The Claremont Institute was asked to testify about the importance of providing sound civic education for young citizens. During our testimony, several Liberal members of the legislature were so uninterested that they simply walked away.
Then a spokesman for the public school teachers' union testified against the bill. He asserted that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are "non-essential materials," and that schools have "more important subjects they need to be teaching." Shortly thereafter, the California Assembly overwhelmingly voted down the bill (Assembly Bill 1920).
A few months earlier, the newly elected Brooklyn borough president made news when he announced that he was removing the portrait of George Washington from his office. He said he would replace the image of the "old white man" with a portrait of a black or a woman.
These stories are not isolated incidents. They are the tip of an iceberg--a vast nationwide movement to declare irrelevant America's past and the principles on which the American Republic was founded. This movement has already been working for decades to make history textbooks "politically correct," to teach school children and youth only the most negative slant on our national heroes. It is a movement for history textbooks that ignore the incredible achievements of our nation and paint America as oppressive, racist, and extremely selfish.
It's a miracle that, with all the Leftist political propaganda, Americans, for the most part, are still intensely loyal and patriotic. But this won't last, if things continue as they are. Textbooks of American history get worse all the time. Leftists gain increasing influence every year in textbook publishing, colleges of education, and professional education associations and teachers' unions. And the older generation which understands the greatness of America and the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution is being replaced by a younger, more ignorant and misinformed generation.
The Claremont Institute has undertaken a vitally important endeavor, the Teaching Teachers project. We at the Claremont Institute have undertaken this project in order to fight back against the political Left's assault on our history and to restore the teaching about America's founding principles and the great men who led our forefathers in the making our nation. We seek to accomplish this so that American children and youth of today and tomorrow will grow up with the understanding and love of America that you and I learned when we went to school.
The the key to success in this effort is reaching the teachers. Most teachers are as loyal and patriotic as any other Americans. Yet, they are the victims of a professional education that focuses almost entirely on teaching skills and class-management techniques, with little attention to learning and mastering subject matter--the same subject matter that teachers are expected to teach, once they are on the job in their classerooms. Poorly and inaccurately educated in the subjects they are supposed to teach, the teachers are at the mercy of textbooks written by Leftists who give students little or nothing that would help them to understand the meaning of America.
For example, one high school American history textbook devotes six lines to George Washington and six and a half pages to Marilyn Monroe. Other books emphasize only that Washington owned slaves, and describe him as a mediocre leader.
Further, in some states, history standards of what students need to learn reflect the extreme of political correctness. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Education decided that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin would not be included in the revised version of the state's history standards. They also excluded the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. And they ordered that the word "war" be replaced by the word "conflict" in lessons about the early settlers, colonization, and expansion.
To help fill the desperate need for meaningful history teaching, the Claremont Institute has developed a host of materials for teachers and classrooms. These include the following:
A website that is the best resource on the web to learn the principles and history of the American Founding. It contains thousands of source documents that can be used by teachers and students. It also answers dozens of ques- tions about the Declaration of Independence, such as-- Does equality mean equal in all respects? Does "all men" include every human being? Where do we get our rights? The site is recommended by the National Council of Social Studies, as well as various state departments of educa- tion.
A website devoted to the life and lessons of George Wash- ington. It is designed to show Washington's greatness, call attention to his most striking qualities of mind and character, and suggest the significance of this great man for our generation of Americans. The site contains access to the Washington Collection--the largest privately held collection of original Washington documents and Revolutionary-period images. It also fea- tures a special section for teachers that provides lesson plans and other curriculum material for use in the class- room.
A series of lesson plans for using both of the foregoing websites in the classroom.To recruit teachers who will use these materials, we set up booths at education conferences. In 2001, we attended seven conferences, including the National Council for the Social Studies, the Association of Christian Schools International, and several regional conferences.
We run training sessions at the conferences to show interested teachers how to use our materials. We've met thousands of middle school and high school teachers and now have a list of almost 30,000 teachers. We email them monthly with information on the websites, reminders about our lesson plans, and teaching tips.
To show you how deep this ignorance runs, here are some results of various polls in the last few years:
Here are some of the steps we at the Claremont Institute want to take, with your help:
America is in a more perilous position than we have been for a long time. We are in a war in which our principles--our precious freedom, our rights as citizens, our representative government--are pitted against nations and groups who hold these ideas in contempt and hate us for them.
Yet, in this situation, a great many of our fellow Americans, including men and women who are being sent to foreign countries to fight in our behalf, have little understanding of what we are fighting for. Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
This is why we need the Claremont Institute's Teaching Teachers project. We also need your help in the project's funding and implementation.
The consequences of the Teaching Teachers project will spread far beyond the classroom. Our teachers are excited by what they learn, and they are civic-minded and active in their communities. They are educating themselves, their families, and other Americans too, as part of their daily lives.
More on Education & America's Schools
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