American Elephants

Is America Exceptional? Big Debate in Nebraska. Kids Won. by The Elephant's Child


Students in Nebraska are getting new standards for social studies curriculum, after weeks of intense debate. The state Board of Education reached agreement on two items of controversy this week: whether to include “American exceptionalism” and how to teach about “climate change,” in the first revision of the curriculum in twenty years.

The words”American exceptionalism” do not appear in the final draft, but the concept does. In the sixth through eighth grade U.S. history standards, one of the “indicators” —indicators of what to teach— is “the unique nature of the creation and organization of the American Government, and the United States as an exceptional nation based upon personal freedom, the inherent nature of citizens’ rights and democratic ideals.”

Climate change  appears in the sixth-through eighth-grade geography standards, but is presented as a theory, not as fact, asking students to evaluate “recent global climate change theories and evidence that supports and refutes such theories.”

Well, that’s about as namby-pamby as you can get, but they are at least on the right track. I think most of us could improve on the phrasing, and clarify the thought.

Lefty rag Mother Jones is horrified. The headline is  “Nebraska Kids to Learn America is Awesome, Climate Change is Just a Theory.” Well, the climate is always changing, just as it always has. And there has been no warming for sixteen years, but “theory” is maybe a little strong. The story by Kate Sheppard is straightforward, but the comments are quite clear that only knuckle-dragging Christian fundamentalists could believe such nonsense.

Those who deny American exceptionalism demonstrate only their ignorance of American history, or their having been swayed by the prop0aganda of Howard Zinn’s dreadful A People’s History of the United States, which is actually assigned in many school districts across the country, to our shame.


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