Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is There a "Hidden Agenda" Behind the Push for a Mandatory National Curriculum?

If there's one lesson that all of us Americans should've learned from political events in recent decades, it's that we cannot automatically trust the government to tell its citizens the truth about the reasons behinds its actions. Regardless of one's personal political affiliation, it's easy to find examples where those in power have behaved deceitfully. Power seems to corrupt those on both sides of the aisle, and in all levels from local to national.

There's a very interesting entry to the 96th Carnival of Homeschooling entitled "Define the government, don't be defined by it: 10 ways that schools shape students" from the "Culture Slave" blog. The author makes some thought-provoking points about how government-run schools control the population by their influence over children. He writes:

If the government shapes us as children, how can we be expected to shape the government as adults? When we give the government the power to determine our upbringing, we give the government the power to limit our understanding of the law.

A look at our society shows what happens when the government has this kind of power; we end up with a politically apathetic populace that is alienated from the legal system that acts on it’s behalf. Only a minority of people become politically involved — the vast majority passively accepts whatever nonsense the government spews out.

Pretty scary stuff, huh? In the U.S. the political agenda of government-run schools may not be as blatant as it was in the U.S.S.R. or what Hugo Chavez is attempting in Venezuela. But it's there nonetheless:

Schools teach students that it’s natural for authority figures to tell them what to think about. They have to study what the government tells them to study when the government tells them to study it. They have to read what they’re told to read when they’re told to read it. They have to listen to what they’re told to listen to when they’re told to listen to it. In this way, students learn that it’s normal to entertain the thoughts that government employees tell them to entertain. Schools give students tunnel vision. By controlling what students spend their days thinking about, they have considerable influence over what students don’t spend their days thinking about. The power of omission is a dangerous thing in the hands of the government.

I blogged last week about my objections to E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s call for a mandatory national curriculum. I touched briefly on the issue of control but the "Culture Slave" post has made me wonder about what hidden agenda may be driving the push to nationalize the curriculum. Is it really based out of a benign concern about varying quality of education or is there something more sinister going on? Who stands to gain from greater Federal government control over education? Is the next step beyond a mandatory national curriculum a mandatory international curriculum such as the International Baccalaureate program?

Consider the newly introduced IB theme "Sharing our Humanity". Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Well, consider the political implications of teaching impressionable young minds about the following topics:
  • The fight against poverty
  • Peace keeping, conflict prevention, and combating terrorism
  • Education for all
  • Global infectious disease
  • Digital divide
  • Natural disaster prevention and mitigation.
Now, nobody is in favor of poverty, war, infectious disease, natural disasters, etc. Obviously, we all want to eliminate these tragedies but the $64,000 question is how to do so. Do you trust some committee of educrats in Belgium to decide how these highly contentious issues are framed to young, impressionable minds? Somehow I don't think they'll be given a fair & balanced treatment so that children can carefully consider all competing viewpoints before deciding for themselves where they stand.

The ironic thing is that a common criticism of homeschooling is the belief that home educated children will not have an opportunity to learn about different viewpoints. Here's a quote from Professor Robert Reich of Stanford University from a segment last January about homeschooling on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:

If parents can control every aspect of a kid's education, shield them from exposure to the things that the parents deem sinful or objectionable, screen in only the things which accord to their convictions, and not allow them exposure to the world of a democracy, will the children group up then basically in the own image of their parents, servile to their own parents' beliefs?

One could just as easily substitute the word "government" for "parents" and make the exact same argument about traditional public schools. So the objection isn't truly about indoctrination, it's about who gets to have the control over children- their parents or the state?

It's pretty clear where God stands on the issue. The 4th Commandment (or 5th if you're Jewish or Protestant) says to "Honor your father and mother" and throughout both the Old & New Testaments there are numerous references to parental authority (Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:1, and so on). The only reference I can think of to state authority is the famous "render unto Caesar" passage in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, & Luke. That passage specifically distinguishes state authority from God's authority and warns about the dangers of collaborating too closely with a godless government.

1 comment:

deb said...

Great article and I whole heartedly agree. One of the reasons that I homeschool is because I want my children to be able to think for themselves.