By Barry Rubin
Are your children being indoctrinated? In past Rubin Reports I pointed out that almost the entire social studies’ curriculum of my son’s fourth grade class last year consisted of three topics:
–America has not kept its promises and has been a racist and often bad country. The main example was the World War Two internment of Japanese which was the focus of reading material.
–Immigration is always good (with no mention of illegal immigration or any resulting problems).
–Man-made global warming is a serious threat to human survival.
Other viewpoints—indeed other issues generally—weren’t presented on any of these issues. There was little positive about America.
My son was upset at the portrayal of Israel in Junior Scholastic magazine of September 6, 2010, given to his fifth-grade class to read. So I gave that issue a thorough evaluation, trying to be fair and reasonable in doing so.
Main Article: “Obama’s In-Box” pp. 6-8. An article about challenges facing the President. Most of the short items are balanced—immigration, oil spill, terrorism (domestic only), Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea– in that they present more than one side and avoid partisan language.
There are three exceptions, however:
–The Middle East: This is seriously slanted. After being told Obama wants to make peace the kids are instructed:
“Muslim extremists often use U.S. support for Israel as an excuse to commit terrorist acts. But some Israeli policies, Obama says, work against peace.”
While the first sentence is certainly true, in this context (with no other factors being presented) the kids are being taught that U.S. support for Israel threatens their lives. (Obvious answer: Protect yourself by ending support for Israel.)
As for the second sentence, Obama’s considerable prestige is thrown in to blame Israel for the lack of peace. That’s it. No criticism of the Palestinians. Nothing about Hamas or any hint of anti-Israel terrorism or the goal of wiping Israel off the map.
Do I think this was conscious and deliberate? Probably not. Is it damaging and dangerous? Definitely yes.
–Jobs and the Economy: There’s still a recession, the kids are told, but good news! “In the last two years, the federal government has spent billions of dollars to try to save and create jobs. This has helped pull the nation out of a recession. But unemployment is still nearly 10 percent, and the housing market remains shaky.” An unnamed expert explains: the economy is growing but still slowly.
While the third and fourth sentence provides some balance, this is an endorsement of government high-spending policy. Has this really worked? No contrary view—Stimulus failed; cut spending, recession far from over– is given. Moreover, it should always be pointed out that money being spent doesn’t come from government but from taxpayers.
–Climate Change: This is presented as a major threat to the world. It quotes Obama as saying the United States must act before “the effects of climate change become `irreversible.’” There is no hint that anyone might disagree even with the proposition that minor human actions like cutting auto emissions would make a difference.
Article pp. 2-3: “Beyond the Cleanup: What’s The Long-Term Impact of the Gulf Oil Disaster”
[Important Note: This article is partly balanced by a debate on page 9 over off-shore drilling between the presidents of the National Resources Defense Council and the American Petroleum Institute.]
Message: We must reduce oil use even if this means lower living standards and go to alternative fuels(often unproven) even if they cost more.
Not mentioned: The blow-out was exceptional, deep-drilling was a response to environmental demands. This is almost like saying that the crash of an improperly maintained airplane shows Americans must reduce their dependence on air travel.
“What’s less clear [is] whether this disaster will finally get Americans to reduce their dependence on oil.”
While BP is mainly to blame “Americans also bear at least some indirect responsibility. The U.S. consumes more oil than any other country….This has led to drilling in riskier areas, including ever-deeper sites offshore.” That argument is simply untrue. There are vast areas closer in to shore and elsewhere where drilling has been forbidden by the U.S. government.
Your living standards are too high: “An estimated 71 percent of the oil we use fuels transportation. Most of the rest goes into making products that we often toss out in massive quantities. ”
Quote from fisherman—on National Public Radio (of course)—saying “I don’t see a future for us to catch fresh fish ever again—oysters, crabs.” This is clearly alarmist and is not matched by less extreme quote (terrible damage but we will come back).
Only one proposed solution offered: “President Barack Obama has called for the development of alternative fuels as one way to reduce our dependence. But much more will be needed. Are Americans willing to change their energy habits?”
Article: “We Are Americans Too!” Pages 16-19:
Important Note: The one quote from the play that is arguably balancing is also published as a large cut line prominently displayed: “They don’t know what’s in our hearts. They don’t know that we are loyal.”
Oh no, the Japanese internment story seems to be the main theme of American education. In the play, the father of the family is falsely accused of using his fishing boat to spy and smuggle in supplies for the Japanese army? This is NOT a true story but a PBS play and I doubt that anyone was specifically accused of espionage like this.
The focus is on how badly they are treated, insults, etc. I’m not going over the issue in detail here, only to say that while the action seems wrong and unnecessary from the perspective of almost 70 years later, at the time it was a reasonable thing to do given the lack of information about Japanese immigrant views, genuine fear of a Japanese attack on the Pacific coast, the fact that extensive spying had been done to prepare the Pearl Harbor attack (we now know mainly by the Japanese consulate in Hawaii), the existence of militant Japanese nationalist societies, the legitimacy of the existing Japanese government (in contrast to the usurper regimes in Germany and Italy), and the centrality of obedience to the emperor in the Shinto tradition. None of these points is mentioned in the article and these are never explained in the study of the issue in elementary schools.
I was puzzled by this obsession until I read what Daniel Pipes wrote on the subject. He explains that the subject is deliberately intended as a parallel showing why the main threat is Islamophobia and not Islamist terrorism and similar things. His article also shows additional reasons why authorities implemented an internament policy.
I should also note that the point is never explicitly made that not a single internee was killed, injured, or tortured, adding to the credit accruing to American behavior in the past. Finally, students are never taught about how Americans and others were tortured and mistreated in Japanese internment camps. This would NOT justify similar behavior by Americans, of course, but shows something vital for students to learn: Other peoples often behave badly, Americans and those in democratic countries almost always behave better.
My conclusion is that Junior Scholastic editors are partly trying to be balanced and do a better job of it than much of the mass media but that there are still serious examples of indoctrination on some issues.