Is American Civic Ignorance at an All-Time High?

Recently A Newsweek study showed that more than one-third of American adults are unable to pass the U.S. citizenship test, according to their survey results. According to the result, perhaps the most astonishing find, 29% of respondents couldn’t name the current vice president of the United States; 44% were could not define the Bill of Rights; 6% had no idea what day Independence Day (the Fourth of July) took place on a calendar, and 73% couldn’t correctly say why America fought the Cold War. (Though interested to see what the correct answer was! Are we losing our history and therefore how do we know ourselves and what our “Empire of Liberty” is about?

Civic ignorance, writes Newsweek‘s Anthony Romano, is nothing new. But in today’s globalized economy, a lack of basic knowledge about basic history and public affairs is damaging America’s ability to compete with foreign countries such as China, India, and Oregon.

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Has Obama Betrayed Educators and Teacher Unions?

The headlines recently stated: “Obama calls for less standardized testing” and “Obama says too much testing makes education boring”. Yet No Child Left Behind legislation that mandates all the standardized testing is still in place! Not sure where I am on this as I kind of agree with the President that we are so focused on teaching to tests that we take the exploratory nature of history (and learning) and throw it away. This also goes for AP Testing as well. But recently I had a discussion with my Principle who told me they no longer care about AP scores and want maximum enrollment; meaning to slow it down and reduce the work. The reasoning? The more AP students there are the higher the graduation rate. I think I am finally on board with this and am freed from the driven system of go-go-go. I am going to next year stop and, if you will, smell the roses. Allow for my student to do some deep exploring with historical topics. I have had to cover an incredible amount information and it, indeed, takes the fun out of it. Yet, I do understand those who say we need to measure learning and success.

As an educator in a public school the day Obama was elected there was much adulation that this would mean the end to NCLB (No Child Left Behind). Most teachers (and the Union), it seems, voted for him because they believed he would reverse the NCLB legislation of George W. Bush and the Republicans. According to current NCLB legislation, 100 percent of students had to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. When this first came out, pure astonishment by us public school educators. But, we hunkered down and are doing our best. From the rural communities of Colorado to the inner cities of Chicago, NCLB is not achieving the success it so promised. You can either blame the educators, the system, or the students, I guess. One article even describes it as Obama’s War on Schools.

As one journalist noted,

The theory behind NCLB was that schools would improve dramatically if every child in grades 3 to 8 were tested every year and the results made public. Texas did exactly this, and advocates claimed it had seen remarkable results: test scores went up, the achievement gap between students of different races was closing, and graduation rates rose. At the time, a few scholars questioned the claims of a “Texas miracle,” but Congress didn’t listen.

A recent study showed that 216 Vermont Schools Fail To Meet Federal Standards. The consequences could be school closings. In fact, Eighty-two percent of schools in the U.S. are not meeting the NCLB standards. Indeed, not even close, and inner-city school districts are perhaps feeling the most heat.

As 2014 nears, tens of thousands of schools have been stigmatized as failures, thousands of educators have been fired, and schools that were once the anchors of their communities are closing, replaced in many cases by privately managed schools. NCLB turns out to be a timetable for the destruction of public education.

With the economy in such dire straights and with the political gridlock in Washington, it is doubtful that anyone will have the political will to truly tackle the issue. Yes, recently, U.S. education secretary called for overhaul of No Child Left Behind. With a Republican dominated House of Representatives don’t count on any significant change to NCLB. And that disappoints me, I was one of those cheering that the Democratic Congress and President would do away with NCLB and fast. BUT, they did not!

So the question, Has Obama Betrayed Educators and Teacher Unions?, is valid but missing the mark. Frankly, I doubt there will be any serious movement on this. I don’t want to throw billions of dollars at it again, it never sticks and the test scores never really change.

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“Agitate + Aggravate + Educate + Organize”

Had a reader point me to the NEA (National Education Association) website this morning. (As a public school teacher I can’t tweet, blog, facebook, at all hours of the day unlike some on here! I have to teach 32+ students per class from 7:30 to 2:50, then it’s coaching and after school activities. So sorry so late on this.) I digress!

I never thunk to visit the NEA and peruse their recommended reading lists for EDUCATORS, just never occurred to me that there would be anything there to suggest that SOME members of the NEA MIGHT be proponents of Social Justice and also teaching the doctrines of Saul Alinsky. Who is Alinsky you say? Well he “wrote the book on American radicalism.” So why would the NEA have on their 2009 “Recommended Reading” one Saul Alinsky, and his Leftist classic: “The American Organizer”?

