Ground Zero: Taking Back the Schools, UPDATE: Latham Wins!

UPDATE: Chalk one up for the good guys—Mr. Latham has his job back!

Newsbusters and Fox News have the scoop (video from this morning’s Fox & Friends interview here) on Tim Latham, a high school social studies teacher who contends he’s been let go from his job merely for being a conservative.  Latham’s crimes:

– Not showing Barack Obama’s inauguration in class—never mind that he never has, and says he never would, shown video of any presidential inauguration.  Good to know that kneeling before Zod is now part of the job description.

– Having an overly-patriotic website, which states his goal to get students “to love your country, live the experiences of those who came before — to truly love the American way of life,” links to hotbeds of right-wing extremism like…uh, West Point and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and stories about terrorist attacks (which he was forced to remove).  Weird…it’s as if he thinks he’s teaching American kids or something…

– Putting a McCain-Palin bumper sticker on his car.  Doesn’t he realize that Sarah Palin is Potemkin symbolism?

His students love him and have gone to bat for him, and even the liberal kids insist he never forced his views on them.  School officials have reportedly admitted that they violated union procedures for firing teachers, and his colleagues have berated him for supporting “that woman” (hmm, that phrase sounds familiar…).  There’s nothing wrong with trying to instill honest patriotism in students—in fact, that’s precisely what a social studies teacher should do.

As far as I can tell, this is straight-up ideological persecution.  Public schools around the country are firmly in the grip of the Left—left-wing indoctrination and persecution are commonplace, and often take forms far more sinister than “to love your country.”

Make no mistake, this stuff goes on at our very own Fond du Lac High School, too.  Four of my five social studies teachers were very good and very fair, but one was a rabid antiwar, anti-Scott McCallum propagandists.  My AP English teacher had a reputation as a bitter left-wing fanatic, whose rants about Vietnam, George Bush, religion, and more would leave our class days behind schedule.  I know of a science teacher who told his students not to trust Fox News, and of another English teacher who railed against Bush (the same teacher who complained to school administration that I once uttered the phrase “God Bless America” on the intercom—which the principal later lied about).

And even when teachers aren’t pushing an agenda, textbooks often offer a flawed, biased view of American history and politics.  Some examples:

American Civics, Constitution Edition (1987) accepts the fatuous concept of the living Constitution as a given, characterizes the “Necessary & Proper” clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as “allow[ing] Congress to take many actions not named in the Constitution,” never mentioning the substantial dispute over its nature early in our history, warns that “Many of [the problems in America’s schools] are caused by lack of money,” and makes no mention of the Federalist Papers.

America’s History, Fourth Edition (2000, Bedford/St. Martin’s) presents then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan as a mild, market-based solution to healthcare reform (no), wildly mischaracterizes Sen. Joe McCarthy as a lying demagogue (no), dismisses Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative as unrealistic (no), and outrageously asserts that Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas were ignored only because there weren’t enough women in the Senate (no).

The American Pageant, Twelfth Edition (2001), the history book used in Fond du Lac High School’s AP US History courses during the 05/06 school year, also engages in vicious McCarthy revisionism, going so far as to impugn McCarthy’s military record as “trumped up,” characterizes one of Osama bin Laden’s grievances as America’s “support for Israel’s hostility to Palestinian nationalism,” adds a note into the text of the Second Amendment (“the right of the people to keep and bear arms [i.e., for military purposes] shall not be infringed”), and downplays the religiosity of the Framers, leaving their beliefs on religion’s societal importance unmentioned.

In Vindicating Lincoln, Hillsdale College Political Science Professor Thomas Krannawitter writes:

I recently led a civic education workshop for middle and high school teachers during which I presented the different views of the Framers of the Constitution offered by Abraham Lincoln [who said the Framers believed slavery to be evil and wanted to end it] and Chief Justice Roger Taney [who said they never meant for the Declaration of Independence to include blacks, whom they saw as little more than property…] After analyzing numerous original source documents from Lincoln, Taney, and the Founders, one of the teachers raised his hand in exasperation, explaining that for twenty-five years he had been teaching American government, and all along he had unknowingly been teaching Taney’s view of the Founding, not Lincoln’s.  He went on to explain that he had not taught Lincoln’s view because he had never encountered it, that all the American history and government textbooks simply parroted Taney’s groundless description of the Founders, and that he felt cheated by his own (mis)education.

There is some evidence that leftist thinking is even embedded into the training of modern teachers—the 1993 edition of School & Society, a textbook for teacher education, paints a grim picture of a country in which the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer (one can just imagine what other goodies lie inside).

