ONE OF THE functions of the National Educa tion Association, a professional organization and union of 1.7 million educators, is to prepare materials for classroom use by teachers. In the past, these have been on the order of manuals on how to improve the teaching of arithmetic, or the motivation of students. Within the last year, however, NEA materials on more controversial subjects have been developed. These include a proposed curriculum on the Ku Klux Klan, one on extremism in American life and another on nuclear disarmament. The materials on the dangers of atomic war were prepared with the assistance of the Union of Concerned Scientists, for use in junior high schools. Because both the NEA and the UCS have been leaders in the movement for a nuclear freeze, questions have been raised as to whether the proposed curriculum is biased.
Last fall, the materials were tested by 47 teachers across the country. One has stated that because nuclear war is wrong, the materials are justifiably biased in favor of nuclear freeze. But it is exactly this kind of leap of reasoning that should concern parents. Some changes in the program were made after the trial period and perhaps in response to a critical article in Human Events magazine. There is now, for example, a section on the alternatives President Truman faced when he decided to drop the first atomic bomb. This factual statement is in a unit concentrating on the devastation wrought by America's action, including frightening accounts of survivors who were themselves junior-high-school age in 1945.
The materials stress the cost to the American economy of the arms buildup--though no information is given on Soviet expenditures for weapons--but the figures are questionable. The children are told, for example, and the information is reinforced by a test question, that we devote more of our budget to military programs than to social programs. In fact, a cursory glance at the pie chart in the front of the budget document shows that while defense gets 29 percent of the federal dollar, benefit payments to individuals account for 42 percent, and grants to states that include welfare and Medicaid payments are another 11 percent. In comparing the relative strength of American and Soviet nuclear forces, the materials show us far ahead of the Russians. The matter is surely debatable, but arguments to the contrary are buried in a reprinted article in the appendix.
At the conclusion of the course, children are urged to write to their elected representatives about nuclear war, to ascertain and publish the location of defense plants, research and development facilities and military bases in their area (why?) and to collect signatures to place a referendum question on the ballot concerning nuclear policy.
This is not teaching in any normally accepted--or for that matter, acceptable--sense. It is political indoctrination.