Diane Ravitch has written a book complaining about the system of centralized purchasing and “anti-bias” vetting that now ensures that all school textbooks reflect a single bowdlerized multiculturalist point of view. (The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn.) The reviews by neocon Arnold Beichman and moderate liberal Merle Rubin are worth a look, if only for the examples of PC censorship. (It’s not just ethnic and gender sensitivities that create issues today. You can’t even talk about mountains or oceans, because it excludes students from Kansas to do so.)
The unforced universal acceptance of a system that leads to such bizarre results suggests that the problem goes too deep to be solved by the author’s proposals for publicity, competition and the like. I mentioned the political stance of the reviewers (Miss Ravitch is a neoconservative) because politics is relevant to the issue. Both author and reviewers would favor a national system of education that promotes a certain sort of citizenship, one valuing democracy, tolerance, inclusion and so on, but also achievement, discipline and standards. If we’re going to have that, though, we’re also going to have a system that gives textbooks a definite political and moral bias based on a particular understanding of human life. And since that is not the bias and understanding that has emerged from American life as it actually is today, it’s one that will have to be chosen by an act of will and imposed comprehensively.
To talk about “our schools” we have to know who “we” are, and that seems uncertain today in the case of America as a whole. So it seems we have three possibilities:
- Drift, and mindless multicultural liberalism in the schools.
- Neocon reform, and education for global democracy as the disciplined nationalism of the universal nation.
- Counterrevolution, and the abolition of the American Education System in favor of education as something people pursue themselves, provide for their children, and (if they are generous and think it worth their while) give to others.