We are doomed, I think, if Americans come to believe that ours is an ignoble country, and has been since its founding. I don’t think any nation has ever thrived when it (or its ruling class) lost faith to that degree.
Yet, we have started teaching students that America is, and always has been, ignoble. Has any nation ever done this? I don’t think so. Those ruling classes that lost faith in their country did so on their own, not because they were educated that way.
The key components of Action Civics are (1) the enlistment of students in protest activity on behalf of leftist causes and (2) indoctrination in “critical race theory.” The first component gets most of the attention from critics, and understandably so. However, the second component is more subversive, for the reason stated at the beginning of this post.
Congressional Democrats (and a few Republicans) are fully on board with the imposition of Action Civics. In fact, they are attempting, in effect, to mandate it via the misleadingly named “Civics Secures Democracy Act” that was introduced in Congress last week.
Stanley Kurtz, who has done the best reporting on Action Civics, provides the details in an article called “The Greatest Education Battle of Our Lifetimes.” This, says Stanley, is the battle that will be waged around the proposed Civics legislation.
Stanley calls this new legislation “a backdoor effort to impose a de facto national curriculum in the politically charged subject areas of history and civics.” How does it attempt this?
Above all, it appropriates $1 billion for federal grants to support K-12 curriculum development, teacher training, and research on the K-12 teaching of history and civics. Sounds good, if expensive, until you look at the fine print. Priority for grants is decided according to two basic criteria.
First of all, priority goes to grants that support “evidence-based practices.” The bill goes on to list these supposedly evidence-based practices, which are essentially the menu of troubling teaching techniques favored by the movement for Action Civics (Bill Page 5, Line 16-Page 6, Line 5). . . .
They include: 1) directing teachers to discuss current social and political controversies in class; 2) out-of-class political protests and lobbying (nearly always for leftist causes) for course credit (in the bill, called “projects” and “experiential learning”) and 3) internships with (invariably leftist) lobbying and advocacy organizations for course credit (in the bill, called “service learning”).
Programs in “media literacy” are also marked as a priority. These programs ostensibly warn students away from dangerous conspiracy theories. In practice, however, they discourage students from looking at conservative sources and hold up mainstream media fact-checkers (largely left-biased) as sources of ultimate authority. Essentially, “media literacy” programs favored by advocates of the new civics inculcate the Democratic Party’s position on “fake news.”
The upshot is that the lion’s share of this billion-dollar jackpot will support mandatory leftist protest, lobbying, and indoctrination, while supporters of traditional civics and history will be frozen out.
But that’s not all:
The second criterion for priority applies to grants that “improve knowledge and engagement” among “traditionally underserved” students, as well as grants that promise to “close gaps in knowledge and achievement among students of different income levels, racial and ethnic groups, and native languages.” This gives the inside lane to Critical Race Theory, while largely disqualifying those who believe that American history and civics can unify if presented in a broadly similar manner to students of all incomes, races, and ethnicities.
That may sound too strong. Keep in mind, however, that the main public justification for the controversial, Critical Race Theory-based “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” just approved in Illinois was that they would be more likely to attract minority teachers and more likely to appeal to minority students, thereby closing achievement gaps. Yet those standards force teachers to call America systemically racist, affirm the “fluidity” of gender, “mitigate” their Euro-centrism and whiteness, and substitute activism for achievement when grading students. Finding creative ways to present traditional civics to minorities is one thing. Teaching radical activism is quite another.
Yet the movement for Critical Race Theory in education essentially presents itself as fulfilling both priority criteria for grants listed in this bill: “experiential” advocacy projects designed to appeal to minority students. We are talking about Black Lives Matter protests outside of police stations for course credit. And the grants will be disbursed by President Biden’s Education Department, sure to be staffed by left-leaning bureaucrats who believe — as does the president — that our country is “systemically racist.” Put together the priority criteria and a Democrat-controlled Department of Education and you will see a tremendous number of grants going to Critical Race Theory-based political advocacy programs, all under the label of “civics.”
Critical Race Theory, of course, is antithetical to the classically liberal principles upon which our constitutional republic rests. Teaching it is actually a form of anti-civics. Yet that is what hundreds of millions of dollars disbursed by the “Civics Secures Democracy Act” is going to be used for.
Plenty of Americans still believe in the fundamental goodness of their country and the greatness of its history. They will not take the imposition of Action Civics lying down.
As a result, Stanley predicts that “the culture war will merge with K-12 education-policy disputes to a degree never before seen.” The outcome of that war will go a long way towards determining whether America is doomed.