Jonathan Zimmerman: Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools

(Image: The University of Chicago Press)

Imagine a nation founded by a group of enlightened and courageous men, men who risked everything to vanquish tyranny and show the world that any respectable nation “holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”. Now, imagine another nation; one founded on the principle that men should be deprived of their rights so that individuals can be considered assets working to create wealth. – That governments are instituted to control men, deriving their powers from the consent of capitalist proprietors.  This is, of course, the same nation, albeit viewed from two different perspectives.  Sitting at a bar, we can have a friendly conversation about which America is more accurate, but as soon as we bring our perspectives into a school classroom – or even more perilously, into a school textbook – we become irreconcilable belligerents in the nation’s so-called Culture Wars.  In the second edition of his influential book, Whose America?, the education historian Jonathan Zimmerman details these Wars from the early 20th century to the New York Times’ 1619 Project” and U.S. President Donald Trump’s “1776 Commission.”  Come welcome Jon to our show for a discussion about dangerous school education and why, today, serious teaching and learning may be available to only a few students.  Oh yeah, and there will be sex education!

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