]]]]]]]]]] The Ticking Bomb of Nuclear-Age Education [[[[[[[[[[ By Andre Ryerson [From The Wall Street Journal, 31 May 1988, p. 24:3] (Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC 9/09/1988) Not content to criticize the phenomenon of "global," "nuclear-age" and "peace" education, representatives of eight foundations gathered in Chicago last month to consider a more direct challenge to what may be the most successful venture ever launched by the American left: teaching children in the public schools to interpret the world from a radical perspective. Sponsored by the Independence Institute of Colorado [14142 Denver West Parkway #101, Golden, CO 80401], "Classrooms for a Free Society" sought to assess something scarcely touched by the press, but which may decide the role America will play in the world within a decade or two. Teaching children from kindergarten through high school that wars are caused by the weapons democracies construct for their defense, that there was no reason for the U.S. to use the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945, that economic "competition" (instead of "sharing") is what divides the world into hostile camps, and that the Cold War was essentially the fault of the U.S. -- these are not doctrines most parents expect to find in the local school, nor does the average taxpayer imagine such uses for his money. Yet careful inquiry has shown that these and similar beliefs are quietly becoming part of the standard school curriculum under the rubric of peace and global education. The activist organizations that publish such politicized teaching materials in many cases have been assisted by distinguished foundations (Danforth, Carnegie) and supported by eminent public figures (Carl Sagan, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh). Many cities, from Los Angeles to Cambridge, Mass., have made nuclear-age courses mandatory for the public schools. Peace education, also called nuclear-age education, emerged in 1982 when nuclear-freeze activists turned their energies toward schoolchildren. Groups such as Educators for Social Responsibility and the Union of Concerned Scientists created teaching guides that treated the Soviet Union as a benign entity, while blaming American weapons, policies and values as the principal threat to world peace. Older than peace education is global education. While aimed at fostering global understanding, in many respects it carries a like message and used the same exercises to encourage a "new world order," as the Center for Teaching International Relations puts it. Based at the University of Denver, the center distributes global-education materials nationwide. The doctrine of "moral equivalence" between the Soviet Union and the U.S. is encouraged, and one curriculum guide tells students, "Think of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. as rival street gangs." Death and destruction caused by war are luridly emphasized, with "death education" added to concentrate the emotional attention of the young. The loss of liberty that would follow from a pacifist foreign policy, however, is never weighed. The use of force, even in self-defense, is treated as an uncivilized option. Free-enterprise economies are viewed unfavorably by global educators. One of the center's guides tells the teacher to "simulate economics by having students scramble for coins tossed on the floor." Students are then asked to "redistribute" the coins "more equitably." Private property is treated as a source of social conflict, not one of the foundations of prosperous economies and political liberty. No mention is made of Western successes in reducing pollution, next to which the communist record is dismal. Instead students are told in the center's materials, "For America the polluter, all the world's a toilet." Like the curricular guides for peace education, global education guides cap their specialized picture of the world with calls for the students' "commitment to action," excited urgings that they "dare to think the unthinkable" and "go for the works." Among options for students to consider are circulating petitions, joining anti-war groups, forming their own, writing press releases and staging news conferences. In the words of Raymond English, of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, this belongs to "the run-before-you-can- walk theory of education." Children are called on to change the world before they have studied it -- indeed, often before they have learned how to spell. How can international relations be studied without turning America's public schools into centers for political indoctrination? At the April meeting, Robert Pickus confessed -- as one of the early proponents of global education -- that he was chagrined at the turn it had taken. But Mr. Pickus, head of the Madison Foundation and the World Without War Council, remained hopeful that mainstream educators could, with guidance, get back on the track, teach respect for America's values and traditions, offer knowledge of the Soviet Union and its ideology, and put an end to blame-America-first reflexes. Others said that sensible curricular materials are desperately needed, without which well-meaning educators have no choice but to use those available. Charles Heatherly of the Heritage Foundation granted that his foundation is not particularly involved in this area of public policy. Neil Pickett of the Hudson Institute said that Hudson had thus far limited itself to studying the effects of peace education on children. Only Keith Payne of the National Institute for Public Policy could offer the encouraging news that his supplement to a history text -- a balanced, centrist account of the world since 1945 -- was in preparation with a publisher. What probably remains the greatest obstacle to achieving balance in the teaching of peace, war and international relations is that the materials marketed to schools by the left remain unknown to the general public, and replacing them may be likened to getting rid of government subsidies to dairy farmers. Milk, like peace, seems worthy of our vague and unthinking benevolence. The difference is that the one bears a monetary cost; the other may cost us, a generation hence, a realistic foreign policy founded on democratic values. --------------------------------- Mr. Ryerson, a free-lance writer, is a former professor of French and humanities at Amherst.
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