A National Curriculum

David Clemens

A common fear about the accountability movement is that edu-babble such as “alignment,” “assessment,” and “best practices” will erect an authoritarian, standardized, dumbed-down national curriculum which could mandate that on March 12, every high school student in the United States be on page 27 of To Kill a Mockingbird and that the following week, a computerized test may measure student reading comprehension by asking “Was the main character a Mockingbird or a Finch?” But haven’t advocacy teaching and the liberal preponderance among educators already produced a de facto national curriculum?  Having sat on many hiring and evaluation committees, I can testify that applicants for English positions always find ways to confess their faith in the liberal sacred texts.  One says, “I always assign Brent Staples’s `Black Men and Public Space,’” while another recites “I use Fast Food Nation and Nickel and Dimed” as if chanting a mantra.  They screen Outfoxed, An Inconvenient Truth, Jesus Camp, and Baraka.  And everyone assigns a paper analyzing an advertisement so that students will learn that [gasp] ads are just trying to sell you something and that “big corporations” are trying to make money.  Social justice, multiculturalism, health and wellness, sustainability, what the New York Times reported that morning and what they just heard on NPR provide each day’s lesson plan. An officer of my bank recently whispered that she had been required to read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States “in several different classes” at a nearby state university.  Zinn’s Marxist polemic is also required by the entire history department of a local community college.  With such uniformity, we needn’t fear a future national curriculum—we already have one.

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