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January 25, 2006

End federally funded textbooks
By Henry Lamb

Why did the federal government give $25,511,064 to a non-government organization last year to prepare the textbooks for teaching civics to schoolchildren? Since 1997, the Center for Civic Education has received at least $110,418,717 from the government and has succeeded in essentially taking over the supply of materials for teaching civics in American schools.

Of the many questions that surround this program, the first to be addressed must be the appropriateness of government funding of any textbook. Public education is not among the enumerated powers of the federal government. But, of course, the feds long ago discarded the notion that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

President Bush eliminated this funding in his 2006 budget, but 38 senators, led by Arlen Specter, R-Penn., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, joined 98 representatives, led by Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, and David Obey, D-Wis., to have this funding restored.

Public education has historically been a responsibility of state and local government. In recent years, however, the federal government has taken control.

Proponents of the CCE program agree that the federal funding is, indeed, appropriate and necessary. Even if there were universal agreement on the appropriateness of federal funding, should there not be competitive bidding? Should local school boards not be able to choose from among several possible texts? Government funding of textbooks is bad enough, but when the money is specified to go to a single non-government organization without competition or bids to produce materials for a subject as important as civics education, it causes a very bad smell to surround the entire project.

One might suspect CCE gets this special funding treatment because someone, somewhere, wants to be sure that the content of the material says what the funding source wants said.

The content of the material raises another set of questions. CCE provides basic textbooks, "We the People: the Citizens and the Constitution," in three versions, for early grades, for middle school and for high school. The organization also maintains a nationwide network of supporters who conduct seminars for teachers to encourage the use of CCE's materials. Many people believe the government is perfectly justified using tax money for this purpose, because the material teaches about the Constitution and the foundations of freedom.

Or does it? The material titles sound impressive. All would agree that students should learn about the Constitution and the foundations of freedom. CCE's literature sounds as if it does just that. But a growing number of critics who actually read the literature are crying foul.

One very thorough reviewer is Allen Quist, adjunct professor of political science at Bethany Lutheran College. He is a former three-term member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota House Education Committee. He is author of three books and numerous articles on education policy.

Among Quist's books, is "FedEd: The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced." Quist analyzes the material in CCE textbooks. Here is a sample:

"In the past century, the civic mission of schools was education for democracy in a sovereign state. In this century, by contrast, education will become everywhere more global. And, we ought to improve our curricular frameworks and standards for a world transformation by globally accepted and internationally transcendent principles."

Quist and many other reviewers are convinced that CCE's educational materials strive to transform American students into "global citizens." American principles of government, such as the Bill of Rights, are minimized, and global values are promoted. CCE's material diminishes the notion of "inalienable rights" and suggests that rights guaranteed by the Constitution reflect 18th century ideas, which should change with time to reflect global values.

Why is the federal government spending so much money to have this material published and pushed in American schools? By subsidizing the publication costs, these materials can be made available to schools free of charge. School boards that may wish to use other material are forced to pay market prices for it.

EdWatch, of Minnesota, Eagle Forum, Gun Owners of America, the American Policy Center and other groups are working to get the "We the People" textbook out of the public classroom and stop the globalist curriculum.

These groups are promoting legislation called "The Freedom in Education Act," which clearly states:
... [N]o federal funds shall be used to develop, publish, advertise, promote, support, or distribute textbooks or curriculum; that competitive bidding shall be required for all education-related federal grants to non-governmental organizations; all questions in federally funded education assessments shall be released to the public within three years of being administered; and no federal funds shall be used for cooperative education activities between the Department of Education and UNESCO.
Enactment of this bill will end federally funded textbooks.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization and chairman of Sovereignty International.

Reprinted with permission of the author.

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