By Irene F. Starkehaus -
Rather than jumping right into my answer, I'm going to tell you a personal story to set the scene from which I'm basing my thinking. At the time that this event took place, my child was in seventh grade and was getting ready for school one morning. My child asked me to help print a document that needed to be handed in for a Language Arts class. I was given a thumb drive and my child took off up the stairs to work on other tasks that required attention. I printed the document and read it because I'm fundamentally nosy, and I'm unashamed to say that enjoy what my children write.
On this particular day, my child had penned a critique based on an article that was assigned to the class from a book called Us and Them – A History of Intolerance in America by Jim Carnes.
After I had finished reviewing the critique which was heavily biased against the Texas Rangers for being racist terrorists, I called to my child and asked if I might please see the original source from which the assignment took its information. My child had written forcefully against the atrocities that were brought upon the Mexican people at the hands of the Texas Rangers during the border disputes between South Texas and Mexico in 1917. My child's scorn thoroughly startled me. Keep in mind that the assignment was to be based on what was written in the article. The written directions were for the students to critique the way the Mexican people were treated. This was not to be a criticism of the quality of the writing.
My child handed me a photocopied version of an article entitled Untamed Border. Quoting now from an eight paged article:
"By the early 20th century, the Rangers' reputation for racist violence and intimidation brought comparisons with the Ku Klux Klan, although at least one famous Ranger, Jesus Sandoval, was himself a Mexican.
Ranger terrorism increased sharply after 1910, as the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) spawned confusion along the border."
The article – nay, the entire book from which the article was taken – from my perspective, is intensely propagandistic, and I believe that it is meant to foster the perception that America is inherently racist, imperialistic and violent in its oppression of Hispanics, Native Americans, the Chinese, the Japanese, African Americans, Catholics, Jews, Mormons and homosexuals. I believe that it is filled with half-truths and distortions and comes from a singularly anti-Anglo, anti-heterosexual, anti-male point of view.
Simply stated, this is but one example of anti-American propaganda that is being taught in our Illinois schools. To bury one's head in the sand and pretend it isn't happening is cultural suicide.
I talked to the teacher who gave this assignment to my child and explored some of the instances of the conflict that Untamed Border was having with the truth. I explained that perhaps accusations such as 'comparisons with the Ku Klux Klan' should offer citations so we can know who is making such claims. I asked if the teacher could possibly recognize the intolerance for Anglos – as white people are referenced in this article – that was laced throughout the piece and whether this was uncalled for. I asked for information regarding the publication and wanted to know how it had come to be assigned.
Her response boiled down to these four points:
The book Us and Them came from a series entitled The Shadow of Hate – A History of Intolerance in America and it was part of a text and video package put out by TeachingTolerance.org.
The teacher found this pamphlet on intolerance in the school library.
It's not a history class. The article was presented as a work of literature and isn't held to the same level of accuracy that a historical account would be in Social Studies.
She would be sure to double back and emphasize to the students that this and all literature comes from an individual's own perspective and should be read from that point of view.
My story is only anecdotal because I am not going to offer specific details that would allow you to verify the truth for yourself, but if you want to read the book in question, you can find it on Amazon where you can pay for it or at the Southern Policy Law Center which is the umbrella organization for TeachingTolerance.com. There you can peruse their Hate Map by state and learn about the Patriot Movement and its potential and/or actualized racism.
More on SPLC per Wikipedia.
If you have children in an Illinois school, chances are he or she has been exposed to the topic of tolerance in the form of immigration, bullying, racism and as you can quite see for yourself based on the above subject matter, there are no state guidelines for teaching tolerance. Your son or daughter is learning about intolerance in the "Wild West" of social justice.
Based on my experience, I decided to take my children to see America by Dinesh D'Souza as part of my augmented effort to counter the hate and self-loathing that America's Left has infused into the state curriculum. America: Imagine the World Without Her is PG-13 and I do not recommend it for children younger than that because it offers occasional profanity. It depicts acts of war and violence. It delves deep into the history of Saul Alinsky. For children who are thirteen and above that have short attention spans or are particularly sensitive to violence or dark subject matter, I do not recommend this movie.
Let me first editorialize by stating, thank God Dinesh D'Souza is on our side because he is a methodical and powerful storyteller on the subject of American Exceptionalism.
Now…before we entered the theater, I told my children that D'Souza comes from a definite political perspective, and I asked them to try and figure out which one it is. I asked them to determine if he willingly reveals what perspective he holds or if he in any way tries to mask his political opinions. I asked them to notice if they were being directed to feel any kind of emotions that would be indicative of propaganda and whether they were feeling manipulated in any way. I asked them to tell me if there is anything about D'Souza's version of American history they didn't know before watching this film.
After the film was over, we held a group discussion and this is what they told me they had learned:
Dinesh D'Souza is a conservative and they knew that because he made it clear in the first five minutes of the film and he said he loves America.
They were upset because the first half of the film gives a full account of what some people think is wrong with America and while D'Souza was telling that other side of the story, they felt sad and ashamed. There was a great deal of information in the film that they had already learned in school when being instructed on intolerance – including the border disputes in Texas – and they could remember how it had been taught in school versus how it was taught by D'Souza.
They were happy by the end of the film and they felt proud of their American heritage. They had been surprised about the history of indentured servitude. The idea of white men being enslaved seemed new to them. They were also surprised to learn that there had been thousands of former slaves who had gained their freedom only to become slaveholders themselves, and that some of those black slaveholders had even helped to finance the Southern Cause during the Civil War. (I told them that it had been news to me as well, but that we wouldn't just take Dinesh D'Souza's word for it either. We would need to look for some kind of historical verification and determine if this is true.)
All-in-all, my children who are all over the age of thirteen "got it" and also understood that this film did, in fact, meet the criteria that I set for determining what is propaganda. They didn't, however, feel manipulated. They felt that D'Souza was upfront about his motivations for making the film.
As my one child identified emphatically, "Just because it's propaganda, doesn't mean it isn't the truth." I was inclined to agree with that statement.
I am also inclined to believe that this film is appropriate for most children over the age of thirteen so long as my caveats are considered. A powerful presentation that is masterfully detailed, I would additionally recommend the film to any adult who is looking to experience a fresh point of view that differs from the usual narrative told by American film industry.