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We the People - A terrible federally-funded textbook

By Allen Quist 
web posted January 2, 2006

In her recent article on civics education, Nancy Salvato defended the textbook We the People: the Citizen and the Constitution and its publisher, the Center for Civic Education (CCE). In this article Salvato chose to not mention the fact that both the textbook and the CCE are funded by federal tax dollars (as written in "We the Proletariat"). She praises the CCE, however, by saying: The best thing about it [CCEs We the People program] is that schools can implement it at no cost. She avoids the real issue, however, by not saying that the reason We the People is available to schools at little or no cost is because it is funded by federal tax dollars.

Salvato additionally neglects to tell her readers that she is the Illinois Sixth Congressional District Coordinator for the CCE. This means that her article is not an arms-length, objective defense of We the People and the CCE. On the contrary, the article is really the spin that the CCE uses to promote its programs and its ongoing requests for federal money.

The CCE should be free to write any kind of materials it wishes, including textbooks which push the ideology of the radical left -- its forte. (See Textbook Review of We the People.) The federal government, however, should not be subsidizing the CCE and its textbooks, or any other textbooks (as stipulated by the proposed Freedom in Education Act). The CCE should be required to compete in the free-marketplace of ideas along with other publishers of school textbooks. Salvato can not begin to defend the CCE without avoiding the real issue.  Under present circumstances, the CCE uses some of its substantial financial resources to lobby Congress for more money. That money will be used to lobby Congress for more funding in the future as well as put various people on the payroll who will be expected to defend the CCE.

In its last budget proposal to Congress, the Bush Administration wisely zeroed out funding for the CCE. Was that a problem for the CCE? Not at all. The CCE simply used its influence, paid for in part by federal dollars, to lobby Congress to have its funding put back in the budget and has actually managed to have its proposed appropriations increased over the current budget. To minimize the potential for this kind of abuse of centralized power, perhaps education policy should be left to the states and the people, as the Tenth Amendment clearly indicates. (Not surprisingly, the CCE undermines the Tenth Amendment in its materials.)

Because of the left-leaning nature of the its materials, in addition to the federal funding issue, the CCE understandably specializes in misleading the public about its works. The Salvato article is typical of the CCE. In this article, for example, Nancy Salvato attempts to explain the fact that the Second Amendment is conspicuously absent from the second portion of the textbook, the unit titled: What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect [Today]? (How can a government text have a unit with this title and not mention the right to bear arms?) Salvatos defense of this Second Amendment disappearing act is stated as follows:

"Yet on page 240, right there in black and white, the second amendment is listed with a definition that includes both of these ideas [state militias and private ownership rights]."

Unfortunately, Salvato neglects to inform the reader that page 240 is in the Appendix! It is in that part of the Appendix that includes the Constitution (all government textbooks include the Constitution some place, usually in the Appendix). For Salvato to argue that the book gives the Second Amendment adequate treatment because the Constitution is in the Appendix is absurd. This is not a legitimate argument; it is manipulation -- the kind of propaganda that is typical of the CCE.

The rest of the Salvato article has no more substance than the argument described above. Let the buyer beware. The writings of Nancy Salvato regarding the CCE and its We the People program are nothing more than the rhetoric of the CCE. Is it too much to ask that the talking points of the CCE be labeled as such?

Allen Quist is Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Bethany Lutheran College . He is a former three-term member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota House Education Committee. He is author of three books and numerous articles on education policy. He is a frequent speaker at various national conferences on education issues. Several of his articles and books are available at EdWatch.org.

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