When filming wrapped on Robin Williams’ breakthrough dramatic film three decades ago, the creative crew that produced it probably had no idea how prescient the title was. “In 1997, I transferred to one of the top public high schools in New York,” veteran high school social studies teacher Mark Lewis recalls in the April 2011 issue of The Schwartz Report. “(NYC is like a socialist country within the USA,)” Lewis noted parenthetically.
“Communism may be over in the Soviet Union, but it’s alive and well in this high school,” one of his co-workers told him proudly.
“By my third week, I realized that I was in the midst of one of the communist epicenters of education,” Lewis wrote. “Although not all the teachers were communists, many were.”
“At a meeting early in that first term to discuss our plans for teaching U. S. history, the other teachers were enthusiastically saying how they were looking forward to using photocopied excerpts from Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the USA.”
Lewis, who remembers being more left-of-center at the time than he is now, objected. “What do you know?” one of his colleagues asked. “Have you ever published anything?”
“At one point, one of the communist teachers was teaching an Advanced Placement class, and I was told that the students had complained about him to the Assistant Principal because he had spent an entire month just studying The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels,” Lewis remembers. “Of course, nothing was done because it was already known that he and a few others were using the classroom as a bully pulpit for their leftist views.”
“Even those who were not outright communists were either too sympathetic with their views to report them, or there was a legitimate fear that there might be reprisals against any teachers who openly objected.” Tellingly, Lewis, who already had a few years under his belt teaching in the Big Apple, did not experience a great deal of culture shock in the transition from his previous places of employment in the public school system.
“Even in my previous high school, where there were fewer actively outspoken leftists, the only song being sung in assemblies was ‘The Black National Anthem’ (‘Lift Up Your Voice and Sing’,” Lewis related. “Only after I complained at a faculty meeting that it was wrong for this song to be sung and not the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was there a change.”
“Once I transferred out of the school, I do not know if the practice of singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was continued.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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