Malcolm in the Wrong

By: Nancy Salvato

As I stated in a piece titled, Civic Education Is Missing in the U.S. Diet, the framers of the US Constitution realized that democracy would only work when citizens are included in making decisions. Civic responsibility means not only to possess knowledge of government, but to learn about processes and institutions that are effective in improving community conditions, developing skills necessary to participate in policymaking processes, and developing a mentality that includes performing
lifelong service for the common good.

In, Producing Good Citizens Trumps Ideological Short-Sightedness, I defend the federally funded Center for Civic Education’s books and programs by explaining that the federal government is charged with protecting our way of life. Producing the text “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” is one way for the federal government to help ensure that the public schools help create civically minded citizens, not “Politically Correct” socialists who depend on others to decide what they think,
how they will take care of themselves, and what laws we live by. While I don’t believe that the federal government should be in the education business (nor the teacher’s unions for that matter), the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that we maintain our way of life and if this textbook is what my federal tax dollars are going to support, then I am in full accordance with this legitimate use of public money. The Center publishes its own materials, distributes about 90% of them
free, sells others at close to cost, and all proceeds go to furthering the programs of the Center and none to royalties or individuals.

In, Who is Accusing Whom of having an Agenda?, I refute the arguments made by Malcolm Kline in his piece, entitled, We the Proletariat, in which he states that the program is remiss in its goal to deepen adherents’ understanding of the American Constitutional system and its development.

His argument that the text misleads students to believe that all rights reside with the federal government is outlandish. One of the first ideas discussed in the text is how a Constitutional government establishes limits on the power of government to prevent it from violating natural rights and that the government is organized and power distributed in such a way as to increase the possibility that those limitations will be effective (p 9, WTP). The ideas of enumerated and un-enumerated rights
are discussed in detail as well. (p 210, WTP)

His second argument about the second amendment doesn’t hold any weight either. According to his sources, the text defines this as the right of a state to have a militia but not as a personal right to bear arms. Yet on page 240, right there in black and white, the second amendment is listed with a definition that includes both of these ideas. Although the authors decided to focus more in depth discussion questions on the 1st amendment, because the rights protected under it are considered by many
to be the most important, and on the rights of those accused of crimes and the procedures in the court system; this doesn’t mean an instructor can’t discuss in more detail some of the second amendment issues in the news. Because the Second Amendment is of historical and contemporary importance, it is introduced to students in the text, and a critical thinking exercise is devoted solely to it. The critical thinking exercise on the Second Amendment asks students to explore the reasons for its
establishment and to develop their own positions on the contemporary relevance of the amendment and the extent of the rights it should be interpreted to protect. The Second Amendment is also treated in hearing questions that are a part of local, state, and national competitions held each year.

Because the book doesn’t reflect a special interest agenda, it does not pass judgment on the United Nations even though this critic would like it to include an anti UN agenda. He assumes that because the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights is discussed in the book that this means that CCE is endorsing those rights over the natural rights protected in our own Constitution. It is simply a point of discussion. (pp 206-208)

His criticism of the common knowledge that “Islamic countries take their code of laws from the teaching of the Koran, the book of sacred writings accepted by Muslims as revelations to the prophet Mohammed by God” being acknowledged in the text after 9/11 makes no sense. What is his beef? Should we ignore that Islam is derived from the Koran? Is he saying its not?

He ends his malicious tirade accusing The Center for Civic Education’s WTP program as reflecting special interests which are intensely ideological. It would seem that his accusation implicates himself as a hypocrite because WTP doesn’t follow the extremely ideological agenda he espouses.

I am more than willing to send a copy of the text to Malcolm Kline if he is willing to read it with fidelity. That means that he has to open his mind and not be prejudiced against the material before he opens the book. If he is willing, I’m sure he will find that “We The People: The Citizen And The Constitution” is a great teaching resource and that it would do our system of education in this country good to implement it instead of programs that teach kids how to place condoms on cucumbers.
After all, our freedom is the most valuable right protected under the Constitution. And our Constitution is currently under attack by special interest groups wanting special rights and privileges which has the effect of taking away the freedom our Constitution is meant to ensure.

To date, Mr. Kline has not taken me up on my offer, but he has continued to malign the Center for Civic Education and myself, most currently in his piece, High School Confidential. To his assertion, “She never answered any of my direct quotes with primary quotations of her own,” I pride myself on researching a subject before writing about it. I do not “opine” or “bloviate”, I present facts. To his assertion, “She never mentioned that she works for the company that publishes the textbook,” I do
not work for the Center for Civic Education, I volunteer as an Illinois District Coordinator. Most people affiliated with the center are volunteers. In that capacity, I distribute textbooks and mentor teachers in the WTP and Project Citizen programs.

Someone with the title, Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia, should have to check his facts (and make no mistake, he has not) before opining about a program. Rather than continue to propagate the myths of Ed Watch’s Alan Quist and adherents, I urge those interested in pursuing the truth in this matter, to take CCE up on its offer to provide copies of the texts with the disputed parts to concerned citizens so they can do their own homework and decide for themselves to what degree, if any,
the allegations of EdWatch and its affiliates, are merited. Now we can keep arguing amongst ourselves about the vehicle or we can focus on the real problem, which is that the Constitution is not being taught effectively in the classroom. Those who insist on arguing about the vehicle effectively indoctrinate themselves as part of the problem.

Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2006

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, ( a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy.

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