How I Changed My Left-Wing High School
By Steve Miller
FrontPageMagazine.com | July 8, 2003
I just graduated from Santa Monica High School -- an institution not of learning, but of indoctrination. The well-entrenched left-wing bias seemed to take its most extreme forms in the classes most responsible for teaching students about civic behavior: History and Government.
SMHS history courses routinely omitted essential components of U.S. history-everything from the pioneers to the Second Amendment-but spent an inordinate amount of time condemning this nation's past. My own U.S. history teacher instructed us that our nation's past fears about Communism were unjustified; in fact, that capitalism had been a sinister force in the world. The Mexican-American War (or, as it was referred to in class, the "North American invasion") was labeled a barbaric undertaking. We were told that through America's history as a "terrorist nation," she brought upon herself the sinister attacks of 9/11. Teachers compared this country to the worst regimes in world history while excusing the atrocities of its enemies.
Government class served up more of the same. To illustrate their point, teachers handed out articles conveying a wide array of leftist perspectives, but no article from a conservative point-of-view ever balanced these sentiments. Students (myself included) were informed that the U.S. could be termed a "fascist" country. Some teachers actively encouraged students to protest against the war in Iraq. One teacher even called George W. Bush "the son of the devil," and another claimed he was "not a good Christian," because of his efforts in Iraq.
Not only was the teaching politically driven, but so too was the grading. I have personally received poor marks for expressing conservative viewpoints. A number of other students, after expressing similar perspectives, also found themselves victims of this vindictive and unethical grading procedure.The administration openly disobeyed the California Educational Code requirement for a daily recital of a patriotic oath, such as the pledge of allegiance, in all public schools. They persisted in this despite the fact that I had brought the policy to their attention on many occasions, and they acknowledged its existence.
The campus' disdain for conservatives extends to those outside school as well. The administration tried to prevent both talk show host and best-selling author Larry Elder and also fellow best-selling author and political leader David Horowitz from speaking on campus, although they had allowed leftists and even a Communist speak at the drop of a hat.
All of this bias had a devastating and appreciable effect. Students I spoke with were terribly uneducated (although thoroughly indoctrinated) about a variety of political issues, lacking the basic information with which to make their own determinations. How can we expect students to make reasoned decisions if they are only getting half of the story?
A scientific poll I conducted as part of a statistics class paints clearly demonstrates the SMHS student body's gross lack of political knowledge and demonstrates the damage of that deficiency. During the Iraqi war, I found that students who did not know that Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds and invaded Kuwait were four times more likely NOT to support the war than students who knew both pieces of information-which they often did not. Maybe if more teachers actually discussed the crimes of Hussein instead of making fun of George W. Bush (almost 60 percent of respondents said their teachers were guilty of that), more students would support their country during a time of war. Sadly, many students seemed thoroughly deterred from patriotism. The poll found that over 60 percent of students would not even participate in the flag salute.
This poll produced other noteworthy-and alarming-results, which seem to correlate the politics of the students with the ideas forced upon them by their teachers. For example, two-thirds of students do not believe President Bush is smart enough to run the country. Sixty percent believe President Bush's reason for going to war with Iraq was oil. More than half felt too many law-abiding Americans had guns in the home (and nearly none had even a vague idea of how often lawful Americans used guns defensively); 80 percent claimed we spend too little on health care, while almost 60 percent claimed we spend to much money on the military. More than 1/3 of the kids were not even willing to say they were proud to be American, and a monumental 40 percent felt that America itself was unjust. There is, however, one "patriotic duty" most of these students will be participating in: 94 percent of students indicated that they would be registering to vote within the next few years.
Even before I had formal scientific evidence of my high school's hard-left bent, I had resolved to challenge the campus indoctrination machine. It was after my school's response to the 9/11 attacks that I decided to become involved. During that dreadful time of national tragedy, anti-Americanism had spread all over the school like a rash. The co-principal broadcasted his doubts about the morality of the air strikes against the Taliban to the entire school via the PA system. One teacher even dragged the American flag across the floor-as we were sending off brave young men to risk their lives for it. It was then that I first took action, writing to prized radio personality Larry Elder. He invited me to discuss these issues on his program, which immediately drew the ire of the teachers, administrators, and even my fellow students. Their resistance only strengthened my resolve.
Soon I was writing articles for the local press and internet news sites. I set-up many meetings with the administration, only to discover that the bureaucrats themselves were part of the problem.
