|Who Defines American Culture?
|With all the public discussion about the values voters (whether they voted in the 2006 election or stayed home), the underlying question is, what is the role of government in defining our culture? Do both red states and blue states look to government to set or guide our cultural direction, whether it is about marriage vs. the gay agenda, free speech vs. pornography, life vs. abortion/cloning/euthanasia, property rights vs. community development, or sovereignty/patriotism vs. globalism/open borders?
Do we believe in a very limited government that would allow all these issues to be thrashed out and decided by Big Media, special-interest groups, and 527s? Should we demand that our elected representatives pass laws to address these issues? Should we allow non-elected judges to make those policy decisions for us?
Government is the most powerful influence on our culture today because the federal government spends about two and a half trillion dollars a year, and every dollar carries the power to affect our culture and behavior — through laws, regulations, grants, entitlements, and tax credits. Supremacist judges have presumed to make dozens of major social and cultural policies.
But more influential in directing our culture — even more influential than the media — is the arm of government known as the public schools. The public schools are guiding the morals, attitudes, knowledge and decision-making of 89% of American children. The public schools are financed by $500 billion a year of our money, forcibly taken from us in federal, state and local taxes, which the public school establishment spends under a thin veneer of accountability to school board members elected in government-run elections.
Quo vadis? Whither are the public schools taking the next generation?
Prior to the 1960s, public schools and teachers clearly accepted their role in defining the culture of the youngsters under their supervision. The public schools, using a McGuffey-Reader-style curriculum, were the mechanism through which American kids learned not only the basics, but also values such as honesty and patriotism, and immigrant kids assimilated by learning our language, laws and customs.
For example, The American Citizens Handbook, published for teachers by the National Education Association in 1951, proclaimed: “It is important that people who are to live and work together shall have a common mind — a like heritage of purpose, religious ideals, love of country, beauty, and wisdom to guide and inspire them.” This message was fortified in this Handbook by selections suitable for memorization, such as Old and New Testament passages, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, the Boy Scout oath, and patriotic songs.
My, how public schools and teachers unions have changed since 1951!
The turning point in public schools came in the 1960s with the vast influence of the Humanist John Dewey and his Columbia Teachers College acolytes, who argued against objective truth, authoritative notions of good and evil, religion and tradition. Sidney Simon’s 1972 book Values Clarification, which sold nearly a million copies, was widely used to teach students to “clarify” their values, i.e., cast off their parents’ values and make their own moral (or immoral) choices.
Then the public schools welcomed the Kinsey-trained sexperts to change the sexual mores of our society from favoring sex-in-marriage to diversity. Concepts of right and wrong were banished, and children were taught about varieties of sex without reference to what is moral, good, or even legal.
Meanwhile, elementary and secondary school curricula suffered a vast dumbing down. Phonics and traditional arithmetic were censored out. Students were allowed to graduate without learning to read or calculate. While tolerating massive illiteracy, the public schools are now powerfully impacting our culture by inculcating the values of situation ethics, diversity, and the easy acceptance of sex outside of marriage. American history and literature courses now teach the doctrines of U.S. guilt and multiculturalism instead of the greatness of our heroes and successes.
By the 1980s, the public schools were rejecting the Meyer-Pierce doctrine that parents have the fundamental right to control the upbringing of their own children. The Meyer-Pierce doctrine is described in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1920s, which we thought was settled law.1
By the 1990s, public schools had adopted the attitude best described by Hillary Clinton: the “village” (i.e., the government) should raise the child. Public schools, backed by anti-parent resolutions adopted by the National Education Association at its annual conventions, have become fortresses in which the administrators exercise near-absolute power to determine the students’ values, morals, attitudes and hopes, while parents are kept outside the barricades.
Using activist judges to shore up their monopoly power, the schools persuaded the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court to rule in 20052 that a public school can teach students “whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise,” and that parents’ right to control the upbringing of their children “does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.” After heavy criticism in the U.S. House, the court tried to soften the “threshold” sentence but reaffirmed its decision.
The meaning of “whatever” is spelled out in anti-parent, pro-public-school decisions handed down in five circuits within the last two years. Federal courts upheld the right of public schools to indoctrinate students in Muslim religion and practices,3 to force students to watch a one-hour pro-homosexual video,4 to force students to attend a program advocating homosexual conduct that used minors in sexually suggestive skits,5 to censor any mention of Intelligent Design,6 to use classroom materials that parents consider pornography,7 to force students to answer nosy questionnaires with suggestive questions about sex, drugs and suicide,8 and to deny a divorced father’s right to get his son’s school records.9
This is not only a culture issue; it is a free speech issue. Public schools are censoring views that do not conform to the diversity/multiculturalism culture. The courts upheld the public schools in prohibiting an anti-gay T-shirt,10 but ordered a school to permit a very offensive anti-Bush T-shirt.11
The courts have upheld the constitutional right of any schoolchild to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,12 but neither school nor court offered any child or parent the right to opt out of any of the offensive programs listed above.
