Wednesday, April 01, 2015

DESE: Are correct answers discarded if they are perceived to be Right?

I meant to address this issue last week (MO Education Watchdog has more details) but I let it slip my mind and now it's the last day for you and me to do so. If you agree with this post, please send an email with the subject:
"Principles expressed in the documents shaping the Republican Form of government of the United States.", to DESE's Sharon Helwig, to:

This is what I sent today:
A year or two ago, I was asked to provide some research assistance in addressing an error in the MO Social Studies documents, regarding some anachronistic references to our form of government being a "constitutional democracy", when it is properly referred to, as per our government's defining document, as a Republic. See Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution for reference :

"Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."
It would be legitimate to expand upon that, such as referring to 'Constitutional Republics', or 'Constitutional Representative Republics', but it is not legitimate to formally refer to our form of government, especially in Educational materials, as a 'Democracy'.

It is true that in our founding era, the terms 'Democracy' and 'Republic' were often used almost interchangeably when referring informally to the general spirit of self governance, but when making more formal references, especially when proposing actual measures for government, the term 'Republic' was the term usually used. Obviously, as this was long before the creation of either of our current two political parties, there was no party politics behind the choice (nor should there be today), they made that choice because the actual meanings and failures of each form of government were well understood. It's a simple fact of record.

Even DESE seemed to acknowledge the fact, though perhaps a bit petulantly, as I've found that a number of our social studies curricular documents were in fact updated, though apparently none too carefully, by means of a mass 'Find & Replace', from 'Constitutional Democracy', to 'Republic'. The result of that change was that in our standards, educational standards mind you, our form of government is often currently referred to, ungrammatically, as 'Principles of Republic', or still as 'Constitutional Democracy'.

State Sen. Emery recently took the concern over the misuse of these terms a step further than we had, in a letter to DESE, insisting, properly, that,

"The term "constitutional democracy" is a flagrant misrepresentation of the principles of the constitutional republic in which we live."

He went on to note that:

"The differences between the structures of government are clear. In a constitutional democracy, the majority has complete control through democratic elections without any protection for the minority. Conversely, a constitutional republic consists of the people electing representatives to serve on their behalf ruled by law with checks and balances established to protect the rights of the minority.
In order to provide clarity for educators that teach Missouri children and to ensure Missouri students are taught the proper governmental structure of the United States - a governmental structure that has made our nation exceptional - we urge you to correct this error in the Show-Me Standards."

DESE's response has been to propose making the change like this (the text within the brackets to be replaced by the bold text hat follows them):
"1. Principles expressed in the documents shaping [constitutional democracy in] the
government of the United States
So... while they acknowledge that they had made an error, they want to correct that error in reference to a very specific form of govt, by changing it, from 'constitutional democracy', to -'government'.

From Democracy, to government.

This feels a bit like it might if after pointing out to a printer that they'd made an error in listing your address as, say, "#1 Riverbend Drive", when you actually live on "#1 Riverview Drive", and after pointing that out, they offered to make the following correction:
"Oh, we see our mistake, tell you what, we'll correct your address to show that: "you live in a house".
What would you say to that? 

What sort of correction is this? It is difficult to see this correction as anything other than a rather blatant evasion. Republic is the correct word, please use it.

I had no problem accepting that an error had been made in using 'Democracy', though a careless (and probably ideological) error - it's still a mistake, understandable and forgivable. The fact that some efforts to correct it have been made shows that it has been recognized as an error. But to refuse to correct that error by naming it as it correctly, demonstrably, legally, is, a Republic (if you can keep it), is appalling.

To refer to the government of the United States as 'the government of the United States', as if that adds some educational clarity, is ridiculous. Democracy is the wrong term, Republic is the correct term, please, in the name of Education, use the correct term.

No comments: