"Take away a people's heritage and they are easily persuaded."
"Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever."
"Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism."
Revolutionaries, dictators, and tyrants throughout history have well-understood the importance of government-controlled education in shaping the ideology of a nation. The founders of the United States of America also understood this, and built safeguards into the Constitution and the concepts of dual federalism to preserve the Republic. Thus, education was made the responsibility of the various states and independent school districts, not the federal government.
Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the educational system that must be maintained. —Dwight D. Eisenhower, New York Herald Tribune, February 9, 1955
The state of Florida passed some important education policy provisions in its 2006 omnibus education bill, House Bill 7087, signed by Governor Jeb Bush in June, which will go a long way toward preserving the Republic and improving academic freedom in Florida.
The former law said that Florida public schools are required to teach this about the Declaration of Independence:
The content of the Declaration of Independence, how it forms the philosophical foundation of our government.
Nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes. The new law enhances this requirement as follows:
The history and content of the Declaration of Independence, including national sovereignty, natural law, self-evident truth, equality of all persons, limited government, popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property, and how it forms the philosophical foundation of our government.
A similar change was made to the statute about the U.S. Constitution.
The new law adds this about the teaching of United States history:
American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.
Vladimir Lenin, to whom the quotes at the beginning of this article are attributed, would not be pleased. Neither are members of the far left in this country. These changes to Florida law have reverberated like the Liberty Bell all the way to the left coast, where Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches history and education at New York University said about the latter change, "People construct their own stories every day, just like we historians do. And may the best story win." Zimmerman cites Carl Becker's 1931 address, "Everyman His Historian," to support the assertion that "all pasts are 'constructed,' that all facts require interpretation and that all history is 'revisionist' history."
Minnesota's leftists are also up in arms. President of the influential Minnesota Council for the Social Studies, Michael Boucher, had this to say on SCSU Scholars:
If the declaration is "the philosophical foundation of our government" then we are a "Christian" country and down the chute we go to Christian Taliban America.
The Founders freely acknowledged the fundamental role of Christianity in the creation of this country, and after 230 years, there are no signs of "Christian Taliban America." The state of Minnesota protects this heritage in statute: "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 [MS 120B.235]."
History is not rocket science, but it is more complicated than just memorizing a textbook written in 1900. This law criminalizes questioning in social studies class. No longer can teachers question the past or the present government with their students. Since they have no union, they can be fired for even bringing up a topic that Florida Republicans do not like.
Boucher constructs this breathless hysteria out of whole cloth. Factual content and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive; indeed, you cannot truly have the latter without the former. The same could be said about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What the left fears most is the preservation, transmission, and fortifying of the unchanging principles that made America possible, and continue to make it great. Boucher's frustration overflows in this condescending insult to Florida teachers:
I am off this week to meet with Social Studies teachers from across the country. Florida teachers are a much more compliant lot than we are. My guess is I will get a bunch of headshakes and shrugs.
Whether the topic is social studies or math, International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement, it behooves parents especially to really get to know their children's teachers, principal, district superintendent, and school board. All citizens are stakeholders in the public schools. As Lincoln said, "The philosophy of the school room in one generation is the philosophy of the government in the next generation."