28 AHMP Progressive School Spin of the Boston Tea Party & Why the Tea Act is Another Example of Why Government and Private Industry Don’t Mix
What are children in America’s public schools learning about the Boston Tea Party? How is progressive spin and lesson plans loaded with liberal values impacting their perception of the event, as well as their view of the patriots who ultimately created our constitutional republic? What is the Tea Act, and why were the American colonists so angered by it? We will learn the fascinating answers to these questions in this podcast.
As you might recall, there was a huge riff about how the Boston Tea Party was portrayed in a public school lesson plan in 2012. The Huffington Post published an article with the following headline: “Boston Tea Party Was Act of Terrorism? Texas Public Schools Teaching New History Lesson.” Of course, this left leaning media outlet began the story by stating: “a report by The Blaze, a right-wing site started by Glenn Beck, reveals that as recently as this January, the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative included a lesson plan that portrays the Boston Tea Party as a non-patriotic act, instructing teachers to read a story to their students as a recent news report.” Gee, does that mean that since a conservative publication commented on it, it is somehow more egregious or are they just seeking to butter readers up to agree with what they are about to say by first referencing a conservative media source? I might add, that such a lesson plan, no matter what the content, is entirely consistent with the Common Core’s emphasis on using news items covered in print media.” Consequently, rather than reading primary source material which clearly describes the event, as well as the underlying thinking which led up to it, students are purportedly “taught,” and I’m using that word in quotes, about the event through the prism of a 21st century progressive lens. The article went on to praise CSCOPE, a supposedly non-profit cooperative that received 25 million dollars in 2011 alone in federal funding. CSCOPE created curriculum content to use as a part of a curriculum management system in the state of Texas. Need I say that the good folks in Texas eventually ran it out of business because of the cooperative’s apparent liberal and even anti-American agenda in many of the lesson plans it created.
The story, as posted in the Blaze, included a portion of the text that was to be read to the children. The bias is so egregious that you may want to listen to it twice because of your disbelief! Listen to this: “A local militia, believed to be a terrorist organization, attacked the property of private citizens today at our nation’s busiest port. Although no one was injured in the attack, a large quantity of merchandise, considered to be valuable to its owners and loathsome to the perpetrators, was destroyed. The terrorists, dressed in disguise and apparently intoxicated, were able to escape into the night with the help of local citizens who harbor these fugitives and conceal their identities from the authorities. It is believed that the terrorist attack was a response to the policies enacted by the occupying country’s government. Even stronger policies are anticipated by the local citizens.” Could you hear it? There was more negative spin in that story than a when the Tasmanian Devil traveled backward from whence he came in an old Warner Brothers cartoon! The militia was “believed” to be connected with a terrorist organization. Who was that? The Whigs? The “valuable” merchandise was considered “loathsome” to the perpetrators. Ridicules! It was not the tea that the colonists found to be repugnant. It was the duties associated with the tea that had been heaped on the colonists by the Parliament without anyone there to represent the colonists when the act was debated and passed. The participants were “apparently intoxicated.” Was the Boston Tea Party an impulsive act concocted after a handful of colonists who threw down one too many pints at the local pub? I assure you that this was an event that was a long time in coming and carefully planned by its organizers. You will hear more about that later. The “fugitives” were harbored by local citizens? I suspect that many of them just went home!
After the story was read to the students, they were asked the following questions: “Does this event in the news report meet the criteria of a terrorist attack? Why or why not?” “Does anyone know if this act is from a previous time in our history?” and “Do you think that in the eyes of the British that the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist activity? Why or why not? Were the colonists justified in taking this action due to their beliefs? Is anyone ever justified in committing these types of activities? What drives people to do this type of activity? These are things that we will explore further.” Really? Think about the questions that were just asked. Is anyone ever justified in committing these types of activities? I was unable to find the grade level that this lesson plan was geared toward, but way in which that question was worded would cause most elementary school students to answer in the negative. Can’t you just see a child thinking this over with the internalized image of his larger than life principal standing over him saying “Jimmy, is anyone EVER justified in doing what your class did?” The entire plan was filled with negative messages about the colonists and their oh so poor choices! Of course, this was a lesson plan that received highly critical attention on the national level. After all, the Boston Tea Party is one of those events surrounding the American Revolution which most people are familiar, and protest is a very American tradition. Even though supporters of this lesson plan claimed it was un-American that students could not even consider whether the event was right or wrong, describing the Boston Tea Party as a terrorist event is inherently distasteful for most Americans.
We know that particular lesson plan was mocked, demeaned, and removed from use. But what about today? There couldn’t possibly be similar lesson plans floating around the Internet. Could there?
