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Innocence Report:

Bias and Indoctrination in the


Iowa Core Curriculum
April 2010

Preserve Innocence  1100 H St., NW  Suite 700  Washington, DC 20005 202-347-6840


info@preserveinnocence.org  www.preserveinnocence.org
Innocence Report:
Bias and Indoctrination in the Iowa Core Curriculum
April 2010
Executive Summary
In 2008 the Iowa Assembly passed legislation requiring that all primary and secondary schools
(both public and private) implement the Iowa Core Curriculum (the “Curriculum” or the “Core
Curriculum”). This Report examines parts of the Curriculum with respect to content,
transparency concerns and parental-rights interests. In particular, it examines the Science, the
Political Science/Civic Literacy, the Behavioral Sciences, the Economics, the History, and the
Essential 21st Century Skills Curricula.

The Assembly mandated that the Iowa Department of Education create the Core Curriculum.
Unfortunately, that mandate allowed for implementation before educators and citizens had a
meaningful opportunity to weigh in on its content and overall direction. The result is a
Curriculum that allows (or even encourages) teachers to inject political bias into the classroom.
That danger is most especially present in the presentation of environmentalism, economic theory,
and political science.

The Science Core Curriculum is heavily biased toward indoctrinating students in the principles
of liberal environmentalism. Suggested activities include discussing the advantages of owning a
hybrid car and determining one‟s carbon footprint. It even encourages students to take political
action by speaking at a city council meeting about environmental concerns. Its emphasis on
climate change, globalization, and population growth tends to echo the more extreme elements of
the environmental lobby.

The Political Science and Civic Literacy Core Curriculum omits some key concepts and
incorrectly or ambiguously describes others. It suggests an ascendency of governments that do
not reflect the founding documents and law of the United States. Its discussion of “rights”
ignores the natural law basis of our fundamental rights and consequently fails to present them in
the strength with which the American law and tradition holds them. Moreover, the directive to
discuss the Bill of Rights shows no awareness of the need for guidance in discussion of
controversial topics like privacy rights, gun ownership, free speech, and the Establishment and
Free Exercise clauses. These opportunities for political bias continue in the examination of
America‟s role in global affairs.

The Social Science Core Curriculum presents right and wrong as relative and subjective. It has
hallmarks of being a “values clarification” course that deviates from traditional teaching on right

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and wrong, urging students to re-examine their values (and those of their parents) with a non-
directive, non-judgmental attitude. Today, many schools and programs across the country use
values clarification approaches. Also, UNESCO uses it for various social engineering purposes
such as in population control and environmentalism programs.

On the subject of economics, the Curriculum seemingly does not support the notion that, because
it is based on freedom, capitalism is the economic sister of democracy. Nor does it relate
capitalism to the Constitution and the Declaration. It does, however, provide more opportunities
for bias on the subject of capitalism, labor, and even globalization.

The History Curriculum has similar problems of relativism and openings for bias. With little
discussion as to scope or basic historical literacy, it instead focuses on analysis of culture,
process, and transition. Its directives to compare “minority” and “dominant” groups are a
political minefield.

The “Health Literacy” section raises still more questions. It introduces concepts and skills on
“violence,” “bullying,” and “safety.” Such approaches are often subterfuges to encourage
affirmation (and even promotion) of LGBT lifestyles. Similarly, language about public health,
safety, and “violence” could also be the conduit for undermining support for the Second
Amendment. This Curriculum intrudes upon the most private of personal and family values. It
teaches students as young as third grade “wellness dimensions” that include “sexual and spiritual
wellness,” but it offers no hint of what that might entail or how such concepts will be taught to
such young children. Furthermore, its encouragement of healthy behaviors, while laudable in
some respects, raises questions about maintaining the medical and general privacy of the family
and student, and its discussion on educating students to obtain health assistance raises questions
as to whether students might be directed to activist organizations like Planned Parenthood.

For such a broad and influential work, the Iowa Core Curriculum is most startling in what it does
not say. It is replete with opportunities for bias and indoctrination on a number of sensitive
issues. This is a violation of the fundamental principle that parents have the right to guide their
children‟s education and moral development. Moreover, the Curriculum opens the door for
future political propaganda, as all sorts of social agenda can be introduced to the classroom by
subsequent incorporation.

Overall, the Curriculum and its implementation process is a great lesson in civics and
government. Iowa has a proud tradition of excellence in education. That tradition includes
strong local control. It includes a commitment to a fair and open decision-making process and a
populist respect for the people of Iowa. Sadly, the legislature ignored that tradition through its
Core Curriculum mandate.

The Assembly must revisit the Iowa Core Curriculum.

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1. Introduction

In 2008 the Iowa Assembly mandated that all primary and secondary schools (both public and
private) implement the Iowa Core Curriculum (the “Curriculum” or the “Core Curriculum”).
This Report examines parts of the Curriculum with respect to content, transparency concerns and
parental-rights interests. In particular, it examines the Science, the Political Science/Civic
Literacy, the Behavioral Sciences, the Economics, the History, and the Essential 21 st Century
Skills Curricula.

