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Brainwashing in Grade School By: Edgar B. Anderson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 23, 2002


The Left's stranglehold on education in the United States is not limited to our colleges and universities. Anti-American and multicultural propagandists are constantly at work attacking the minds of even our youngest children. Just take a look at a middle school textbook called Bridges to Literature (California Edition), a collection of literary selections, published by McDougal Littell, a Houghton Mifflin Company, which is aimed at students in grades 6-8 and specifically those reading at only a grade 4-5 level.

As an example of historical fiction the editors offer a story about the landing of the English in Massachusetts. The piece is entitled "The Invaders" and is told from the viewpoint of an Indian who observes the menacing arrival on shore of a "heavily armed" group of men. The Indian fears, "They would come out and hunt us down like animals. They would hunt us down and kill us all." "What images does the word 'invader' bring to your mind?" the students are asked. There is a brief sidebar that identifies the Indian as a composite of two actual people and the settlers as the Pilgrims. On the off chance that your child is slow and doesn't quite grasp the intended message of the main story, the sidebar pounds home the point with the headline "The True Invaders." Needless to say, there is no mention of the first Thanksgiving.

A section called "Courage Counts" contains stories about four heroes: an escaped slave named Tice Davids, Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, farm workers union organizer Cesar Chavez, and Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller. Chavez is graced with a lengthy profile and canonized as "one of the truly heroic figures of the twentieth century," "a giant in the civil rights movement of the United States," and "A saint. A hero. The Mexican-American Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." Contrast the treatment of Chavez with a story elsewhere in the book about Abraham Lincoln, the only traditional American icon to be featured, which is limited to reporting on his childhood relationship with his stepmother and says next to nothing about his accomplishments.

The salute to Wilma Mankiller, who became the first woman chief of the Cherokee nation in 1985, exposes American cruelty on "the Trail of Tears." The Cherokee once lived in the southeastern part of the United States. "How they loved that land!" But in 1838, "President Van Buren sent in the army. Soldiers dragged Cherokees from their log cabins. Soldiers loaded Cherokees onto wagons. Soldiers shot Cherokees who tried to get away…. In the next two years, about 17,000 Cherokees were sent west. Four thousand died on the way." In the end, "They had nothing left but the spirit within them."

When Mankiller ran for election as deputy chief in 1983, she was shocked to learn that many people in the tribe considered her gender a disqualification. "How could anyone say only men make good leaders? Had the Cherokees picked up this idea from white people? Wilma thought so." After all, "When white settlers came to America, they brought new ideas with them. Some of their ideas were good. Some were not. One idea was that men were more important than women."

Poetry selections in Bridges to Literature include a 27-line verse entitled "Graffiti" and subheaded "A Little Graffiti Can Say a Lot about the Person Who Wrote It." The editors pose to students three questions labeled "Connect to Your Life": "Where have you seen graffiti? Did you think about the writer? How do you think the writer felt when he or she wrote it?" There is no discussion of the wrongfulness of graffiti vandalism.

"Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust" describes Nazi-like creatures who prowl the forest kidnapping one species at a time. The other animals in the woods selfishly rationalize what is happening so long as they are not themselves targeted. All of the animals are eventually taken away, however, except for the rabbits who are finally grabbed too. But as Big Rabbit insists before their fate is sealed, "We are the White Rabbits. It couldn't happen to us."

The oft-quoted statement of German Pastor Martin Niemoller follows the forest allegory: "The Nazis came first for the Communists. But I wasn't a Communist, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew, so I didn't speak up…." In a long excerpt from Anne Frank: Child of the Holocaust, the Communists are again cited as among the persecuted. The textbook honors the double standard by which the crimes of Nazis are included as an integral part of the school curriculum whereas the crimes of Communists are completely ignored. Better yet, Reds are portrayed as victims to young school children who perhaps have never before heard, or at least understood, the word "Communist." You may rest assured that there is no mention, much less a story, of any of the millions who died in the Gulag.

