By Dr. Susan Berry
A mindset that has gradually led American parents to leave the education of their children — unchecked — to schools and elitists has spawned controversies such as the promotion of Islam in classrooms and the unpopular Common Core standards.
Eruptions have occurred in more states recently over the promotion of Islam – and the downplaying of America’s Judeo-Christian foundation – in schools districts around the country. While some have attributed the controversy to the Common Core standards, what is closer to the truth is that the same philosophy that has encouraged parents to leave educating their children to “the experts” has produced both the education reform and the teaching of Islamic beliefs in the classroom.
Donna Hearne, former Reagan official in the U.S. Department of Education and author of The Long War & Common Core, tells Breitbart News that a look at the history of Common Core shows the reform is the latest effort by progressive elites to take decision-making about children away from parents and transfer it to government bureaucrats.
“Common Core is changing the way Americans think of themselves,” she said. “There is no connecting the dots, no context in teaching history now – everything is disconnected.”
Hearne says the controversial math and English standards reflect teaching that is not based on logic.
“Children’s brains are no longer trained logically,” she explains. “In math, traditionally we have laid down a knowledge base and then built on it until it becomes automatic. The same with grammar and English as traditional and classic education, but not so now.”
The former teacher adds that the revisions made in the Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) framework promote a similar message to students.
“The thrust of the movement in terms of American history that has led up to Common Core is that there is no greatness about America,” Hearne said and continued:
The underlying premise is that there is a moral equivalence between cultures. This has been around for years, but Common Core has raised the flag and parents are now engaged. Prior to Common Core, parents had never really read their children’s textbooks. I’m excited parents are finally getting more involved in their children’s education.
With regard to world history, Hearne says as far back as the 1930s there was a movement to collect and write curricula that would be hostile to America. The Frankfurt School – which was the source of Critical Theory – was developed with the goal of advancing Marxist philosophy in Germany. Following the Nazi takeover, the Frankfurt School eventually moved to New York and Columbia University.
“In the states that have seen more of an emphasis on Islam – students wearing the burqas and such – Islam is described as a ‘religion of peace’ and there is limited study of the nation’s Judeo-Christian foundation,” Hearne says. “But we can’t really call this emphasis on Islam as part of ‘Common Core,’ per se, which is the label for the movement of the standards reform that has been set by elites.”
Hearne asserts, nevertheless, that if promoting Islam is “what’s in the brain of the teacher in the classroom,” students will experience greater emphasis on it.
She adds that, in the 1990s, the movement for government to greater direct the lives of students took prominence in the “school to work” movement, often called “workforce development” and embraced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many establishment politicians of both parties.
“The ‘school to work’ movement – where the government decides what we need in society in terms of jobs fulfilled – is not a mark of a free society,” Hearne explains. “Designing education according to what we see in students when they’re children and pre-determining their careers at an early age means narrowing what they are learning and not expanding their knowledge and understanding.”
Hearne makes the connection between a reform like Common Core and what some school districts are seeing in terms of emphasis on Islam as a “religion of peace,” while at the same time America is portrayed as an evil country focused on the pursuit of conquest and domination.
“Two things are happening,” she observes. “We are stupidly limiting our children – because they no longer have a knowledge base – and we are opening our schools up to those who are hostile to America. The destruction of America in the classroom leads to the destruction of our moral fabric.”
As a Breitbart News investigation recently revealed, the current seventh grade Social Studies standards – developed in 2013 by a group of ten Tennessee educators led by Jared Myracle, who authored Common Core for Parents for Dummies – were adopted by the state and promote Islam at the same time they also tone down Christianity.
The seventh grade Pearson textbook – myWorld History and Geography: The Middle Ages to Exploration of the Americas – is used by most of Tennessee’s school boards and reflects the new standards. Additionally, some parents claimed the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) provided supplementary classroom materials to support the new standards. CAIR also reportedly targeted an attempt by a state lawmaker to eradicate the discussion of religious doctrine in public schools in the United States.
Ze’ev Wurman, former U.S. Education Department senior policy adviser, tells Breitbart News, “Common Core created a large risk across the land for instructional materials adoption because it forced rapid replacement of textbooks to meet the 2015 CC assessments.”
“Because there are few, if any, good Common Core textbooks around – as admitted even by Common Core supporters – many districts made hasty and poor choices with new textbook selection, while many others simply [abdicated] their responsibility and did not provide any textbooks,” Wurman continued. “As a result, many students study and do homework without textbooks but from random pages scrounged by their teachers from anywhere and everywhere and without much central office control.”
To make matter even worse, because Common Core makes some claims on science and social science curriculum, some places used the standards as an excuse to push for replacement of those curricula too, arguing urgency “due to Common Core.” As with English and math textbook adoptions, such urgency is conducive to lax textbook review and accelerated processes that cut corners in terms of public participation and deliberative process. It also assists a variety of special interest groups in successful peddling of their – often narrow – objectives. The Tennessee situation seems to fall into this category.
In early 2009 – before Common Core was adopted by any state – Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) interviewed now professor emerita of University of Arkansas Dr. Sandra Stotsky about some of the content of world history curricula that was already of concern at the time.
Stotsky – who was a commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003 and helped write the highly acclaimed K-12 standards for her state – wrote a book titled The Stealth Curriculum about the gradual revision of world history.
“We heard from a number of groups who were outraged because they didn’t want what they called a ‘Euro-centric’ version of history,” said Stotsky. “They literally wanted an Islamo-centric version of history. Which means you look at the world from the perspective of Islam and you don’t talk about any negative aspects of Islam.”
Soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Stotsky said the outreach coordinator at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies conducted a seminar for Massachusetts K-12 teachers to learn about Islamic history.
Shocked by the lesson plans that developed as a result of the seminar, Stotsky said:
They ranged from having students make prayer rugs; describe what it would be like to go on a hajj–a pilgrimage; learn and memorize the five pillars of Islam; listen to and learn how to recite passages from the Koran; dress like a Muslim from a particular country. It was, to me, a clear violation of ethics involved in how one would expect children to learn about another culture. That they would literally go through the memorization and the learning of religious beliefs.
“These are unacceptable practices in a public school,” she added. “In fact, they would be unacceptable academic practices in any school.”
As CBN reported, Harvard is one of about 18 universities that receive government funds under Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965. To receive the funding, the universities must perform outreach to K-12 teachers.
Additionally, however, CBN reported the Saudi government donated millions of dollars to Middle East Centers at universities that received the Title VI funds. Both the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies Center and Georgetown University each received a $20 million donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 2005.
The outcome is that through the U.S. taxpayer-funded Title VI university centers, Saudi-funded “lesson plans” made their way into America’s K-12 classrooms.
“Saudi donations to American universities should be seen in a much larger picture of Saudi promotion of a Saudi point of view,” Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia told CBN. “Whether it be Islamic or political, the Saudis have a point of view. And they have been very clever and very generous over the decades to promote that point of view.”
Stotsky noted, however, that it is local school districts that are responsible to set the curriculum.
“It was devised this way by our framers. You know, the local governments, local communities, would develop their own curricula, decide what they would want to teach their children,” she said. “State governments could assess, as they now do, but they can’t prescribe curriculum for local communities. And the federal government certainly can’t prescribe a curriculum. That’s why we’re having a battle over where national standards are going to come from.”