Kids are often compared to sponges, absorbing everything they see and experience then presumably, scrubbed against the backs of the geriatric or on a crusty plate. The key element of that absorbency is how there are no barriers to exactly what is taken in. Toss a sponge onto a puddle, and its response will be akin to the result of tossing it on some soda.
Likewise, throw a kid into a household where the air sags thick with slurs and profanity, and chances are they’ll carry the same air wherever they go, until on their deathbed, the nurse is so repulsed by the tumult of foul speech that she’ll cram soap in their mouth. Just as when kids are raised and surrounded by particular ideological doctrine, they’ll carry that train of thought until they’re old enough to wonder whether or not they should get off at each passing station.
But kids aren’t treated like the sponges they’re often compared to, they’re not tossed indiscriminately into seas of knowledge, instead they’re coddled, sheltered and in many cases, methods by which to perpetuate particular systems of belief. They’re to be taught to believe what their elders believe, to reach conclusions not by their own deductions, but by the assumptions of those in power. Masters of particular ideologies feel such an incredible compulsion to in essence, brainwash the young, because if they can’t persuade the most impressionable, what does that say for their own intellectual validity? A charade caught by the most gullible of citizens isn’t likely to fool most of the masses.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with parents and other figures of power trying to instill their beliefs upon the younger generations. How else is a society expected to perpetuate if the youth are left while still in the nest? But there’s something a bit sickening when figures who already have their own pulpits decide to encroach upon the domain of others when educating the young, and who seek to monopolize the way in which history, the most underrated of all of education’s pillars, is told.
Case in point, the oncoming struggle of Texas’ educational curriculum, in particular, the tone of the historical lessons. It’s the classic example of the traditional academic hierarchy facing off against the religious right over the various subtleties of historical lessons.
Be warned, this goes on for a while…
One of the primary points of contention between the two sides of Texas’ social sciences revision board is the role that religion played in the creation and subsequent success of the United States. It’s an even three to three split, with the conservative side enjoying the “looney bin” bonus for including Rev. Peter Marshall, who blamed Katrina on adulterers, gamblers and homosexuals (Queer Eye of the Storm for the Straight Guy perhaps?). The left believes that our country succeeded for various reasons, including ingenuous economic thought and multiculturalism, while the right believes kids should be taught that America became so powerful due to its religious doctrine (Christian doctrine, of course).
Without going into the particulars of the debate, I’m a bit bewildered by the entire debate over how much religion should be brought into the classroom. In the case of public schools (the same schools that are being fought over in Texas) there is a separation of church and state, which doesn’t stifle religious activity whatsoever. Amazingly, there are places known as “churches” and “private residences” where pastors, reverends and priests (since to the right, every other religion isn’t worth consideration) can teach their lessons parallel to the lessons of the educational hierarchy.
Texas has already ruled that creationism can be taught in the classroom, but isn’t that the sort of thing that Sunday school should be for? In the same way that the religious right would cry foul if biology teachers kicked in the doors of their ministries and tossed textbook at those praying in the pews, so should the rest of the country when ministers walk up and down the rows of desks, handing students pictures of humans and dinosaurs coexisting, reassuring them that such graphics are the god-honest truth (the dinosaurs are now extinct because they, as we all know, practiced Kabbalah).
There’s an argument to be made for the marketplace of ideas allowing religious thought to be held on the same level as academic study in the classroom, but even the lofty marketplace of ideas has limits. In the same way that a Target employee can’t walk into a Wal-Mart, set up a booth next to the registers, and taking customer money in the name of Target, religion should not be peddled to students in public schools just as academia should keep their noses out of chapels and the like.
Now, as far as the historical angle goes, just why is that both sides of the political debate need to rely on the manipulation of the past, as opposed to the strength of their respective arguments, to persuade the young? I’ve personally been privy to the rampant ignorance of social studies programs, just as I’ve been subject to the disingenuous levels of political correctness. History is taught to children in a way that is so boiled-down, so diluted that it loses any and all color (though a lack of color often pleases those on the right).
I’d reference Pat Buchanan’s recent comments on the Rachel Maddow’s show (which boiled down to, “Honkeys built this country alone, so goshdarnit, they should enjoy the fruits of their labor alone!).
But Maddow already made pretty much every well-researched argument that I could make on a following show (which can be seen here, since I can’t get a hold of a Youtube link).
“America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children. The foundational principles of our country are very biblical…. That needs to come out in the textbooks,” the Wall Street Journal quotes Don McLeroy, a member of the committee and the Texas Board of Education. But those principals don’t need to be in textbooks. They need to be in Sunday school.
It wasn’t Jesus who enabled creation of a unique republican state, it was the accumulation of hundreds of years of political thought, coupled with the miraculous melding of brilliant colonial minds and then whipped up by the belligerent imperialist policies of the British monarchy (who loved the same God quite a bit, but who succeeded in creating their empire thanks to a preposterous lack of morality in conquering and subjugating entire countries…unless God just hates everyone who isn’t white and tossed advanced weaponry and watercraft into the hands of the Brits).
The peak of American power didn’t come as a result of everybody settling down and praying some more, but instead, because the rest of the industrial world had been reduced to complete rubble after World War II, leaving America in the unique position as the only place in the world capable of providing the goods and services the world needed to rebuild, and subsequently enjoying a near monopoly on the free markets. The Soviets are left out of this, despite their closeness to American levels of power, because they were Godless, so therefore they’re left out of the equation, just as the imminent power of the Chinese government will be blissfully ignored.
But if religious leaders want children to believe otherwise, let them. Just not in public schools. It’s the same for the bizarre emphasis on arbitrary multiculturalism that the left enjoys tossing upon schools. In elementary school, while I was taught only the bare bones about the country’s creation and the way in which the government worked, I was having to study which Native American tribes used shells as currency and what each face on a totem pole represented. During the AP test for American history, the entire class was in an uproar because a ridiculously disproportionate number of the questions were devoted to obscure women and minorities who were given a sentence or two in the textbook, while entire eras of history were completely ignored.
History is history. It shouldn’t be changed, it shouldn’t be tampered with, it should only be expanded upon through the discovery of new facts, not interpretations. What teachers “think” about events of the past, what religious leaders “feel” about the degree to which the founding fathers wanted a church state isn’t important. What happened is pivotal, nothing else. Give the kids the facts, and let them sort out whether or not the nation was build on the backs of purely Caucasian, god-fearing whites, or if it was a more intricate, nuanced combination of hard work, stunning revolutions in economic and political thought along with a bit of luck in the domestic and international theaters.