Monday, January 14, 2013

Attack of the 50-Foot History Teacher

I read the most fantastic, truly enlightening (in a, “I can’t believe they really just came fully out of the liberal closet” way) article recently, entitled, “Response: Ways To Deal With ‘History Myths’ In the Classroom" by an author named Larry Ferlazzo. 

After the first election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, I came to the sudden conclusion that America must be educating our youth improperly or incompletely in US History to have so many voters not know what a “Marxist” was and/or how to spot one.  Consequently, I began doing research in US History education in Oklahoma.  What I found startled me enough to co-found an organization (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) dedicated to exposing public education in our state.

“Response” has the dubious honor of containing nearly every category of leftist education drivel I have studied and/or cataloged over the last four years.  After reading this article, I thought it might be helpful to point out to readers a few of the ways it is disingenuous.  Over the years, I've seen many a parent/voter/taxpayer become simply mesmerized by all the rhetoric education 'experts' bloviate by the bucketfuls in order to finance and perpetuate their tree-hugging, Dewey-loving, social-justice-spreading dismantling of America.   People want the truth about education issues, but like deer in the headlights of a Mac truck, they can't figure out how to get past the loud, scary noise to find it.

Toward this end, I have highlighted some of the more astonishing passages from this article.  As you will note, the depths of self-delusion these people have plumbed to truly believe they are NOT perpetuating history myths themselves is quite fascinating.  In fact, that is the most laughable part of this whole, sad treatise.  “NO, do NOT perpetuate history myths”, the author says.  The only problem with their logic is that apparently the only myths present in the system are those stemming from a conservative (accurate/non-PC) viewpoint.  How do I know?  

Let’s deconstruct Mr. Bizarro’s, oops, I mean Ferlazzo’s article.  To do so, I will provide actual quotes from his writing followed by what I will call a MYTH BUSTER ALERT (MBA).  Hopefully, this will draw attention to the inconsistencies in Mr. Ferlazzo’s philosophies - or at least create a very stark outline of liberal (progressive) education ideals.

Mr. Ferlazzo begins innocently enough by asking the question, 
What history myths are being perpetuated by textbooks that you attempt to break down/challenge in your classroom? How do you do that”
To answer, the writer steers his reader to some resources he insists can combat this phenomenon:
The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues, The Best Resources For Teaching "What If?" History Lessons and History materials he uses in his IB (International Baccalaureate) “theory of knowledge” class.  

MBA:  The IB curricula are written by UNESCO, the education arm of the UN.  ROPE has studied the IB curricula and it’s penchant for ‘educating for sustainable development’.  Yes, if you know what Agenda 21 is, then UNESCO’s your partner to get ‘er done!  Let the IB curriculum educate children on how to implement Agenda 21 in a city/county/state/country near you!  UNESCO will also help everyone everywhere implement the Common Core (which is both ‘core’ and ‘common’ and decidedly UnAmerican).

Mr. Ferlazzo goes on from there, to introduce three people that will tell you (the US History teacher) how to avoid bringing history myths into the classroom.   
The first one is Stephen Lazar.  Here is a brief CV afforded by the author,
Stephen Lazar, a National Board Certified Social Studies teacher, is co-founder of Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City where he teaches students Social Studies and English, is Assessment Coordinator, and Union Chapter Leader. Over the past two years, Lazar worked with Social Studies teachers across NYC and the nation to support to support inquiry-based instruction, project-based learning, and Common Core implementation. He is a member of the Teacher Leaders Network.

MBA:  Stephen Lazar is a Union Leader (who could forget the many colorful antics of the NEA whose reading list containing Saul Alinsky drew enough fire for them to remove from their site his “Rules For Radicals” as suggested reading) that promotes the Common Core and teaches at a high school employing the following philosophy, "Underlying all of our Habits is recognition of fundamental human dignity, expressed in the unwavering core values of Commitment to Peace, Commitment to Diversity and Commitment to Growth." Can you find anything but liberal buzz words in that definition?  In addition, this is an 'experiential' high school - in other words, very indicative of the John Dewey (Marxist/Socialist) teaching style responsible for much of the education ‘reform’ programs of today and the associated decline of public education.

Mr. Lazar gives himself away immediately:
When I became a teacher a decade ago, I entered the classroom equipped with James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States in the other. I was convinced that the largest problem with history education was the absence of certain stories or perspectives from our textbooks. I saw myself as a myth-buster, ready to challenge students' preconceived notions of Columbus as hero or John Brown as insane terrorist.