Bridges to Literature offers its unique perspective on the American military. The focus is not on the causes for which our servicemen and women have sacrificed in war but rather on weaponry and bombing. "Weapons of War" deals with the Colonists' use of flintlock muskets and breech-loading rifles and their invention of the first submarine, known as the Turtle. "The Turtle never sank any ships. But it showed that man could attack from underwater. A new military weapon was born!" George Washington is granted his one sentence reference in the book.

"Shot Down Behind Enemy Lines" is introduced as follows: "Vietnam was a very dangerous place for U.S. soldiers. The jungle held many hidden dangers. Enemy soldiers seemed to attack from out of nowhere. U.S. soldiers depended on planes and missiles. Special planes sprayed chemicals that destroyed the thick jungle growth." Navigator and weapons systems operator Captain Roger Locher is ultimately rescued after he parachutes from his burning plane following an encounter with some MiG-21s (No word where those came from!) but not before he barely escapes being captured by "a search party of Vietnamese soldiers." Notice that the author does not say "North Vietnamese."

Good use is made of repulsive imagery in describing Locher's experience in the jungle: "Mosquitoes and other insects tormented him endlessly. His skin was covered with red welts and stinging bites. Too, leeches crawled up inside his clothing. Time and again he would pull up his pants to find his legs covered with the ugly things. Their slimy black bodies were bloated with his blood. With disgust, he tore them from his flesh and crushed them." A brief, context-free sidebar about U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady, whose plane went down over Bosnia, reveals that he survived by eating ants. There is nothing to be found in either piece indicating why these men were fighting in a foreign land. If there is no reason, how can there be any justification? A student might well wonder.

The most dramatic offering in Bridges to Literature is a lengthy excerpt from Laurence Yep's semi-fictional Hiroshima, which appears in the textbook immediately preceding the Holocaust story about Anne Frank mentioned earlier. Many pages are dedicated to detailing the suffering and death of 195,000 Japanese, thanks to the Americans. "People are still dying today," the author informs. Yep acknowledges that war began as a result of a Japanese aerial attack: "Caught by surprise, many ships and planes were wrecked at the naval base, Pearl Harbor." But nothing is said about anyone being killed.

The narrative jumps back and forth between the crews of the Enola Gay and its escort planes and two Japanese teenage sisters, Riko and Sachi. The Americans are shown preparing for their operation. Finally, "The bombardier presses a button to release the bomb." As for the girls: "Sachi mercifully passes out." "Riko and her classmates are destroyed." Later, "The bodies of schoolchildren are piled up on a hallway bench. The mother looks through the bodies for her daughter. She hears a groan. Someone is alive. It is Sachi. However, Sachi has terrible burns on her face. She cannot even smile. It is as if she has no face."

The editors assert that "the military" dropped the bomb — as opposed to the U.S. Government apparently — so that our children know exactly whom to blame. The Hiroshima excerpt is followed by "Think It Through": "This piece shows the tragedy caused by the dropping of the atom bomb. Do you think ending the war made up for this tragedy?" Since the students have virtually no knowledge of the War in the Pacific, the question answers itself.

The lesson concludes with "Floating Lanterns XII," a poem that tells of paper lanterns painted with the names of bomb victims and annually sent down the rivers of Hiroshima in memory of the time when "these same rivers were filled with the corpses of those fathers, mothers, and sisters." The editors neglect to raise the matter of Japanese brutality against Americans, or even against Filipinos or Chinese. Teaching school children about the Bataan Death March, for example, would undoubtedly fail to contribute to the development of the appropriate student consciousness.

Sorry to say, Bridges to Literature is not an isolated case. American Literature is published by Globe Fearon, a division of Simon & Schuster, and is considered suitable for middle and high school ESL (English as a Second Language) students reading at a grade 3-4 level. This textbook routinely identifies non-white characters by their race or ethnicity, sometimes noting admiringly their pride in their heritage. Whites, on the other hand, are said or implied to be "white" generally only when they are depicted harming non-whites.

