Learning how to honor the truth by being taught how G. W. never told a lie

First off. Despite the fact I was over at Stone Bridge lamenting the fact I used to love movies and how I hate Hollywood movies and how most have no substance, I got all way too excited when I came upon Arvin Hill’s Carnival of Horrors and his profile giving him as liking “Shakes the Clown”. Sure I was enjoying the posts too and saying “yes, hmmm, yes” but I’m hopeless because Monday night if I was going to get excited about anything it was going to be about “Shakes the Clown”. Which no one I know likes. That had me feeling so good I had to go over to Ratsboy Anvil and confess how a real event had melded with fiction in my mind about a bass guitarist’s confrontation with electrical forces, and so I set that right. I’m a sucker for road stories.

Now I’m feelin’ been-to-the-river righteous and that’s bad because I’m bound to wake up in the morning regretting I got all public and confessional.

Something else I (still) get a kick out of is this. THE STEALTH CURRICULUM! I ranted about it back on 14 April 2004 on my son’s blog which was more-or-less a private blog recording some of his favorite internet sites that we come across doing our loose, eclectic homeschooling.

The Stealth Curriculum, by Sandra Stotsky

Put out by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, listed on their website on 4/13/2004, the PR is/was:

Widely-used instructional materials that teachers rely upon to supplement their textbooks and their own knowledge may be dangerous to children’s educational health. The creators of such materials (and “professional development” programs for teachers) often inject bias and political manipulation into the minds of teachers and, subsequently, their students. The latest Thomas B. Fordham Foundation study, The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America’s History Teachers, casts wary light on resources that teachers frequently use but that seldom come under public or expert scrutiny.

The Stealth Curriculum was authored by Sandra Stotsky, veteran education analyst, scholar and former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education. It takes a close look at some prominent supplemental materials and workshops in the social-studies field.

Published by all manner of organizations and interest groups, these materials mislead teachers, distort the curriculum, and deflect classroom attention from the content that students should be learning. Worse, such materials are reinforced by a network of teacher workshops that focus more on propagating political and social ideas than imparting actual historical knowledge. At best, these materials offer a one-sided biased view of complex issues. In many cases, they go farther, omitting events that paint an interest group in a negative light or fabricating facts altogether.

“Under the guise of heightening teachers’ and students’ awareness of previously marginalized groups, they manipulate teachers (and, thus, their pupils) to view the history of freedom as the history of oppression and to be more sympathetic to cultures that don’t value individual rights than to those that do,” says Fordham President Chester E. Finn, Jr. in the report’s foreword.

This stealth curriculum tends to fly under the radar of historians and other experts as the sheer amount of materials makes any sort of tracking and reviewing process next to impossible. Little is known about the direct effects of these materials on teachers and their students because of the lack of research on them…

The “Stealth Curriculum” book has been out there a year now, but it’s interesting (to me at least) how I came by it.

Only natural for the Bush admnistration to want to correct a ‘liberal bias’ in American education by giving grants to groups that share its philosophy

It was via an Alfie Kohn article noting that the Bush administration has funneled more than $75 million in taxpayer funds to (educational) pro-voucher groups and miscellaneous for-profit entities. Among them is William Bennett’s latest gamble, known as K12 — a company specializing in on-line education for homeschoolers. (Finn sits on the board of directors). “Standards” plus “freedom” may eventually add up to considerable revenue, then. In the meantime, the Department of Education is happy to ease the transition: A school choice pilot program in Arkansas received $11.5 million to buy a curriculum from Bennett’s outfit, and a virtual charter school in Pennsylvania affiliated with K12 got $2.5 million. Continuing, Lisa Graham Keegan (a former Arizona school superintendent, now Education Leaders Council exec director, on favoritism exhibited in the grants said it was
“only natural for the Bush admnistration to want to correct a ‘liberal bias’ in American education by giving grants to groups that share its philosophy.”