The Left’s stranglehold on education is going almost completely unchallenged, which is one of the Right’s greatest failings, and nothing less than a dereliction of duty by federal, state, and local Republican parties.  No attempt to truly advance conservative ideas or repair the damage the Left has done to this country will be complete without a full-blown offensive to restore integrity, accuracy, and fair-mindedness to the schools.  Millions of children are being taught to accept at face value false premises about our form of government, historical falsehoods presented as fact, a laundry list of supposed sins tarnishing the image of their country, and other core tenets of liberalism.  As documented by David Limbaugh and Jay Sekulow & Keith Fournier, bigotry towards students’ mild, benign religious expression is commonplace.

Morally, this situation is intolerable, and demands a vigorous opposition.  But conservatives also need to realize that any effort to make the conservative case in the media or during campaigns will be at a major disadvantage as long as major portions of its audience are receiving that message through the prism of their miseducation.  Converts to the Right will be won from time to time, but many more will unwittingly adopt and internalize tenets of the Left through their taxpayer-funded miseducation.

Conservatives need to watch their school districts with a fine toothed comb.  Pay attention to what your kids encounter.  Follow the school board meetings, whether in person or on local public access television.  Go to your schools’ libraries, and see what books are and aren’t there, and in what proportion (find out if your district keeps their libraries’ catalogs computerized).  Examine the textbooks used in class every chance you get (such as when new ones are up for adoption—the FdL School District has announced that community members can review a group of new books, including 5 social studies texts, until June 22).  Whenever cause for concern arises, pursue it, offer your support to those involved, demand answers from the officials, and raise awareness however you can—newspaper letters, emails, townhall meetings, you name it.  Pay attention to what kids are saying on, and don’t be afraid to contribute.

In a future post, I will create a list of key falsehoods and omissions in class curriculums, and other school practices, that parents, students, and other concerned citizens should watch out for.

Granted, taking a stand against liberal indoctrination is a guaranteed way to incur the wrath of the establishment, demonized as obsessed, petty, hateful, on a vendetta to destroy education itself, with no consideration “for the children.”  It takes courage and fortitude to withstand one of the Left’s trademark intimidation campaigns.  It’s a lot to ask of any individual, which is why organizations like local GOPs ought to take the lead.  We need parties brave enough to risk the invective and take up this fight and citizens who will urge their parties to take action.  If local Republican establishments cannot be spurred to action, we need concerned citizens willing to make this stand on their own.  Making enemies is never easy, but those who want to heal this country, advance conservatism, or restore the power and credibility of the Republican Party have no choice.


Why Sotomayor Is Wrong for the Court, & What the GOP Should Do About It

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is exactly the kind of person you don’t want on the Supreme Court.  Her infamous (and recurrent) “hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life” is a clear sign that she sees issues and situations through a racial, identity-politics prism.  Her comment that the US Court of Appeals “is where policy is made” speaks for itself.  Apologists have tried to explain these statements away as if they were detached, self-evident observations about the way things are, not the way she wants them to be.  But that won’t do—we already have examples of both ideas polluting her judicial analysis.

She opposes capital punishment on the grounds that it “is associated with evident racism in our society” and once claimed that, after reviewing “the current literature of the past two years, no publications have been found that challenge the evidence and the rationale presented in opposition to the death penalty.”  She has complained that her 1998 appellate confirmation was delayed due to racism: “I was dealt with on the basis of stereotypes . . . and it was painful . . . and not based on my record…I got a label because I was Hispanic and a woman and [therefore] I had to be liberal.” However, her racial sensitivity doesn’t extend to white and Hispanic firefighters denied promotions on the basis of their race.  She looks at the phrase, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” and somehow concludes that “the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.”  She acknowledges that her judicial analysis is influenced in part by “foreign law and the international community.”

In America’s system of checks and balances, the purpose of the judicial branch is “to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws,” as Hamilton writes in Federalist 78.  He goes on to write that judges are to have an “inflexible and uniform adherence to the rights of the Constitution, and of individuals.”  The duty of a judge is to discern the plain meaning and original intent of the law.  Opinions regarding what the law should be—preferences for which policies to adopt and which to repeal—are for the elected representatives of the people to debate and enact.  Why would we even dream of giving policymaking power to unelected magistrates with lifetime offices?

Anyone familiar with the Framers’ thinking, from Federalist 10 to Washington’s Farewell Address, can attest to their belief in the importance of national unity and pursuing the common interest, and in the dangers of factional division along regional, ethnic, cultural, or religious lines.  The idea that it’s even legitimate, much less desirable, for a judge to view legal matters through any sort of racial or identity-politics prism would have been utterly alien to them.  The law is what it is, regardless of its observer, and the mark of a great judge is the ability to look beyond one’s personal baggage and prejudices to seek the truth.

