Saturday, July 15, 2006

Guest post -- Florida's social science standards 

As I mentioned during the guest-blogging contest, we had a possible extra entrant who decided to let the opportunity to post more pass, but he did want to post one thing that got both of our attention. Michael Boucher is a social studies teacher at Minneapolis South, a former (I think) president of the state social science teachers' organization, and was one of the folks who lobbied hard for the social science standards that eventually were put in place (much to my chagrin, still) and against the confirmation of Cheri Yecke as Minnesota's education commissioner (double ditto). I'm posting this without necessarily agreeing with its premises.

Thanks to King for this opportunity to circulate this to a wider audience.

"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clich�s of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."
June 11, 1962 President John Kennedy addressed the graduating class of the Yale University.

Like many, I was surprised and annoyed by the Florida legislature that originally tried to outlaw, �Revisionist or Postmodern viewpoints� by teachers. The Orwellian implications of thought police from the Florida Department of Education swooping down on hapless teachers who presume to question the official dogma of the state eventually dawned on these statesmen and they relented. However the threat is still there.

This line remains ominously on page 22 under Required Instruction. �The history of the United States, including the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars and the civil rights movement to the present. 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 principals stated in the Declaration of Independence.�

There is also the requirement to teach, �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 they form it forms the philosophical foundation of our government.�

The 9th grade reading of the declaration reveals that it is not a document extolling national sovereignty, but a document that expresses popular sovereignty. The state is subject to the people, not the other way around. Alan Quist continues to argue otherwise. With Yecke�s help, he was obviously successful in Florida. Thankfully, someone was able to keep popular sovereignty in there as well.

So there it is. The hand of Yecke finally prevails in a set of state standards. It shouldn�t really surprise me that the Maple River/Eagle Forum version of American myth is now the law in Florida, yet I really thought they could resist the dumbest parts of her nutball agenda. Instead, they just added it into the mix of the omnibus bill.

Yecke and Maple River want to downplay the Constitution, and rise up the Declaration to legal status. Why? Because the Declaration discusses G-d where the Constitution does not. 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.

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. Yecke made it clear that some questions were off limits when she was here. Remember the dustup over Columbus and the �Hate America Agenda?�

Yecke and her ilk want students to sail through school in an unquestioning fog. They feel superior to the �experts� and were able to bypass Florida teachers by going directly through the legislature rather then the Department of Ed.

In the end, Orwell was right. �Those who control the past, control the future; Those who control the future, control the present; Those who control the present, control the past.�

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. Most teachers treat these things like Tevye �May G-d keep the Tzar�far away� People like Yecke depend on that. That is why she was so floored by what we did here.