K12 offers homeschooling curriculum and the “Virtual Academy”. Homeschooling through K12 will cost you about $1600 a year. Expensive by some standards and cheap by others. They don’t give a good overview (what publisher really does) of materials so who knows what’s on the plate, and what little they do show as samples still doesn’t give you much of an idea, except I think hmmm that was a lot of hooplah and pages to go through for not much info on a topic and much more complex navigationally than it needs to be (the kind of thing that made me wonder if the complexity was supposed to make you feel you were getting more than you were). But for people who want to homeschool it offers an attractive deal of not homeschooling by doing a virtual school at home through the academy as part of the public school system (if you live in a state where it’s currently offered), curriculum for free, computer for free, free supplemental materials not included in the homeschool package, state assessment tests (some districts require homeschoolers test at different grade levels and it costs money to do the tests), a virtual academy community and access to a certified teacher, plus internet reimbursement program. They offer grade and middle school and will eventually offer high school.

Imagine some of the grant money received has gone into the free K12 “Patriotism lesson” offered. And there’s the K12 “Virtues” program for which you can shell out $79.95 if so inclined. The Virtues program “provides a range of tools to support your family’s moral education. With books, videos, and fun worksheets, the program introduces your student to” our common culture, shared ideals, and cherished values.”

I was very curious of course what those shared ideals and cherished values are, not to mention what they offer as the common culture.

Before taking a look at K12’s Patriotism Program, here’s some more info on William J. Bennett. He is the founder of Americans for Victory over Terrorism (information on AVOT at Disinfopedia); founder of Empower America (America needs more power?); Founding member of Project for the New American Century ( Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt on the PNAC click here); an Advisor for the “Center for Security Policy”. He was G. W. Bush’s speech writer and editor in 1999. The Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988. Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities from 1981 to 1985.

Media Transparency gives William J. Bennett, Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as a prime mover of the new right wing movement. He once said of Rush Limbaugh that he was a symbol of encouragement. “Adventures from the Book of Virtues”, based on William Bennett’s “The Book of Virtues”, airs on PBS. A friend of mine, who would have no idea as to its origin, sent H.o.p. a tape. I have never been able to sit through five minutes of it. If my friend knew it was based on William Bennett’s book she’d be mortified that H.o.p. might have watched a moment of the tape.

Teaching Patriotism the K-12 way

Gaining entrance to the K12 Patriotism Lesson requires you give name and phone number, whereas usually at sites one must give a name and email address.

Once in, the eye is greeted with,

Now, more than ever, we’re focused on America — on what makes this nation great, what unites us all, and why we enjoy the freedoms we have today. In the spirit of patriotism, we invite you to teach your child more about this beautiful land that stretches “from sea to shining sea,” the daring of early explorers and settlers, the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, and our enduring commitment to “let freedom ring.”

Looks like the NDN community is already out of luck. Lesson plans include an ultra basic account of a spotless Christopher Columbus. Included is a song you sing (to the tune of “Clementine”) about Columbus, the last of three verses being “Oh, Columbus, Oh, Columbus, Was so brave and wise and true, He sailed from Spain to the Americas, In fourteen ninety-two.”

Right. Brave, wise and true promoted the West Indies with its super cheap labor (lots of NDNs). Millions were dead in a short few decades. The cruelties were a stunning piece of barbarism. “Lies My Teacher Told me” explores the Columbus myth in depth, reporting,

“…Having as yet found no fields of gold, Columbus had to return some kind of dividend to Spain. In 1495 the Spanish on Haiti initiated the great slave trade…Columbus was excited. “In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazil-wood which could be sold,” he wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1496…

In the words of Hans Koning, “There now began a reign of terror in Hispaniola.” Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system.

Ferdinand Columbus described how it worked:

[The Indians} all promised to pay tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months, as follows: In the Cibao, where the gold mines were, every person of 14 years of age or upward was to pay a large hawk’s bell of gold dust; all others were each to pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he was to receive a brass or copper token which he must wear about his neck as proof that he had made his payment. Any Indian found without such a token was to be punished.”

With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time could be devoted to collecting more gold. Columbus’s son neglected to mention how the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands.

