In K-12 public school classrooms, American history is nefariously repackaged today to support radical political agendas. Civics and government are pushed aside. Patriotism is viewed with hostility and even claims of racism.
It is no longer a priority to teach students a historically balanced and accurate understanding of our nation’s founding and the role of government. Instead, K-12 public schools inject woke ideology of social justice, ethnic studies, Critical Race Theory, and a revised historical narrative throughout the curriculum and school day.
As Pete Hegseth summarizes, “It’s about deconstructing anything and everything that reflects…the founding principles of America.”
Not only is it becoming commonplace for America’s classroom teachings and textbooks to take a pessimistic view of the history of the United States, but there is also a lack of appreciation of the United States Constitution. Despite a federal law mandating educational institutions that receive federal funding recognize Constitution Day with an educational program, the majority fail to do so.
President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 essay in American Heritage articulates the dangers of such an approach: “There is little that is more important for an American citizen to know than the history and traditions of his country. Without such knowledge, he stands uncertain and defenseless before the world, knowing neither where he has come from nor where he is going.”
The failure to robustly teach civics to students nearing the end of their K-12 schooling careers and approaching voting age is especially troubling. Civics was a foundational component of academic learning during the twentieth century. Yet, as of 2018, 14 states did not require high school students to complete any type of civics or government course. Twenty-eight states require a single semester, and only eight states require high school students to take a yearlong course in civics or government.
A 2017 poll found that only 26% of American adults could “name all three branches of government.” Furthermore, 37% could not “name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.” To address this deficiency, Bruce Chapman, author of Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others, urges that not only should students be required to complete a civics course to graduate high school, but they should also be required to pass the naturalization test of history and government required of candidates for U.S. citizenship.
Rather than instilling an appreciation for a government structure — that, despite its flaws, has resulted in greater freedom and opportunity than any other political system in history — children are taught the principles of Critical Race Theory. The ideology is based on the Marxist view that society is split between oppressors and the oppressed. In this perspective, racism is embedded in our country’s founding and continues in the systems and structures of our society today. Patriotism is abhorred and even viewed as racist. Furthermore, white people are considered privileged oppressors, and people of color are oppressed victims, regardless of the reality of their individual circumstances. And slavery is taught as the dominating facet of American history per the widely adopted 1619 Project history curriculum.
Ethnic studies are the latest means to replace academic learning with a woke ideology based on the notion that America is inherently racist. For example, the California ethnic studies curriculum centers on the “themes of racism, systems of power and oppression, white supremacy, white fragility, white privilege, colonialism, patriarch, implicit bias, and anti-Semitism.” This is a far cry from the once deemed important objective of teaching students individual responsibility and holding them accountable for their conduct.
The destructive shift in ideology and practice is also illustrated by the hyperfocus on “equity” in public school mission statements and core values. Substituting a noble pursuit of equal opportunity for what Hegseth rightly describes as “the false promise of equal outcome,” the redefined word has become a vehicle for promoting Marxism in the classroom.
Additionally, this radicalism even finds its way into K-12 discipline policies. The new norm is “culturally responsive” discipline, which treats students differently based on race.
President Abraham Lincoln warned that “the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation becomes the philosophy of government in the next.” This is proving true today as students exit the K-12 system and enter the political sphere as voters, and in some cases as lawmakers, operating with an anti-American worldview and lack of basic understanding of the principles of our Constitution.
By not equipping students with a core understanding and appreciation of our country’s founding, the role and purpose of government, and the Constitution, the foundation of our nation is in jeopardy. Our future electorate and leaders will not be prepared to preserve and protect individual freedoms and our democratic institutions.
Without a change of course, the future of our nation is in peril. Children must be set free from the radicalization running rampant in government-run schools. The time is now to grant families educational freedom, allowing them to select the education avenue that aligns with their values and priorities. Children deserve to receive robust academic learning free from political indoctrination to prepare them for citizenship marked by personal responsibility.
• Dr. Keri D. Ingraham is a Fellow at Discovery Institute and Director of the Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education.
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