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Who is accusing whom of having an agenda?

By Nancy Salvato
web posted December 12, 2005

Education in the United States has gotten off track. Evidence of this unfortunate twist in the road abounds in news reports about inappropriate sex surveys being given to students, education curriculum for middle school which eliminates great works of literature for magazines with articles about how to flirt and French kiss, and math curriculums that don't challenge kids to use pencil and paper to perform basic operations or test mathematical formulas.

Without a doubt, there are many areas of education that need a second look because a failure to do so is to look the other way as generations of kids pass through school not learning about the basics and instead getting indoctrinated in the agenda of a minority in this country who believe that gender neutral washrooms are of greater concern than the founding documents of our country.

But there is a program helping students to learn about, "Where the ideas about liberty, equality, and justice come from and what they meant to the nation's Founders and to the Framers of its Constitution." (vii, WTP) The Center for Civic Education's "We The People: The Citizen And The Constitution" series of textbooks exist to help our students to learn about the basic principles of government intended to protect our rights and what it means to be a citizen. WTP is a comprehensive program which goes into great detail about the historical and philosophical foundations of our country's Constitutional government, the creation of our constitution, the organization of our national government, the development of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, expansion of rights, and roles of citizens. The best thing about it is that schools can implement it at no cost. Teachers are provided free institutes to learn more about our system of government and how to use the book. In each state a set number of classroom textbooks are made available to schools free of charge with only the expectation that the program will be implemented with fidelity.

Then why is it that there is a select group of detractors who want to destroy the reputation of this great program by propagating lies about the curriculum? Recently I read an article called, "We the Proletariat" written by Malcolm Kline in which he states that the program is remiss in its goal to deepen adherents' understanding of the American Constitutional system and its development.

He claims that the text spreads misinformation. His argument that the text misleads students to believe that all rights reside with the federal government is outlandish. One of the first ideas discussed in the text is how a Constitutional government establishes limits on the power of government to prevent it from violating natural rights and that the government is organized and power distributed in such a way as to increase the possibility that those limitations will be effective (p 9, WTP). The ideas of enumerated and un-enumerated rights are discussed in detail as well. (p 210, WTP)

His second argument about the second amendment doesn't hold any weight either. According to his sources, the text defines this as the right of a state to have a militia but not as a personal right to bear arms. Yet on page 240, right there in black and white, the second amendment is listed with a definition that includes both of these ideas. Although the authors decided to focus more in depth discussion questions on the 1st amendment, because the rights protected under it are considered by many to be the most important, and on the rights of those accused of crimes and the procedures in the court system; this doesn't mean an instructor can't discuss in more detail some of the second amendment issues in the news.

Because the book doesn't reflect a special interest agenda, it does not pass judgment on the United Nations even though this critic would like it to include an anti UN agenda. He assumes that because the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is discussed in the book that this means that CCE is endorsing those rights over the natural rights protected in our own Constitution. It is simply a point of discussion. (pp 206-208)

His criticism of the common knowledge that "Islamic countries take their code of laws from the teaching of the Koran, the book of sacred writings accepted by Muslims as revelations to the prophet Mohammed by God" being acknowledged in the text after 9/11 makes no sense. What is his beef? Should we ignore that Islam is derived from the Koran? Is he saying its not?

He ends his malicious tirade accusing The Center for Civic Education's WTP program as reflecting special interests which are intensely ideological. It would seem that his accusation implicates himself as a hypocrite because WTP doesn't follow the extremely ideological agenda he espouses.

I am more than willing to send a copy of the text to Malcolm Kline if he is willing to read it with fidelity. That means that he has to open his mind and not be prejudiced against the material before he opens the book. If he is willing, I'm sure he will find that "We The People: The Citizen And The Constitution" is a great teaching resource and that it would do our system of education in this country good to implement it instead of programs that teach kids how to place condoms on cucumbers. After all, our freedom is the most valuable right protected under the Constitution. And our Constitution is currently under attack by special interest groups wanting special rights and privileges which has the effect of taking away the freedom our Constitution is meant to ensure.

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2005

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