I know, it baffles many that this would even be an issue. The other two Recommended Readings: The Introvert Advantage and The Thin Book of Naming don’t sound or look like Conservative Classics. Now if one of them was an extreme Right Wing book by say Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity or, gasp, Glenn Beck, you could argue that the suggested readings have balance. I still would say none of these should be “Recommended Readings.” I don’t pull out Glenn Beck’s Arguing with Idiots and spout from it or quote it! Have never purchased a book or read a book by any of the three. Yes, Mr. Levin, hard to imagine. (Note they do mention so-called “conservative radical” Michael Patrick Leahy’s, Rules for Conservative Radicals. But in an off hand way and not as a recommended reading and good, sounds like more of the same, but from the Right. Don’t want that either!)

But is the NEA asking SOME educators to do just the very thing with Alinsky? I wish we just had to deal with Social Justice proponents, this guy makes them look like boy scouts.

I know. No big deal. That this has nothing to do with what is going on in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan and maybe even to a city capital near you!, is naive at best.

All the NEA is asking of its members that they: “will discern from Alinsky’s books grassroots organizing strategies that will best help us bring our members together around the common goal of improving public education.” Sounds great, all for it! Yup, improving public education!

Let’s take a look, shall we!

From the NEA website:

Alinsky, the master political agitator, tactical planner and social organizer didn’t mince words…

“Liberals in their meetings utter bold works; they strut, grimace belligerently, and then issue a weasel-worded statement ‘which has tremendous implications, if read between the lines.’ They sit calmly, dispassionately, studying the issue; judging both sides; they sit and still sit.

“The Radical does not sit frozen by cold objectivity. He sees injustice and strikes at it with hot passion. He is a man of decision and action. There is a saying that the Liberal is one who walks out of the room when the argument turns into a fight.

“Society has good reason to fear the Radical. Every shaking advance of mankind toward equality and justice has come from the Radical. He hits, he hurts, he is dangerous. Conservative interests know that while Liberals are most adept at breaking their own necks with their tongues, Radicals are most adept at breaking the necks of Conservatives.

“Radicals precipitate the social crisis by action – by using power. Liberals may then timidly follow along or else, as in most cases, be swept forward along the course set by Radicals, but all because of forces unloosed by Radical action. They are forced to positive action only in spite of their desires …

“breaking the necks of Conservatives”… hmm.

Alinsky is an admitted radical who would absolutely support SOME teachers who blatantly left their jobs, lied about being sick, and encourage their students to “Agitate” with them. I know, I know, how could anyone have such a mindset!? Clearly I have issues. Clearly I am “disgraceful.” They are just striking, er, protesting for their rights.

More from the NEA website:

Alinsky devised and proved thirteen tactical rules for use against opponents vastly superior in power and wealth.

1. “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
2. “Never go outside the experience of your people.
3. “Wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy.
4. “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
6. “A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
8. “Keep the pressure on.
9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
10. “Major premise for tactics is development of operations that will maintain constant pressure upon the opposition.
11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.
12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it

For Alinsky it is about: “Agitate + Aggravate + Educate + Organize.” Looks and sounds a lot like what I have seen on the news recently.

Great, just what we need to be recommending that our educators teach, or use or whatever it is SOME do with this great stuff!

LOTS OF QUESTIONS! Why does the NEA promote such a man and such a “radical” (their words not mine) ideology?

Look at the language in the above 13 tactical rules that the NEA is supporting: “Enemy”, “ridicule”, “pressure”, “threat”, “terrifying”!

Sounds like the new civility some people are talking about. This is not the reading that makes for better teachers or students. And is that even the goal here for SOME?

Do we want SOME (ALL, NONE?) OF our educators teaching… using…this?

Do we want SOME OF our teachers more concerned with activism than, I don’t know, proper education?

COULD THIS be PART of the reason why our education system is failing? You tell me!

I know, I know, conspiracy theorist and hate monger…. this is all simply harmless.

Mr. Levin?


