Does this History Lesson Promote Illiberalism?
What is “illiberalism”? It can be defined as being narrow-minded, prejudiced, intolerant. How is this applied in political discourse and defining others for their political views? From Intolerance as Illiberalism:
We live in intolerant times. A former Secretary of State is disinvited from speaking on campus. Corporate leaders are forced to resign because of their views on marriage. People are forced by the courts to violate their consciences. A prominent Senate leader calls Tea Party activists “anarchists” and, in a speech reminiscent of McCarthyism, brands the businessmen-philanthropist Koch brothers “un-American.” The Internal Revenue Service—harking back to the Johnson and Nixon eras—is accused of targeting individuals and groups for their political views. And government leaders routinely ignore laws they are sworn to uphold.
This is more than intolerant. It is illiberal. It is a willingness to use coercive methods, from government action to public shaming, to shut down debate and censor those who hold a different opinion as if they have no right to their views at all.
The author makes the point that illiberalism is not confined to any political party or leaning:
Illiberalism historically has been associated with political authoritarianism. Scholars of European history such as Fritz Stern saw it lurking in German political culture prior to World War I. In this form, it found expression in nationalism and the anti-democratic movements of the German Right that eventually gave rise to the totalitarian mindset of National Socialism. On the Left, the radical egalitarian illiberalism of communism gave rise to Stalinism and other totalitarian movements in Europe and Russia.
An important point he makes is how illiberalism affects individual thought and actions:
Moreover, illiberalism need not be associated with any particular ideology or form of government. Yes, its temperament is anti-democratic, and it can lead to fascism or communism. Yet at its core, illiberalism stands opposed to the classic liberal notions of individual rights protected equally by government and the law, and it is hostile to freedom of conscience and expression.
How does present day curriculum align itself with illiberalism? Teacher Dana R. Casey in Political Ideology As Seen Through A Tree Metaphor shows us how illiberalism is present in what students are learning about political ideology:
Casey believes that this is an example of teaching “liberal equals good” and “conservative equals evil”. This is her interpretation of this history lesson describing political ideology:
She then provides an example of a conservative’s viewpoint embellished with the same illiberal philosophy present in the above example, and notes that students never see this in present day curriculum:
She makes the point that neither one of these interpretations should be used in curriculum. Real diversity of ideas should be taught and information should be presented in an unbiased manner so students can truly use their critical thinking skills instead of regurgitating illiberal teachings. Casey provides an excellent example of how this lesson should be taught so students can learn to think for themselves and make their decisions based on facts, rather than emotions and intolerance of a differing ideology:
Here is the note that I found in my daughter’s notebook from her American History class:
A tree has a broken limb.
Radicals would blow up the tree.
Liberals would prune and tend to the tree.
Conservatives would leave the tree alone.
– See more at: http://conservativeteachersofamerica.com/page/2/#sthash.MbFlJgG9.dpuf
You can find more of Casey’s writings at Conservative Teachers of America.
Does this have anything to do with Common Core? I wonder how the common definitions of radical, liberal and conservative will be scored on the common assessments. Will they be aligned to the illiberal definition from the history lesson brought home by the author’s daughter or will they be aligned more to the dispassionate definition Casey puts forward? What is your best guess?