After Mansa Musa

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 6, 1996 | Go to article overview
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After Mansa Musa


A nearly universal condemnation understandably greeted the 1994 original draft of national history standards for students in elementary and secondary schools studying U.S. and world history. The U.S. Senate, echoing hundreds of mainstream historians, voted 99-1 to condemn the politically correct, grossly unbalanced, blame-America-first standards, which, for example, mentioned the Seneca Falls "Declaration of Sentiments" nine times (but the Federalist Papers not once) and Sen. Joseph McCarthy/McCarthyism and the Ku Klux Klan nearly 20 times each (but Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers not once).

Typical of the political correctness that permeated the 2,700 sample history assignments accompanying the initial report was the suggestion that students "conduct a trial" of John D. Rockefeller in which he is accused of "knowingly and willfully participat[ing] in unethical and amoral business practices designed to undermine traditions of fair open competition for personal and private aggrandizement in direct violation of the common welfare." In marked contrast, students examining the African kingdoms and tribes that were the source of American slaves are invited to "analyze the achievements and grandeur of Mansa Musa's court and the social customs and wealth of the kingdom of Mali."

Lynne Cheney, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which helped to bankroll the project, blew the whistle on the highly revisionist garbage once she realized that the grantee - the National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA -had conducted an "intellectual shell game" about its intentions. In an effort to salvage what was worth salvaging, panels were assembled to offer recommendations to revise the standards. This week the UCLA center issued its revisions. Notably absent were the controversial classroom assignment activities that aroused so much criticism. But Mrs. Cheney is not impressed - and for good reason.

Still absent is any mention of the Federalist Papers, though the standards finally managed to mention the Constitution. To be sure, other improvements were made as well, including a revised, more balanced view of the Cold War that no longer holds the United States largely responsible for the so-called "swordplay." Regrettably, however, the new standards for some inexplicable reason find it necessary to parrot the liberal view that "the pervasive inequalities in the educational opportunities currently available to students" are mostly attributable to "gross inequities in school financing [and] resource allocation.

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