Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2004 / 4 Adar, 5764

Thomas Sowell

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Parents with backbone

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Parents in Fairfax, Virginia, have succeeded in getting rid of one of the endless series of fad programs that distract American public schools from real education in real subjects. Like most fad programs, this one had a high-sounding name: The International Baccalaureate Curriculum.

It also has a left-wing hidden agenda, as so many other fad programs do. One of the program's supporters gushed that it teaches students "how to think globally" and "how to make us part of the world."

One of the parents critical of the program put it quite differently. She said it "promotes socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty."

None of this is new. This kind of indoctrination has been going on for decades, and the kind of thinking behind it goes back a hundred years, when education guru John Dewey began promoting the idea that schools should be instruments of "social change."

By substituting back-door indoctrination in place of education, John Dewey has done more damage than anyone without an army.

What is new is that some parents are finally waking up and fighting back. They refuse to be conned by pious rhetoric or pacified by bumper stickers that say things like "My child was student of the month at Jordan Middle School" or even intimidated by the standard line, "You are the only one who has complained."

Education bureaucrats will use that line even if you are not even among the first 20 who have complained about some program or practice locally or among the first thousand nationally. There may be court cases all across the country over some program or practice, and they will still tell you that you are the only one who has complained.

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While the parents in Fairfax have had the backbone to get this junk program thrown out of their school, largely because it displaced so much real education that their children would have trouble getting into quality colleges, the battle is still raging in nearby Reston, Virginia, where the education bureaucrats are determined to create a generation of internationalists.

"After all," a school spokesmen said, "it is our students who will change the world."

That the kinds of shallow, ill-educated and fad-ridden people who run our public schools should take it upon themselves to decide how the world needs changing is truly staggering. On the other hand, it has long been said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

A very different battle has been going on in the District of Columbia. Here the issue is whether any of the predominantly black students will be allowed to escape the failing and dangerous public schools by having vouchers to go elsewhere.

The teachers unions say no — and the teachers unions are the 800-pound gorilla of the Democratic Party, whom they supply with money and with people to walk the precincts on election days. Some Republicans are also afraid to get on the bad side of the teachers union, even if that means watching another whole generation of poor kids go down the drain for lack of a decent education.

Among the parents who have not been intimidated is a black woman named Virginia Walden-Ford. She has not only confronted members of Congress in hearings, her organization of parents has taken out ads in the states represented by Congressmen who voted against vouchers.

These ads point out that liberal politicians who send their own children to private schools are preventing black parents from having that same choice. These parents don't hesitate to compare liberals like Ted Kennedy to Southern segregationists of the past like George Wallace and Bull Connor, who tried to block the advancement of blacks.

It would never occur to our more delicate Republicans to say such a thing. But their children are not at risk.

The time is long overdue for more parents to show some backbone if their children are not to continue to be used for classroom indoctrination or as pawns in the games of teachers unions.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

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