Thursday, March 18, 2004

Continuing the Dumbing Down of Our Students

In the New York Observer, Terry Golway takes a look at his 4th grader's textbook.

Imagine, for example, explaining the Berlin Wall to a bunch of 10-year-olds without mentioning the Soviet Union, the United States or the word "oppression." Well, the non-judgmental authors of Exploring Our Land have managed that trick. They write that in 1945, "a group of countries" divided up Germany. "However, people kept trying to leave East Berlin." Why? The book doesn’t say. Besides, people move around all the time—what’s the big deal anyway? But 28 years later, the book informs young minds, "the people of East Germany changed their government … they decided to remove the boundary between East and West Berlin."

Freedom, oppression—whatever! It is curious that the authors would choose not to mention the depredations visited upon East Berlin—thus causing the pre-Wall flight—for they certainly pull no punches in describing the evils of slavery in America and of white resistance to the civil-rights movement. This is how it should be—which makes the bland, who-are-we-to-judge passage about the Berlin Wall all the more curious.

The book, incidentally, bears the imprimatur of a host of scholars associated with several religious and ethnic organizations, including the Council on Islamic Education, the periodical Hinduism Today, the Institute of Buddhist Studies and the East Asian Institute. This is very worthy indeed, but represents a certain kind of inclusion that most people would recognize as intellectually dishonest.

As a history major, and a lifelong student of the subject, nothing galls me more than the revisionism, and disdain we allow to be shown this very important subject. Yet we allow it to happen more and more each year.


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