Taking Teachers and Teacher Unions to Task

The new civility on display in Madison, Wisconsin has given me as a teacher pause. As a teacher I have to be held to the utmost level of integrity, do I not? I spend 8 hours a day with other people’s children; often more time than the parents do. I encourage students to work hard, be honest, and disciplined. As a history teacher I point to the nature of our democracy where majority rules, and that elections are to be taken serious as they indeed, as our esteemed President noted, “have consequences.” Yet in Wisconsin teachers have decided to use what is a teachable moment, and demonstrate that lying, banter, and at times, incivility should be used when one does not get what one wants. But none of this should be surprising when we look at how educators are taught today and how they are encouraged to be exemplars of Social Justice and to teach for Social Change. (If you want more on Teaching for Social Justice please click the category tag above). For example, one e-newsletter I receive was very clear on how we should interpret and use the Labor unrest in Wisconsin. The publication offered this quote:

“If teacher unions want to be strong and well-supported, it’s essential that they not only be teacher unionists but teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movement of teachers for their rights.”

Howard Zinn in an interview with Bob Peterson for Transforming Teacher Unions

“…teachers of unionism”? Really!

Today’s teacher unions and educators in America, in public schools, are failing their students and for multiple reasons; some of which have nothing to do with the teachers. But some aspects of this failure have to do with bad teachers and ones that have agendas. Take the literature that is being promoted by the late Howard Zinn and other radicals. In some Universities and Colleges we are producing activists and not educators, and this explains what is happening in Wisconsin. Those who willing lied, took phony sick notes from unscrupulous doctors, and railed against the democratic system, are sending students the wrong message and setting the wrong example. You want to protest, do it after school or on the weekends. Want to organize peacefully, fine. In trying to come up with an editorial on this subject I found another teacher who also had issues with what was happening in Wisconsin, so instead of my own words I’ll let her speak:

To the editor:

When did getting one’s political way justify lying, cheating and disrupting the legal political process? As a teacher and a parent, I always found that example was the strongest teaching tool there was. I will speak only to the teachers and politicians in Wisconsin since those are the people with whom I am identified. What kind of example are you setting?

I was horrified watching teachers accept “sick” notes handed out indiscriminately on the street. In effect they are saying, “I’m well enough to stand in the cold and protest politically, but I’m too sick to be in my classroom.”

What would that same teacher call a student’s note of that sort? A lie. That lie also breaks the contract those teachers signed with their schools and the taxpayers who fund them. Cheating. One teachers’ union official was filmed saying, “Our first interest is in educating our children,” yet he supported abandoning classrooms in favor of seeking political ends. Might I add hypocrisy to my list?

Finally, the duly elected officials, elected by a majority of all the people in their districts, are so afraid of or complicit with this vocal sector that they abdicate their sworn duty to uphold the constitutional law of this country and go into hiding, disrupting the lawful process.

I won’t comment on the merits of either side of the political argument, but when the belief that the end justifies the means becomes prevalent, the rule of law disappears. Historically, the next step is anarchy. From the title of an Alan Paton novel, “Cry the Beloved Country.”

Anne Paradis


B4H > Soldier Studies > Civil War Voices

I will contact who I can, but please update your Civil War blogrolls and remove Blog4History and add my Civil War blog: Civil War Voices @ my Civil War soldier letters archive:

B4H is becoming less and less a Civil War blog so I would appreciate you passing the word. Thanks much!


Americans Say Reagan Is the Greatest U.S. President

I love President’s Day as three day weekends this time of year are always welcomed! And to send it off right, I want to share the results of a new Gallup poll that asked Americans who the nation’s great president was. The results were interesting. Now remember, these are just average folks, not scholars, historians and other intellectuals who know better. However, according to the poll “Americans are most likely to say Ronald Reagan was the nation’s greatest president — slightly ahead of Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton. Reagan, Lincoln, or John F. Kennedy has been at the top of this “greatest president” list each time this question has been asked in eight surveys over the last 12 years.”


How will the Recent Unrest in Wisconsin be Remembered?

President Obama, after winning the White House in 2008 proclaimed that “Elections have consequences.” But perhaps we should place an asterisk there and add “Democratic victories only” have consequences. Wisconsin elected a Republican and he is doing what Republicans do. How uncivil for these protestors to not accept the verdict! I wonder if they will be treated like the Tea Party Protests were in the wake of the Obama Election?

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker is attempting to address a serious budget issue in Wisconsin, one of many states that are frankly broke. Wisconsin is $3 billion in debt. (By the way has he once blamed his predecessor?) Among numerous things, the state is simply asking state employees pay a little for their own health care (could care less about the impact on the Unions); as they pay nothing. I’ll repeat that: nothing. I pay almost $700 a month for health care (not complaining by the way, think everyone should pay for their own care.) As a teacher I took a pay cut last year. Did I protest? No. Happy to have a job. And remember, the Left is supposed to be the party of compassion and caring. I don’t see how not going to work and its impact on the children displays their compassion. Do these teachers realize if Walker gives in and does not cut spending he has already told them 20,000 state employees lose their jobs?

