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Thursday, April 06, 2006
We Don't Need No Stinking Academic Freedom

Here's a column decrying the attempt to remove indoctrination from the classroom.

Just hearing about all this is taking me back, way back, to Brookfield Central High School in the 1960s. In a closet somewhere at home, I have a report card that shows I took a social studies class so rife with one-sided political raving, it would make Overland geography teacher Jay Bennish look mealy- mouthed.

The reading material was primarily John Birch Society pamphlets but also included "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill. At least a couple of times a week, the teacher put a film on the projector and left the room. Among his favorite flicks were promotional films from "Up With People" and films about the threat of communism, complete with images of mushroom clouds and chilling depictions of life in America after the bomb.

But she had a "better" experience with another teacher:

I have no idea what Mr. Prescott's political philosophy was - he never mentioned it - but he engaged everyone in one of the most hotly debated political issues of 1963: the Vietnam War.

We were required to keep scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine stories about the war. Each day we would talk about what we'd read or seen on TV. We found Vietnam on the map and learned about the war with the French and the Buddhist monks who were protesting by self-immolation in the streets of Saigon.

By the end of the school year, we knew all about the jungle, the Viet Cong, the Domino Effect and the mounting casualties. Most of us didn't know what to think about the war and whether it was right, but at least we had a lesson in how to inform our future opinions. It was an extraordinary educational experience.

In 1963? She's either remembering the year wrong, or completely changing the situation. Vietnam was not a hot political issue in 1963 by any means. Mounting casualties? In 1963 there were 118 US troops killed in Vietnam; in 1964 there were 206.
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