Ex-Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy, “veteran peace activist, animal advocate and educator who founded and directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington,” teaches a “Peace Studies class” in the Montgomery County, Md., public school system. It has been unchallenged for two decades. But now, two outspoken students are raising questions about McCarthy’s unabashed propaganda. Via yesterday’s Washington Post:
For months, 17-year-old Andrew Saraf had been troubled by stories he was hearing about a Peace Studies course offered at his Bethesda high school. He wasn’t enrolled in the class but had several friends and classmates who were.
Last Saturday, he decided to act. He sat down at his computer and typed out his thoughts on why the course — offered for almost two decades as an elective to seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School — should be banned from the school.
“I know I’m not the first to bring this up but why has there been no concerted effort to remove Peace Studies from among the B-CC courses?” he wrote in his post to the school’s group e-mail list. “The ‘class’ is headed by an individual with a political agenda, who wants to teach students the ‘right’ way of thinking by giving them facts that are skewed in one direction.”
He hit send.
Within a few hours, the normally staid e-mail list BCCnet — a site for announcements, job postings and other housekeeping details in the life of a school — was ablaze with chatter. By the time Principal Sean Bulson checked his BlackBerry on Sunday evening, there were more than 150 postings from parents and students — some ardently in support, some ardently against the course.
Since its launch at the school in 1988, Peace Studies has provoked lively debate, but the attempt to have the course removed from the curriculum is a first, Bulson said. The challenge by two students comes as universities and even some high schools across the country are under close scrutiny by a growing number of critics who believe that the U.S. education system is being hijacked by liberal activists.
At Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Peace Studies is taught by Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post reporter and founder and president of the Center for Teaching Peace. Though the course is taught at seven other Montgomery County high schools, some say B-CC’s is perhaps the most personal and ideological of the offerings because McCarthy makes no effort to disguise his opposition to war, violence and animal testing.
Saraf and Avishek Panth, also 17, acknowledge that with the exception of one lecture they sat in on this month, most of what they know about the course has come from friends and acquaintances who have taken the class. But, they said, those discussions, coupled with research they have done on McCarthy’s background, have convinced them that their school should not continue to offer Peace Studies unless significant changes are made. This is not an ideological debate, they said. Rather, what bothers them the most is that McCarthy offers students only one perspective.
“I do recognize that it is a fairly popular class,” Saraf said. “But it’s clear that the teacher is only giving one side of the story. He’s only offering facts that fit his point of view.”
McCarthy is “puzzled” by the students’ objections, even as the Post describes his mission in overtly political terms:
For McCarthy, it seems Peace Studies is not just a cause; it is a crusade.
“Unless we teach them peace, someone else will teach them violence,” he said.
Here’s a description of McCarthy’s textbooks.
Here’s a column from McCarthy on one of his classes in 1991:
I had just finished meeting with my class, 40 juniors and seniors in a class called “Alternatives to Violence.” On the eastern edge of the school’s front lawn about 150 students had gathered around a wide stump of an oak tree. Atop it was a young woman giving a speech. When I moved closer, I recognized her s a student from my class. She was speaking to a rapt audience about the war in the Gulf and the need to give nonviolent sanctions a chance.
The evening before, as U.S. bomber pilots began attacking Iraq, George Bush had announced that the world could “wait no longer.” He was wrong. This part of the world could wait, as small and peripheral as it seemed on the lawn fronting the school. All semester, while reading and discussing essays on pacifism by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Tolstoy, and a long list of other practitioners of nonviolence, the Pentagon’s preparation for war hovered over the collective consciousness of the class.
Now that the bombing and killing had begun, as more than three-fourths of the class had predicted it would by a show of hands one morning in October, the time had come for action. I looked among the students at the rally. I knew about 20. Some I would have figured to be there, because I had listened to their anti-war views throughout the semester. Others surprised me – reserved ones who had not said much in class one way or the other about the Gulf.
The senior girl who had been speaking when I came over was in the group. I listened in amazement. Where did all that passion come from? And what inner fires had been burning in the next speaker, a senior boy who spoke knowledgeably about draft resistance. Be aware of your rights, he said, and went on to tell about the national groups that provide counseling on conscientious objection. When the rally dispersed, four students took a large sign – “Honk for Peace” and stood behind it on the highway in front of the school. A clamor of honks began. The group, joined by others, decided to cut classes and go be educated in democracy by visiting the anti-war protest in front of the White House.
They learned there that they were not alone, that resistance to the Gulf war was spreading daily in their country and in Europe. Mr. Bush has vowed that “this will not be another Vietnam.” Wrong again. It took less than a week for America’s streets, from San Diego to Boston, to be filled with citizens expressing their opposition and contempt for the same kind of war ethic that dragged the United States into Vietnam.
It’s about time someone questioned authority, to use the Left’s favorite phrase, and challenged McCarthy’s proselytizing in the Montgomery County, Md., school system.
Good luck to Andrew Saraf and Avishek Panth: Fight the power!
Background: Peace Studies’ War against America
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School website is here.
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