Take away the heritage of a people, and they are easily persuaded. --Karl Marx
Both Marx and Lincoln recognized the transformational power of public schools. In the United States, the public schools have been used to educate all Americans so that they might perpetuate their self-government and pursue their dreams.
Here in Minnesota, state Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) has authored the American Heritage Education in Minnesota Public Schools Act (HF867; Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) is carrying the companion SF1137 in the Senate). This bill has passed the House repeatedly over the years, but has always been stopped by the DFL-controlled Senate. After a hearing in the Senate Education committee, the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus education bill. This week, the bill was passed out of the House Education Policy and Reform Committee and referred to the House K-12 Education Finance Committee.
One may question, as Senate Education Committee chairman Sen. Steve Kelley (D-Hopkins) did in his hearing, is this bill really necessary?
The answer is no, but only thanks to the citizens who stood up to the Maple River Coalition and Bachmann last year. The MRC wanted to ignore that pesky document called the CONSTITUTION. They are also not crazy about the 1st Amendment.
To say that EdWatch or its members "ignore" the Constitution or dislike the First Amendment would be libelous if it wasn't laughable.
The answer still may be no. Craig Westover says:
NCLB (which did create awareness of the achievement gap, a good thing) and the Minnesota Standards (which I think are pretty good) shouldn't be imposed on public schools precisely for the reasons that public schools are griping about -- they are under-funded, create additional costs, they force schools to react rather than innovate, they create an atmosphere of tension and teaching to the test instead of teaching for knowledge.
Yet the House and Senate committees heard some compelling testimony in support of the Olson bill, having to do with the censoring of our nation's heritage.
The Olson bill doesn't mandate anything, it empowers school districts and teachers with the option to use several original source founding documents in the public schools, even when they have Christian references. Many schools would rather censor our nation's heritage than risk being sued by the ACLU or atheists. The bill's purpose is not to endorse or proselytize, but to empower public schools to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about American history:
Districts may not censor or restrain instruction in American or Minnesota state history or heritage based on religious references in original source documents, writings, speeches, proclamations, or records described under paragraph (a). These and any other materials must be used for educational purposes and not to establish any religion.
(c) Students may voluntarily choose to read, write, share, report, or otherwise study a topic which is religious in nature provided other students are provided with the same opportunity to freely choose a topic.
Consider what Dennis Prager said on the November 1, 2004 edition of the Tavis Smiley program:
Is America exceptional, or is it not? Is America a Judeo-Christian society, or is it to be a secular European society? And is equality going to trump freedom, liberty?
When I talk to kids, and adults, for that matter, I say if you want to understand the United States, take out a coin. From many, one. E Pluribus Unum. Liberty. And In God We Trust. No country has that trinity, as it were. Do you want America to be more like Sweden and France, and I don't say this pejoratively. Or do you want America to be exceptional as it has been. That's the battle. It's a profound battle for the soul of this country, and that's why we're all this animated as we are.
If the purpose of education is to preserve our system of self-government and to empower our young people with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then this bill deserves a thoughtful debate.
The overarching principles of our country can be summed up in a nutshell, or in one's pocket, with these three ideals. One could spend five years making them the guiding ideals for education reform and the legislative agenda — which is precisely what I have been doing.