David Coleman, Education Hero
Finally, someone with clout is committed to undoing the damage done to the American educational system by radical scholars. Our hero is David Coleman, president of the College Board, a Rhodes Scholar, and a former McKinsey & Company consultant.
Coleman used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mold the requirements for the Common Core States Standards in English -- adopted by 46 states to be implemented in 2014 -- to mandate that 50% of reading assignments are non-fiction "informational text" in elementary school, and 70 percent by grade 12.
This change stems from the opinion that the "easy reading" and the highly subjective diet of poetry and fiction on the curriculum menu has prevented students from learning to digest complex non-fiction, including studies, reports, and primary documents. Coleman does not mince his words: "People (employers) don't give a damn about what you feel and what you think. What they instead care about is, can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you are saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me?"
English teachers are up in arms, and the interested public has grounds to fear the new non-fiction requirements will force-feed even more left-wing gibberish into the course work. Until, that is, they see the selections: Alexis de Tocquevilles's Democracy in America, a segment from the Federal Reserve's FedViews newsletter, and a General Services Administration Executive Order on transportation management and the environment. This is hardly the Communist Manifesto, but rich and deep readings that challenge young minds.
In addition to the inclusion of quality non-fiction, changes in fiction selections suggestions indicate a shift back to standards: Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying; Thomas Paine's Common Sense; The Declaration of Independence; Frederick Douglass's "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?:," Allen Paulo's Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences; Mark Fischetti's Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control; and George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."
Coleman, astride a white charger protected by chain mail provided by the Gates crowd, has somehow slashed and pounded his way into a position of authority in the sorrowful battlefield of education curriculum. Why the radical scholars have allowed this to happen remains a mystery. Perhaps they have come to realize their contribution to the dramatic decline in learning in the U.S. that has reached new lows worldwide in comparative academic rankings.
A cadre of 1960s activists burrowed into the university, emerging in the late 1970s and early 1980s as professors, often with tenure. Instead of occupying the dean's office, they assailed the ramparts of traditional curricula under a manifesto that proclaimed Western culture unworthy because its accomplishments are tainted by slavery, racism, chauvinism, and imperialism -- rhetoric right out of the Comintern handbook.
Multicultural studies and politically correct thought police replaced orderly and historically specific learning. Self-esteem indoctrination replaced discipline and measured achievement in grade school where the revolution on campus trickled downward. On college campuses, Identity politics infiltrated course work. Women's Studies, Queer and Gender Studies, Chicano Studies, Sex Studies -- an array of "Studies" covering every conceivable minority group -- displaced 4000 years of accumulated knowledge. The ancient Greeks, the Biblical era, Rome, Renaissance Europe, the Pax Britannica, and the unprecedented accomplishments of America were consigned to the trash heap.
Standards fell accordingly. Respect for others became codified with unenforceable and irritating statutes. Proper manners (what Disraeli called the "invisible customs" of a society) were denigrated as elitist. What used to be called "walking around knowledge" has vanished in the new academic regime. College graduates are functionally unsound in the light of the real world. Smart perhaps, but woefully uneducated.
The People's History of the US by avowed communist Howard Zinn is the most popular among public school systems in the country. Film directors are now filling the history gap. Steven Spielberg's schmaltzy offerings and Oliver Stone's wobbly and left-leaning non-fiction films are defining who we are in the vacuum created by the radical education agenda. Stone's Untold History of the United States, recently aired on the cable network Showtime, demonstrates the dangers of abandoning history education for political aims, unless you are a devotee of the Stalinist take on the 20th century.
This march to mediocrity was accomplished by exploiting the guilt felt by unconvinced peers and administrators to overcome resistance to the sea change on campus. College presidents cowered for fear of being labeled racist, chauvinist, or homophobic. As the "new scholars" took over, they insisted on hiring more of their own ilk. Faculties today are gorged with academic fellow travelers.
Scholars who do not adhere to the party line are never hired. Those teachers who refuse to capitulate are denied tenure -- and often driven off by whisper campaigns claiming they are guilty of being "insensitive" or acting "inappropriately" in class. Diversity of opinion on campus has disappeared in harness with the freefall of traditional knowledge.
At least David Coleman has thrown his lance into the fray. Although his target is lower education, his goal is to create a useful college graduate. As he put it to outraged English teachers: "It is rare in a working environment that someone says, 'Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood".