Federal education officials introduced a massive education overhaul Tuesday designed to bring children’s learning in line with global standards.
The comprehensive program is designed to approach every aspect of American public education, from kindergarten through high school.
In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, other subjects to be taught are gender and racial sensitivity and global citizenship. New educational programs will teach children about tolerance of homosexuality, feminism, environmentalism, and the United Nations.
Beginning in kindergarten, children will be immersed in a program named “Tolerance: Understanding Us All.” The curriculum is designed to “convey the proper attitudes and beliefs children should hold about people who are different from them, while eliminating traditional or homegrown prejudices they may harbor.”
But education officials hope teachers will move beyond the usual doctrines of tolerance.
“Tolerance is typically associated with understanding people of different races, religions, or sexual orientations,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a press conference. “We also want to teach acceptance of other oppressed groups, such as pedophiles and terrorists. Our goal should be to understand, rather than condemn, people who live very different lives from the rest of us.”
Traditional subjects also face revision. Officials have approved use of the textbook, The People: Their Democracy, Their Future, for high school American history. The book de-emphasizes the historical role of the Founding Fathers, while reminding students numerous times that many of them owned slaves.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Convention and Declaration of Independence are only marginally mentioned. The last chapter of the book, “Our Human Destiny,” explains the movement toward world unity and peace through the UN.
“This book is designed to present American history with a multicultural, multiracial, multinational, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-level approach,” said Karen Paxton of the American New History Project, an advisory group to the Education Department.
Another change will address math courses at every grade level.
“Math is a subject where, traditionally, there’s only one answer to a problem, so on a test you’re either right or wrong,” said Paxton. “The problem is, children who get the answer wrong feel bad. Instead of imposing absolute values, where two plus two always equals four, children and teachers should talk about the problem and whether other solutions may also be correct.”
The new science education standards mandate that evolution be taught at every grade level as “an unquestionable, absolute fact whose powerful truth is beyond any criticism or scientific argumentation whatsoever, in perpetuity.” Children are also required to sign a pledge affirming their faith in global warming and abstaining from further inquiry into the matter.
With rising deficits, some have questioned the estimated $450 billion cost of implementing the plan. But Duncan contends that the spending is more than justified when considering the scope of the program.
“Even though we’ve continually increased education spending, the United States still lags the industrialized world,” Duncan said. “Spending even more money is the rational response to this observed phenomenon and shows how serious we are about education.”