MBA:  Stephen Lazar actually has the unmitigated gal to turn us ALL toward Howard Zinn – a known Marxist - as a method for DISPENSING historical myth in the classroom.  Truly, this is laughable.  Get a load of this Cap Times (progressive) blog where the writer laments President Obama not invoking the name of Howard Zinn during his inauguration.  After all, the great One should recognize ‘real’ American history and be unafraid and unapologetic about delivering that to the American people.  Really.

Ferlazzo then goes on to a narrative about Rosa Parks, which as a Biology major, I’ll leave for debunking by some historical truth-teller to be named later.
Our next author to respond is ReLeah Cossett Lent.  We’re told she is an international literacy consultant and ASCD author of a book called, Overcoming Textbook Fatigue: 21st Century Tools to Revitalize Teaching and Learning:  Just the title of this book sounds exactly like every John Dewey notion in black and white – kids get bored listening to a teacher, kids need to be active doing projects in order to learn and we can’t really have them in a musty old textbook when they can learn so much from each other!  

MBA:  When I went to look up her book, I found it on the ASCD website.  ASCD stands for Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  There is a chapter in every state and while Oklahoma’s chapter didn’t put up any obvious red flags, the ASCD full site sure did.  Again, we find here a very progressive (Dewey) education philosophy – ‘whole child’, 21st Century Skills (very Dewey), ‘health and learning’(page 5).

Ms. Cossett Lent says, 
Who can know all of the inaccuracies that history textbooks may contain? Experts in one historical area or another often are dismayed at the simplistic, sometimes misleading information presented in textbooks. Simple narratives that distill complex events into a nice story, lists of facts devoid of any emotional underpinning, or unintended bias resulting from the selection of, say, one photograph over another can skew readers' understanding of historical events, perhaps for a lifetime.“

Well goodness!  Who in the world would want kids studying lists of facts?  Facts are certainly politicized mythology, right?
Now, here comes my FAVORITE contributor to the article – Bill Bigelow!  Bill, as we find out from our author, is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine.  He also co-directs the online Zinn Education Project, which provides free curriculum materials to help teachers "teach outside the textbook."

MBA:  Ok, I know, Zinn again.  But, here’s a tasty morsel…one of the articles our editor has put on the front page of the Rethinking Schools website is entitled, “Lessons in Social Justice Unionism – An Interview with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis”.  Yes, absolutely, NO politics there and certainly, there can be ZERO mythology in a story with that title I feel certain.

Of course, his treatise is eye-poppingly progressive!  You really must go to the original article and read the entire thing – unless you’re a conservative with a heart condition and then, I just sincerely don’t recommend the read as it could be hazardous to your health.

Here are a couple of lines to illustrate my point:
And, as Bill McKibben pointed out recently in a remarkable article in Rolling Stone magazine, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math," from a mathematical standpoint, it is demonstrably impossible to prevent the climate from spinning out of control with unimaginably horrible consequences, if we burn the fossil fuels, including coal, that energy corporations are in the process of exploiting and selling.

When it comes to teaching about what matters in the world, teachers should not rely on textbooks published by enormous corporations that profit from--and in many cases, create--our most dire environmental and social crises. We need to work together through our unions, professional associations, school communities, and activist organizations to build a curriculum of conscience, one that addresses the most significant challenges facing humanity. As June Jordan wrote in her "Poem for South African Women," "We are the ones we have been waiting for."

 Certainly, no mythology present in any of that.
 At the end of the article, Mr. Ferlazzo mentions that quite a few people left responses to his question on The Zinn Education Project's Facebook page.
He then includes a few:
Max Castillo:
That indigenous, Mesoamerican, aboriginal civilizations became civilized through the conquering and interactions with European civilizations. We need to teach our students to value our indigenous cultures and heritage as early as possible.
Dennis Shaffner:
Ask students to question the bias in any textbook: easy in art history if woman artists are omitted.

MBA:  Seriously?  That's too easy to waste the keystrokes.  If you can't see those for yourself, there is most probably no saving you from yourself.

Truly, this situation MUST be seen as THE integral problem with America today - history teachers teaching mythological history aligned fully and completely with their narcissistic, thoughtless worldviews completely ignorant of the history they suggest they know.  How else can you explain the slide of a once-great Republic into the entitlement abyss of socialism? And so I will end with two applicable quotes from Winston Churchill as food for thought - though I’m almost certain there are zero public school graduates under 30 who know who this is.