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Indoctrination in High School

By David Horowitz

Below, FrontPage Magazine founder and lifelong civil rights activist David Horowitz relates how high schools have become the newest indoctrination front for the Hate America Left. The Left's decision to target unemancipated minors, often without their parents' knowledge, should alarm every reader. David Horowitz is the sponsor of Students for Academic Freedom, an organization with chapters on 150 college campuses. He is the author of the Academic Bill of Rights. His most recent book, The End of Time, is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore. -- The Editors.


Through a serendipity I was able just before the Memorial Day Weekend to invite myself to a propaganda offensive against the Iraq war conducted by the anti-American Left at Pacific Palisades High School. It was an experience that revealed more than I was happy to know about the state of our public school classrooms.

The in-school event was a production of the Pali High English Department, whose plan was to corral 300 students for an hour and forty-five minute lecture by an antiwar speaker from “U.S. Tour of Duty,” a group that works with Medea Benjamin’s Code Pink in active obstruction of America’s war effort. The outside organizer was a former member of the Pali High English Department named Marcie Winograd, who is president of an organization called “Progressive Democrats” and a member of Palisadians for Peace, an organization composed of what appear to be retired Communist Party members and activists involved in the fellow-traveling Left.


I was at the event, which was held during school hours between 10 and 12 noon, by happenstance. I had been contacted a week earlier by Jeff Norman, the organizer for U.S. Tour of Duty, who wanted to know if I would debate a former CIA technician named Ray McGovern, who had apparently gone over to the other side. The venue – a Venice church – did not appeal to me, since I knew the audience would be composed of left-wing activists whom I have reason to know are intolerant, obnoxious, and nasty when gathered in a public setting – and can be violent, as well. I asked Norman, who was quite accommodating to find another more hospitable venue on the Westside or in the Valley.


McGovern, who resides in Virginia was only in California to visit his son, so there was little flexibility in the time frame. It came down to one or two dates, and Norman was having trouble securing a new venue on such short notice. Then I received an e-mail that Marcie Winograd had sent to McGovern, copying me, whether inadvertently or not I do not know. The e-mail referred to another event which she had set up at Palidsades High School for a captive audience of high school students.


I knew just what they had in mind, and didn’t like it at all. Here I was crusading nationally to take politics out of college classrooms and these leftists were planning an indoctrination session for 14- to18-year olds in high school. I sent an e-mail to McGovern (who had appeared as a genial and accommodating fellow in his previous communications to me). I suggested that this would be an acceptable venue from my point of view if he wanted to hold our debate there. McGovern agreed. He even suggested that our encounter should be formulated as a friendly discussion rather than a debate, to which I agreed. I proposed that the topic should be, “How should we look at the war in Iraq?” Before I heard back from him, I received an e-mail from Marcie Winograd saying she wanted the topic to be: “The U.S. government should rapidly terminate its occupation of Iraq. Agree. Disagree. Qualify.”


This e-mail indicated that there was a precise political agenda to the event, which was confirmed the following week when Marcie Winograd and Progressive Democrats and Palisadians for Peace organized two actions – one to descend on the offices of Democratic Representative Jane Harman and hector her for not signing Rep. Lynn Woolsey's resolution that we should withdraw immediately from Iraq and the second a campaign to descend on Hispanic high schools in East L.A. to dissuade students from volunteering to serve in the American military. The Hispanic community of course has already provided many of the heroes of the Iraq war, including its only Congressional Medal of Honor winner, and as a community takes great pride in the military service of its young men and women.


When I arrived at Pali High, the auditorium was filling up. I introduced myself to more than a dozen of the teenagers present and asked them if they knew why they were there. Only about four did. All of them said they were there because their teachers had brought them there. One of the students said the same group had been shown an antiwar film by the same English Department teachers a few days earlier.One of the teachers present was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of John Brown on the front and a political slogan advocating the use of force and violence to overthrow governments that were unjust. Of course, slavery is an issue that was decided 140 years ago, so obviously the incitement to armed revolution was directed at some other injustice. When I visited this teacher’s classroom some days later this suspicion was confirmed by the posters of Che Guevara and Mother Jones she had adorning her English classroom walls, along with a sign that said, “Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam.”


Had I not intruded myself into the Pali High proceedings these schoolchildren would have been subjected to the unchallenged views of Ray McGovern. When the event commenced, McGovern described the war in Iraq as a “war for oil” because, as he explained, “we’re running out of oil,” and the War on Terror as caused by “America’s support for Israel.” He told the students that 100,000 innocent Iraqis had been killed by America (repeating a false story that the left was spreading) and that President Bush’s policy in the war was really the policy of Ariel Sharon, a not very subtle suggestion that the Jews control American foreign policy. McGovern also followed Marcie Winograd’s party line, telling the students that America should get out of Iraq at once, even if it meant a bloodbath, because staying in would be much worse since we were only spreading terror and killing innocents by being there in the first place. The only way to fight the War on Terror, he summed up, was to “deal with the grievances of those who hate us,” which in his view were principally our policies in support of Israel.


