By Laurie Higgins, Director of IFI's DSA - Illinois Family Institute
It's almost amusing to hear yet another public school administrator defend student exposure to radical ideas by appealing to the importance of "critical thinking." Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Alan Leis waxes noble and enthusiastic about the pedagogical importance of students hearing a former terrorist speak, declaiming, "We're causing kids to think and face controversial issues and take their own position on it (sic), and provide students with an opportunity most school districts around the country would die for." It sounds as if Leis, like Chris Matthews, just may have been feeling a "thrill going up" his leg at the prospect of former Weather Underground member and "social justice" theorist extraordinaire speaking at Naperville North.
Administrators and teachers pull the old "critical thinking" argument out of their bag of rhetorical tricks exclusively in the service of exposing students to the ideas of liberals and radicals. Rarely, if ever, do you see public schools exposing students to essays or cultural commentaries or books or speakers that espouse conservative views in order that "students can think and face controversial issues and take their own positions" on them. Funny how that almost never happens.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of critical thinking. In fact, I think there's far too little of it taking place among public educators. How, pray tell, do educators foster critical thinking when they refuse to expose students to the best conservative thinking? Those of a liberal persuasion call this "censorship"--except when they do it.
How do they censor, let me count the ways:
* Many American students have been shown Al Gore's increasingly discredited polemic An Inconvenient Truth, but how many have seen the BBC's The Great Global Warming Swindle?
* Many students have been exposed to resources that teach that the world is overpopulated, but how many have been shown the film Demographic Winter or read excerpts from Jacqueline Kasun's book The War Against Population?
* Many students have been exposed to resources that embody or espouse the troubling "social justice" theories of Maxine Greene, Brian Cambourne, Paulo Freire, Asa Hilliard, or Bill Ayers, but how many have been exposed to criticism of those ideas by the likes of Sol Stern, David Horowitz, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, Dinesh D'Souza, and Thomas Sowell?
* In their history classes, many student have been exposed to the anti-American, anti-free market ideas of Howard Zinn through his book The People's History of the United States, but how many have been exposed to the ideas of Professor Larry Schweikart through his book 48 Liberal Lies About America? This may be a provocative title, but no more provocative than using Zinn's work and certainly no more provocative than having an unrepentant terrorist speak to students.
* Students are exposed to plenty of feminist-infected ideas, but how many students are exposed to Christina Hoff Sommers' books The War Against Boys or Who Stole Feminism?
* Students are exposed to feminist literary theory, but how many of them have read excerpts from John Ellis' Literature Lost?
* Students are compelled to use "gender inclusive" language, but how many are taught the feminist political history that drove this linguistic development.
* Students are exposed to magazine articles, essays, plays, novels, films, and speakers that espouse liberal/radical views on the nature and morality of homosexuality, but how many students are exposed to the voices of intellectuals who espouse intelligent, articulate conservative views on the nature and morality of homosexuality. There are easily available books like Homosexuality and American Public Life, Same Sex Matters: The Challenge of Homosexuality, or Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, as well as countless essays and commentaries written by intellectuals whose views students deserve to hear. Why don't educators seem as invested in providing students with resources like these that espouse conservative views as they are in providing students with resources that espouse liberal views? Could it be that these "educators" are more invested in advocacy than critical thinking?
If I were a betting woman, I would bet good money that the Naperville North social studies teacher who invited Ayers to speak holds left-of-center beliefs.