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.
Currently 5 Responses
- Mr. Walsh, anyone having read my columns or blogs knows that I am 100 percent opposed to school unions. They really went out with hoop skirts. However, this is about the textbook aggrandizing Muslims which has been approved. We are in such deep doo doo in our federally operated public school system it boggles the mind. Socialistic teaching being disguised as "humane" principals is rampant. Children aren't being taught, they are being indoctrinated.
If you asked our public school children how they feel about a mosque being built at Ground Eleven, they'd probably think it was a good idea. I suggest a mosque be constructed on top of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers' Association. We are a Judeo/Christian nation - like it or leave it.
Mary Kay Ruppel
- Thank you for helping the community understands the violations by the Sarasota School Board. The parents running for school board need to be elected so they can keep an eye in the curriculum. The county has been going down a spiraling down, students missing opportunities, teachers having un-ruling students and taxpayer paying over and over again for the same low score aching students. I as an advocate of students will like to see these parents in the board; Kathy James, Cathy Hodgson and Dr. Joe Neunder, they are parents well educated in medical fields and small business. They know how to run a budget.
- I was there & the following is what happened.
Summarizing the SCSB Meeting last Tuesday, Mr. Frank Kovach was proud to be an American because democracy peacefully worked.
Basically as you could well imagine there were 2 camps. There were those not well organized who thought the years used 10th-grade world history textbook was white-washed, politically correct, incomplete, skewed pro-Muslim anti-American crap. Then ofcource there was the organized camp wearing matching shirts with inconspicuous propaganda handouts taking the position that the Muslim religion was just misunderstood & accurately represented in the book.
Discussion of the book was the last agenda item. So previously some speakers talked about nutrition & such. Some of them did a fine enough job that people in the audience cheered. Mrs. Shiley Brown admonished them to refrain from applauding even though those same people applauded her grandson with her approval on his birthday for the jokes he told & the Pledge of Alligence he recited.
Apparently there were either some really good speakers or a roudy crowd because affirmation happened again. This time Dr. Kathy Kleinlein sternly warned that if it happened again at all, she'd clear the room & everyone would have to spend the lengthy meeting standing outside of the school-board chamber.
So the audience settled & time marched slowly on until finally arriving at the last agenda point.
The 1st speaker used her extensive time in the Mid-East to demonstrate to the board that the book misrepresented the Muslim religion & society. Mrs. Brown's response was to tell everyone & the next speaker to keep their comments confined to the text of the book because she didn't want to turn the meeting into a debate on religion. Obviously she hadn't noticed, hadn't read or even understood the many matching shirts that read, "History is not HIS story". Anyway the next speaker did exactly what she said in a rapid manner.
Those two were followed by more of the same, some more factual and some more general.
Then came the supporters of the book's accuracy. They were mainly of 2-types; obvious Muslims and tolerance preaching pacifists.
I found the tolerance lovers misrepresenting their particular religions. They also misunderstood the point and purpose of the hearing on the factual inaccuracy of the book. If religion is to be presented historically, then it needs to be done fairly, completely & accurately.
The Muslims group obviously turned the hearing into a religious sermon with no comment or objection from Mrs. Brown or Dr. Kleinlein.
There was mixed in at least one former student who praised the book and at some point had converted to Islam.
At the end of the citizen comments, Dr. Swier was given time to speak. He started by offering a moment of silence for a young Muslim woman from Iran in the news recently who mere minutes before had just been stoned to death. A more obvious and demonstrative example of the inaccuracy of the book could not have been provided. Alas, it was lost on everyone who already had their minds set.
Dr. Swier continued to make specific recommendations to the board to improve the book adoption process.
He later came back to rebut the Board's in-house review-committee who took the position that they were qualified longtime history instructors qualified to review the book. The review-committee's spokesman also alluded to the supreme infallibility of the FDOE who recommended the book that was being used, and used everywhere. Neither was any official concerned that the book's publisher consulted a pro-Muslim group when editing & reviewing the book. The practical translation is that if my idiot friend jumps off a bridge, then obviously I have to as well. Further still if most of my idiot friends jump off a bridge, I would have to be blissfully happy with myself as I jumped off as well. If I had second-thoughts about jumping off the bridge & killing myself, I would have to mandatorally contact a pro-suicide group & then happily jump off even if I disagreed with their pro-suicide position.
During his rebuttal, Mrs. Brown obviously swayed by something previous, wanted to know the exact names & numbers of those he represented. She seemed preplexed that anyone could have an issue with the book & not file a complaint with the board itself. Afterall, they've got a procedure for that.
Mrs. Brown made the same request of the other complaintant. Neither of them provided the information.
The second complaintant personalized the inferior teachability of the book. She very matter-of-factly said that had her son been taught using the book, he would not today be a proud member of our military serving in harms-way the Middle-East.
Finally then, it was time for the board-members to announce their decisions. Those same decisions caused me to suspect that only 2 of them had bothered to read the book.
The first was Mr. Kovach who said the book was the most obvious example of political correctness gone wrong he had ever seen.
The other was Mrs. Brown who went out of her way to show even the supplemental materials she read. Mrs. Brown reached the conclusion that the book was accurate and valuably instructional. She then went on to say something totally bizzare & completely contradictory. She said something like that when Yugoslavia or the Ukraine were ruled by the Communists, they experienced the greatest religious freedom they had ever had. What? I was left to wonder if she even knew what a communist government was and struggled to understand her rational. She then insulted several people who walked out when she said that we weren't founded as a Judeo-Christian nation. I'm sure sorry she has a seat on the school-board, let alone the chairmanship.
Dr. Klienline supported the legitimacy of the book. In my opinion she was purposefully demonstrating that her own Catholic faith played no role in her decision. If she took the exact opposite position that her faith required her to take, did that faith play a role? Not a correct role, but a role just the same.
Dr. Carol Todd & Mrs. Caroline Zucker were content that the district's book adaptation process worked correctly in their opinions.
All in all, the vote was 5-0 to keep the book. In my opinion 5 board-members missed the point & our children have been damaged & will continue to suffer the effects.
- I want to know why the Sarasota School Board replaced the prior
World History: The Human Experience which is very similar, very
costly, has the same full set of available support materials and
has equally credentialed authors with the book that so many of
the Sarasota citizens found baised as in pro-Islam, anti-Western
Civilization and full of errors? Were they influenced by the
many pro-Islam and liberals who are becoming more and
more agains our American way?
- Hooray for the Observer. Someone finally admits that our children and grandchildren are being indoctrinated by a runaway Federal system with it's own agenda. Certainly not an agenda our Founding Fathers or any of today's Patriots or Christians can agree with.
Darryl Van Kirk
“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” -- Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of the USA and Founding Father
23 Ageless Grace with Mary Masi
10:00 am - 11:00 am
23 Fun Fitness for Parkinsons
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23 Simply Relax! with Kathi Sims
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
23 Dissolving Anger and Hurt workshop (day 1)
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Trevor Kunk is the chef de cuisine at Blue Hill in New York City’s Greenwich Village, which the James Beard Foundation just named "most outstanding restaurant."
Sarasota native and resident Bri Oliva made her TV debut May 7, on the "Rachael Ray Show." Oliva was selected to participate in a segment called "Hidden Dangers on the Playground."
Key to the city
More than 100 community members and leaders, friends and family surprised Paul Thorpe, one of the founding members of the Downtown Association of Sarasota, April 25, at The Gator Club, to show their appreciation and celebrate the strides he’s made for Sarasota over the past four decades.