Par­ents see po­lit­i­cal slant in 3rd-grade text­book

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID HILL

FRED­ER­ICK, MD. | Some Fred­er­ick County par­ents are up­set over a third-grade text­book that they say pro­motes such ideas as gov­ern­ment-spon­sored child care and uni­ver­sal health care.

The county’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion met June 22 to dis­cuss “So­cial Stud­ies Alive! Our Com­mu­nity and Be­yond,” a book the county has used since 2004 but has come un­der fire in re­cent months.

The book ex­am­ines cul­ture, gov­ern­ment and pub­lic ser­vice in the U.S. and other coun­tries, but some par­ents have pointed to pas­sages in the text they think sub­tly pro­mote for­eign po­lit­i­cal sys­tems while dis­parag­ing the U.S.

“The en­tire slant of the book is you’re get­ting used to the idea of gov­ern­ment run­ning your life,” said Cindy Rose, a par­ent who re­quested that the book be re­moved from the county’s cur­ricu­lum.

“Gov­ern­ment is set­ting the rules. We’re all go­ing to live by it and we’re all a col­lec­tive so­ci­ety,” she said.

Board mem­bers chose not to elim­i­nate the book from the county cur­ricu­lum, in­stead al­low­ing it to come up for re­view next school year as part of a manda­tory eight-year re­view cy­cle for all books.

Mrs. Rose was the lone par­ent to tes­tify dur­ing the pub­lic com­ment por­tion of the meet­ing, af­ter which board mem­bers dis­cussed the text for more than an hour.

Mrs. Rose has taken is­sue with sev­eral chap­ters in the book, in­clud­ing one that ex­plains how many Amer­i­cans strug­gle to pay for health care while coun­tries such as Canada and Swe­den pro­vide care free of charge or for a small fee.

The book states that those coun­tries’ “com­mu­ni­ties pay the rest of the bill,” and asks the reader whether he or she be­lieves health care should be a pub­lic ser­vice.

Crit­ics have ar­gued the text en­dorses ex­panded gov­ern­ment but fails to fully ex­plain that its pub­lic ser­vices are paid for by tax­pay­ers.

“Do you get much push­back from an 8-or 9-year-old?” said board mem­ber James C. Reeder Jr. “It seems to me ei­ther we’re lead­ing them in a cer­tain direc­tion or we’re try­ing to get them to evoke a cer­tain re­sponse.”

School of­fi­cials have de­fended the book, say­ing it pro­vides im­por­tant lessons in mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and is not a pri­mary text but just one of var­i­ous books the county uses to teach so­cial stud­ies in third-grade class­rooms.

Jim Gray, the county’s so­cial stud­ies cur­ricu­lum spe­cial­ist, said the book serves a valu­able pur­pose but that teach­ers are not forced to use it and have the op­tion of re­plac­ing it with other ma­te­ri­als.

The book “pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery cul­ture in our com­mu­nity to see it­self,” he said. “I think that’s a very im­por­tant thing.”

While some school board mem­bers raised ques­tions about the book, board mem­ber Angie Fish said she thinks it high­lights the dif­fer­ences be­tween cul­tures.

“I don’t have a fear of my child lear ning about other sides’ or other coun­tries’ po­lit­i­cal views,” she said. “I want her to be a crit­i­cal thinker.”

Board mem­bers will meet in com­ing weeks to dis­cuss pos­si­ble changes to the county’s so­cial stud­ies cur­ricu­lum and could form a task force to lead the process. The Board of Ed­u­ca­tion has fi­nal ap­proval over cur­ricu­lum af­ter pub­lic and staff in­put.

DREW AN­GERER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Ed­u­ca­tion or in­doc­tri­na­tion? Jim Gray, Fred­er­ick County, Md.’s so­cial stud­ies cur­ricu­lum spe­cial­ist, speaks to the school board about “So­cial Stud­ies Alive! Our Com­mu­nity and Be­yond,” a book that has come un­der fire in re­cent months.

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