Schools hold a position of public trust. We rely on them to educate children and work with
parents in shaping character. Moreover, they must do this while demonstrating respect for the
diversity of belief in our country and without undermining the authority of parents.

It is all too easy for educators to slip into the indoctrination of their charges. Whether through
stated intent or unconscious bias, the danger of education being used for political propaganda is
ever-present. To avoid that requires a great deal of dedication and self-awareness on the part of
teachers and administrators. And, it is noted, that in most cases teachers should be given the
benefit of the doubt for the occasional slip-up and close call --lest they be too skittish to go the
extra yard to answer questions and explain concepts.

Policy-makers and administrators have a huge responsibility when it comes to curricula and
academic programs. They should give parents full and fair notice of the content of their
children‟s academic programs. They should not burden teachers with ambiguous and vague
directives. And they should avoid putting teachers in confrontations with parents who were not
apprised of objectionable curricula.

Policy-makers and administrators compromise their position of trust if they use state-sponsored
curricula to propagate political doctrine. Then, bias is not a mis-guided act in a random
classroom, rather it is a system-wide effort at political indoctrination that undermines the
prerogative of parents to be the principal and primary shepherd of their children‟s moral and
civic formation.

The Curriculum is an ambitious effort to create new goals and objectives for K-12 students. It
spans the gamut of school subjects. In addition, it includes a special section meant to improve
students' "Essential 21st Century Skills,” including civic literacy, employability skills, financial
literacy, health literacy, and technology literacy. The Curriculum breaks down each school
subject into "Essential Concepts or Skills" and includes suggested classroom activities. Its stated
emphasis is on analysis and debate rather than on the accumulation of knowledge and facts.

Unfortunately, the process leading to passage of the Curriculum lacked integrity and
demonstrated utter disrespect for the people of Iowa. The Assembly passed the legislation
without a finished product to study, without public input (except for limited input that state
education officials had already solicited from their sphere of influence), and with relatively little

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debate. The Assembly even failed to assign a group of legislators to study its substance and
implementation. It merely enacted broad and ambiguous legislation that granted wide-reaching
authority to the Iowa Department of Education to create the Curriculum. It essentially excluded
the people and the educators of Iowa from having a voice in the Curriculum‟s direction or
content.

The Curriculum‟s proponents told the people to simply put their trust in the Department. They
inaccurately claimed it was necessary to comply with the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. 1
They promised that teachers would not be told what to teach or how to teach it and that they
would simply be given worksheets and examples to be used “voluntarily.” And they said that,
because the work had already begun, millions of dollars in consultant fees would be wasted if
their version of the legislation were not passed.

As the Public Interest Institute (PII) of Iowa noted in 2008, the Core Curriculum is susceptible to
being used as a tool of political indoctrination. Specifically, PII issued an Institute Brief that
focused on the environmentalist propaganda present in the Science Curriculum.2 The potential
for indoctrination is also present in a variety of other subjects. Again and again, the Curriculum
allows (or even encourages) teachers to inject political bias into the classroom. That danger is
most especially present in the Curriculum‟s presentation of environmentalism, economic theory,
and political science. Moreover, as Eric Goranson 3 argued in 2008, the Core Curriculum opens
the door for future political propaganda directed at children: it is “the perfect vehicle to drive any
number of social agendas right into Iowa‟s classrooms by simply attaching or incorporating these
agendas directly into the mandatory Iowa Core Curriculum.”4

2. Environmentalism and the Curriculum

The Science Core Curriculum boldly states that "[t]echnological advances have . . . decreased the
need to memorize vocabulary and formulas,"5 and it instead focuses on developing students in
the scientific method of inquiry. It further states that "[s]tudents must have the opportunity to

1
See Goranson, Eric, “Just My Opinion on Education in Iowa,” Caffeinated Thoughts, available at
http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?s=%22On+Education+in+Iowa%22 (8/25/08) (noting that, to comply
with NCLB, most states adopted a standards-based approach rather than a curriculum-based approach).
2
Deborah D. Thornton, “Core Curriculum or „Gore‟ Curriculum? Teaching Our Children Propaganda,”
Institute Brief, Vol. 15, No. 23, Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College (August 2008).
Presumably in response to PII‟s Brief, changes were made to the Core Curriculum. For example, it no
longer references and promotes Vice-president Gore‟s An Inconvenient Truth.
3
Eric Goranson is presently the owner of Goranson Consulting, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of
Christian Schools, and the Iowa Director of the Preserve Innocence Project of the American Principles
Project.
4
Goranson, Eric, “Just My Opinion on Education in Iowa,” Caffeinated Thoughts, available at
http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?s=%22On+Education+in+Iowa%22 (Aug. 25, 2008).
5
"Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Science," p.1, Iowa Department of Education, available at
http://www.corecurriculum.iowa.gov (Sept. 30, 2009).