About 20 of the approximately 60 stories, sidebars, and poems in the book concern the lives of black Americans and present those lives in the most desperate terms. An adaptation of the autobiography of Frederick Douglass tells of his experience as a slave: "[He] was beaten even when he was very sick." In her story Harriet Tubman is beaten also. "Escape: A Slave Narrative" describes a man's "frightening and dangerous flight from a slave state to a free state," where a Pennsylvania Quaker family offers him sanctuary. He says, "I had never before received such treatment at the hands of any white man."

"Dust Tracks on a Road" tells of a girl who attends a blacks-only school in the early 1900s, and it is followed by a brief history of school segregation. There is a story about Rosa Parks and her refusal to sit in the back of the bus, accompanied by a sidebar on the Ku Klux Klan. In a Langston Hughes poem, "A mother compares life to climbing stairs." Another poem laments the situation of a black family enduring life "in a poor, dirty city [with] ugliness all around them…."

"Little Things Are Big" is about a black Puerto Rican teenager who refrains from assisting a woman on the subway struggling with her bag and her small children because he expects, "This white lady might be prejudiced against African-Americans." He later regrets that he did not help her. Black Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente appears in this book as well coping with discrimination in major league baseball: "Some people treated him badly because of where he came from and because of the color of his skin."

In the midst of all this unrelenting misery and injustice, "Ballad of Birmingham" presents an account of a black mother who fears for her young daughter's safety if she participates in a civil rights march. She sends her instead to church where the child is killed in a bombing.

A number of stories chronicle the suffering of the Indians. One is about the Cheyene tribes who are chased by white settlers from the area of Minnesota to the Dakotas. Another describes the plight of the Sioux: "Conditions on the reservations were terrible. People often did not have enough to eat. Many got sick and died…. In 1890, U.S. soldiers attacked the Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Over 250 Sioux were killed."

"At Last I Kill a Buffalo" tells of "the Sioux's preparations for the hunt and an understanding of its importance…." Accompanying this story is "The End of the Buffalo," which charges, "Many white hunters killed more buffalo than they could even use. Soon, there were fewer and fewer buffalo. Millions of buffalo were killed by whites. Only a few hundred survived." The result was that, "By the 1880s the Plains Indians had nothing to eat."

In "Chief Seattle's Oration," the wise leader "tells how his people and the white settlers are different. He asks only that respect be given to his people and to the spirits of his people's ancestors." Students are asked to consider, "Do you think most white settlers understood the Native Americans' feeling about nature and the land? Explain." Can we quickly guess the answer?

Finally, there are two stories about Japanese-Americans. In each story the central character is a young girl. By a remarkable coincidence, in both cases the girl is a prisoner at Manzanar, the World War II internment camp in Southern California. The young readers are urged to ponder, "Why are there barbed wire fences, guards, and locked gates for women and children?" After "Prisoner of My Country," the students are instructed: "Write a letter to the President of the United States telling him how you feel about being in Manzanar." "A Taste of Snow" is followed by the suggestion: "Write a diary entry as the girl narrator explaining what Christmas was like in Manzanar."

Bridges to Literature and American Literature present the worst that can possibly be dredged up about the United States. The apparent goal is to teach students to be ashamed of their country, especially its military. Children are encouraged not to see themselves as Americans possessing a common humanity but rather to view the world though the prism of race and ethnicity and to regard white people as the oppressor. Since a huge percentage of today's students are the children of third world immigrants who have found freedom and opportunity in the U.S., this propaganda is particularly contemptible.

The education establishment apparatchiks who are responsible for these and similar textbooks evidently believe that nobody is watching what they are doing. Presumably they think that they are totally free to promote their hate-America and hate-the-white-man agenda. So far it seems that they are largely correct in their assumptions. It is long past time that the American people wake up and put a stop to the brainwashing of our children.


Edgar B. Anderson is a graduate of Stanford Law School and works as a freelance journalist.


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