Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Truly Stupid Idea

UPDATED: Er, maybe the Michigan Board of Education isn't as stupid as I thought. After I posted this, Glenn Reynolds pointed me to this press release.
In an opinion piece crafted by Michael Warren in today’s Detroit News, the former State Board of Education member incorrectly states that the Michigan Department of Education has “ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.”

No such edict has gone out to school teachers across Michigan, nor will one, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. He explained that an independent association of Social Studies educators has discussed the issue of official U.S. documents or titles, but that any recommendations regarding changes in school curriculum have not even made it to his desk for review.

Inasmuch, Flanagan emphatically stated that, if such a recommendation ever came to his desk, it would be stopped in its tracks.

“We are not seeking to do away with the terms ‘America’ or ‘American’ from classroom instruction,” Flanagan said. “It’s not going to happen. I consider myself an American. We live in the United States of America. We are citizens of the United States of America. But the vernacular is that we’re Americans.”

These curriculum associations consist of curriculum content supervisors who represent diverse views and opinions.

“These are advisory groups,” Flanagan said. “The conversations and internal communications between members of an independent association have been misconstrued as Department of Education policy. This is not a Department of Education policy, nor will it ever be our policy while I’m here. I would never approve the removal of ‘America’ or ‘American’ from our classrooms. Not on my watch.”
Apparently, it was an advisory group that came up with this brilliant idea. The State Superintendant is much wiser. Sorry for the confusion from my post below, but I'm leaving it up just so no one thinks I was hiding anything. It still is pretty amazing that any group in an advisory position to the Board of Education would still come up with such a dumb idea. It shows you something about the mindset of such a group of "Social Studies educators"


Original Post


The Michigan Department of Education, having solved all the other problems with Michigan schools, turns its attention to a problem of cultural insensitivity. As you might know, other people in the Western Hemisphere resent the self-centered way in which people of our country appropriated the words "American" and "America." After all, where do we get off calling ourselves by a name that really should represent everyone in the hemisphere.

So they are considering a measure to ban teachers, state standards and tests from using the words "America" and "American."
In perhaps a well-intentioned, but pernicious example of political correctness, the Michigan Department of Education is attempting to ban the "America" and "American" from our public schools. Even though the word "America" appears in the department's own civics and government benchmarks, the department's style protocol for the Michigan Education Assessment Program requires that "America" and "Americans" be expunged from our testing and grade level expectations. Last week, the department ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.

We're all 'North Americans'

The Department of Education asserts that "Americans" includes Mexicans, Canadians and others in the Western Hemisphere, so referring to U.S. residents as Americans is inappropriate. In the department's view, "America" happens to include South, Central and North America. Accordingly, when referring to the colonial period, the state bureaucracy requires teachers to refer to "the colonies of North America" or "North Americans." After the American Revolution, the nation is called the United States (not of America).
What will you use when you need an adjectival form for our country or citizens? "United Statesian"? Sheesh! This is as dumb as when Oakland passed a resolution to instruct African-American (ooh, that word!) in ebonics.

Whether it was self-centered or not to adopt the word "America" to refer to our country, it's done. It might not be the best name for our country, but we can't go back and change the way that our country's forebears in the colonial era were referred to. And whenever the settlers in all the colonies were discussed, Americans were their name. Get over it.

Of course, of this moment, there is no civics or history book that does not use the banned words. So, publishers will have to have all the textbooks rewritten to excise all such references which must appear on every other page. Or maybe give little stickers to the students so they can block out the dreaded A-words as they read through their books. You wouldn't want the poor little kids to get confused by the sight of the banned words. Of course, you better hope that the sweet little innocents never see a newspaper or listen to a news show. Or, horrors, watch the History Channel.

And they better make sure that the kids never get to read George Washington's Farewell Address.
Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
Perhaps, someone could explain to the Michigan School Board what George Washington meant by speaking of pride in the appellation of American.