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examine the impact science has had, and will continue to have, on the environment and society." 6
It warns educators that:

instruction should be engaging and relevant for the students. Strong connections
between the lessons and students' daily lives must be made [emphasis in
original].7

In the “Life Science” section, one of the listed Essential Concepts is for students to "[u]nderstand
and demonstrate knowledge of the social and personal implications of environmental issues." 8
This directive (which applies to students of all grades) is followed by the emphasis that "Chapter
12 of the Iowa Administrative Code states that science instruction shall include conservation of
natural resources; and environmental awareness."9 The Core Curriculum then directs that
students be taught that "[a]ll organisms cause changes in the environment in which they live" and
that "[h]umans change environments in ways that can be either beneficial or detrimental to
themselves or other organisms."10

While this may initially seem like a minor point, the net effect of this lesson, when combined
with the recommended science activities, is to indoctrinate even young children in the basic
principles of liberal environmentalism. For example, suggested activities include: having
students debate whether to abandon nuclear reactors because of the waste issues; 11 use candy
(like M&Ms or Skittles) as part of a model for nuclear decay, then explain the environmental
concerns associated with nuclear waste storage; 12 discuss the advantages of owning a hybrid
car;13 examine the environmental impact (particularly the carbon dioxide emissions) of a coal-
fired power plant near a major forest;14 determine their own carbon footprint;15 research the
health effects of nitrate levels related to global carbon dioxide levels and burning fossil fuels; 16
and use predictions about global climate change to predict the possible impact of global warming
on Iowa‟s money crops and economy.17

Nor is the political aspect of global climate change ignored. The Essential Concepts include
teaching students that:

6
Ibid, p.2.
7
Ibid, p.2.
8
Ibid, p.67.
9
Ibid.
10
Ibid, p.68.
11
Ibid, p. 6.
12
Ibid, p.26
13
Ibid, p.37.
14
Ibid, p.48.
15
Ibid, p.56.
16
Ibid, p.56.
17
Ibid, p.60.

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Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric
changes, and other factors are threatening current global stability, and if not
addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.18

On the issue of global warming, one activity asks students to evaluate “claims and evidence
presented by each stakeholder and possible impacts on ecosystems as viewed from each
perspective.”19 It even encourages students to take political action by speaking at a city council
meeting about additional run-off created by a new addition to their town.20

Some language echoes population control positions held by the more extreme elements of the
environmental lobby, as students are taught another “Essential Concept” that “[h]umans modify
ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption.” 21 The message is
underlined by emphasis on the concept that:

Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but
environments and resources are finite. The distribution and abundance of
organisms and populations in ecosystems are limited by the availability of matter
and energy and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials.22

The Core Curriculum‟s stated intent is for science classes to teach students to "[m]ake
appropriate personal/lifestyle/technology choices . . . describe environmental effects of public
policy, choose appropriate course(s) of action."23 Unfortunately, many of the Core Curriculum‟s
efforts at connecting science with society and students' lives feed directly into politicized
teaching. The suggestion for students to engage in political activism, even about a seemingly
innocuous subject, further encourages intrusion into the parental prerogative to direct their
children‟s political formation. Science curricula should not conflate fact with theory or with
political agenda. And it should give due deference to parents as being the principal and primary
director of their children‟s values formation.

3. Political Science/Civic Literacy

The Political Science and Civic Literacy Core Curriculum omits some key concepts and
incorrectly or ambiguously describes others. For example, it suggests that students be able to:

Describe the origins and evaluates [sic] the continuing influence of key ideals of
the democratic republican form of government, such as individual dignity, liberty,
justice, equality, and the rule of law at local, state, national and global levels. 24

18
Ibid, p.59.
19
Ibid. p.59.
20
Ibid.
21
Ibid.
22
Ibid, p.61.
23
Ibid, p.72.
24
Social Studies (Political Science/Civic Literacy) Core Curriculum, p.43.

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That statement contains several troubling concepts. It implies --perhaps unintentionally-- an
ascendency of governments from the local to the “global” level. However, the founding
documents --and the law of the United States that flows from them-- do not recognize a superior
“global” level of government. Certainly, the reach of our sovereign power sometimes extends
beyond our borders, for example in the exercise of our national defense. On occasion, we enter
into international treaties or agreements with non-sovereign associations (such as the United
Nations) or with other sovereign powers in order to accomplish specific goals. But fidelity to the
founding documents excludes the United States from creating or recognizing another
government as superior to it.