While I could not find another lesson plan that described the Boston Tea Party as a terrorist event (although, if you know of one, please send it to me at: Susan@BingoforPatriots.com), I did find one that asked errily similar questions. On the Dayton Public Schools website, I found a lesson plan created by Peter Cook and Published by Franklin Watts-Scholastic. The lesson was entitled: “You Wouldn’t Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party” Why not? If I didn’t take part, I surely would want to be an onlooker. Wouldn’t you? Later in this podcast, I will read you an account from someone who actually took part in the party in Boston Harbor. You will decidedly not get the impression that he, George Hewes, regretted his presence for a moment.
This Common Core focused lesson plan, created for use in 5th grade classrooms, was intended to help the students “recognize and use features of narrative and informational text,” as well as to “Describe how the movement toward revolution culminated in a Declaration of Independence.” The purpose for reading was listed as “Discontent with English rule led colonists to rebel. The Boston Tea Party was one such rebellious event that led to the Revolutionary War and the Establishment of a new government and country. Students will understand how the Boston Tea Party came about and how it was a contributing factor leading towards the American Revolution.” All of that sounds well and good. It would appear that this lesson plan is perfectly appropriate, doesn’t it? Hold on…
Like the first lesson I discussed, this lesson also contained value-laden questions. What that has to do with recognizing and using features of an informational text, I am not sure. Let’s examine one of the “Content Core Integration” activities. Here are the instructions.
“Write an essay arguing why the Boston Tea Party was or was not justified. Be sure to include the following:
- Was the cause just?
- Was there a less violent or inconveniencing alternative to achieving the aim?
- Did the protest accomplish the desired result?
You may wish to argue that the Tea Party was justified because no one should pay taxes unless they are represented; there were no effective less violent ways of protesting the tax; and the desired end was accomplished. Or you may wish to argue that it is wrong to destroy someone else’s property; there were less objectionable ways to protest the Tea Act; and the result of the Tea Party was a more oppressive set of laws.”
Let’s go through the same process as we did with the first lesson plan we discussed. First, think about the choices these students were given. The first suggestions, which would be consistent with a conservative point of view, are written with “absolute” modifiers. “No one” should pay taxes without representation. There was “No” effective less violent, or I would say pacifist, ways of protesting the tax. The desired end “was” accomplished. It would require strong determination on the child’s part to write that type of all or nothing response. It is likely that the child had heard an earful of liberal babble from the teacher, and it is a sure bet he knows what will happen if he tries to write something that will be disagreeable to the teacher’s palatte. Now, compare that with the other choice. It is a general lesson taught throughout our society that it is wrong to destroy the property of another person. Given that, common sense dictates that there should always be a “less objectionable” means of protest. When I read the prompt “it is wrong to destroy someone else’s property; there were less objectionable ways to protest the Tea Act” I had an absolutely visceral reaction! Is that supposed to be what children take away from the Boston Tea Party? That it was wrong for the colonists to destroy the tea? That a peaceful protest might have been more appropriate? Hey, why not try a sit in like the Occupy Wall Street crowd. That would have been effective with the British, wouldn’t it? As in the first lesson, there is no consideration of the context in which the actions were taken. It is as if the colonists just had a temper tantrum and decided to dump a bunch of tea in the harbor! And consider the lesson learned when a child reasons that the colonists acted out, and then received harsh punishments for their actions in the form of the Boston Port Act. The conclusion that can only be drawn, from the child’s perspective, is that those actions were punished just as their inappropriate actions are punished by their own parents. Would that not lead the child to then extrapolate that many of the colonists’ actions were wrong and correctly punished by those in authority over them? Of course! As I just mentioned, what we know from experience is that during the lesson the teacher will be, intentionally or not, be communicating her own values to the class. Might that only reinforce the principles in the second writing prompt? Definitely!
Well, it’s time to start learning about this event for ourselves. In the next podcast, we will hear the writings of the colonists prior to and after the event. For the remainder of this podcast, let’s spend time studying the Tea Act of 1773. This will give you valuable insight into why the colonists were so outraged and not willing to peacefully protest the actions of British authorities.
The British East India Company had a problem. It had a history of corruption, and the government was breathing down its throat. As we know all too well, when governments try to run private industry, it seldom results in a resounding capitalist success! The British Parliament had required it to sell all of its tea to merchants in London. Much of that tea was then shipped to the American colonies. Therein lie the problem. A significant portion of the tea that had been sent to the Colonies remained unsold. An increasing number of colonists were up-in-arms about the taxes and regulations which had been placed upon them by the Townshend Acts. The company’s other problem was that it was obligated to pay 400,000 British pounds each year to the British government. There was no free market maximization strategy in this business model to be sure. In short, the British East India Company was going broke.
