Newt Speaks

This from a speech Newt Gingrich gave on what should be done in American schools:

10. Insist on paying great teachers a lot more and releasing bad teachers before they can cripple the future of the children they serve.

12. Insist on reasserting American Exceptionalism by having every student in taxpayer-financed schools, whether K through 12 or in the state college and university systems, have a brief course annually on the Declaration of Independence, its assertion of self-evident truths, and its declaration that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The time has come to reassert that we are Americans, and America is a learned civilization.

I'm good on the first one but the second? Yes, we are the great nation ever created, the most favored people to ever walk the earth, blah, blah, blah. ( I'm not sure but I think America and civilization in one sentence is an oxymoron.) Maybe not.

Bless the U.S. AND every other country on the planet. So there, Newt.


hschinske said…
"Insist on reasserting American Exceptionalism by having every student in taxpayer-financed schools, whether K through 12 or in the state college and university systems"

Okay, I totally misread this at first. I thought he was calling for private education to be dismantled, and every student to be educated in public institutions. Whoa, that's some commie pinko socialist stuff there, Newt!

Helen Schinske
The Real Arnold said…
"Boo!" to your commentary in the post.
zb said…
Does he want graduate students in bioengineering to take a course on the Declaration of Independence?

Clearly talking point gibberish.

But, I do think our the American educational system should teach American history, including the Declaration of Independence and the constitution and about the men who established the nation. Of course that means the beauty of the first amendment and "we the people" as well as the ugly blot of the 3/5ths compromise.
Sahila said…
thanks for your commentary on the post, Melissa.... I very much appreciate that you are not displaying some of those disturbing jingoistic traits other americans do....

Jingoism is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy". In practice, it refers to the advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what they perceive as their country's national interests, and colloquially to excessive bias in judging one's own country as superior to others – an extreme type of nationalism.

The term originated in Britain, expressing a pugnacious attitude towards Russia in the 1870s. During the 19th century in the United States, journalists called this attitude spread-eagleism.

"Jingoism" did not enter the U.S. vernacular until near the turn of the 20th century. This nationalistic belligerence was intensified by the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana harbour that led to the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Jan said…
To the Real Arnold: I don't agree with your "Boo." (Though I don't agree that every country on the planet has a government of equal worth -- it would be nice if they were all blessed with at least some things (freedom, tolerance, wisdom, generosity, a desire for justice, etc. etc.). The US has had its hands full over the last 200 years working out its OWN issues with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" -- as well we should. Simple words, but difficult to effectuate.

But my real reason for disagreeing with "boo" is that it is educational tampering of the worst, most wretched kind. Every year? Seriously? Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be more likely to water down the really exciting elements of studying the Declaration and turn it into dreck. This is material that should be presented several times (but clearly not annually), by teachers really jazzed to teach it, and IN CONTEXT with other materials being covered (U.S. History, Civics, Political Theory/Political Philosophy, etc. etc.) But I cannot fathom any possible rationale for passing a law requiring it to be taught every year. Time is valuable. We waste so much of our kids' time already with stupid requirements that are jumbled in on them thoughtlessly -- Washington State History, health, occ ed credits, senior projects -- on and on and on it goes. Everybody has a good idea -- NO one seems to keep the larger picture in mind.

To my knowledge, no one gets out of a public high school without Civics their senior year -- it should be left to the "plenty patriotic, American" teachers to figure out when to first introduce it, and how often after that. My youngest got a good dose of it in middle school, and visited it again last year in US History and again this year in AP US government. It's plenty. He's fine. Newt's idea is idiotic. Stupid ideas like this are why education ought to be controlled locally -- not nationally.
Arnold, why boo? Are Americans more exceptional than other people (just asking)?

I love, love, love this country (and I've lived in two others). I honestly wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

But I could never honestly say, "My country, right or wrong." I can say "My country, love it or leave" or maybe "my country, love it or be part of the solution; otherwise, leave".
wsnorth said…
Maybe Newt and his ilk should re-read the declaration themselves. It is, after all, "... with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and not " )for those who agree with me), liberty (for those who agree with me), and the pursuit of happiness (for those who agree with me)". And justice for all (but I think that is somewhere else)!
seattle said…
"To my knowledge, no one gets out of a public high school without Civics their senior year -"

Really? In what District? It's certainly not required, or even offered, in SPS. At least not at the comprehensive high school that my kid attends.

