Originally posted at the Tallahassee Democrat.
State Sen. Alan Hays has a film he’d like all Florida students to see.
It’s called America, and it’s about revising the revisionist history that conservatives believe our kids are inundated with every day. It was made by Dinesh D’Souza, a well-known author, political commentator and social critic.
In this week’s legislative organizational session, Hays filed Senate Bill 96, which deals with “patriotic film screening.” The bill, in its entirety, states:
“Each district school board shall ensure that each middle school and high school within its jurisdiction requires its eighth-grade and 11th-grade students, respectively, to annually attend a screening of the film “America: Imagine the World Without Her.” The school board shall require each student to attend the screening unless the student’s parent requests in writing that the student be excused.”
I haven’t seen the film, which came out last July. Variety reviewed it as “a slick, sprawling celebration of American exceptionalism” and said D’Souza offed a rebuttal “to historical revisionists, social activists and community organizers who want to define America as “a predatory colonial power,” and dwell on such unpleasant topics as the decimation of Native Americans, the mistreatment of blacks and Mexicans and the widening gap between rich and poor in a capitalist society.”
It sounds like Fox News doing a documentary about MSNBC.
“The history that students today are being taught is grossly deficient,” Hays said Wednesday. He said he saw the film twice and told his wife “every student in the state of Florida needs to see that movie.
“This movie shows the real history,” Hays said. “He shows the inaccuracies that are being taught at all levels of education and goes to the authors of those inaccurate accounts, and gives them an opportunity to make their case.”
Hays, a retired dentist from Umatilla, is not shy about taking on things he considers un-American. The Republican lawmaker’s best-known bill this year was aimed at barring use of any foreign legal doctrines like sharia law in Florida courts. Earlier, he was among a group of lawmakers who brought conservative Ben Stein to town for a screening of his 2008 film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which argued that schools suppress discussion of biblical creation and promote Darwinian evolution.
Republican legislative leaders also set up a showing of Waiting for Super”man, the documentary advocating school tuition vouchers, a few years ago during the debate on that topic.
With public education being the most important and expensive thing state government does, the Legislature has always had an irresistible itch to tinker. These impulses usually get checked by governors and presiding officers, with bills disappearing into the committee labyrinth or being headed off by the Department of Education or county school boards.
In the era of college student activism in the 1970s, there was a bill mandating curriculum of “Americanism vs. Communism.” Then there was another bill requiring every classroom to have a poster of Lincoln’s famous 10 aphorisms, “You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong…” You’ve probably seen them.
The trouble with that bill was, Lincoln never said those things. The list was written by a New York minister about 100 years ago.
The Legislature has periodically directed the schools to teach about the Holocaust and black history. There are current moves to combat bullying and sexual misconduct, as well as anti-drug education.
But if the school board can be required to get copies of D’Souza’s polemic, why not stock up on some of Michael Moore’s epics, like Bowling for Columbine or Stupid White Men … and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation? And if they advocate some documentaries, what’s to prevent legislators from forbidding films on others, like climate change or national health care?
Hays, to his credit, does not seek to stifle leftist indoctrination. He just wants some political ballast.
But there’s nothing stopping schools from showing D’Souza’s work now — or having a Micheal Moore film festival. There’s a whole slew of stuff in books, theaters, TV, the Internet and public meetings that schools could encourage kids to attend.
Anything that gets students to put down their iPods, quit texting each other and search out a wide range of information before they reach voting age is useful. It’s not so much what these films teach that matters, it’s making the kids – even just a few in each class – want to seek out more information.
Read more at the Tallahassee Democrat.
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