The statement quoted in the preceding paragraph notes, without specificity, “key ideals of the
democratic form of government.” Here, the Core Curriculum should flesh out key concepts of
the American system. Specifically, the United States was founded on the idea that:

all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness.25

Although it skirts around the issue, the Curriculum statement omits express reference to “rights.”
Furthermore, it wholly omits reference to our unalienable rights as coming directly from the
Creator. From a political science perspective, that reference is critical because it is the strongest
possible recognition of our individual rights; it sources those rights in the infinite Creator that,
unlike rights emanating from other sources, cannot be corrupted or compromised.26

The Core Curriculum states that the “opening statement of the United States Constitution, „We
the people,‟ puts the citizen at the forefront of our government.”27 The truth is much more
robust. The American political system rests on the idea that the sovereign power flows from the
Creator to each individual and that the individuals then form the state and federal governments
through limited grants of that power. Furthermore, government is formed by the people “to
secure” the rights of the people.28

The Core Curriculum states that “[g]overnment exists throughout the world to organize humans
and human behavior.”29 With respect to the United States, that statement is incorrect. As noted

25
The Declaration of Independence.
26
Some people get queasy when reference is made to the source of our rights and sovereignty. But this is
a matter of the political theory on which our country was founded. It has continuing relevance today as
the driving force for this our continuing quest to uphold individual rights. It demands that we accord
dignity to the least, the last, and the lost in our society. It has a continuing influence on our national
perspective. And it is a philosophical dynamic that renews again with each individual‟s creation. It is a
founding principle that students should know as a matter of civic literacy.
27
“Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.43, Iowa Department of Education (Sept. 20, 2009),
available at http://www/corecurriculum.iowa.gov.
28
The Declaration of Independence.
“29 Social Studies Core Curriculum (Political Science/Civic Literacy), p.45.

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in the preceding paragraph, American government exists for the primary and ultimate purpose of
securing, or protecting, the rights of the people. In contrast, socialist, statist, totalitarian and
tyrannical governments exist for the primary and ultimate purpose of organizing human
behavior.

The Core Curriculum repeatedly refers to “levels of local, state and national government.”30
However, the United States consists of a system of dual sovereign governments --those of the
states and of the federal government. The people of each state directly grant sovereign power to
the federal and their state government. Referencing “levels” of state and federal government
incorrectly implies that the state government is a creature of the federal government rather than
of the people. Furthermore, the word “federal” embodies the system of dual sovereign
governments, and in these discussions the Core Curriculum should use that term rather than
“national.”

These are not mere technicalities. They address the essence of our system and go to the heart of
the importance that we accord to our rights, our equality and sovereignty. A careless description
of our founding principles serves only to convey an imprecise, confused, and incorrect
understanding of our country and our culture.

The Civics Curriculum suffers from other poorly formulated directives. For example, although it
places emphasis on broad objectives, such as ensuring that students are able to “[u]nderstand the
Bill of Rights and can create contexts to appropriately use each of the rights identified in the Bill
of Rights,”31 it provides insufficient notice to parents as to what their children will actually be
taught. In light of the many controversial issues that emanate from, for example, privacy rights,
gun ownership, free speech and the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, this task calls for
substantially more guidance for teachers and more notice for parents.

Similarly, the process by which a bill becomes a law is a necessary feature of civics education.
But the additional tasks of analyzing how that bill “is influenced by party politics . . . public
opinion, individual citizens and lobbyists” 32 combined with the goal of debating “the influence of
media and interest groups on proposed legislation”33 requires in-depth analyses of activities that
are often not reported in the media or are incorrectly characterized by the media. Such a
discussion would also beg for complimentary or critical characterizations about the organizations
involved —especially given that students are to “[d]escribe and critique strategies of groups who
are seeking action on an issue.”34 Given how little guidance the Core Curriculum provides, an

30
See, e.g., ibid, pp. 44 & 45.
31
“Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.43.
32
“Iowa Core Curriculum: 9-12 21st Century Skills,” p.7, Iowa Department of Education, available at
http//www.corecurriculum.iowa.gov (Sept. 20, 2009).
33
Ibid.
34
Ibid.

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educator could easily mis-characterize --either intentionally or in good-faith-- the facts, including
the rationale, the actions and the motivations of the interested groups.

Again and again, the Political Science/Civic Literacy component of the curriculum leaves broad
loopholes for political bias and proselytizing. The Essential Skills for that subject recommend
that students “[e]xamine candidates‟ promises and how they align with the offices they seek” 35
and that they “[d]escribe and critique strategies of groups who are seeking action on an issue.”36
It even prompts students to make their own politics part of their schoolwork, as one essential
skill is to “[d]evelop and carry out an action plan for political action at the appropriate level.” 37
Other activities include having students track bills they support38 or prescribe “a pathway for
political action on an issue of personal importance.”39

These opportunities for political bias continue in the examination of global affairs, which
emphasizes America‟s role and influence in international agreements and economics. For
example, the Curriculum encourages students as young as third grade to:

 Analyze how U.S. economic aid affects other nations‟ views of the United
States and actions of its government;
 Compare the value of acting individually (as a nation) vs. acting
collectively (groups of nations) to solve problems;
 Recognize that international factors such as exchange rates and child labor
affect relations between and among nations; and
 Compare realities of life in the United States with perceptions held by
people from other countries.40

The above phraseology is problematic at best. Is the Curriculum implying that American
economic aid causes other countries to have an unwarranted positive view of the United States?
In other words, does it imply that such aid does not reflect America‟s good will but rather masks
its nefarious intent? Does the Curriculum imply that America is, as a rule, strategically mis-
guided or somehow unauthorized when it acts on its own to protect its interests, to protect
mankind, or to help other people? Does it imply that acting as part of an international coalition
is always the more efficacious, more prudent, or more moral course? Does it imply that
American exceptionalism is an unwarranted theory given the “realities of life in the United
States” and that other people who look up to America simply do not understand the reality? And
given that “international factors” by definition “affect relations between and among nations,”
what is the underlying purpose of the third bullet point above? The Core Curriculum should not
leave the door wide-open for indoctrination.

