By Cary Brunswick
It seems the battles over school curriculums are becoming as relentless in this country as are the sectarian and terrorist wars in the Middle East.
Debates over the Common Core national curriculum still rage as many educators and parents want more local control over teaching methods and less high-stakes testing.
Last year, there were the educational squabbles over the advanced history courses in states such as Colorado and Texas. This year, those fights are moving into other states and also other subject areas as conservatives take on the role of aggressor rather than defender.
The AP history curriculum instituted last year provides more focus on the history of North American and all its peoples, while the critics insists it downplays the achievements of colonists in subduing the New World and establishing a nation. Now, however, conservatives aren’t waiting to react, they are going on the offensive.
In Florida, for example, two state lawmakers are pushing their colleagues to require eighth- and eleventh-grade students to watch a twisted right-wing documentary about American history.
Can you imagine trying to put a more-positive spin on slavery and the genocide of Native Americans? Well, that’s what Dinesh D’Souza’s ``America: Imagine the World Without Her’’ attempts to do as it accuses President Obama, Hillary Clinton, our schools and liberals in general of trying to destroy the country.
A sponsor of the Florida bill, state Sen. Alan Hayes, told the Fort Myers News-Press that ``our parents and our school board members have not kept up with the misrepresentation of American history that is being perpetrated in our school system, and this movie gives a totally different view."
It sure does, so let’s hope Florida lawmakers have enough sense to spare students from being forced to watch the film -- not once, but twice.
Apparently, not even science class is immune to the onslaught of conservative meddling in school curriculum. But, this time, it’s not about evolution vs. the Bible, but climate change.
The guidelines for K-12 science education have not been updated since 1996. With the rapid advances in scientific research, proposed modernizations, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, are overdue and have been developed by education groups led by the National Research Council.
The guidelines are the first to address climate change and, as you might expect, are controversial because they treat climate changes as scientific facts caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.
Given the ridiculous denials perpetrated by some politicians, I guess it only follows that education leaders in some states would be touting their skepticism about climate change and its link to pollution.
The latest state to haggle over the curriculum is West Virginia, where the state Board of Education has toggled between approving the guidelines and changing them to reflect the view that climate change is not fact and especially not necessarily caused by human activity.
The West Virginia Science Teachers Association and Climate Parents, an organization dedicated to ensuring that the scientific consensus on climate change is taught in schools, rightly criticized the state’s attempts to change the proposed guidelines.
The consensus of the scientific community, not only in the U.S. but also globally, is that climate change is occurring and that all the gases and particles we’ve been spewing into the atmosphere for centuries are a primary cause.
Lisa Hoyos, director and co-founder of the national activist group Climate Parents, has said that even though a state’s science educators were involved in updating the guidelines, ``they go home and the politics win out. Kids are caught in the crossfire.’’
For sure, just as with the controversy over the Common Core and high-stakes testing, the students are caught in middle of fights that have educators, politicians and parents unable to agree on what should be taught in schools – and how it should be presented.
It seems the ideological warfare so acute in Washington and state capitals in recent decades has worked its way into debates over school curriculum. Of course, that’s bound to occur when you want to have national standards that fit all schools.
However, that does not mean we should return to states and localities setting their own standards. After all, it was the lagging of educational systems in many regions of the country that led to the push for national standards.
And, just think, you could end up with students learning that climate change is a fiction and hearing that slavery was not such a bad thing.