A national movement to mandate standards for the teaching of Civics and History is gaining momentum. No conservative should support it.
For any conservative who has been paying attention to the education wars, no further explanation should be required. For those who haven’t been, this column by Stanley Kurtz is essential reading. The rest of us should read it to learn that things are even worse than we think.
The critical point is that final responsibility for setting the new history and civics curriculum will lie with state school boards and their attendant bureaucracy. These boards, and even more so the bureaucratic curriculum specialists upon whom they rely, are far more left-leaning than the legislators — or citizens — of their states.
Most come out of university schools of education, where “woke” curricula are generated to begin with. ALEC’s model bill [ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council] gives these left-leaning bureaucrats carte blanche to set state curricular standards. That means those standards will be a world apart from what parents in traditional and conservative-leaning school districts would choose.
Like the politicians who relied on teachers and college professors to devise the National History Standards in the 1990s, legislators will find their well-intentioned efforts captured by the very advocates they are hoping to counter.
What kind of Civics will leftist bureaucrats impose? They will impose “action civics.”
The civics now recognized and promoted by America’s dominant, left-leaning education establishment is radically different from what conservatives or traditionalists think of when they hear the word civics. Not one in ten conservatives has even heard of “action civics” or “project-based civics,” but this is what professional educators now mean by civics.
Essentially, “action civics” trains students to protest on behalf of leftist political causes. The Parkland students who agitate for gun laws, as well as the seven- to-sixteen-year-old students who notoriously surrounded and harangued Sen. Dianne Feinstein about the Green New Deal, are considered models of action civics by the Left. Those students are notable for refusing even to consider opposing points of view. Anger is their currency. Action civics is the application of Alinsky-style political organizing tactics to school children.
So-called action civics is more like anti-civics. It pressures ill-prepared students to take up leftist causes, when educators dealing with policy controversies ought to be teaching students how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of conflicting viewpoints instead. Leftist action civics is already widespread in blue states, and activists hope to force it onto deep-dyed red-state school districts via statewide civics mandates. These activists hope to use the Biden administration to do it, but ALEC is about to beat them to the punch by having conservatives inadvertently impose action civics on themselves.
The website of Illinoiscivics, considered a model for teachers who favor the new not-so-civic “civics,” confirms Stanley’s warning. Read it and weep.
For example, as Stanley says, the Illinois Civics teaching resource page on LGBTQ+ history builds off of a 2019 Illinois curriculum law requiring the teaching of such history by the end of eighth grade. The posted teaching materials blend history with not-so-subtle advocacy for highly contested perspectives on cultural issues. Some links have little to do with history at all and go directly to advocacy organizations instead.
Would parochial schools be required to teach LGBTQ+ history along leftist lines? Probably. Stanley explains:
Detailed state curriculum standards could be tied to state tests, which are also often imposed on religious schools that accept state tuition vouchers, or seek to participate in other state programs, such as athletics. Failure on those tests would imperil a school’s accreditation, or bring the loss of state voucher funding or other state benefits. Teacher certification would likely also be tied to mastering the state standards. Whether by law or by bureaucratic fiat, once advocacy-tinged LGBTQ+ requirements are built into state standards, religious schools will be trapped.
It should be apparent to any conservative who has been paying attention that local control is preferable to national control (or influence) when it comes to any culturally contested area (and these days, there are very few areas that aren’t culturally contest). This is certainly true here. As Stanley concludes:
The best way to battle educational decline is a return to local control, which should never have been abandoned in the first place. Relying on our current education establishment to carry out reform is a fool’s errand. They are what got us into trouble to begin with. The real hope for improvement lies with parents. A grassroots movement to take back the curriculum from woke education bureaucrats could shift the composition of local school boards across the country. That is the level at which curricula recommended by places like Hillsdale College, ConSource, and 1776 Unites should be adopted.
People are fleeing Blue States like California and Illinois. We must make sure that when they arrive in Red parts of the country, their children can get an education free from left-wing indoctrination.