When it was my turn to speak, I pointed out that the war in Iraq was defined by its results, primary among which was the vote of 70 percent of the Iraqi people for freedom and against terror on January 31. These were the two agendas and achievements of the Bush administration’s war. It was not the Jews who had caused the Muslim hatred of the United States or the conflict in the Middle East. The Middle East conflict was caused by Muslim hatred and intolerance for the tiny Jewish state, which had been built on the ruins of a 400 year old empire that was not Palestinian but Turkish. The War on Terror was a result of the determination of radical Muslims to establish Islamic law globally and to kill all infidels – Christians, Jews and non-believers – in their path.


But even though I felt I had prevailed in the debate, receiving vocal support from half the students, I was deeply troubled by the event itself, and by the ongoing program of indoctrination that the Left was obviously conducting in this and many other K-12 schools.


Why are high school teachers staging political events during school hours, let alone events featuring such extreme views? What educational purpose is served by exposing students to far-Left political propaganda, which is unanchored in any professional expertise let alone grasp of the facts (e.g., the world is not running out of oil and the Jews do not control American foreign policy). Students I talked afterwards to volunteered that the school was “very political” and their teachers were very left-wing. One student told me he had been thrown out of a class by his teacher for claiming that Saddam Hussein had used biological weapons against his own people, a view which the teacher rejected. Other students told me their leftist teachers constantly harangue them on controversial issues. A conservative teacher whom I talked to told me he was afraid to speak up because of inevitable reprisals from the faculty’s left-wing majority.


I confronted several of the teachers present over what I considered the abuse of students in their charge. Using students as a captive audience on whom to inflict one’s political prejudices was entirely unprofessional, I said, and a violation of the students’ academic freedom. Students are in school to be educated and have have a universally recognized right at least in American schools not to indoctrinated.


None of the teachers present so much as acknowledged the possibility that this outrageous scene was not perfectly normal. When I asked the English teacher with the John Brown t-shirt why she was wearing a political slogan, and whether she didn’t agree it was abusive to inflict her political opinions on her students, she accused me of being insensitive to the Muslim students present. Of course she had no words of concern for the Jewish students present, whose community had been blamed for the War on Terror and the death of innocents, nor for the half a dozen Hispanic and black students who raised their hands when asked if anyone present had a brother or sister in Iraq. Apparently it was fine to bring in a former CIA agent to tell them that their brothers and sisters were risking their lives for oil companies and the Jews, and that there principal purpose in Iraq was to kill innocent Iraqis and spread terrorism.


I then told this political activist posing as a teacher that she was a disgrace to her profession. This was apparently over the line for her. “You are on this campus illegally,” she said, “and I am going to have you removed.” “Go ahead,” I said, knowing that the regulation was to keep drug dealers from getting at the teenagers, and thinking they should have a similar injunction for people dealing political drugs, as well. I knew, however, that if I called her bluff she would see how absurd her threat against an invited speaker would prove.


Walking away from the crowd that had gathered for our little dust up, I found myself alongside Marcie Winograd. “Don’t you think it’s abusive to inflict your political agendas on school children who are here for an education?” I asked. “But the media are all on the other side,” she replied. “Even if your claim were correct,” I said, “and it is not, this is not the media. This is a school. Can’t you appreciate the difference?” “The media are on the other side" she repeated. I could see the whole issue was above her mental ceiling and gave up.


The scene I had witnessed, is part of a drastic change in the educational culture in America which is coming more and more to look like the educational systems in Havana and pre-liberation Iraq. It’s time for the rest of us to do something about this. I have formed a national organization called Parents and Students for Academic Freedom. Information is available at Chapters are local and are independent so long as they follow our guidelines for academic freedom. Parents and students need to begin forming them now. On the website you can find a model bill of rights for your school and model legislation for your legislature. I hope by the fall to have an Academic Bill of Rights for K-12 schools, which would prevent political indoctrination in K-12 classrooms pending in several legislatures. You can help by starting chapters of Parents and Students for Academic Freedom in your school and in your state.


It’s time for legislatures to take a look at the institutions they fund.  The integrity of our educational system is at stake. Taxpayers do not underwrite the public schools so that political activists posing as teachers can have a captive audience for their political agendas. We need an Academic Bill of Rights for high school students, and we need it now.

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