It’s not a question of whether, or if, government should or will define our culture. Government schools are every day defining the culture of the nation our children will live in, by inculcating the values of diversity, multiculturalism, American guilt, situation ethics, and easy acceptance of sex outside of marriage. There is no proof that the American people have democratically chosen this definition of our culture. It is being done with the power of government employees spending the people’s money. Since there is no prospect that either the public schools or taxes will be abolished any time soon, our task is to stop government institutions from directing our culture in ways the American people do not want to go.
Parents Are Right about Math
The new report called Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten Through Grade 8 Mathematics is a back-to-basics victory which rejects the type of math curricula that parents had derided as “fuzzy math” or “rainforest math.” The experts preferred such hoity-toity titles as “New New Math,” “Connected Math,” “Chicago Math,” “Core-Plus Math,” “Whole Math,” “Interactive Math,” or “Integrated Math.” Whatever the title, these curricula imbedded the notion that estimates are acceptable in lieu of accurate answers to math problems so long as students feel good about what they are doing and can think up a reason for doing it. Fuzzy curricula were big on discussion, coloring, playing games, and early use of calculators.
The 1989 report (which gives the word “standards” a bad name) flatly opposed drilling students in basic math facts, taught that memorization of math facts was bad, and failed to systematically build from one math concept to another. Children were encouraged to “discover” math on their own, construct their own math language, and flounder around with their own approaches to solving problems. This silliness was based on the false notion that children can develop a deeper understanding of mathematics when they invent their own methods for performing basic arithmetic calculations.
Despite widespread parental opposition, in October 1999, Bill Clinton’s Department of Education officially endorsed ten new math courses, based on the 1989 “standards,” for grades K-12, calling them “exemplary” or “promising.” Local school districts were urged to adopt one of them, and were baited with federal money inducements.
One of these department-approved “exemplary” courses, “MathLand,” directed the children to meet in small groups and invent their own ways to add, subtract, multiply and divide. It’s too bad the kids weren’t told that wiser adults have already discovered how to do all those basic computations rapidly and accurately.
It wasn’t only parents who quickly sized up fuzzy math curricula as subtracting rather than adding to the skills of schoolchildren. On November 18, 1999, more than 200 prestigious mathematicians and scholars, including four Nobel Laureates and two winners of the Fields Medal (the highest math honor), published a full-page ad in the Washington Post criticizing the “exemplary” curricula. But Clinton’s Education Secretary Richard Riley refused to back away from the Department’s endorsements of the 1989 “standards” adopted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
With such vague parameters for courses in math, trendy instructors began advancing their political agenda by injecting ethnic studies into math textbooks. Some taught what Diane Ravitch called “ethnomathematics,” the far-out notion that traditional math is too Western-civ and therefore students should be taught in ways that relate to their ancestral culture.
The new National Council report tries to finesse its dramatic switch back to memorization by recommending that the curriculum focus on “quick recall” of multiplication and division, the area of two-dimensional shapes, and an understanding of decimals. It takes a pompous pseudo-expert to avoid admitting that memorization of multiplication tables is the best way to have “quick recall.”
Before the 1989 mistake, U.S. students ranked number-one in international mathematics tests. Since then, U.S. students have dropped to fifteenth, far behind the consistently high performance of most industrialized countries. Added to the humiliation of international tests is the appalling percentage of college students who must take remedial math before they can enroll in college courses. That means the taxpayers have been paying twice to teach students the same material.
The gay lobby tried a broadside attempt to censor criticism by passing a national “hate crimes” law. Fortunately, Congress didn’t pass that law, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi will probably try again in the new Congress. Meanwhile, gay activists are trying to achieve much the same effect through political pressure and intimidation.
Scott Bloch, the head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in the Bush Administration, has been targeted for termination because he removed “sexual orientation” from the list of anti-discrimination laws protecting employment at federal agencies. Bloch discovered that his Clinton-appointed predecessor, Elaine Kaplan, had unilaterally inserted “sexual orientation” in the list without any statutory authorization, so he removed it. The gay lobby retaliated, instigating five investigations against Bloch. After all five cleared him of any wrongdoing, the response by the gay lobby was to initiate a sixth investigation.
