Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life in an American Fourth Grade: America's Swan Song?

By Barry Rubin

It's the end of the school year so I should sum up my son's experience in a public school American fourth grade class. Different school districts vary a great deal. But in this one the students basically learned three things in social studies: America has been racist and done a lot of bad things; man-made global warming threatens the future of the planet; and immigration is good.

Abraham Lincoln was never discussed; George Washington got his ten minutes of fame; and Memorial Day was dispensed with by reading a photocopy of a short Washington Post article giving a brief and general explanation of its significance.

Just after Memorial Day, during a free activity period, a teacher looked in horror at my son's notebook. He was drawing pictures of soldiers. The notebook pages were confiscated with the warning that he should never draw anything like that again.

War, of course, is a terrible thing. But along with that lesson should be another one: You have to fight to defend your freedom at times, and those who have done their duty to country are to be praised even more because their task has been so hard. All that pompous, self-righteous pacifism a lot of kids are being taught in America today merely means that others will have to fight and risk their lives to defend those unwilling or incapable of doing so.

Ironically, the smug upper middle class parents teaching their children such things, expressing horror at anything to do with guns or soldiers, while at the same time talking about their devotion to the poor and downtrodden, are just insisting that working class and "poor and downtrodden" kids do the work for them. And those who have received the most benefits from America, its prosperity and freedom, are raining insults on their beneficiary.

We ended the year with a discussion of the songs my son's class had studied. They sang "America the Beautiful" twice but spent a lot of time on "We Shall Overcome." Suddenly, a thought popped into my mind and I asked my son:

"Did you learn the `Star Spangled Banner'?" He looked puzzled.

My daughter helpfully sang, "You know, `Oh, say can you see!'"

He asked, "What's that?"

It might have been a good thing to learn that song, especially the fourth verse--rarely sung--which presents a trio of key foundational factors making possible all that good stuff too many people today take for granted: a willingness to fight for freedom, a powerful belief in the greatness of one's country, and faith in a virtuous divine being.

Indeed, Francis Scott Key, the author, even got in a proviso that America should only triumph when fighting in a just cause, the kind of thing that the smug contemporaries don't realize their not-so-dumb ancestors understood.

It goes like this:

"Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: `In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

PS: A reader points out that Montgomery County is now trying to export its horrendous curriculum to other states!
PPS: Shortly thereafter a boy in Rhode Island was forced to go home for wearing a hat with toy soldiers on it. The controversy made the school relent and the state's lieutenant governor (and a former general) gave him a medal. But that's not going to have an effect on the indoctrination that goes on in lots of places, though by no means everywhere.

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