Sara Dogan | April 12, 2019
Washington State is in the process of implementing a new mandatory curriculum on Native American history in its public schools. Proposed lesson plans are now up on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website. And some parents in the state are highly disturbed by the content of those lessons which they say indoctrinate students in a one-sided leftist understanding of American history and could be traumatizing for young children.
Senate Bill 5433 which was signed into law by Washington’s democratic governor Jay Inslee in 2015 made it compulsory for Washington public schools to cover “tribal history, culture, treaty rights, contemporary tribal and state government institutions and relations and the contribution of Indian nations to the state of Washington” as part of the academic curriculum. The result of this mandate is titled “Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State,” a section on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website which covers suggested lesson plans, training materials, and “guiding principles” to help school administrators and teachers institute the new curriculum.
Not all of the curriculum is objectionable. For instance, goals identified by the Superintendent’s office include helping students to “understand that over 500 independent Tribal nations exist within the United States today, and that they interact with the United States, as well as each other, on a government-to-government basis…”
But much of the curriculum was designed to elicit students’ emotions and provoke their anger rather than teach them facts.
One suggested lesson under the category “Encounter, Colonization, and Devastation: The Tribal Perspective” instructs the teacher to ask students to each create a map of a “sacred space” that is important to them. Then, the lesson instructs, the teacher should pick a student to help them “‘trick’ the class.”
The lesson plan explains what the teacher should do next:
"Circulate throughout the room as you praise and select your pre-arranged student’s map as one you especially like. Hold it up to show the class. Show a particular part of the map (though it doesn’t matter which part) that you especially like, and you’d like to add it to your map. Say something like, 'Oh, I really love this part, don’t you? In fact, I would really like to have it. Can I?' The student should look surprised and say, 'No.' You should persist, 'Oh, come one. I just want this part.' Tear that portion of the map. The student should look shocked and hurt. The observing students will certainly be shocked, and will look immediately to that student. And you should respond by saying something like, 'What? What’s the big deal? I only took part of it! I really wanted it!' Allow your students to respond… Let your class in on the trick, and connect their reactions to how tribes must have felt when non-tribal people began settling on their land and claiming it as theirs!"
Another lesson proposed as part of the new curriculum suggests that teachers should “compare the similarities between the struggles for Independence of the Indian Nations, the US Colonies, and (if the teacher chooses) another contemporary struggle, such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” suggesting that Israel colonized Palestine, a highly controversial view of the founding of Israel which is promoted by the anti-Israel terror group Hamas.
A proposed “learning activity” for young children asks the teacher to have students portray the characters in a poem titled “A Friend of the Indians.” In the poem, a purported “friend of the Indians” sits next to an Iroquois leader named Red Jacket on a log. Red Jacket keeps asking the friend to move over. Finally the poem concludes with a lesson:
"'But if I move further I shall fall in the water,' the man pleaded, teetering on the edge. Red Jacket replied, 'And even so you whites tell us to move on when no place is left to go.'"
The lesson plan asks teachers to reenact this poem using chairs in the classroom with the teacher portraying Red Jacket. It instructs educators: “In the last stanza, the student will have nowhere else to go, except off the chairs onto the floor… Connect this activity with the sacred space activity and article… a. Taking things/spaces that are important to others is hurtful. There is a question of fairness and justification for taking things important to others.”
Videos designated for use in elementary school classrooms also contain controversial comments that are contrary to scientific fact. “There is no migration story. We were created here. We did not cross any land bridge. We have our creation story here,” a member of the Nez Perce tribe says in a video approved for classroom use, stating a religious view believed by some Native American tribes which is contrary to the scientific consensus.
Another Native American participant in the video declares, “If we go back to the people of non-Indian descent and ask them how they eventually came to our country they have many hidden stories that they don’t want to talk about because if you read the history books…you will see a glorious account of what had occurred which actually didn’t occur.”
The highly controversial lessons and curriculum were brought to light by parent Joshua Campbell, who is currently a student teacher himself and working towards becoming a classroom teacher. Campbell has a son who will begin first grade next year and so he used the superintendent’s website to discover what his son would learn at school. He was not pleased with what he found.
“I was absolutely shocked at what they were setting up to be implemented in our schools,” Campbell said in an interview on the Dori Monson Show.
“I have a very great responsibility. Trust is one of the most important things,” Campbell added. “I do believe in having a safe classroom, and one of the biggest things about that is, you have to establish a relationship of trust with your students … it literally breaks that trust.”
Campbell clarified that he supports public schools teaching Native American history, but he feels that the current curriculum is too ideological and will be harmful to elementary school students.
“Sovereignty is really, really hard to understand … they need to get to a level in middle school to have the skills to say, ‘Okay, there are multiple perspectives,'” he explained.
Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal also went on the Dori Monson show to defend the material on his website. He stressed that teachers are not required to use particular lessons but can choose from a variety of lesson plans to meet the new state standard. The suggested lessons on his website were vetted by other teachers, he claimed.
“When we get teachers’ eyes on it, especially when it’s age-appropriate curriculum, that they make a pretty good judgment about that,” Reykdal asserted.
Regarding the controversial suggestion that teachers compare the history of America to the creation of Israel, Superintendent Reykdal did not find this comparison problematic.
“I’m really comfortable making connections with contemporary conflict over territory, land, historical rights, and that seems pretty darn relevant to me that you had a culture here, many cultures across the Americas for 13,000 years, and then Europeans came along, and obviously there was significant tension,” Reykdal said. “And the textbooks didn’t exactly portray that in a very balanced way for a long time, so it seems pretty relevant that we would try to connect that to something that might be more in the headlines today.”
Addressing fears of bias and indoctrination, Reykdal claimed, “Most professional educators are very responsible to draw a line between where they are personally, while bringing kids a balanced curriculum.”
Cambell, however, remains concerned that the new curriculum crosses the line between education and indoctrination. “I want children to think on their own, they need to have an individual mindset, because they are all unique, and they’re our next generation,” he said. “But the groupthink idea, it does lead to indoctrination.”
To learn more about the Freedom Center's campaign to halt indoctrination in K-12 schools, please visit stopk12indoctrination.org. To read the K-12 Code of Ethics CLICK HERE. To order the Freedom Center’s new pamphlet, “Leftist Indoctrination in Our K-12 Public Schools,” CLICK HERE. To donate to the Stop K-12 Indoctrination campaign, CLICK HERE.