Senator Chris Buttars literally believes that public education in Utah has been subverted to promote socialism/communism/anything not in agreement with the political views of Oak Norton. His solution is to make a subtle change in the state constitution. Buttars' SJR 1, proposed amendment to the Utah State Constitution. More after the quotes from the news report on his part at the Eagle Forum convention in Salt Lake City.
"We're in big trouble in our public education system. I didn't realize how much until a month ago when I was asked to chair public education appropriations," said Buttars. "We met and when we got done we were all so terrified we couldn't believe it. This was right under our nose."
Buttars' positition as the chair of the Public Education Committee means he has the power to make this plan a reality.
"Socialists have found that the best way to change a country is not by a revolution," said parent and Eagle Forum panelist Susie Schnell. "Teach children the concepts at a very young age so by the time they're ready to vote they'll vote for the right candidates. Hence, Democratic Socialism."
Panelist Oak Norton refers to Kleon Skousen's 1961 book The Naked Communist.
"In that book he lists 45 goals of the Communists," said Norton. "One of them is to get control of the schools. Soften the curriculum. Put the party line in textbooks."
These party lines, Norton says, are things like global warming, gay rights, and teaching students to question absolutes.
"By accepting that, there's no God because he deals in absolutes," said Buttars. "This is an entire program to bring America down and I want to tell you right now it's well entrenched in Utah."
Schnell and Norton have been on a crusade for over a year, claiming that the Alpine School District in Utah County and BYU are secretly promoting socialism. The viewpoint and the evidence it is based on is stupid. There is no other way to put it.
I think Norton can make legitimate complaints about whether the school board listens like any government body, but the political and religious backing for the socialism charges is stupid and offensive.
Politically, they told the school board that Cleon Skousen's The 5,000 Year Leap and The Making of America would be acceptable curriculum materials. Skousen was not a true historian and his books are political views poorly supported by history rather than history. (I have read both of those books--well parts of the huge Making of America-- and actually agree with many of Skousen's larger points, but he is not a credible person to me on many levels and I disagree with his pseudo-scholarly method of trying to assign credibility to his views. Using his other book as evidence of the "Communist plot" is not compelling evidence.) I would be the angry parent at the school board meeting if a public school were basing curriculum off of Skousen. It is ironic that the people claiming the schools are pushing political viewpoints are the ones actually attempting to get the schools to teach their political views.
Religiously, teaching students that academically they have must have evidence to back up their claims or to fully evaluate both sides of an issue is not teaching them there is no God. Stuff like this only perpetuates a stereotype of Utah County voters not being critical thinkers. Teaching students the current scientific view of evolution is only beneficial to them, even though that socialist BYU Department of Science supports that teaching. Cleon Skousen has also published more false Mormon doctrine that I am aware of than the BYU School of Education. That doesn't mean supporters of his political views also subscribe to his doctrinal mishaps any more than agreeing with John Goodlad that good public education is crucial to our democracy and Republic means BYU and Alpine District endorse every other view Goodlad has ever held.
I've held off from publishing my strong views on the issue, but now they've convinced the head of the Senate Public Education Appropriations committee of their foolishness. Now all of the schools of the state stand accused of secret socialism. It reminds me of when Senator Dayton claimed the International Baccalaureate program was an "anti-American" U.N. plot based on information from the Eagle Forum and Cherilyn Bacon Eagar (Not a coincidence that Eagar is quoted in the 2nd Alpine District link above claiming the whole curriculum is "leftist"). Both of these non-issues are falsehoods based on political ideology and fear rather than fact.
The Utah State Constitution was written so that the State Board of Education has "general control and supervision" of public education, including curriculum, and NOT the political legislature. Based on anecdotal stories from Norton, Schnell, and I'm sure others, Buttars wants to give all that power to the state legislature, which hates big government intrusion except when they are the ones hypocritically intruding. It's SJR 1, a proposal to add only four words to the state constitution. The best way to get a quick explanation is to watch the two minute video at the top of the post.
Another proposal, not numbered and made public yet so I can link it, is the repeated suggestion to make the State School Board a partisan election with the goal of getting candidates elected only after being vetted by the state Republican convention.
Do I perfectly trust any elected official or body, including the state or local school board? No. Do I trust school boards elected in non-partisan, local elections 1000% over the often willfully misinformed and politically vindictive state legislature? Emphatic yes.
Go online and read the state core curriculum, helpfully divided by subject and grade level. Notice the lack of coded socialism. Then contact your state legislator and speak out against both of these proposals. Contact your local school board about an issue you care about and attend a meeting. Enjoy local, non-partisan government and make any earnest proposal to improve it. Do some research and please don't run to the state legislature to override any local decision you disagree with.