35
“Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.47.
36
Ibid.
37
Ibid.
38
“Iowa Core Curriculum: 9-12 21st Century Skills,” p.5.
39
Ibid, p.6.
40
“Iowa Core Curriculum: K-12 Social Studies,” p.50.

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4. Behavioral Sciences

The Core Curriculum includes studies in social sciences 41 for children in grades K-12. It defines
“social studies” as:

coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology,


archaeology, economics, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology,
religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities,
mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to
help people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the
public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an
interdependent world.42

To start with, that definition is problematic. As used in civics and political discussion, “citizen”
usually refers to membership by birth or acceptance in a political sovereign or a sub-divison
thereof. In contrast, “society” has a more open meaning that includes people bound together by
traditions, by institutions, or by nationality. 43 Although it can be used to denote members of a
political sovereign or sub-division thereof, “society” can also be used to denote a group of people
that include more than one nation, a whole continent, or even the whole world. Given that the
Core Curriculum states that “the mission of social studies” is to promote “civic competence” so
that citizens can effectively “participate in society,” the Curriculum should at the very least be
more precise in stating its definition of “citizen.”44

Additional scrutiny raises more cause for concern. As noted above, the Core Curriculum states
that the purpose of teaching social studies is to help students “make informed and reasoned
decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an
interdependent world” (emphasis added). It further states that its “mission” is to help citizens
meet their “need to adapt to” a changing life that creates varying social circumstances. 45 But
framing the objective as teaching children to make informed and reasoned decisions for “the
public good” (or similar formulations such as the “common good” and the “collective good”) is
ambiguous. On one hand, it could mean that children should be taught to make good decisions
regarding the structures that protect our rights (e.g., defense, the administration of justice) and
that they do civically responsible things such as refraining from littering and driving
responsibly. Under that description, a citizen would use his values to inform or guide his
determination of what is good for the country.

41
The social sciences are the “branches of study that deal with humans in their social relations.” The
Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed. 2008).
42
Ibid, p.1 (citing the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) definition of “social studies”).
43
See Merriam-Webster‟s Online Dictionary.
44
See Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.1.
45
Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.1.

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On the other hand, “public good” could also mean that children be taught that they should
subordinate their values, beliefs or rights for a collective “good.” Statist and totalitarian
governments often make use of that tool; they give a nod to individual rights but trump those
rights with reference to a supposedly “greater” collective good. In turn, the state and the power
elites define what is collectively “good.”

That point bears further scrutiny. Statist and totalitarian governments do more than simply
trump individual rights. They indoctrinate their citizens to believe that they should suppress
their individual rights for the collective good. Here, of course, such nefarious intent is absent.
However, the state must be careful, given that the audience consists of children, not to
subordinate or cheapen individual rights. And it should be careful not to inflate or expand the
role and importance of the public or common good.

Further perusal only raises more questions. The Social Studies Core Curriculum continues that:

As we work to carry out the ideals of the founders, we are compelled to revisit our
fundamental beliefs and institutions and to construct new social contexts and
relationships.46

In the context of decisions and views, “revisit” usually means “to reconsider something such as
an issue of public policy or a course of action, especially when additional facts indicate that an
earlier decision was inappropriate.”47 This begs the question: is the Core Curriculum truly
suggesting that students be taught to reconsider our fundamental beliefs and institutions?

At another point, the Curriculum defines “social issues” as:

Matters which directly or indirectly affect all members of society and are viewed
as problems. They tend to be controversial and are typically related to moral
values [emphasis added].48

The Curriculum‟s goals include the examination “theories of the self … and the interplay
between society and the individual”49; and the examination of “the role of values and beliefs [1]
in establishing the norms of a society” 50 and [2] in “the development of social issues.” 51 It
directs students to “identify current social issues” and formulate “a personal opinion or position
regarding those issues.” It suggests that they illustrate “the interplay between politics,
economics, history, and social issues on a national and international level” and analyze “the role
of values and beliefs in the development of social issues.”52

46
Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.1.
47
See Encarta Dictionary.
48
Ibid, p.8.
49
Social Studies Core Curriculum, p. 3.
50
Social Studies Core Curriculum, p. 3.
51
Ibid, p.4.
52
Social Studies Core Curriculum, p.5.

