Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thinly-Sliced Education Standards & Extreme Hypocrisy of the Oklahoma Legislature

While there are other states that have now passed legislation that makes it mandatory for U.S. History teachers to commemorate the horrible 9/11 attacks on a particular anniversary day, the fact that the Oklahoma legislature has passed such legislation without also showing its concern to compel teachers to commemorate the Murrah Building bombing is hypocritical, if not surreal.

Like all dutiful Social Studies teachers in Oklahoma public schools, I commemorated the 9/11 attacks in my U.S. History classes yesterday.  I also reminded my students that we would be taking a much more in-depth look at those attacks and their impact on American life and policy when we reached that point on our timeline later.

Our hip-shooting legislators have passed legislation that requires history teachers to commemorate 9/11, Constitution Day, and a few others.  But if they are so concerned to make sure that I teach important events in our recent history, why not the Murrah Federal Building Bombing right here in Oklahoma City?  Because the perpetrator of that horrific act was a domestic right-wing extremist, not far off in political philosophy from those who have taken over our legislature.

Timothy McVeigh's prosecution now is a part of public record and the evidence is overwhelming.  He circulated in extremist right-wing militias that were active in Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma at the time.  He truly believed that our federal government was so widely-hated that his attack in Oklahoma City would touch off a nation-wide insurrection.  His philosophy was the most virulent of anti-government tripe that has now made its way into mainstream political speech.

My legislature may want me to commemorate the horrific acts of foreign terrorism that happened ten years ago, and I will be glad to do it and add much more to my students' learning later.  But, I will also remember and teach the first horrible act of domestic terrorism right in the center of Oklahoma by people who espoused the same views as some on the right who regularly run for, and win public office today.

The memory of those victims, and the 9/11 victims demands no less.

Added on 9/11:

I appreciate a former staffer at the Oklahoma SDE pointing out that they had included the study of the Murrah Building bombing in their statutory curriculum submissions (buried along with hundreds of others) to our Legislature for approval right before Supt. Garrett left the SDE.  I have been aware of the Murrah Building Bombing being included in our U.S. History PASS objectives along with 9/11 and other recent events.  Those topics have been incorporated into my curriculum for some time.

However, my original criticism still stands: Those on the far Right who control our legislature have made sure to coerce by statute our remembering 9/11 on a particular day, and they have resisted the same idea for much longer when it comes to the Murrah Building Bombing - 1995, Murrah Building Bombing vs. 2001, 9/11.  They have required our focus upon foreign terrorism, and carefully avoided it when it comes to domestic terrorism committed right here in central Oklahoma.  My contention, still, is that this is intentional.

Of even deeper concern is how our legislature has chosen, by statute, to coerce classroom teachers to change our focus away from Veteran's Day to "Celebrate Freedom Week".  This is not happen-stance.  It is a clear desire to program our classrooms to avoid discussion of the sacrifices that two wars have asked of us, and will ask of us in the future.  It is intended to make us focus instead upon the illusive, mushy "freedom" word that is used as a dog whistle on the far right.

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