Founding Fathers, Classroom Lookism and Standardizing the Tests

New Jersey's revised history standards don't include the founding fathers, reports the Washington Times. Washington, Jefferson and Franklin aren't mentioned. Neither are the Pilgrims or the Mayflower. The word "war" has been been replaced by "conflict" in the early lessons.

Defenders say that teachers will teach about George Washington without being told, but might skip slavery opponents Theodore Dwight Weld and Angelina and Sarah Grimke, who are specified in the draft.

However, it's not clear that the basics of American history are being taught. Diversity mania and church-state idiocy have warped the curriculum in many places.

Some states like Virginia and Indiana also don't include the Pilgrims in their standards. In some cases, the Pilgrims are referred to as early settlers, early Europeans, European colonizers or newcomers, although most textbooks still call them Pilgrims.

"[The word] Pilgrim implies religion," said Brian Jones, vice president for Communications and Policy at the Education Leaders Council in Washington. "It's getting more difficult to talk about the Bible and the Puritans."

New Jersey students may never know that Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom, or that a tree-destroying, slave-owning militarist killed enemy soldiers in the Revolutionary Conflict to become the patriarch of his white male-dominated country.

Bellicose Americans

According to the latest Gallup poll, Americans are willing to fight Iraq, Iran and any other country President Bush cares to name. (Gallup didn't ask about France.) Bush' s approval ratings for the war on terrorism remain amazingly high.

89% approved of the current U.S. military action in Afghanistan.

77% favor taking military action in Iraq

71% favor taking military action in Iran

45% support military action against terrorists only if they threaten the U.S.; an additional 49 percent support military action against terrorists even if they don't threaten the U.S.


The best analysis of the Enron debacle I've seen so far comes from Dave Barry.

Q. How, exactly, did Enron make money?

A. Nobody knows. This is usually the case with corporations whose names sound like fictional planets from Star Wars. Allegedly, Enron was in the energy business, but when outside investigators finally looked into it, they discovered that the only actual energy source in the entire Enron empire was a partially used can of Sterno in the basement of corporate headquarters.

Saving innocent Afghans

The U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan killed 1,000 civilians, estimates Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. And will save the lives of more than 100,000 Afghans each year.

In each of the last few years, without anyone paying much attention, 225,000 children died in Afghanistan before the age of 5, along with 15,000 women who died during pregnancy or childbirth. There was no way to save those lives under the Taliban; indeed, international organizations were retreating from Afghanistan even before 9/11 because of the arrests of Christian aid workers.

Since the Taliban's fall, Unicef has vaccinated 734,000 children against measles, preventing 35,000 deaths, "in a country where virtually no one had been vaccinated against the disease in the previous 10 years." With continued aid, Unicef thinks the child and maternal mortality rate can be cut in half in five years.

Working from United Nations figures, if Afghanistan eventually improves just to the wretched levels of neighboring Pakistan, that would mean 115,000 fewer deaths a year of children under the age of 5, along with 9,600 fewer women dying in pregnancy each year.

Kristof's numbers don't consider the 100,000 Afghans who died of hunger In the last year of Taliban rule. Some 600,000 were at risk of starvation in June, 2001, reported the New Delhi Daily Telegraph. The U.N. World Food Programme was threatening to pull out because of Taliban corruption and laws making it impossible to get food to needy women. Now Afghans are getting food aid.

"There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter,” said Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme, which trucks the food aid into Afghanistan. “There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition this summer before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale.”

Testing, testing

The SAT verbal and math tests should be replaced by a new test linked to what's supposed to be taught in California classrooms, says a University of California faculty committee. UC President Richard C. Atkinson suggested dumping the SAT I last year; he prefers the SAT II achievement tests.

This won't do what the proponents secretly want: Qualify more "underrepresented minorities'' for Berkeley and UCLA. It won't relieve the test anxiety that ambitious high school students face: They'll have yet another test to worry about. (Anyone who applies out of state will still have to take the SATs.) Why not use the statewide exam, which soon will be linked to state standards in math as well as language arts? Or the state's exit exam? Or, if those standards are too low, the Golden State exams for high achievers?

It's not as if the new UC test would be radically different than the SATs. The leading candidates to write the new test are the companies that make the SAT and the ACT college exams.

Lookism in the classroom

"Dumb, but pretty," my rant on the evils of graphic software in the classroom, is posted on TechCentralStation.

Of course, if I weren't such a technological dummy, I'd have figured out why my new template -- which has a space for freelance articles -- isn't publishing to the web site.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer.  Now she blogs for tips at while writing a book, "Start-Up High,'' about a San Jose charter school.  She's never gotten a dime from Enron.