Let’s be blunt: Segments of Sarasota’s political and intellectual elite — liberal and conservative alike — often regard Dr. Rich Swier (a doctor of education administration) as a conservative gadfly-extremist. And that’s being polite.
“Right-wing whacko” is another term muttered among Sarasota’s liberalista Democrats and numerous “Rhinos” (Republican in name only).
But we’re a big fan of Swier. The retired Army lieutenant colonel stands where we do: for freedom, in particular for individual freedom as enunciated by the Founding Fathers, which irrefutably is the antithesis of whacko-ism.
Thank goodness for Swier’s patriotic enthusiasm. We need him for the very reason he stood before the Sarasota County School Board Tuesday, making his case against a history textbook, “World History: Patterns of Interaction,” which history textbook experts increasingly are proclaiming is biased toward Islam and error-ridden.
Swier is illuminating locally a long-standing, destructive problem in American education: the almost monolithic thought in academia that relentlessly undermines America’s original ideals and principles.
And although Swier is challenging one particular textbook to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of what is being taught in our public schools, he also is illuminating what Michigan scholar Daniel Hager calls “the central fallacy of public schooling”: that the state is politically neutral and amoral in the way it educates our children.
Au contraire, public education is all about indoctrination. And Swier’s efforts are bearing this out.
How the challenge began
Swier’s efforts started a few months ago when he coincidentally found himself sitting as a witness for a Jewish mother who is concerned about this particular history book. Swier says this mother of two Sarasota County School District students worries about what is being taught. She knows of the extremist side of Islamism. Her great-grandparents were pulled from a public bus and executed on the streets of Baghdad.
After Swier listened to her concerns, activist that he is, he took up the cause. He requested the Sarasota County School District review the contents of the district’s high-school history book, which has been used for five years.
The superintendent appointed a committee of district staff members to review the book and Swier’s claims.
Swier argued the book is biased toward Islam, pointing to specific passages throughout the text. He also included a 14-page review of the text from Terri K. Wonder, a Ph.D. and expert on the Middle East. Her doctoral thesis at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, focused on the Sami al-Arian case, “Re-Islamization in Higher Education from Above and Below: The University of South Florida and Its Global Contexts, 1986-2007.”
Wonder shredded the book, pointing out in detail in her final five pages inaccuracies and what she interpreted as unequivocal pro-Islam bias.
The committee, however, ruled the book acceptable.
Swier appealed, pointing out, among other things, none of the committee members held a degree in history, world history, religion, religious movements, world cultures or world movements. Nor did the committee show that it gave much weight, if any, to Wonder’s critique.
This past Tuesday, Swier appeared before the Sarasota County School Board to appeal the committee’s denial. The School Board Chambers was packed; 44 members of the public spoke, with roughly half arguing in support of Swier’s contentions and the other half — many of Middle Eastern descent — supporting the text and referring to its opponents as racist and anti-Muslim.
“I believe that administrators, teachers, students, parents and stakeholders want our public-school textbooks to meet the highest academic standards, be historically accurate and present world history and the interactions of civilizations in a balanced and unbiased manner,” Swier told the board members.
The board voted unanimously — 5-0, to reject Swier’s appeal. While most of the school board members acknowledged the content of the textbook is flawed, they failed to take responsibility and passed blame. Board members said the book was acceptable because the Florida Department of Education OK’d it.
And with that, voila! Back into the bureaucratic abyss it goes. The book is flawed, and it’s conveying a tilted point of view, but the process of “the state” takes precedence over content.
Instruments of the state
This is what parents in the vast majority fail to realize about public education. They are making a “Faustian bargain,” the proverbial deal with the devil when they make the choice for “free” state-run education. Consider:
Every parent confronts the decision of who will educate his children. Or, as scholar Hager put it in a 1999 essay in The Freeman magazine: “Who will do the indoctrinating?”
“Parents retain the greatest control over their children’s developing beliefs by schooling them at home,” Hager wrote. “An alternative is to enroll their children in an institution where they are certain the indoctrination conforms to their own values, such as a religious school.
“But when parents send a child to a tax-funded school, they sacrifice their autonomy to alien interests. The state has goals of its own that are distinct from those of parents,” Hager wrote.
Here is the Faustian trade-off: “The price of tax-funded schooling is that parents give up their children to become instruments of the state,” says Hager. “Children who are turned over to the state become molded by the state.”
Look around you. You see it every day. It is no accident that the overwhelming mantra among public-school children today is focused on “going green” and “saving the environment.” Ask any of these children if they believe we should trade oil for wind or solar energy, and the answer would be unequivocal — yes! — with little understanding of the trade-offs that come with every choice. This is how they have been indoctrinated … and brainwashed.
Americans overwhelmingly believe in publicly funded, publicly controlled education. But we hope Rich Swier Sr., in his enthusiastic, patriotic way, has done all parents a favor: Awakened them to the truth that public education, by its very nature, will subvert family traditions and family beliefs.
Prior to Tuesday’s Sarasota County School Board hearing to discuss Rich Swier Sr.’s appeal regarding the history textbook, “World History: Patterson of Interaction,” School Board member Shirley Brown posted the following comments on Facebook:
• “It’s costing the school district a lot more than just an electric bill. For someone who complained about the way we spend our money, he (Swier) sure wastes a lot of it.”
• “Jaimie: Do you think his zealous rants move our community forward?”
Swier asked Brown to recuse herself from the vote. She did not.
RICH SWIER SR. ON HOW TO FIX TEXTBOOK REVIEWS, SELECTION
Dr. Rich Swier Sr., Ed.D., retired Army lieutenant colonel and president of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, submitted the following recommendations Tuesday to the Sarasota County School Board to correct what he says “truly is broken — the textbook adoption and complaint review processes within the district.” The board did not act on Swier’s recommendations.
1. Due to the lateness in the school year and costs involved, retain “World History: Patterns of Interaction.” However, recognize the clear historical flaws and bias in the textbook by directing the superintendent send a letter to all high school history teachers and administrators pointing out the faults within this textbook. Attach to the letter the full study written by Dr. Terri K. Wonder.
2. Establish a curriculum task force that can provide supplemental in-service training to educators who must use textbooks that are deemed instructionally deficient, which is the case with “World History: Patterns of Interaction.”
3. Provide supplemental materials such as “The World of Islam” published by Mason Crest to all high schools using “World History: Patterns of Interaction.” There may be donors in the community to help fund the purchase of “The World of Islam” series of books.
4. Revise the textbook selection and review committee’s composition by insuring a preponderance of academicians with expertise in the subject matter of the textbook under consideration or review are part of each committee. If you are going to adopt an Algebra II textbook, it only makes sense to have those with degrees in mathematics on the committee.
5. Revise school board policy 4.00 to have an equal number of parents on the committee as district staff. This will allow greater input from concerned parents.
6. Have at least one student sit on the textbook selection and review panels. One of the most telling comments from a review committee member was that he found “World History: Patterns of Interaction,” “boring.”
7. Have the district’s legal counsel review “World History: Patterns of Interaction” to determine potential violations of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and legal liability by the school board under SB Policy 4.21.
8. Include an expert in educational law on the committees to insure adopted textbooks do not violate the Establishment Clause as defined by the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) — that education must have a secular legislative purpose; education must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting a religion; and education must not result in excessive government entanglement with respect to religion.