Kline, and the Choice to Dumb Down Our Educational System

This week, we see the protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government.  Ironically, many of those protesting were born after the famous protests in Tieneman Square, back in 1989.  The current crowd of protesters mostly do not know about the history that took place in Tieneman Square, because of how thoroughly it is blocked by China censorship, including censorship of the internet.  The government doesn’t want anyone in China to know about that episode of history; they fear it might make more people protest or be disruptive.  So they censor, and they lie about it — and they think they are justified in doing so.

In that regard, the Chinese communist government is not so different from the goals of the tea partiers and other right wing nuts like John Kline.

Back in January, we saw Kline promoting National School Choice Week.

Education & the Workforce Committee

U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) today released the following statements in recognition of National School Choice Week (January 27 through February 2):

“Ensuring families can make choices about their children’s education is a key pillar of Republican efforts to improve the nation’s education system,” said Chairman Kline. “I applaud state and local leaders who are working to raise the bar on student achievement by providing parents with additional options, such as charter schools and scholarship programs. A shining example of a successful school choice initiative is D.C.’s own Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has increased high school graduation rates and the number of students pursuing a postsecondary degree. Such efforts should be encouraged, and I urge the administration to reexamine its support for D.C. OSP and other school choice programs across the country.”

That sounds, good, on the surface.  But it’s not good, at least, not the way conservatives want to put it in effect.

Conservatives have been attacking public education for quite some time.  Part of it is that they oppose the teachers union, part of it is that they oppose different aspects of education generally.  Some of the tea partiers – and Kline is aligned with them, although more low profile about it, as noted by Public Integrity –  are still back in the days of the Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial, opposing teaching evolution in schools.  They are seeking to defund public schools, while creating more charter schools and private school attendance which creates more for-profit-schools receiving public education $, with lower teacher standards, and more specialized, but also more alternative curriculum, including religious institutions which want to teach creationism rather than evolution.
As the STrib noted, back in January;

Americans United for Change is trying to tie 47 swing-district Republicans around the nation, to the conservative movement with “Tea Stained,” a legislative scorecard that ranks lawmakers by votes the group sees as aligned with Tea Party values.

The analysis includes 48 U.S. House votes, including votes to defund the Affordable Care Act and those taken during the government shutdown to fund some parts but not all of the government.

The group argues that Paulsen voted with the Tea Party 83 percent of the time in 2013 while Kline’s loyalty score was slightly lower at 79 percent – and that their voting tendencies don’t differ much from U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, founder of the congressional Tea Party caucus.

“Voters deserve better. Whether they embrace the Tea Party ideology or despise it or fall anywhere in between, they have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the Tea Party spectrum – not where they say they fall, but how they actually vote,” said Americans United for Change President Brad Woodhouse in a statement.

“What it proves, unfortunately for non-extremists who are represented by Republicans, is that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in American politics today.”

What Kline is after, much like Michele Bachmann has pursued in her right wingnut career in politics, and what many of the more extreme right want to do, is to get the federal government OUT of education entirely, so that the locals can impose the crazy.  Their brand of crazy censorship is to sanitize education, to not teach anything that might be bad or awkward about our history, in the name of American Exceptionalism, patriotism, and teaching children respect for authority.

Because apparently conservatives believe you can’t both be patriotic, and know the truth about your own history.

From Public Integrity’s website:

Kline has called for giving states more control over education, saying “let’s back the federal government out of dictating to schools how they’re going to do their business.”He has also supported expanding the government’s school voucher program, which pays for tuition at a private school in place of the public school where a child is assigned.

What replaces the federal government requiring our schools to teach a rational, scientific, factual curriculum, are the states. Republican states replace competent and credible education with creationism or faulty history or bad economics tailored to fit the right wing ideology. Tea party education is indoctrination, not education. It leads to the dumbing down of students, it leads to making the nation less competitive, it leads to creating an ignorant theocracy.
A good rule of thumb is that to legitimize something bad, proponents will link it to something good, something that is – they hope – above criticism, in order to put what is bad beyond the reach of criticism.
We can see what happens when the tea party with whom Kline shares ideology gets to dictate what students are taught, the most recent example being Colorado, where the current argument for dumbing down the curriculum is that it is justified to teach students history that is factually inaccurate, in the bogus name of American Exceptionalism aka super-patriotism. It’s closer to pseudo-patriotism.

From the Colorado Independent via the Immoral Minority:

Colorado’s latest education official to condemn high school history course standards wonders why those who wrote the curriculum missed what seems to her an obvious point — that the United States voluntarily ended slavery. 
Pam Mazanec, a Larkspur businesswoman who sits on Colorado’s Board of Education, posted on a Facebook discussion thread her concerns that questions asked on the Advanced Placement U.S. history test “portray the negative viewpoint as the correct answer.” 

“As an example, I note our slavery history,” she wrote to a woman who teaches AP U.S history. “Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! 

“Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH (AP U.S. History) framework support or denigrate that position?”

