But Mark Bauerlein, an education scholar and emeritus professor at Emory University, fears that the money will go to schools and university education departments “dedicated to filling the heads of aspiring teachers with identity policies and progressive dogmas.”
He identified a nonprofit organization, IllinoisCivics.org, as a likely recipient of federal funds. It has strong links with public education and universities in that state. It also supports a program, said Bauerlein in an article for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which promotes the view that “the moment they start kindergarten, children begin to show many of the same racial attitudes implicit as adults in our culture has. “
IllinoisCivics.org’s programs, Bauerlein said, “call not for a patriotic and informed appreciation of our country, but for ‘unlearning’ – that is, replacing traditional American principles with identity policies.”
Bauerlein has an exceptional ability to reveal what is really happening in the classroom, contrary to what we hope is happening there. But his attack on this latest Congressional effort to improve our schools does not convince other scholars. They think Bauerlein is worrying too much because they, like me, think that American teachers are unlikely to become left-wing ideologues, no matter what their education teachers tell them.
Bauerlein said the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap, a massive effort by foundations and the federal government that would receive part of the federal money, was not the balanced enterprise it claims to be. A closer look, he said, revealed that the focus was “group identity, access and exclusion, agency and dissent” and other fashionable words.
Chester E. Finn Jr., president emeritus of the nonprofit Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, D.C., and a former education official in the Reagan government, defended the map by email. “What is a series of questions (not answers) designed to stimulate the curriculum and instruction that would rekindle (and blend) the teaching and learning of US history and civic education,” he said.
Michael J. Petrilli, Finn’s successor as president of the Fordham Institute, said that what the country needs is high-quality instructional materials in these disciplines. The shift to remote learning during the pandemic revealed how difficult they are to find.
Educators who love this country are concerned that the percentage of respondents who told Gallup researchers that they were “extremely proud to be Americans” fell from 70 percent in 2003 to 45 percent in 2019. This may, however, , be the result of a temporary surge of pride shortly after the 9/11 attacks and not a reaction to much criticism of the United States at school.
For decades, I have heard people complain that history teachers are mistreating the United States, but it is difficult to find evidence of that. Larry Cuban, a Stanford University researcher who likes to enter schools, has visited many history classrooms. The notion that “teachers are becoming politically progressive has little basis for what I have observed”.
Critics said the socialist historian Howard Zinn’s textbook “A People’s History of the United States” revolutionized the teaching of American history, but there is no data to support it. “There is much more rhetoric from a minority of teachers citing Zinn than real classes using their concepts in the classroom,” said Cuban.
Bauerlein told me that he was distressed because worthy portions of the Common Core State Standards “did not hold on until the end of the classroom” He lamented the end of a Common Core standard on literary standards that he helped write. It would be necessary for high school and senior students to “demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental works of American literature” from the beginning of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. But most states ignored him.
The hopes of history fans like me to better teach our national saga never stood a chance. Many Americans are more interested in their families, friends, jobs and recreation than those who won the War of 1812. We have done poorly on civic education tests since schools started offering them more than a century ago.
This is not the only problem. A new book has revealed how our educational system poisons any effort by standards makers to change what schools teach. Just as the Common Core is withering, Congressional plans to reinvigorate civic education will also disappear. I’ll explain why in next week’s column.