Submitting yet another letter regarding the proposed social studies standards for Minnesota schools may not be an original idea. But having witnessed the civics subcommittee in the process of revision, I am compelled as a civics teacher to respond.
Let me confess that I shed no tears upon hearing the Profile of Learning was repealed. And I have no dispute with those persons who claim students need to focus on historical content, for it is true that we cannot intelligently debate an issue until and unless we have a firm grasp of the factual foundation. However, the actions of the civics subcommittee during its redrafting session will not result in creating more highly educated young people ready to enter the world as informed citizens. Rather, if the work of these committee members is enacted into law, our schools will be spewing forth non-reasoning automatons who lack the analytical skills to make the decisions necessary to participate in our society.
The civics subcommittee is not writing a document filled with academic rigor that requires me, as a teacher, to present multiple viewpoints and different interpretations to your children, and then challenge these students to develop their own positions. No, a majority of the subcommittee believes it is my job to indoctrinate your children to one particular point of view -- that of the majority of the subcommittee. Further, I will no longer be expected to encourage my students to dispute any part of this ideology. In fact, two members of the subcommittee would outright prohibit me from doing so. According to Bruce Sanborn, my responsibility is to ensure your children embrace the mantra "Western civilization is superior." And Bridget Sutton would require that I create a classroom atmosphere where "(r)especting diverse opinions is a character trait, not a duty of citizenship." I see my future as a social studies teacher being reduced to manufacturing Stepford students who may correctly pronounce the terminology to please the committee, yet fail to understand the impact of the words they speak.
These folks have no intention of designing a curriculum that fosters civic discourse; they merely want to replace one political agenda with another. And if it is wrong for me to infuse my learning environment with what has been perceived as liberal, anti-American radicalism, it is equally irresponsible for me to limit my students' minds to the opposite perspective. The civic ideals of our country cannot be neatly placed into a mathematical formula that will always result in the same answer. We must be willing to allow our young people the freedom and creativity to explore all aspects and every side of these ideals. For it is only by working through this process that our students are able to develop the personal morals and virtues that will allow them to remain true to themselves, and to become active and productive participants in society.
Thinking is patriotic; force feeding doctrine is not. What makes the United States a great country is not our blind allegiance to concepts we do not understand. Our greatness comes from our courage to celebrate the myriad of thoughts, opinions, and ideas of all members of the human family. I will continue to believe that it is my obligation as a teacher and my responsibility as a free American to perform my part in keeping the celebration alive.
Ann Marie Lubovich is a civics teacher at Pin River-Backus High School
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