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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Despite earlier report, America not dead yet in Michigan schools

I've held off from blogging about this because I couldn't quite believe it was true:

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.

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).

I'm glad I decided to wait. The MDOE has now put out a press release saying there is absolutely no truth to this story, which first surfaced in the above-cited Detroit News op-ed piece, written by an ex-MDOE member. According to the release:

No such edict has gone out to school teachers across Michigan, nor will one, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. He explained that an independent association of Social Studies educators has discussed the issue of official U.S. documents or titles, but that any recommendations regarding changes in school curriculum have not even made it to his desk for review.

Inasmuch, Flanagan emphatically stated that, if such a recommendation ever came to his desk, it would be stopped in its tracks.

“We are not seeking to do away with the terms ‘America’ or ‘American’ from classroom instruction,” Flanagan said. “It’s not going to happen. I consider myself an American. We live in the United States of America. We are citizens of the United States of America. But the vernacular is that we’re Americans.”

These curriculum associations consist of curriculum content supervisors who represent diverse views and opinions.

“These are advisory groups,” Flanagan said. “The conversations and internal communications between members of an independent association have been misconstrued as Department of Education policy. This is not a Department of Education policy, nor will it ever be our policy while I’m here. I would never approve the removal of ‘America’ or ‘American’ from our classrooms. Not on my watch.”

That's about as firm a denial as you can make, although it obviously doesn't preclude the possibility that the advisory group isn't considering making the recommendation that the use of "America" be done away with. In fact, it looks as though that may be closer to the truth. The Free Press has this in a sidebar to the original op-ed:

What a state social studies consultant is telling educators in e-mails about using "America" and "Americans" in tests and courses:
  • "I have promised teachers that we would delete the use of American [when we are really ONLY referring to the United States] from the GLCEs (grade level content expectations) so that everything is consistent and correct as soon as it was feasible."
  • "It is ethnocentric for the United States to claim the entire hemisphere."
    -- Karen Todorov, Michigan Department of Education
  • Okay, so that's one moron's advice. But the question is, how could the Detroit Free Press run the op-ed itself without first checking with the state Department of Education? Instapundit linked to the op-ed early this afternoon, but why wouldn't he? It's one thing to run an opinion piece in which facts can be disputed, but even the biggest MSM-hater probably wouldn't expect a fairly well-respected newspaper to publish an op-ed in which the entire subject is totally inaccurate. And the sidebar, rather than absolving the Free Press, makes matters worse, because it appears as though it backs up the op-ed.

    Even now, I can't find any mention of the Department of Ed's flatout denial anywhere on the DFP's website, meaning anybody reading the op-ed now has no reason to question its veracity. Maybe the "Free" in Free Press refers to the paper's level of truth content. The Detroit Press: Now Truth-free!

    Anonymous fmragtops said...

    Hmmm, very interesting. Maybe I should expand my government reform plan to include public employees instead of limiting it to elected officials.

    Blogger The Cranky Insomniac said...

    Well, since public employees technically includes law enforcement and military, maybe just expand it to include worthless bureaucrats who hold worthless jobs and use their positions to make up for the fact that they got beaten up a lot in high school or didn't get asked to the prom by really dreamy quarterback Jimmy Thompson.

    There's nothing worse than petty, insecure people in positions with any power whatsoever.

    Anonymous fmragtops said...

    No that's too far. I'm a worthless bureaucrat that got picked on a lot in high school and never got asked to the prom by any boys whatsoever.

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I read the post at Instapundit and googled for a Michigan Edu. contact to send a "concerned" email. I found the press release and changed my mind. I did email Insta, but I guess I wasn't quick enough. :)

    Of course, if they did go through with this, they should be consistent. Everyone born in North or South America is a native American; everyone born in Africa or with family from there is an African-American.

    Jim C.

    Blogger The Cranky Insomniac said...

    No that's too far. I'm a worthless bureaucrat that got picked on a lot in high school and never got asked to the prom by any boys whatsoever.

    I'm er, uh, um, sorry that Jimmy didn't ask you to the prom...


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