There have actually been very few complaints against the Bush Administration about job discrimination against homosexuals. Bush appointed openly homosexual Mark Dybul as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. When he was sworn in with the rank of ambassador, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised his “wonderful family” and referred to his partner’s mother as Dybul’s “mother-in-law.”
Luis Padilla, an employee of a large corporation in Virginia, put this message on the rear window of his pickup truck: “Please, vote for marriage on Nov. 7.” His bosses ordered him to remove it because some people said it offended them. Padilla then parked his truck on what he thought (apparently incorrectly) was outside of company property, but he was fired anyway. After a couple of state legislators took up his cause, the company reinstated him.
Robert J. Smith, who served (at a small salary) as Maryland’s representative on the Washington Metro transit board, mentioned his religious views against homosexual conduct during an appearance on a cable television program. Although probably few saw the show, gay activists demanded that he be fired, and Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich complied.
Michael Campion, a psychologist with the Minneapolis Police Department, was suspended because of his past affiliation with a group critical of the gay lifestyle, despite reports of a good job performance.
If Americans don’t resist such assaults on free speech, we may be headed down the Canadian road (where same-sex marriage is now legal). Dozens of Vancouver postal workers just refused to deliver mail they called “homophobic.”
In Yale University’s student newspaper, a columnist described that institution as “really, really gay. Like, totally gay.” Yet, when one email expressed a dissenting view on Yale’s gay pride day, gay activists demanded reprisals against the dissenter.
The public schools are a major battleground in the gays’ efforts to censor any criticism of their goals or lifestyle. Every year, the National Education Association (NEA) passes resolutions not only demanding that schools not discriminate against sexual orientation, but also insisting that classroom language be monitored to punish “homophobia” and to “promote ‘acceptance’ and/or ‘respect’ instead of ‘tolerance'” of the gay lifestyle.
Taking their demands for censorship into the courts, the gays have been winning. After the Poway High School near San Diego endorsed the gay project called “Day of Silence,” the Ninth Circuit upheld the school in forbidding student Tyler Chase Harper to wear a T-shirt with the words “homosexuality is shameful, Romans 1:27.”13 The dissenting judge pointed out the intolerance of those who claim they want tolerance for minority views. But Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who sided with the school, wrote that Tyler’s defenders “still don’t get the message.”
I get the message: for Judge Reinhardt, gay rights means intolerance for free speech.
Clinton apologists once defended his scandalous conduct by saying it was “only about sex.” It’s increasingly clear that the gay ideology is about far more than sex; it assaults our fundamental right to free speech.
Congressmen Need Constitution Tutorials
Anderson, Bayh and their associates in the Campaign for the National Popular Vote know they can’t change the Electoral College honestly by passing a constitutional amendment. So they have launched a devious plan to get state legislatures to enact identical bills requiring their own electors to ignore the winner of their state’s election and cast all their state’s ballots for the candidate whom the state believes received the most popular votes nationwide. That would be organized vote-stealing. It’s ridiculous and un-American to force electors to vote against their constituents’ wishes.
Our Constitution’s framers decided on a separate and independent federal enclave to serve as the seat of the new government, a territory outside of and independent from every state. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 gave Congress complete authority over the District so that it would be insulated from undue pressures and interruptions.
Article I, Section 2, makes clear that “the House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several States.” The District of Columbia is not a state.
This means that the District of Columbia does not have its own Senators and Representatives. That decision was not a mistake or oversight on the part of the Founding Fathers, but was an integral part of the original constitutional design to keep the seat of our Federal Government out of the political process so that it would remain the servant of all the people, and not become our master.
In the 1980s, the people who don’t like our Constitution the way it was written tried to eliminate this provision by a proposed constitutional amendment to give Washington, D.C. representation in the Congress “as though it were a state.” The “D.C. Representation” Amendment passed Congress, but it was rejected by the American people and died on August 22, 1985, after 34 of the 50 states refused to ratify it.
The 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, reaffirmed the District of Columbia as a unique federal territory in the American system. The 23rd Amendment gives the District three votes in the Electoral College and thereby allows residents to vote for President and Vice President just like all other citizens.
That should have been the end of it, but some misguided Members of Congress keep trying to make an end run around the Constitution. In 2006, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) launched a new attempt to bypass the District Clause by pretending the District is something that it isn’t. H.R. 5388 would give the District a House seat by stating: “The District of Columbia shall be considered a Congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.” But the Constitution allows only states to have representation in Congress, and the District of Columbia is not a state.
We urgently need more knowledge about the U.S. Constitution to adhere to what it says, why it has survived for more than two centuries, and why Americans should defeat all mischievous attempts to bypass it with unconstitutional laws.