Conservative Group Challenges Taxpayer-Funded 'Indoctrination'

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A former GOP gubernatorial candidate and state legislator warns of a what he believes is a dangerous trend sweeping the American education system.

Prof. Allen Quist and over 300 parents and fellow education activists gathered at a September 29 education conference in Minneapolis, Minn., hosted by the Maple River Education Coalition, to discuss what they call taxpayer-funded 'indoctrination.'

"The Center for Civic Education has redefined what education is in the United States of America," Quist said.

He singled out the nonprofit CCE as the group most responsible for the re-write of American education because, he says, civic education is at the center of the whole curriculum commissioned by the federal government.

"In a nutshell, what this group has done is that it's redefined education so that it is no longer a system of information; it is now a system of persuasion," said Quist. "It now is advocacy for a particular brand of politics. [It's] no longer education; it's indoctrination.

"Free societies educate," he said. "Totalitarian societies indoctrinate."

After reviewing a variety of material written by the CCE, Quist alleges that the curriculum designed by the CCE and incorporated into textbooks and standardized tests nationwide, emphasizes values like environmentalism and multiculturalism over national sovereignty, natural rights and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

He notes, for example, that the CCE developed national curriculum contains 17 references to the environment, 42 references to diversity/multiculturalism, 81 references to the First Amendment, but only 5 references to national sovereignty and 0 to the Second Amendment.

Quist also pointed to textbook illustrations of the American Revolution and Shays Rebellion that omitted depictions of firearms.

"How do you put 81 references to the First Amendment and no references to the Second Amendment?" he asked. "Well that's what you do if you want to remove the right to bear arms from the curriculum."

"Don't believe anything I'm saying, but look at what the sources say," Quist said.

The CCE's associate director, Margaret Branson, however, says Quist's perception is just wrong.

"I doubt that they have read our materials or looked at them, or they couldn't say that," said Branson. "Certainly the Citizen and the Constitution [book] begins with natural rights, and it's infused all the way through it.

"And we certainly are not an ultra liberal or left-wing group by any manner or means," she added, describing the CCE board of directors as "balanced" and noting that the group's "patron saint" was the late chief justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger. "Hardly a flaming liberal," Branson said.

"One of the key purposes of the Center's materials is to make kids have a reasoned understanding of the importance of our constitutional system, and really to build a sense of constitutional patriotism," she said.

Branson denies the charge that the CCE gave short shrift to the Second Amendment or national sovereignty.

But, she said, "If you're going to select some in terms of their real impact on American history, you'd look at the First and Fourteenth [Amendments], which we do.

"As a matter of fact, we have used some interesting questions on the Second Amendment in our national competition some years ago, but we don't every year," said Branson.

Tom Loveless, director of the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy, echoed Branson's sentiments.

"I'm not convinced of any of that," said Loveless about Quist's comments.

"Some of these standards [developed by other groups] have been very controversial," he said. "The history standards were controversial for their political bias. There were people who felt that they were too politically correct...too much skewed towards portraying American history as ugly, racist, repressive, etc.

"My perception was that they were politically biased," said Loveless, who opposes federally funded national standards.

But the civics documents "do not strike me as having the same kind of political bias," he said. "I thought they were very good [and] seems very mainstream in terms of its politics."

What's more, said Loveless, the federal government has a long history of funding curriculum documents, albeit not national standards documents, noting that the Eisenhower administration had funded such efforts.

"One of the conservatives' biggest hero is...Chester Finn," who is a prominent supporter of national standards and testing, he added. "There are a lot of conservatives behind this movement that this little group in Minnesota is criticizing."

Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota state senator from the Minneapolis area, acknowledged that some conservatives and Republicans support such national standards.

But, Bachmann said, she thinks most people, including President Bush, are just not informed on the issue.

"I don't suggest that our president is behind...furthering a bad system" in his education package that embraces such national standards and testing," she said.

"My guess is that the president isn't aware of the negative implications...that could come forth from passage of this bill," said Bachmann. "I trust our president to do the right thing, and I believe that if he has advisors...that can let him know what's all in this system."