My friend Chris Moritz and I invited Larry Elder to speak on campus, and he agreed right away but was turned down by the administration. This served only to highlight the dilemma with my high school and to generate more negative press on Elder's radio program. The administration eventually relented.
As new issues arose, I was fortunate enough to be invited
back on the Larry Elder program a number of times. I am most thankful
for the role he played in supporting my cause - and this country.
Chris and I invited David Horowitz to speak at the school as well. This proved to be a colossal undertaking. At first, the school cancelled the event an insulting 48 hours before it was scheduled to take place. Thanks in large part to a Larry Elder radio campaign, the school eventually let Horowitz speak. However, the students mirrored their teachers' intolerance and behaved quite poorly, and in turn my school's Audio-Video teacher decided to destroy the tape his class made of the assembly.
Despite the leftists' objections, I began gathering indisputable evidence of bias and placed pressure on the school. In turn, they continued to receive calls and letters asking for a stop to the indoctrination.Whenever I met with administrators, they complained about the negative PR they held me responsible for. However, I kept repeating the same message: In order to receive a positive review, you will need to take positive action. This certainly did not endear me to the administrators, and I became something of a persona non grata. Once, after an article came out that they were particularly unhappy about, I was brought into the office with a security escort. The superintendent even made veiled threats of reprisal against me (instead of dealing with the "root causes" of the negative PR, their own rampant bias). But because my criticisms were accurate - and because I always strove to act with decorum and respect - this threat turned out to be hollow. Soon the intense pressure on the school caused their resistance to give way, and changes started to take hold.
We began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day-a huge victory, separating SamoHi from the many California public schools that continue to defy the California Ed Code. The principal also had a teacher take down a "Buck Fush" (get it?) bumper sticker from a classroom after I brought it to her attention. Both Larry Elder and David Horowitz spoke on campus. And there would soon be a lot more change thanks to the universal need of schools for money.
Gray Davis' budget crisis resulted in large statewide funding cuts in education. Our high school placed a tax increase initiative on the ballot to generate some revenue. To the districts tremendous surprise, it failed, and right away I was blamed. At this time, I met with the superintendent and principal and carefully outlined the basic changes I felt needed to be implemented. I let them know this election was a wakeup call, demonstrating public disapproval, and that any positive steps the school should take would be dutifully reported on the radio.
Next, came the miraculous. First, the principal wrote
a memo instructing all teachers to discuss the war in Iraq in an even-handed
way. This was followed by an unprecedented and groundbreaking directive
issued by the superintendent, fulfilling the key request of my campaign: it
required every teacher to maintain a politically neutral environment.
The principal personally backed this policy up by reiterating the new directive
on the PA system. She even took independent action to further rebuke teachers
overstepped these bounds.
The initial battle had been won.
As I had assured the principal and Superintendent, I reported these changes on Larry Elder's show. Their next tax initiative passed, by the margin of 508 votes. This means the school got what it wanted, but that public pressure will remain, keeping them on the straight-and-narrow. I also hope patriotic members of the faculty will become more vocal. At the end of the year I discovered many teachers were behind me, but they were not open about it, fearing reprimand from the leftist establishment. The readers of this article can also call the school (at 310-395-3204) or the district (at 310-450-8338) and thank them for again making the classroom a place of integrity, and asking them to stay the course.
The whirlwind of change that has swept across Santa Monica High School exemplifies what is possible for schools and universities all across this great and noble land. Efforts to combat political bias could be spearheaded by one person or many, although it would be far easier with more manpower. The key is to gain access to the press, and to be vigilant about keeping pressure on the school or university. Write articles and letters to the editor, use the internet, handout flyers, or write to radio show hosts and reporters. Be persistent. You must also discover the school's sources of revenue and proceed to legitimately threaten the money supply. Using these tactics, change is not only attainable, but ultimately, inevitable. In the 1970s, students started a political revolution on campus. Now is the time for a counter-revolution-one characterized by a devotion to this nation and its ideals. David Horowitz will soon launch "Students for Academic Freedom," an organization dedicated to just these principals. Acting together, we can succeed. Of that, I am certain.
Stephen Miller, 17 years old, just graduated from Santa Monica High School and will be a Freshman at Duke University in the fall, where he plans to major in Political Science. Since his Junior year in High School, he has been a guest on local and national radio over thirty times, primarily as an advocate for freedom in education. He can be contacted at ContactSteveMiller@hotmail.com