Ignorance of Our Nation’s Origin

So if we’re going to teach history with this reading list, it might make sense to start at our country’s beginning. Maybe there would be something about who George Washington was, since he was the most prominent founder? Not quite. George Washington, our first president, was left off the list for K-1 readings, but George Washington Carver3, an African-American inventor and botanist whose work improved agriculture in the post-Civil War South, was included. It is reasonable to include George Washington Carver as he is historically significant. What is perplexing, however, is that his life was chosen for the only history-related reading in the K-1 category.

“… an impressionable young Common Core student will grow to believe that this revisionist, ludicrous notion, … is historical fact.”

As we move into the category for grades 2-3, there is still no sign of the founding fathers. In the grades 4-5 category, students are assigned an 11-volume textbook named A History of US by Joy Hakim4. This series at last addresses the founding of our country; it will form the basis for the Common Core student’s first impression of who the founders were. Hakim uses the first book to describe Amerindian history, discussing what the New World was like before Columbus. This, the students of Common Core will learn, is where the history of the United States begins. In fact, Hakim informs us that it was from the Amerindians that we gained the notion of a Republic, and that it is to them that we should credit the creation of this country. Given that there are as of yet no other texts recommended that relate to the country’s founding, an impressionable young Common Core student will grow to believe that this revisionist, ludicrous notion, unsupported by primary documents like the Federalist Papers, is historical fact.5

In grades 6-8, we find three writings devoted solely to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. The first is a description of Thomas Jefferson by John Adams6, the second consists of the Preamble and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution7, and the third is The Words We Live By8, which is a thorough guide to the Constitution that appears to present a relatively fair and balanced discussion of both sides of interpreting each contested point in this founding document. Let us see if this approach can continue.

In the entire Common Core reading list, there is only one work by George Washington, namely his Farewell Address, found in grades 9-10. In his message, Washington warned against “entangling alliances” with foreign powers9. At the time, the US was a relatively weak country, especially next to the global powers Britain and France. Washington saw the dangers of getting involved in the ongoing conflict between these two powers that were simply out of our league. This situation no longer exists, and with America being a global superpower today, we don’t have to worry about being a more powerful nation’s pawn. Nevertheless, it is this particular work of Washington’s that Common Core wants students to be familiar with. Given the existing pattern, it is clearly more than a coincidence that this view could easily be construed to support the modern left’s foreign policy views.

Aside from the Farewell Address, there is only one document pertaining to our country’s founding in grades 9 and 10. Patrick Henry’s 1775 speech to the Second Virginia Convention10 discusses how the British had responded with troops to the peaceful efforts of the colonies to resolve their dispute with Parliament. That is the full extent of Patrick Henry’s speech: he does not discuss what the dispute is or the ideas behind them, but only the current events from almost a quarter millennium ago. This serves as a token document to represent the era, yet provides nothing relevant outside its own time to merit its discussion today in place of documents such as the Federalist Papers, Washington’s First Inaugural Address, or Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address.

The most advanced level of Common Core’s reading list also has Thomas Paine’s Common Sense11, the Declaration of Independence12, and the Bill of Rights.13 Like the 6-8 category, these are all fine documents that help our students learn about the ideas of the American founding. If this had been consistent throughout the grade levels, the students would have gained a fair picture of this country’s origins.

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