Pre-Columbus there were an estimated 8,000,000 Indians in Haiti. By 1496 a census, not counting children under 14 or those who had escaped, came up with 1,100,000. By 1516, “thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained.” It was after 1516 that the Black Plague struck the Indians in Haiti. By 1542 there were 200 left. By 1555, they were all gone.

The numbers of Indians on Haiti withered, the slave trade moved on to the Bahamas. The Spanish historian, Peter Martyr, wrote in 1516 that a ship needed no compass from the Bahamas to Hispaniola, as one could follow on the ocean the dead bodies of Indians who had been thrown from ships into which they’d been densely packed.

And still, can you beat this, by Jefferson’s time the Spanish were getting apologetic and outlawing NDN slavery and a number of NDN nations would have taken the Spanish any day over the Americans by then.

They are handsome. They do not have weapons.

K12 only notes, on Columbus’ relationship with the Indians, that he wrote “They are handsome. They do not have weapons.” K12 says these words show Columbus had found people who were gentle and kind. It’s not noted that Columbus wrote about their not having weapons in relationship to their inability to defend themselves against the weaponry of the Spanish. And of course doesn’t note that he enthusiastically wrote about Haiti being a prodigious resource for all the slaves that could be wanted.

Another part of the Patriotism lesson is “The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving”. They lead one to believe that Squanto visited from a neighboring tribe when in fact Squanto had been stolen as a child and taken to England (for which reason he knew English) and was also sold into slavery. Returning to America, Squanto found his tribe wiped out by the plague and he the sole survivor. Indeed, many of the first settlers moved directly into villages left by NDNs killed by disease and were able to take advantage of their crops, and not having to clear the land. A record from the so-called Pilgrim’s second day gives brief testimony to this:

We marched to the place we called Cornhill, where we had found the corn before. At another place we had seen before, we dug and found some more corn, two or three baskets full, and a bag of beans. ..In all we had about ten bushels, which will be enough for seed. It was with God’s help that we found this corn, for how else could we have done it, without meeting some Indians who might trouble us. …The next morning, we found a place like a grave. We decided to dig it up. We found first a mat, and under that a fine bow…We also found bowls, trays, dishes, and things like that. We took several of the prettiest things to carry away with us, and covered the body up again.

There are some NDNs of course who have a problem with this, with the desecration of burials and the thieving of burial goods.

Anyway good Squanto helped the pilgrims survive (he had no home) and then the pilgrims invite the Wampanoag to a feast, the First Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving didn’t exist until 1863). Oh joy. And you know how the story goes, the Indians and Pilgrims lived happily beside each other ever after. This is attested to by the number of Indians still residing in the East.

Exploring geography of the U.S., you get to clap and chant, “Atlantic to the East, Pacific to the West, U.S.A. is in between, That’s the country I like best!”

Got rhythm, don’t it? And is almost tearily poetic. There’s a folk song wandering around in there somewhere if you nudge around the lyrics a little. Maybe add some majestic purple mountains.

Other short subjects include The American Revolution, Betsy Ross and the First American Flag, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Statue of Liberty, Immigrants to America, and Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Nothing about NDNs.)

The majority of historians regard the Betsy Ross story as a myth but K12 presents it as true, making prominent mention that Betsy was a widow but had no time to think about feeling sorry for herself, she was just going to continue sewing to put food on the table. I reason that was put in there for children of single mothers on welfare, though what they would be doing schooled at home I don’t know as who is there to take care of them when moms are out working minimum-wage jobs in order to earn their welfare check.

George Washington being unable to tell a lie (the cherry tree story) as a lesson in telling the truth

One of the two stories given in the Patriotism lesson about George Washington is that of his chopping down the cherry tree and that when his father inquired who had done this, G.W. said that he couldn’t tell a lie and that he did do it. A myth. A story invented by an early biographer and is even given as myth on the Mount Vernon website. But K12 presents it as truth. And the question and answer session? The child is asked why was George’s father proud of George. And the answer is, “Because George told the truth.”

