools to indoctrinate Christianity (our academic standards cannot teach attitudes, values, and beliefs), but our country's Christian heritage should be discussed in public school. This country has a rich Christian heritage, which has influenced it to this day, even more than thinkers like Locke and Montesquieu, and the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is history, and it is the truth. Our kids won't fully understand what America is about without understanding this Christian heritage -- regardless of their personal faith or lack thereof. Check out Barton's web site and you'll see what I am talking about. Or check out your pocket change and you'll see the words "In God We Trust." Why is this motto so important that it appears on our currency? How did it get there? Shouldn't our kids find out the answers to these questions?

What purpose is served by withholding the truth from our youth? To quote Jack Nicholson in the climactic court scene from the movie "A Few Good Men," can't our youth "handle the truth?"

There is legislation that has passed in the Minnesota House that would free schools to explore this heritage. The American Heritage Education in Minnesota Public Schools Act, authored by Rep. Mark Olson, "Precludes school districts from circumscribing instruction on national or state history that includes historical documents with religious content" and "Prohibits using instructional materials with religious content to establish religion." The Senate version has not gained support in that body.

According to the Public Agenda survey cited by Commissioner Yecke, 85% of parents believe that "To graduate from high school, students should be required to understand the common history and ideas that tie all Americans together."