I watched the protests this past week in Madison, Wisconsin, and I was stunned by the lack of civility, especially after the shooting in Arizona where the Left found it very easy to blame the Right and preach about needing a “new discourse.” Here’s some of the new civility the Left is delivering:

Some areas of the news are calling the unrest in Wisconsin and elsewhere a “Progressive Revolution.” The Progressive Era Part Two.
MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan seemed to suggest just such a thing. “Are things in our country so bad that it might actually be time for a revolution?” Ratigan asked. “The answer obviously is yes,” he added, and “the only question is how to do it.” has an article proclaiming Why FDR would support the Wisconsin protests, and of course he would. Just look at his New Deal legislation.

I think what is happening in Wisconsin represents the decline of American Exceptionalism (if it even still exists.) State employees having to help pay for their health insurance, my God. Teachers calling in sick so they and their students can protest. These are tough times.

So instead of students being in school and learning in Wisconsin, they are in the streets carrying signs of SOLIDARITY. What does this teach them?

I have no doubt some will report the growing unrest of Unions and the protest over spending cuts as a worker’s unite kind of progressive movement.

Now, a bit of hyperbole on my part? Sensationalism? Sure. Those are but a handful of idoits in the crowd. But the question still stands, How will the unrest in Wisconsin and perhaps elsewhere be remembered?

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Would today’s Tea Party have Opposed the U.S. Constitution?

David Sehat has an interesting commentary over at the CS Monitor concerning today’s Tea Party and the U.S. Constitution.

 The Federalists wanted a strong central government that could correct the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. Men such as Alexander Hamilton sought a powerful central force that could control inter-state commerce and assert direct taxes, something that today’s Tea Party members would certainly have an issue with.

The states-rights, neo-secessionist, small-government ideologues who seem to have taken over the Republican Party might have a coherent political philosophy. But their views align less with the constitutional framers than with their opponents, the Antifederalists.

Those Tea Party members that understand our history, and in particular the Constitutional debate that followed the Convention, would undoubtedly be Antifederalists. Thomas Jefferson is more of a reflection of Today’s Conservatives and especially the Tea Party than is Alexander Hamilton.

My only concern is those who think that the Tea Party participants should be Federalists at heart. Seems they are the ones who are misconstruing history. Today’s Democratic/Left wants a stronger Federal government.


Social Justice in Egypt?

Now that the situation in Egypt has essentially ended in a military coup, what will this latest Middle East Revolution ascend or descend into? Some say Western style Democracy. Others say a Sharia Law Theocracy. Is this movement a bottom up democratic one or something triggered by the Muslim Brotherhood? Who knows, hopefully some kind of democracy. But here’s a photo (one of many I have seen) that is in English and has a very interesting message. Why Social Justice!? Hmm….

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French President Declares Multiculturalism a Failure

I remember an article by historian Eric Foner posted at HNN after 9/11. Foner hoped we could re-think how we teach American history and that he worried about the “self-absorbed, super-celebratory history promoted in the aftermath of September 11 – a history lacking in nuance and complexity — will not enable students to make sense of our increasingly interconnected world.”

For Foner, and many other historians, “scholars [need] to deprovincialize the study of American history.” However, this “Internationalizing” of our history did not mean to abandon or “homogenizing the particular experience of the United States.” Foner wanted scholars and educators to avoid projecting the so-called American Exceptionalism on the world and to avoid the divisive nature of labels such as “the West.” It was a well written and stimulating article with much validity.

The movement for more multiculturalism has been very popular in certain intellectual and educational circles in America and abroad. It is very prevalent in Social Justice education/teaching, though warped as it is. Do I have a problem with multiculturalism? No, not the idea of it, but with the implementation of it, at times, I do. It can drive teaching that not just emphasizes the problematic aspects of American history, but creates an educational environment where the “nuance and complexity” that is sought becomes indoctrination and ideological. Things like America as a “melting pot” and the idea of “Americanization” become examples of American hypocrisy and depredation.

So with this in mind the following proclamation by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy (note the label of “right-wing”):

French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Thursday that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

“My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure,” he said in a television interview when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.

“Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want… a society where communities coexist side by side.

“If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France,” the right-wing president said.

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