Ten great patriotic places are given as a must visit. Included on the roster is Mount Rushmore. It’s not mentioned that Mount Rushmore was blasted out of the Black Hills by KKK member Gutzon Borglum who also initially worked on Stone Mountain, and that the Black Hills, sacred land promised by treaty to NDN peoples, was within a short few years after those treaties taken back with the discovery of gold. Not a single treaty made by the NDNs with the U.S. was honored.

Included in the Patriotism lesson is then a prominent link to the Fordham Foundation “September 11: What your children need to know.” What do the children need to know?

In April 2004 at the top of the page was the sinister Stealth cover. Behind falls from the sky a litter of papers that I can only take as meant to recall the papers from the Twin Towers that fell on New York on 9/11.

The Stealth Curriculum begins with a flurry of indignant rage that supplementary resource books, “Holocaust and Human Behavior” and “Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement” make comparisons between white racism in American and Germany, and suggest a link between the American Eugenics Movement and Hitler’s Final Solution. The argument is the materials obliterate the distinction between bigotry and genocide, seeking to reduce the moral status of the United States to that of Nazi Germany.

Well, sorry, but the U.S. did influence the genocide in Europe. Hitler is known to have studied Andrew Jackson’s removal of the Indians to reservations.

I once read through the entire thing. The below excerpt pretty well covers it (except for the furious dramatics over teaching pre 16th century Islam history and the fury over the delving into American eugenics which some connect with the interest in German eugenics i.e. Hitler).

The traditional history curriculum has been criticized for decades for dwelling on political, military, and constitutional history, highlighting only ‘important men,’ and ignoring the daily lives of ordinary people, women and others who did not loom large in political, military and constitutional affairs. Anthropological approaches in curriculum materials address this criticism. However, in doing so, they expand the curriculum to include topics with which most teachers have no familiarity–and which ususually have little or no relevance to the evolution of democratic institutions and individual freedoms. One example in many elementary and middle school curricula is a comparison of River Valley Civilizations…The daily lives and dates of the many Native American tribes have been perhaps the greatest beneficiary of this socio-cultural approach, which now occupies much instructional time. With it, however, comes a strongly negative view of the Europeans who explored and colonized America. Supplemental resources now guide teachers to downplay or ignore altogether what students should be learning about the origins and development of our civic culture.

The critical sentence is “they expand the curriculum to include topics with which most teachers have no familiarity–and which ususually have little or no relevance to the evolution of democratic institutions and individual freedoms. “ The view imparted is that anyone that was crunched by America’s Democratic Evolution Machine needn’t be a concern.

Stotsky doesn’t like it that the Plymouth Pilgrims are portrayed as weak in their reliance on the Wampanoag for the first “Thanksgiving”.

The Stealth Curriculum says one can’t judge the past by today’s standards. Says all this does is rouse affect (was that the phrase used) but does nothing for building the mind. Oh, yes, the phrase used was “affect-forming but intellectually empty assignments”. That teachers teach these things shows they aren’t schooled in history and need to be appropriately re-educated.

Guess the students need instead to be taught that G.W. chopping down the cherry tree is true, and that he always spoke the truth. If this is what passes for history or social studies in the K12 curriculum you’ve gotta wonder what else is taught if setting forth as true a known myth, expecting children to believe it (and thus believe for the rest of their lives for those who never question) is conceived of as sharpening and building a discerning intellect.

4 Replies to “Learning how to honor the truth by being taught how G. W. never told a lie”

  1. Ugh- sorry about misidentifying you as FDL- take heart though, she writes a hell of a blog too.

    Anyway, thanks for supporting me when i scrammed from blogging last month.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks. I’m glad you’re back. Middle School Social Studies. I am hoping that’s not as rough as I would imagine it to be.

    Yeah, I wish I could say I was amazed by some of this…and actually I can. Going from one lesson and link to another felt like Little Red Riding Hood. “Ah, look, there’s a, uh, startling flower, and look over there, an even more startling flower! Must gather them all!”

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