Keep 'America' in Michigan schools
By Michael Warren, The Detroit News, May 24, 2006
Keep 'America' in Michigan schools
State bureaucrats want to do what Stalin, Osama could only dream about
C ensoring the word "America" from our own schools is something Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden would never have thought possible. Michigan has done it without a whimper.
In perhaps a well-intentioned, but pernicious example of political correctness, the Michigan Department of Education is attempting to ban the "America" and "American" from our public schools. Even though the word "America" appears in the department's own civics and government benchmarks, the department's style protocol for the Michigan Education Assessment Program requires that "America" and "Americans" be expunged from our testing and grade level expectations. Last week, the department ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.
We're all 'North Americans'
The Department of Education asserts that "Americans" includes Mexicans, Canadians and others in the Western Hemisphere, so referring to U.S. residents as Americans is inappropriate. In the department's view, "America" happens to include South, Central and North America. Accordingly, when referring to the colonial period, the state bureaucracy requires teachers to refer to "the colonies of North America" or "North Americans." After the American Revolution, the nation is called the United States (not of America).
The state's edict would be laughable if it were not so disgraceful. Instead of focusing on better teaching methods and educational resources to help our hard-working teachers and parents, the Department of Education spends its energy on confusing, misleading, historically inaccurate and counterproductive wordplay.
One can only imagine how teachers struggle to meet the semantic dictates of an educational bureaucracy gone awry. According to the department, before the American Revolution, George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were North Americans. But so were the French colonists in the Louisiana Territory, the Spanish settlers in Mexico and the British colonists in Canada -- not to mention the Native Americans.
No 'American' Revolution?
After the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers no longer qualified as North Americans, but apparently the British, Spanish, French and Native Americans did. What people in the United States are to be called after the Revolution is not clear, so long as they are not referred to as Americans.
Although the style protocol does not require educators to change formal titles such as "America the Beautiful," the students will apparently now believe the song is about a hemisphere and not a nation. The American Revolution is now the North American Revolution. Little did the writers of the Contract with America in 1994 realize that they were making an agreement with Mexico and Canada. The Voice of America obviously is broadcasting the inspirational messages of Brazil and Belize across the globe.
The Michigan Department of Education considers the dictate "internationally friendly." Why being friendly to an international audience or perspective is important in teaching and learning American history is incomprehensible.
That we would sacrifice our language to the altar of internationalism is a betrayal to the American spirit. Indeed, the whole idea of America is to be a beacon of light, a shining city on the hill, which inspires the rest of the world.
The word "America" is the most important word of all in learning about the history of the United States and our civics. America is an inspiration and an aspiration for generations of souls who strove, and continue to strive, for freedom and liberty.
"Americans hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," and that governments are supposed to protect those rights. Not all people or governments in the Western Hemisphere agree with those propositions -- as communist Cuba, Haiti and other nations show.
The time has come for our Michigan Department of Education to recognize the error of its ways and proclaim that it is teaching about America and Americans in American history and civics. In fact, the department should repent by creating an "American Freedom Curriculum" in which K-12 students learn the principles and history of the greatest nation on earth. Then the department will be worthy of the treasure for which they are responsible.
Michael Warren is an Oakland County Circuit Court judge, a former member of the State Board of Education and a board member of the Michigan Center for Civic Education. E-mail letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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