 So, how does that square with education professionals, the ones who support the kind of standards and requirements that the federal government demands?  from the same source:

“The idea that the United States voluntarily gave up slavery is an outright misrepresentation of history. The United States engaged in a civil war to end slavery. There was nothing voluntary about it,” said Stephanie Rossi an AP U.S. history teacher at Wheat Ridge High School. “I’m just flabbergasted at anyone who would make that claim. Flabbergasted.”

The tea party crazies like Michele Bachmann, and apparently more discretely Kline, have for a long time sought to distort the notion of our early history, ranging from just omitting entirely the important information that the Founding Fathers actually owned slaves (most of them), and replacing it with lies, like the famous claim that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery, or variously that slavery wasn’t really so bad, or that slave owners were good to their slaves and gave them a better life than they would have had in Africa — with the bonus of coerced conversion to Christianity.  In their view, so long as you save their souls, it doesn’t matter if you sell them on the auction block like livestock, or torture them, rape them, or mutilate them (as long as you, also, are a “good Christian”).

Slave Restraints, 1807
from slavesite.com
Iron Mask, Collar, Leg Shackles and Spurs Used to Restrain Slaves. Illustration in The Penitential Tyrant / Thomas Branagan, New York. Printed by Samuel Wood, no. 362, Pearl Street, 1807

Here is what Michele Bachmann said, via City Pages:

…speaking to a group of anti-taxers in Iowa, she got her history wrong.In extolling the notion that “all men are created equal,” she said of European immigrants that, “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?”
But the white, male founders didn’t consider African slaves fully human. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and many more of the founding fathers actually owned slaves.
“We also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States,” Bachmann said.

That’s the version of history promoted by right wing pseudo-historian David Barton, and others, that Bachmann wants to put into our schools. Extreme right Republican politicians like Kline are determined to remove the federal barriers of professional standards educational requirements to facilitate that, under the guise of ‘choice’ and state control of educational standards.

Here is an example of the contrast between serious and legitimate American history, and right wing sanitizes false history.

Michele Bachmann and David Barton, her mentor, claim that the Founding Fathers wanted to end slavery, they tried, but they couldn’t. For example, Barton insists that Thomas Jefferson, the guy who wrote “all men were created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, was opposed to slavery. He has stated variously that Jefferson actually freed his slaves upon his death, or that he WANTED to free his slaves, but that Virginia law would not let him.

George Washington, a contemporary who also lived in Virginia, freed HIS slaves when he died. (Technically, they were supposed to be freed when Martha Washington died, but she carried out that part of his will a year after his death. Washington had owned 318 slaves during his lifetime, per the history site at Mt. Vernon.) ALL OF THEM WENT FREE.

In contrast, Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves in his lifetime, including some 70 members of the Hemmings family, some of whom were his children and grandchildren. Of those he freed some half dozen, so he clearly COULD have freed ALL of his slaves if he truly opposed slavery that sincerely – as sincerely as did Washington.

From the book George Washington and Slavery, via wikipedia:

Washington was the only Southern slaveholding Founding Father among the top seven to emancipate his slaves after the American Revolution. Of the seven Founding Fathers, the northerners Benjamin Franklin and John Jay both owned slaves whom they freed, and Jay founded the New York Manumission Society. He had a practice of freeing slaves as adults after a period of service. In 1798, the year before New York passed its gradual emancipation law, Jay still owned eight slaves.

The reality is that our history is a mix of good and bad, including our founding fathers.  What the above leaves out for example, is that Benjamin Franklin not only owned slaves – two men, King, and George – but that he made his living publishing the auction announcements for slave sales to make his living, thereby profiting indirectly from the slave trade in addition to owning other human beings.

From Factcheck.org:

A list of presidents who owned slaves, both while in office or at other times during their lives, has been compiled by Robert Lopresti, a librarian at Western Washington University. Based on his well-documented research, he says 12 of our presidents owned slaves and eight of them owned slaves while serving as president.

Zachary Taylor was the last sitting president to own slaves. Taylor owned 100 slaves and a Mississippi plantation, but he also opposed the extension of slavery to new territories. In 1850 the former Army general told a group of angry Southerners that if they seceded he would personally lead the Army and hang anyone taken in rebellion against the Union. Taylor died unexpectedly later that year.

The last president who ever owned slaves was, ironically, Ulysses S. Grant, elected in 1868 after he had commanded Union forces to victory over the Confederacy in the war that led to the abolition of slavery. Grant owned a slave named William Jones, whom he freed in 1859. Between 1854 and 1859 Grant worked and lived on an 850-acre farm in Missouri, near St. Louis, that was owned by his father-in-law. Grant’s wife, Julia, also owned slaves, and during Grant’s management of the farm he worked along with one of them, a man named Dan. The farm is now the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, part of the National Park Service.

A vote for Kline might as well be a vote for Bachmann in men’s clothes. A vote for Kline is a vote against good government. A vote for Kline is a vote for bad education and for indoctrination with propaganda. A vote for Kline is a vote to attack, and even shut down federal government instead of promoting better federal government.  Get Kline out of government, and off the Education and Workforce Committee; he’s harming education, and not doing anything for the workforce either. Otherwise, we will face future generations of dummies like Bachmann, where facts do not matter, and where young citizens are blocked from the truth about their country’s past: