A widely-used textbook urges students not to worry their pretty little heads about the facts of American history.
“The primary purpose of this textbook is not to fill your heads with a lot of facts about American history and government,” promises We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution. “Knowledge of facts is important but only in so far as it deepens your understanding of the American constitutional system and its development.”
And how well does the text, ambitiously aimed at upper elementary, middle and high school students, accomplish this goal? According to veteran political science professor Allen Quist, what the text mainly spreads is misinformation. Dr. Quist is a professor at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota.
“Textbooks in American government have always differentiated between the ‘delegated powers,’ those given to the federal government, and the ‘reserved powers,’ those powers that remain with the states and the people,” Dr. Quist notes. “This book uses the term ‘delegated powers’ several times, but it never uses the counterpart term ‘reserved powers.’”
“In this textbook, there are no rights reserved to the states or the people. All rights reside with the federal government.” One reason why the book is popular among public school teachers and administrators is its relatively low price: While many textbooks cost $50 and up, this tome goes for $12 a copy. How can they undercut the competition with such a low price? Alone among textbooks, We the People is subsidized by the federal government and has been for a decade, according to Dr. Quist.
But what public schools gain in cost savings, their students lose in accuracy by using this text. “The Second Amendment (right to bear arms) was mentioned in the earlier historical development section of the text, but there it was included only under the heading of controversial issues, and the emphasis was on gun control, not the right to bear arms,” Dr. Quist observes. “In addition, the Second Amendment was inaccurately defined as being the right of states to have a militia, not as a personal right to own and bear arms.”
Dr. Quist has written a review of We the People for Ed Watch.org. Although We the People looks critically at U. S. law, the textbook is comparatively sanguine in it assessment of the United Nations.
“The social, economic, and solidarity rights included in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in many national guarantees of rights adopted since are what are sometimes called positive rights,” according to We the People. We the People describes “positive rights” as “certain benefits that citizens should have.”
“These rights express the objectives worthy of any just society.” As Dr. Quist pointed out in a recent lecture on Capitol Hill, We the People adopts the UN definition of human rights over the American one.
Moreover, within nation-states themselves, the text applies its own theory of relativity liberally. “Many of these cultures have values and priorities different from our own,” according to We the People. “In many Asian countries, for example, the rights of individuals are secondary to the interests of the whole community.”
“Islamic countries take their code of laws from the teaching of the Koran, the book of sacred writings accepted by Muslims as revelations to the prophet Mohammad by God.” It should be noted that this text was first published six years before the September 11th, 2001 attacks upon the United States. We should also note that the textbook is still in circulation four years after the 9/11 massacres with the aforementioned passage intact.
“Federal education politics is elite politics,” Kevin Kosar of the U. S. Congressional Research Service warns. “The wants of interest groups have a far greater effect on policy than the desires of parents and the needs of children.”
“Some of these groups are only interested in grabbing federal dollars; others, though, are intensely ideological. They have worldviews and they pressure Congress to make policy to comport with these views.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.