And it is not listed as an SPS HS graduation requirements.

Sure, some teachers voluntarily weave civics into their Social Studies curriculum - that happens fairly regularly. But it is certainly not required, and it's very inconsistent.
Bird said…
The requirements listed in the WAC
mention Civics, although apparently it doesn't need to be it's own course. It does need to be covered in a social studies course though when fulfilling high school requirements.

I don't know about all high schools, but the two I just looked at (Ballard and Roosevelt) offer American government courses that look pretty much like Civics courses to me.
Maureen said…
seattle, see the graduation requirements:

[O]ne credit shall be required in United States history and government which shall include study of the Constitution of the United States . . . . Course in economics, sociology, civics, political science, international relations, or related courses with emphasis on current problems may be accepted as equivalencies.” WAC 180-51-075. Students must also complete a classroom-based assessment in civics in the eleventh or twelfth grade.

Look at your kid's "High School and Beyond" Plan. It's there.
Patrick said…
I'm not even sure I agree with Gingrich's first statement. The face value is fine, more money for great teachers and dismiss the bad ones, but the subtext is that great teaching by itself is The Solution to educational problems and bad teaching is the greatest problem. Doubling the pay of the top 1% of teachers is not going to do much to improve the average educational level. Likewise, I don't think there's more than a few percent of teachers who are so bad they need to be moved out of the profession. So that's not going to do much to improve the overall educational level either.

What would help is better pay for teachers generally, so that good college students could go into teaching without taking a huge hit to their career earnings compared with other fields. Then early and effective one-on-one interventions for students in difficulty, like Charlie has mentioned often. And better social conditions for the poorest families. But all of those would cost money, and the last thing Gingrich wants to do is pay serious money. So we get token raises for some small number of teachers.

Wasting time covering civics again in every grade is just silly. It's good to cover it at a middle school level and again in the junior or senior years, to give better perspective for older students, but every year? And why the Declaration rather than the Constitution?

I don't buy that the U.S. is somehow exceptional. Lots of countries have inspiring words in their founding documents. Some even try to live up to them as well as we do. I love the U.S., but we shouldn't be trying to make out that we're better than everyplace else. I love my family, but I don't go around claiming that we're exceptional and better than every other family.
It is also law to "celebrate" Constitution Day (Sept. 17) and the district requires all 7th and 11th graders to complete the Constitutional Issues CBA each year.

Newt is either unaware of the current state of civics education in America or looking to fund it somewhere separate from where it is, currently, so a Republican can attach an amendment to a bill to cut all ear mark spending from years 2011 to 2013 (see recent Coburn Amendment to the Food Safety Bill- this amendment would have killed funding for education programs created in the Education for Democracy Act like Project Citizen, We the People, and Teach for America but was voted against and removed from the bill prior to its subsequent passage).

Regardless, it looks like political "chest puffing" and flag waving, and, yes, a bit "socialist" to me.
Anonymous said…
The full speech, if you're interested:

tbjohnston said…
Seems to me that since we want the next generation to have deep roots rather than be cut flowers, it's not inappropriate for them to learn the history of our nation.

And that certainly includes the good (Dec. of Independence, Constitution, Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural), the bad (slavery), and the ugly (3/5th's compromise).
Jan said…
tbjohnston: You are absolutely right. But Mr. Gingrich is not mrerely asking that students be taught the nation's history -- he is suggesting a federal requirement that one specific document -- the Declaration of Independence -- be a required subject (of a brief course) EVERY SINGLE year -- for 17 years (assuming 4 years of college). I suppose for med, law, doctoral programs, etc., he is actually looking for 20 to 21 years of required mandatory Declaration of Independence study. To me, that seems to be both excessive, and unreasonable and unwarranted meddling by federal government in an area (education) left to states and individuals.

Maybe, while they are at it, they should tackle the supremacy clause!
Empires always insist on talking about how exceptional they are and how they are exempt from the normal rules of history, and they are most strident about this immediately before they collapse.

It seems that our current empire is no exception.
tbjohnston said…
Jan - thanks for the catch. As you point out, a course, every year, just on the DofI is too much....

But I am always shocked when an adult - high school & college graduate - encounters Lincoln's Second Inaugural for the first time out of school. Shouldn't our schools and colleges cover this?

*more coming*

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