"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 1, 2020

2020 Medley #21 - If wrong, to be set right.

If wrong, to be set right.

To hear the current occupant of the White House talk, public education has been teaching anti-American propaganda for years. I suppose he thinks that there are no longer any lessons on how the Founding Fathers fought against the English or wrote of the rights to free speech or religious liberty. He apparently thinks there are only lessons on how those same men (and they were all men) were slaveowners. Perhaps he thinks that instead of teaching how Americans mobilized to fight the Axis Powers in WWII, public schools only teach about the McCarthy era paranoia or how Jim Crow supported the subjugation and murder of United States citizens. In other words, public schools, according to him, are teaching the bad things about the US and nothing else.

Are public schools supposed to ignore the three-fifths clause?
...or the fewer than 240,000 native Americans who were left on the continent out of a total population of between five and fifteen million after the "Indian Wars" of the 19th Century?
...or the imprisonment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans simply because of their ancestry?

Are public schools supposed to teach only the goals enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence and nothing of the centuries-long struggle to make those goals a reality for all citizens?

Rewriting American history doesn't make it true. Ignoring the flaws in our past (and present) isn't patriotism.

I quoted Carl Schurz in a previous post on this blog.
My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
Public education's curricula about the United States ought to include examples of when the country was "wrong" as well as examples of the people and patriots who tried to "set it right."

Patriotic Education and the Politics of Lies
For most K-12 students in the U.S., the education they receive in social studies and history is primarily idealized, incomplete, and patriotic education.

For fifty or sixty years, some have been chipping away at that distortion of history — the “I cannot tell a lie” George Washington of my education in the 1960s was mostly gone by my teaching career in the 1980s-1990s — and there has been a slow process of including the stories and voices traditionally omitted, women and Black Americans, for example.

The GOP’s Plan for Education: Whatever Trump Says
Trump has also sent clear signals about what he means by American exceptionalism.

Last month, the Education Department indicated its plans to seek and destroy diversity training in government departments, stamping out any instruction about white privilege or that paints the United States as “an inherently racist or evil country.”

Trump also called teaching about systemic racism “a form of child abuse.”

His desire to eradicate “divisive, anti-American propaganda” has extended to a threat to cut funding for any school found teaching The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning 1619 Project.

Is Trump’s Christian Nationalist ‘History’ Coming To A School Near You?
The purpose of history is to relate what happened and why. If we can learn from that or avoid repeating past mistakes, all the better, but the idea is not to mold people into patriots, persuade them to adopt “my country right or wrong” rhetoric or relate “miracle” stories.

Facing history square-on can be an uncomfortable task, but it’s a necessary one. It means that you deal with the good, the bad and the ugly – and that you avoid the temptation to turn famous figures into secular saints. When we talk about separation of religion and government, for example, we must grapple with the fact that many of the same founders who wrote eloquently about human rights and freedoms also embraced slavery and considered Blacks to be 3/5 of a person. Their moral flaws and contradictions are a vital part of the story. Telling that story isn’t meant to take away from their achievements but to remind us that we were a nation birthed in liberty only for some. To deny the stories of those who were not included isn’t teaching history; it’s a whitewash.
"...building a wall of separation between church and state..."

What’s At Stake At The Supreme Court: The Religious Freedom Rights Of Public School Students

Section II of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, penned by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia state legislature by James Madison in 1786, reads,
...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
The First Amendment's protection of religious liberty is based on the Virginia Statute, and the concept of religious freedom it brought to the young nation is responsible for people of all religions and none -- Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and others -- coming to this country to escape religious persecution or bigotry in their native countries.

The Virginia Statute was a bold statement that broke with the European standard of a religious-based monarchy/government and state-sponsored religion. 

If we do away with the First Amendment restrictions on religion in America's public schools, whose prayer should the schools promote? Whose holy books should be taught as truth? Right now students and families of minority religions, and no religions, are protected by the First Amendment. 
Despite the age of the school prayer decisions and their clear command that public schools must not sponsor devotional activity, they are not always respected. Some misguided school officials attempt to meddle in the religious lives of students – and they are backed by Christian nationalist legal groups that have been working in the courts for decades to undermine the school prayer rulings...

American society is more diverse on matters of religion than it has ever been. Polls show that the number of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped below 70%. At the same time, the number of self-professed “nones,” people who say they have no particular religion, is skyrocketing. Our country is also home to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Pagans and a host of other belief systems.

Any attempt to reintroduce school-sponsored prayer or worship, or teach religious doctrines like creationism in science classes, is bound to violate the rights of students and their families. But the Christian nationalist organizations that are determined to use the engine of the state to push their narrow version of faith onto as many impressionable children as possible don’t care. If their views prevail, our public schools could become religious battlegrounds.


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