Sonia Sotomayor fails this test, and her nomination doesn’t speak well of the judicial philosophy of the president who nominated her (especially considering that Obama once taught constitutional law).  As a matter of principle, her nomination ought to be opposed—but thanks to the Republican moderation mentality, that’s another can of worms.  The standard reaction to Sotomayor’s known failings by Republicans making the cable news rounds seems to be, “it’s troubling, but let’s see what she has to say during the hearings.”  Translation: “Yeah, we know it looks bad, but we don’t want to make any commitments because we’re scared that we might alienate the Hispanic vote further” (because pandering to liberal Hispanics worked out so well last year).

This is absurd.  Cowardly failure to draw clear distinctions between themselves and the Democrats got Republicans into this mess, and it’s not going to get them out of it.  The idea that whatever Sotomayor says during her job interview should carry more weight than her record is ridiculous.  And I don’t understand the idea that an opposition to this Supreme Court nominee will somehow deplete the “ammo” Republicans will need to battle the next nominee, or the idea that this battle is less important, since she’s just filling a seat that was occupied by another liberal anyway, and fighting isn’t ultimately going to keep her off the court.

Regardless of whether or not Sotomayor becomes a Justice, Republicans need to loudly oppose her nomination, for two reasons.  First, the base cannot be expected to keep fighting for Republicans if Republicans cannot be expected to fight for them.  Second, a fight over Sotomayor’s failings is an opportunity to bring attention to the underlying constitutional issues and principles at stake, which you cannot expect unconvinced Americans to adopt if you only mention them in passing during campaign season.  We always hear about the need to have a “national discussion” over this or that issue.  Well, here’s your chance.  Discuss.

America’s Christian Heritage

My latest letter to the Fond du Lac Reporter:

George Ciesla’s April 19 letter illustrates a growing problem in America: severe confusion over our nation’s identity.  Is America a “Christian nation”?  What does that phrase even mean?  Let’s try to set the record straight.

As of 2008, 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians [PDF link].  Accordingly, Christianity has shaped American life since the beginning.  So “Christian nation” is a perfectly legitimate descriptive term.

Furthermore, we are founded in significant part upon the Christian idea that every person is created equal, loved equally by the God who made us all.  In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said government’s purpose is to secure the inalienable rights “endowed [on us] by our Creator.”  In his Farewell Address, George Washington called religion an “indispensable support” to political prosperity, warning us not “to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”  Ben Franklin proposed opening the Philadelphia Convention each day with prayer, because he believed that “God governs in the affairs of men,” and he feared the prospect of forming a government solely “by Human Wisdom, and leav[ing] it to chance, war, and conquest.”

In his landmark work Democracy in America, French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville explained that democracy tends to cause each person “to be occupied with himself alone,” but religion combats self-centered narcissism by drawing man “away from contemplation of himself” and imposing “some duties toward the human species or in common with it.”  Modern research demonstrates Tocqueville’s point—in Who Really Cares, Syracuse University Professor Arthur Brooks finds that “religious people are far more charitable than nonreligious people.”

Were all the Framers Christians?  No, but many were, and even those who didn’t accept Christ (namely Franklin and Jefferson) believed in a higher power and recognized religion’s importance to any free society.  Nobody familiar with their writings can deny this—many, many more examples can be found in books such as America’s God & Country Encyclopedia of Quotations by William Federer and God of Our Fathers by Josiah Richards.

To deny America’s Christian heritage, revisionists often cite the Treaty of Tripoli, which states America is “not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”  What they don’t tell you: the treaty was an (unsuccessful) effort to appease the Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast (to whom President John Adams also agreed to pay protection money) attacking American ships at the time—hardly comparable to the scores of public statements and private correspondences that reveal the mark of faith in our forefathers’ thinking, not the least of which is our very Declaration of Independence!

True, the Constitution does not mention God.  True, we have a separation of church and state.  But both statements are irrelevant.  Mr. Ciesla mishears the phrase “Christian nation” as “Christian theocracy” or “Christian government,” but it means neither.  It’s a statement about our ideals, history and culture—not our government.  Maybe the problem is liberalism’s view of government: they idealize it as the solution to everyone’s problems, so they cannot imagine that any part of the nation can be considered separately from the state.

The Founders guaranteed freedom of religion and conscience for all Americans, and rightly so.  They wanted to prevent the state from persecuting churches and churches from oppressing the people, but despite what today’s secular revisionists may tell you, they never intended to keep religion stuffed inside pews and living rooms, never to be seen in the public square.  They never meant to purge religious thought and speech from political debate.  There’s nothing “prejudiced” about telling the truth about our heritage…but there is something “un-American” about suppressing it.