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The Core Curriculum directs that students examine how values are formed. It states that each
student “needs to understand the context in which a social problem [or “issue”] develops.” 53 It
instructs students to explain “how „acceptable‟ human behavior varies from one culture to
another over time” and “why some behaviors are „unacceptable‟ in almost all cultures.” 54 It also
directs that students identify “major social institutions”; evaluate “their role in society”; and
analyze and predict how those institutions “shift and adapt to a changing society and a global
world.”55 All of those directives could be viewed as promoting a relativist view of morality
wherein right and wrong fluctuate according to influences such as “major social institutions,” a
“changing society,” and a “global world.”

This Curriculum suggests that students apply this type of analysis to themselves. It states that an
individual‟s personality consists of “patterns of behavior” that “are shaped by components of a
person‟s culture, such as parents, siblings…[and] institutions…” It suggests that students
“articulate the nature/nurture debate”; analyze the process of internalizing culture; analyze major
agents of socialization and the role each plays in the development of self, social norms, values
and beliefs.”56 In other words, it presents the child‟s personality --and the child‟s views and
actions-- as a function of the circumstances into which he was born.

The Curriculum suggests that children in grades K-2 should be taught that “as the world changes,
people also change”; that “working collectively is more powerful than working individually”;
and that an individual makes choices based on individual, family, neighborhood, and community
perspectives.”57 Children in grades 3-5 are to be taught that “‟acceptable‟ human behavior varies
from one culture to another over time”; that “change affects people‟s perceptions and
interactions”; that “components of culture such as religion, media and language impact and help
shape individuals”; that “perspective reflects personal beliefs, experiences, and attitudes”; “how
people adapt and learn about culture”; how global issues affect the United States”; and “how
historical events impact personal development and belief systems.” 58 Children in grades 6-8 are
to study “the changing nature of society” including “how world cultures impact local cultures”;
“how internalizing culture begins at birth”; how people and institutions that teach values, norms
and social expectations play a role in the development of the self; how one‟s perspective reflects
personal beliefs, experiences, and attitudes”; and “how people adopt and learn about culture.” 59

Parents do not all share the same values and world-view. Most parents likely share the views of
the Founders that individuals are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain
unalienable rights and that there is an objective right and wrong. But regardless of whether they

53
Ibid, p.8.
54
Ibid, p.9.
55
Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.5.
56
Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.5.
57
Social Sciences Core Curriculum, pp. 11-12.
58
Social Sciences Core Curriculum, pp. 9-10.
59
Social Sciences Core Curriculum, pp. 6-7.

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subscribe to those founding beliefs, the vast majority of parents try to instill in their children
their own particular world-view and set of beliefs. They want their children to respect
themselves and others and to conduct themselves with dignity and grace. They take more than
just a “nanny” role in their children‟s lives, and they take seriously their right to be the primary
and principal shepherd of their children‟s moral formation.

They also tell their children to go to school, to listen to their teachers, and to learn from them.

The great problem with the Social Science Core Curriculum is that, intentionally or not, it takes
apart what parents are teaching. It presents right and wrong as relative and subjective --as
something that changes from society to society and from one era to another. It presents right and
wrong as something that arises from “agents of socialization” and implies to children that an
individual‟s views of right and wrong really depend on that person‟s background. The
Curriculum encourages students to consider what “agents of socialization” impact their views.

Then, through suggested group exercises and its content, the Curriculum promotes
“compromise” and the idea that “working collectively is more powerful than working
individually” 60; but in reality, those ideas or goals are sometimes false or undesirable especially
when values or individual rights are at stake. It essentially seems to present parents‟ teachings as
optional and relative. And it directs these teachings to children starting in kindergarten when
their moral development is in its infancy and when children could easily confuse sociology and
psychology as substitutes for the moral compass offered by their parents.61

The Social Sciences Core Curriculum has hallmarks of being a “values clarification” or some
other non-directive course. Such courses deviate from the premise of traditional teaching that
“some beliefs, behaviors and procedures are right and others are wrong.” 62 In the 1960s, that
traditional approach began losing ground to “the widespread introduction of non-directive
teaching methods (sometimes referred to as values clarification, critical thinking or life skills).” 63
Those courses take a non-directive, non-judgmental attitude toward values in which each person
has to “discover his own values, and no person [can] say that one value [is] superior to
another.”64 In 1972, the non-directive movement picked up steam with the publication of Sidney
Simon‟s Values Clarification, which “taught students to „clarify‟ their values, i.e., cast off their

60
See, e.g., Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.11.
61
For elementary school students, the complexity of human decision-making is boiled down to
socialization and selfishness, where students “[i]llustrate/demonstrate how human beings tend to repeat
behaviors that feel good or have pleasant consequences and avoid behaviors that feel bad or have
unpleasant consequences.” See Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.10.
62
Gramckow, Jerry, “Amygdalas, Anatomy and Autonomy, Focus on the Family Issue Analysis,
available at www.citizenlink.org/FOSI/abstinence/parents/A000001021.cfm.
63
Ibid.
64
Ibid (quoting Kilpatrick, William, “Experiments in Moral Education,” at the Seventh International
Congress of Professors World Peace Academy, Nov. 24-29, 1997).