The British Parliament also had a problem. Smugglers! I might add that many of our favorite Founding Fathers, such as John Hancock, as well as notorious figures of the Revolution, such as Benedict Arnold, dabbled in smuggling. At any rate, Smugglers brought in as much as 900,000 pounds (in weight) of tea each year into the colonies. Although the tea was not of the same quality as that offered by the British East India Company, it was untaxed, and therefore it could be sold for less money. The smuggled tea provided a greater profit percentage for colonial merchants, and the smugglers received a hefty profit from it as well. The two, in conjunction with the anger colonial consumers held toward those who were sucking their pockets dry with taxes, created a snowball effect, and the smuggled tea gained increasing popularity as time went by.
A further problem for the Parliament was its relationship to the East India Company. We discussed this issue in the previous podcast, but let’s go into it in a bit more detail. The East India Company established trading posts in Bombay, Calcutta, and several other cities before Britain established colonial control of the area. The company was poorly managed and filled with corruption. Something akin to the Enron of the 1700’s. By 1773, the British Priminister Lord North had come to the conclusion that the company was more likely to remain solvent if it was controlled by the government rather than its then current corrupt management. As I mentioned last week, doesn’t that sound strangely similar to what happened in our nation just a few years ago. Although the US Federal Government did not take over companies like GM, Citibank, etc., it surely propped them up. The East India Company Regulating Act and the East India Company Loan Act, both also formalized in 1773, seized control of the company. The Regulating Act also established governmental control over the distribution area that had previously been considered the property of the company. After it initiated those two Acts, the Parliament found it had further problems. Those in the American colonies, particularly members of the patriot movement, viewed all of this an attempt to monopolize the tea market, and as they began to increasingly consume tea purchased from anywhere other than the East India Company. That, of course, resulted in far less income for the company as well as the government which desperately needed the money due to the economic strain caused by years of warring with other nations. That, in turn, placed increased financial strain on the East India Company. A company in which the British government now had a proprietary interest. Can you fee; the devolving state of affairs? Just another example of why a government should keep its bureaucratic ineptitude and greedy little fingers out of private industry.
On May 10, 1773 the Parliament approved of and initiated provisions set forth by the Tea Act. The Tea Act’s official title actually read: “An act to allow a drawback of the duties of customs on the exportation of tea to any of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America; to increase the deposit on bohea tea to be sold at the East India Company’s sales; and to empower the commissioners of the treasury to grant licenses to the East India Company to export tea duty-free”. It seemed to be a fairly simple proposition. From that point forward the East India Company would be allowed to import tea, duty-free, into the colonies. However, as I said before, many colonists viewed the matter quite differently. In a foreshadowing of the argument put forth by Thomas Paine in Common Sense, they felt that drinking tea which had been taxed according to provisions in the Townshend Act constituted an implied acceptance of the Parliament’s tyranny upon them. They also recognized this Act placed the East India Company in control of all tea that was sold in the Colonies. The Tea Act allowed the East India Company to directly ship tea to the Colonies from India. If ships carried tea that was not the property of the East India Company, they were deemed to be smugglers by British officials. As we discussed before, although smugglers and colonial merchants profited from the smuggled tea, the British government and British East India Company did not. Other teas began to disappear from the shelves of colonial businesses. Only establishments with official permission were allowed to sell the tea. The local economy was dampened because of both the regulations and the loss of free market products. Many colonists anticipated that when local merchants closed their shops because of lost profits, the British would then raise the price of the tea to that which existed before the enactment of the Tea Act. From their perception British coffers would be further filled at the expense of the Colonies.
How did the Colonies react to the Tea Act? Coalitions mobilized to prevent the sale of the tea, and efforts were made to actually prevent the ships which transported the tea from landing in the harbors of Boston, Philadelphia, Annapolis, New York, and Charleston. Not only was the Boston Tea Party not an impulsive act by drunken colonists, but it was not the only act of defiance related to the Tea Act. Merchants in Charleston would not accept the tea, and it spoiled on the dock. Opponents in New York and Philadelphia successfully prevented many ships from docking, and eventually followed the example of those in Boston who threw the tea into the harbor. In Annapolis, a crowd forced one captain to not only burn the tea aboard his ship, but his ship as well. In Boston, the British Governor used force to ensure ships were allowed to dock. His actions further angered Colonists and resulted in the planning of the Boston Tea Party. After tea that was valued at more than 18,000 pounds (in currency) was thrown into the harbor, Parliament began to enact measures they referred to as the Coercive Acts. We know them, of course, as the Intolerable Acts.
So as we have learned the colonists had more than sufficient reason to be outraged about the Tea Act, and that anger fueled the fire within their bellies causing them to plan and carry out the Boston Tea Party. In the next podcast, we will explore the writings of the colonists, and you will come to understand why in this case destruction of property was not only acceptable but necessary. In this podcast, you have once again heard why we must monitor what our children are taught. It is clear that we must correct the misinformation being taught due to the progressive leanings of those who write textbooks, create lesson plans, provide oversight of the education system, as well as work directly with students in the classroom.