Was Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) a civic reformer? No, the authoritarian political thinker and tutor for Britains absolute monarch Charles II was anything but. Hobbes is famous for telling us we must surrender almost all our rights to the ruler to prevent a war of all against all.
Yet Californias new draft History-Social Science Curriculum Framework tells teachers, textbook writers and test-makers that Hobbes was a mere meek and mild reformer.
The state Department of Education closed public comment on the draft framework at the end of February, and the Instructional Quality Commission will soon submit the new curriculum framework for approval to the state Board of Education. Before they do so, lets hope the commission fixes some of the more egregious errors, fills in gaps, and removes ideological propaganda.
Lets look first at supposed facts. Why is Olaudah Equiano (d. 1797) listed in the framework as the author of an exemplary slavery narrative, when research has shown that Equiano was born in America, not Africa, and that much of his narrative is false?
Why does the framework pretend that Homers Iliad and Odyssey provide us with valid historical information on life in the Mycenaean era of ancient Greece, when hundreds of years of Dark Ages separate Homer from Mycenaean times?
What about the gaps? Whywhen much of the turmoil in the Middle East today is aligned along the Sunni-Shia splitis there no explanation of that split?
The framework is filled with present-minded paraphrases of the uplifting rhetoric of the Progressives of early 20th-century America, but where is the Progressives devotion to eugenics and their opposition to African Americans getting an academic education?
Why is Progressivism portrayed only as compassion, love, and goo-goo reform? Where are the centralization, the Imperial Presidency, the cult of efficiency, and the rule of experts that are integral to progressivism?
Why is the only explanation given of economic crises is the Keynesian one, which was discredited by the stagflation of the 1970s? Where is the Chicago School explanation (monetary contraction) that was espoused by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman? Where is the Austrian School explanation (overinvestment induced by banking rules) that was espoused by Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek?
Alexis de Tocqueville is mentioned, but where are his insights into the importance to American civilization of voluntary associations and local governments?
The New Deals federal spending during the Great Depression is mentioned, but where is the fact that such spending was concentrated not on areas of greatest recent economic decline, but rather on areas where the New Deal political coalition was in trouble? The New Deal programs of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) and National Recovery Administration (NRA) are mentioned, but where is their intentional purposeto create government-sponsored monopoly schemes for whole industries? These monopoly arrangements were designed to suppress competition, cut production, and fix prices. The NRA and AAA were consciously influenced by corporativism, the industrial policy involving official governmental sponsorship of industry cartels and labor unions found in fascist Italy.
The internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s is mentioned, without analysis, in one place, but not in other appropriate places, and no mention is made of the endorsement of that internment by Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt and a host of bien-pesant intellectuals and policymakers.
How about ideological propaganda? Why does the framework give any credence to the baseless ideological claims of Hindu nationalists that ancient Indo-European was an indigenous language of India, instead of saying onlyas scholars have concluded that Indo-European speakers came south into India from the outside?
Why are students to be taught as fact the Marxist theory of informal empire, which says that free trade without conquest is basically the same as empire based on conquest? Why do whole sections of the framework read as if they are pamphlets written by anti-globalization street protesters? At times, the framework gives privileged status to globalization critics, with all their talk of class conflict, exploitation, proliferating slums, promoting an Americanizing consumer culture, and displacing local cultures with a single homogenizing global fashion. Not just tendentious ideological propaganda, but indigestible jargon as well.
There is plenty of room for corrections and improvements in this curriculum framework.