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parents‟ values and make their own choices based on situation ethics.” 65 Today, values
clarification programs are widespread in the nation‟s schools as well as in social engineering
programs such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) where it is used to indoctrinate on, for example, population control and
environmentalism.66

5. Economics and History

On the subject of economics, fuzzy relativism gives way to more opportunities for bias on the
subject of capitalism, labor, and even globalization. The Curriculum contains scant evidence
that, because it is based on freedom, capitalism is the economic sister of democracy. Nor does it
relate capitalism to the Constitution and the Declaration. Moreover, statements such as the
“unequal distribution of resources locally and throughout the world creates conditions of wealth
and poverty” and its directive to “[s]ummarize the wide disparities between the „haves‟ and the
„have-nots‟ of the world” seem inherently biased against capitalism. Nor are they tied to
foundational concepts such as economic freedom, the right to own property, and the
consequences of government intrusions in the economy to favor one group over another. 67

An anti-capitalist instructor would have a great opportunity to interject bias while teaching about
the concept of scarcity or the impact of interest rates.68 Likewise, the political elements of
economics are given extensive attention. Essential Skills in the economics unit include:
“Evaluate labor unions, using collective bargaining, to negotiate for workers with corporations
on the issues of wages, fringe benefits, and work place conditions”; “Identify not-for-profit
organizations and their purposes and explains the rationale for tax exemption”; “Explain the
value of various government services on the U.S. economy”; “Compare and contrast government
services to delivery of the same services by the private sector”; and even, “Evaluate the use of
taxes at the local, state, and national levels.”69 In keeping with the pro-environmentalist theme
of the curriculum, one essential skill is that the student “[u]nderstand the development and
evaluates the impact of „green‟ technologies.” 70

For younger students, the potential for bias is even stronger, as the slight hostility toward
capitalism becomes more pronounced. Middle school students are to “[c]ompare the wide
65
Schlafly, Phyllis, “Public Schools Define American Culture,” Education Reporter, available at
www.eagleforum.org/educate (Nov. 2006).
66
See, e.g., “Teaching Methodologies for Population Education: Inquiry/Discovery Approach, Values
Clarification,” UNESCO available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0006/000693/069359EB.pdf;
“Values Education,” UNESCO available at
http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/TLSF/theme_d/mod20/uncom20t03.htm; International Bioethics
Education Network, UNESCO available at http://www.unescobkk.org/rushsap/programmes-and-
activities/ethics-of-science-and-technology/bioethics/international-bioethics-educatio/.
67
See Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p. 19.
68
Social Sciences Core Curriculum, p.13.
69
Ibid, p.14.
70
Ibid, p.15.

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disparities that exist across the globe in terms of economic assets and choices”; “[d]istinguish
between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations” (though the purpose of this exercise is
unclear and unstated); and “[e]xamine the impact labor unions have had on working conditions
over time.”71 Students are even asked to “[a]nalyze cost of living and wage data across
geographic regions.”72 Again, for younger students, the tension between environmentalism and
capitalism is made more obvious as students are simply asked to “[d]escribe how personal
decisions regarding the economy and natural resources can affect people‟s lives locally,
nationally, and internationally.” 73

For third to fifth graders, the economics lesson is even starker. Here, they are simply taught that
the “unequal distribution of resources . . . creates economic conditions of wealth and poverty
which in turn have an impact on how people live.”74 Then, students simply need to
“[s]ummarize the wide disparities between the „haves‟ and „have-nots‟ of the world in terms of
economic well being.”75

Unsurprisingly, the study of geography largely returns to the environmentalist theme, with
additional forays into population issues. The “positive and negative impacts” of human
settlement and competition for control of land and resources 76 are a common theme, as is
analysis of population trends and density.

The section on history once again returns to problems of relativism and openings for bias. With
little discussion of scope or basic historical literacy, the focus is instead on analysis of culture,
process, and transition. Goals such as “[c]ompare and contrast the culture of the politically and
economically dominant groups with the culture of minority groups” 77 manage to be a political
minefield with no direction as to how to approach the issue in a larger historical context.
Directives like “[a]nalyze the role of economic factors in conflicts and in decisions to use
military force”78 suggest a very limited view of history and historical analysis biased to a specific
position on the intersection of economic interest and warfare. And the instruction to “[e]valuate
how structures of power affect various groups in different ways” 79 seems almost meaningless
when applied indiscriminately to any era in history, but still creates prime ground for Marxist or
other politically biased interpretations of historical events.

71
Ibid, p.16.
72
Ibid, p.18.
73
Ibid, p.17.
74
Ibid, p.19.
75
Ibid.
76
Ibid, p.24.
77
Ibid, p.32.
78
Ibid, p.33.
79
Ibid, p.34.

