Sadly, in Park County, Wyoming, another teen has taken his life. Teen suicide is the second leading cause of death in Wyoming’s youth, a suicide rate twice the national average, according to the Wyoming Department of Health Report on Suicide, 2012. What are the causes? Do young people today have a positive and hopeful outlook on their future? We must examine not just the cause, but the major influence on their hearts and minds. Not merely the scabrous entertainment they are drawn to, but that which they read and absorb in school.
Park County’s considering a “new” curriculum for sixth grade through high school titled “Collections,” from publisher Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt. Upon close examination of the Literature books; the technique of examining stories is quite innovative and modern, with electronic variants to make reader access varied and available. What’s disturbing, however, are the actual stories used in the books. What they refer to as “anchor texts” for “analysis” and “discussion” are primarily modern short stories. Some storylines from the high school curriculum are; two boys discussing whether or not they should go to the local swimming hole where their classmate disappeared and presumed drowned; and a child’s horror of “living” through Katrina; a child suffering with a fatal illness; a child contemplating suicide. Ad nauseum.
These compilation of stories are all from the “Collections” line of books. Most storylines were slanted in such a way to project the future as dark and depressing, and one of no hope. Many stories seemed to present mankind as cruel, uncaring and a blight upon the earth. Shouldn’t high school be a time of positive outlook, promise, upbeat, and empowering? After graduation, with a taste of complexity and difficulty of living; our young people will need a positive attitude to survive and prosper. The innovative approach of offering books online, or hard copy, is attractive, but the content is dismal. Stories of hope, positive outcome, and overcoming difficulty could’ve been used. They’ve ignored what many of us were exposed to described as “American Classics,” that revered and extolled virtues, and character, providing reference points for helping developing children find uplifting cultural anchors.
Home schooled students seem to be more positive and confident, better equipped to solve problems, and are better at finishing projects. They’re exposed to a wide variety of literature, both insipid and uplifting. They score consistently higher in aptitude testing than public school students. This may soon change since tests are now steering to the “Common Core way of thinking.” Common Core proponents have successfully infiltrated the testing realm. If one doesn’t know the “curriculum” of the Common Core (i.e., Global warming as settled science, the United States as an “empire building” country, etc.) one’s less likely be able to pass the “new and changed” college entrance exams.
Colleges and universities today appear to be set on a path to enslave our young people into deep indebtedness for worthless degrees such as “international business, women and gender studies,” and other careers that pay nothing, leaving the graduate with no means to repay the staggering student loans that are aggressively marketed.
There’s apparently no value in being a self-starter or an entrepreneur. It’s not applauded or discussed. What is the value of being a self starter? What of self-discipline? What of responsibility? It should be about teaching, listening and sacrifice. Attributes most of us plan to inculcate into our children for the sake of shaping character. Absent were stories about figures like Booker T. Washington, probably because he was a self-starter, who put himself through college and seminary. He was a registered Republican, and that doesn’t fit today’s narrative of “dependent blacks.” What about Benjamin Franklin or Frederick Douglass?
What’s most disturbing about our education system is that the “progressives” are still in charge of it, and in control of “teaching stories” used to educate our children and young adults. The downward spiral of depression and melancholy in our country may be attributed to their influence. It’s far easier to “control” a population which is devoid of hope and biblical faith. Fifteen years ago, many high school graduates were attempting to complete applications without the ability to write, read or add. Sadly, little has changed.
With adoption of these dismal story lines, one hopes that the students will not adopt the pessimistic and depressing tone in their lives. There are far better options of curriculum in the market, but many schools are saddled with Federal mandates through the tangling web of government intervention in our educational system. Ignoring school curriculum at the local level is toxic for students in Wyoming. Engagement’s preferable to indifference. Some are committed to running for the Park County School Board, despite the heavy handed style of the current Superintendent, who surreptitiously vanquished one board member, and silenced another, with recrudescent attacks and dictatorial style.
Interposing one’s opinion into local school boards is fraught with challenges. Liberty minded citizens aren’t shocked that many public schools, as early as middle school, texts favor socialism and secularism, with an insipient disdain for a free market economy, while denigrating the value, or relevance of our Constitution. Students in many districts are now on a educational cul-de-sac. It begins in the formative years of education. They may never shake this insidious exposure. Concerned parents and citizens mustn’t capitulate to such perverse curricula. We must offer students a compendium of stories, poems and essays that addresses them as human beings-as moral agents-regardless of their age. There’s risk of rearing another generation of insentient students.
Critics of “traditional American literature” complain such standards are “corny, simple, and archaic,” maintaining students must deal with reality in this world. Our contention’s that reality absent a sense of hope advances despair-a major factor in suicide. This battle’s for the hearts and minds of current and future students. Eradicating any vestige of Western Civilization and Judeo-Christian values is the strategy of modern textbook publishers. There’s no surcease to watchfulness. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County, WY., Resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org .