A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: email@example.com
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
People ask if I miss teaching. Up to very recently I’ve said, “Sometimes, but the feeling goes away quickly.” I do miss it though. When I had autonomy in my classroom, which I did up to retirement, teaching was a very gratifying experience. But the federal government has been taking over more and more of public education and it became apparent that I would soon lose my academic freedom and be forced to teach the way “progressives” (a misnomer, that) would dictate. Then there are increased meetings and more meaningless paperwork that accompany increased federal intervention.
People who consider themselves progressive - a euphemism for liberal - have long been in charge of academia at every level. Most recently, they’ve consolidated their control over curriculum for US History - the subject I taught - by issuing a new exam for AP US History courses. We cannot see the new exam though. According to Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, “a complete sample exam has been released, although only to certified AP U.S. History teachers [who] have been warned, under penalty of law and the stripping of their AP teaching privileges, not to disclose the content of the new sample AP U.S. History Exam to anyone.”
During my career, most states mandated that US History be taught at 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. Students were required to pass it in order to receive a high school diploma. By issuing the new exam, the College Board will changing the way it can be taught at all levels. Kurtz claims: “the new AP U.S. History Exam is about to entrench a controversial and highly politicized national school curriculum without proper notice or debate. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and a full understanding of our founding principles are on the way out. Race, gender, class, and ethnicity are coming in, all in secrecy and in clear violation of the Constitution’s guarantee that education remain in control of the states.”
Many of the same people who brought you Common Core are bringing this. It’s not a shock to me because the handwriting had been on the wall for years, and it’s the primary reason I took early retirement at sixty. It has also been obvious to homeschooling parents. A group of them in Auburn, Maine contacted me over the summer to ask if I’d be willing to teach their children a US History course in which the Judeo-Christian values inherent in America’s founding would be emphasized rather than played down. In other words, would I be willing to teach a course to high schoolers in the traditional way? At first I thought, “Nah, I don’t have time.” Then I pondered it for a week and agreed to at least sit down and discuss it, and to pitch an idea I’ve always wanted to try.
It first occurred to me several years ago when the principal told me to pick a new textbook for my US History course because the old ones were falling apart. Every text I examined was boring because they all avoided controversial subjects. And, they all had a leftist bias. Instead of buying one of the boring, contemporary, liberal texts for nearly $50 apiece, I proposed purchasing two books for each student, which together cost less than half of one mainstream textbook. The first was the Marxist Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” The second was Schweikart and Allen’s “A Patriot’s History of the United States,” which was written from a traditional, conservative perspective and formatted as an antithesis to Zinn’s book. Students would read passages from each on the same theme, then compare and contrast the opposing viewpoints presented. The principal nixed the idea, however, saying, “You could do that, but you’re retiring in a few years. Whoever replaces you wouldn’t likely have the knowledge or experience to pull it off. So, let’s go with a traditional textbook.”