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6. Health “Literacy”

The Core Curriculum includes the subject of “21st Century Skills” that address topics such as
financial and health literacy that are outside of traditional school curricula. While enriching a
student‟s “health literacy” may seem like a laudable goal, it is fraught with opportunities for
politicization and indoctrination—as well as with lessons and activities that intrude on the
sovereignty (and privacy) of the family. The political problems in the directive to “[e]valuate the
impact of health care access . . . on health status” along with the goal that students “[e]ngage in
media and legislative advocacy efforts to promote positive health for self and others” 80 should be
clear to anyone who has witnessed the turbulence of the health care reform debate. Less well-
known, however, is the danger in concepts and skills directed at lessons on “violence,”
“bullying,” and “safety”; this is often a formula to encourage affirmation of LGBT lifestyles.
Similarly, goals that tie “public health and safety issues” to “personal and family health status”
and that encourage students to “[a]dvocate for health, violence-free behaviors by using
knowledge of the dynamics of power and position”81 could be the conduit for undermining
support for the Second Amendment.82

There are other large, unanswered questions present in the health literacy section. Students as
young as third grade are taught of “wellness dimensions” that include “sexual and spiritual
wellness,”83 but with no hint of what that might entail or how such concepts will be taught to
such young children. Nor is there any hint as to how the state suggests evaluating “spiritual
wellness.” Will it suggest to the child, through the teacher or materials, that the child is
spiritually sick? Would such sickness be the fault of parents? And how are teachers supposed to
wend their way through such exercises?

Efforts to encourage healthy behavior (such as “[e]ngage in behaviors that promote risk
avoidance;”84 or “[c]ollaborate to improve family and community health,” 85 or “[d]emonstrate

80
Ibid, p.54.
81
Ibid.
82
There are, of course, ongoing debates as to the role that government regulation should play in health
and safety matters. There are also recurring interjections of public health and public safety arguments
into gun and Second Amendment discussions. See, e.g., Hemingway, David, Private Guns, Public Health,
The University of Michigan Press (2004); “Suicides Half of Gun Deaths in the U.S.,” The Huffington
Post (blog site), posted by Daric Snyder (06-30-2008) available at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/30/suicides-half-of-gun-deat_n_110043.html; Editorial: “The
Feds Take a Shot at Guns,” The Washington Times (10-22-2009), available at
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/22/the-feds-take-a-shot-at-guns/print/; “CDC Report
Validates NRA Positions on Crime, Gun Safety,” NRA-ILA (4/13/2001) available at
http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=77&issue=007. Accordingly, a classroom
discussion ambiguously characterized as public safety or public health might well be a discussion on
Second Amendment and gun control issues.
83
21st Century Skills Core Curriculum, p.56 (6th-8th grade) and p. 59 (3rd-5th grade).
84
Ibid, p.56.
85
Ibid, p.57.

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appropriate responses to negative and positive health influences” 86) raise questions about how
the privacy of the family and student regarding personal health issues and decisions will be
respected. It is clear that goals like “[i]dentify personal, family, and community health needs” 87;
and “[d]escribe ways to improve family and community health,”88 and, for the youngest children,
“identify behaviors that contribute to total wellness for individuals, families, and communities” 89
seem vulnerable to encouraging students to relate their family habits to the school. And while it
may seem like a good thing to teach students to be aware of what to do in emergency situations,
the broadness of the directive to “[s]tate methods of obtaining help for self and others” 90 raises
questions of how students will be directed in sensitive areas involving health issues like
pregnancy, contraception, or sexually transmitted diseases. In a similar vein, having children
“[d]emonstrate the ability to seek assistance when making health related decisions” 91 or, for the
kindergarten crowd, “[i]dentify trusted adults/professionals who can help” 92 is disturbing. Will
children be guided to seek help from their own parents or from some outside organization? The
Curriculum does not say.

7. Conclusion

For such a broad and influential work, the Iowa Core Curriculum is most startling in what it does
not say. It is replete with opportunities for bias and indoctrination on a number of sensitive
issues. Vague language and semantic loopholes allow schools to introduce controversial or
objectionable content without the knowledge, participation, or approval of parents. This is a
violation of the fundamental principle that parents have the right to guide their children‟s
education and moral development.

Society suffers dearly when the schools undermine the stature of parents and of parenthood by
encouraging --whether intentionally or not-- children to question the values taught by their
parents. Furthermore, as it excludes parents from the education of their children and the policy
and curricula decision-making process, the state is increasingly reducing parents to a nanny-like
status. Children, schools, and teachers need the opposite; they need strong parents who are
intimately involved in the education of their children. And to that end the state should be trying
to affirm the institution of parenthood, not denigrate it.

Overall, the Curriculum and its implementation process is a great lesson in civics and
government. Iowa has a proud tradition of excellence in education. That tradition includes
strong local control. It includes a commitment to a fair and open decision-making process and a

86
Ibid, p.58.
87
Ibid, p.60.
88
Ibid.
89
Ibid, p.64.
90
Ibid, p.60.
91
Ibid.
92
Ibid, p.63.

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populist respect for the people of Iowa. Sadly, the legislature ignored that tradition through its
Core Curriculum mandate.

The Assembly must revisit the Iowa Core Curriculum.

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