In last week’s column I wrote that if Illinois’ governor succeeds with his preschool scheme, the kiddies would be sent "off for a fun filled day of government indoctrination on the state’s dime." A teacher who disagrees kindly took the time to tell me why I’m wrong about that.
For one thing, she said, most teachers aren’t inclined to peddle a single political view. Despite the liberal positions taken by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, many teachers are not activists. There are, she asserted, even some who don’t vote a straight (if you’ll pardon that unPC term) Democrat ticket at elections.
Setting political views aside, there’s barely enough time for educators to teach the minimum skills children need to make it in life according to my correspondent. There are already so many demands on teachers that even if they wanted to proselytize, there aren’t sufficient minutes in the school day to do so.
I thought of that this weekend as I spent some quality time with my favorite five-year-old. She’s in kindergarten and when I asked her what she was learning, she was eager to share her knowledge.
"In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech in front of a quarter million people in Washington, D. C," she stated. "He said:
‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ Dr. King was a great American."
Incredible. They’re teaching quotations from King’s speech in kindergarten. I doubt that the teacher had talked about King calling the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" and comparing our troops in Vietnam to Nazis.
Then the little girl went on to tell me of another great American she learned about in school. "Rosa Parks was coming home from work and was tired and got on a bus that said black people had to sit in the back. But she wouldn’t give her seat in the front to a white man because she believed in equal justice for everyone."
Again, I doubt that the teacher told the class more of the story. For example, the famous picture of Rosa Parks on a bus with who appears to be a sullen segregationist was actually a staged photograph of Rosa Parks and a sympathetic reporter playing the role of sullen segregationist.
Now my favorite five-year-old is, of course, precocious. I wouldn’t be surprised if not all the children in her class could recite the stories of Martin and Rosa with such exactitude. Still, they’d all been taught the material.
I thought I’d see what else they’re learning in kindergarten these days. I asked her if she’d heard of George Washington. She knew he was a president. Which one? "The first?" she asked haltingly.
I questioned if she knew John Adams. She didn’t, but it’s to be expected since that truly great American has been given short shrift for two hundred years by almost everyone.
She did know two things about Abe Lincoln: He was the sixteenth president and he ended slavery.
Then I asked her about Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. With so much emphasis placed on freedom and justice, surely he would have been mentioned. Nope.
Next I thought I’d try another Tom, Thomas Edison, the man who lit up the world. My opinion is that he’s had more impact on more of our lives than King, Rosa Parks and most American presidents. No, they haven’t gotten to him yet in class.
I am not opposed to children learning about Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks or anyone else who’s important to our history. I think, though, that there should be some balance and people other than liberal icons should be included. If giving five-year-olds only PC examples of great Americans isn’t indoctrination, it comes mighty close.
Could we have a little diversity, please? After all, we’re often counseled that diversity is our great strength so why not give it a try?
A couple of months ago, the school had a "holiday program." Facetiously, I asked the young lady if "Adeste Fidelis" had been a musical selection. No, she answered somberly, it hadn’t, but the children did sing, "Winter is here, so Kwanzaa is near."