I’m not going to answer the title question. I have a confession to make. My oldest child goes to public school. It is not what I would have chosen for her. She decided last summer that she wanted to go to high school. I looked into private school, and we just can’t afford it. I struggle with the feeling that we are sucking off the government teat because other people’s money is paying for my daughter’s education. It is true that we have paid enough in property tax, which funds education, over the years to make up for any taxpayer money she is getting currently, but I still don’t like it for my own philosophical reasons. She could be educated at home at a price we could afford. I felt she was old enough to make the decision, and she chose public school over home schooling.
As a result of her choice, I have a window into current public education that I have not had before. Her Geography/World History class has raised a number of flags for me. The current flag comes from a lesson on the United Nations. Below is a copy of the text from her book titled Introduction to Geography: People, Places & Environment:
The United Nations represents one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century, if not human history. The United Nations brings together almost every country on Earth to cooperate on issues fundamental to all of mankind. As explained in the opening of its Charter, the United Nations seeks “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” “to affirm faith in fundamental human rights,” to establish the conditions for justice, and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” It has certainly made progress on all these goals and helped millions of people once ruled by empires to gain their independence.
Old Politics, New Problems The United Nations is, however, non-democratic. The special powers granted to the U.N. Security Council to use military force to end war ultimately belongs to the “Big 5” permanent members that have veto power over Security Council decisions: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France. Their interests dominate the most important discussions of war and peace at the United Nations–other countries have very little influence. It is important to remember that the United Nations is only as effective as its member states allow it to be.
The United Nations is not a government and does not have its own army. It cannot take action on its own. When the United Nations is ineffective–for example, stopping war crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda–it is largely because some of the Big 5 will veto action. By 2050, this organization will be based on a world order over a century old. Certainly the world has changed–should the United Nations?
Perform Proposals Demand for reform of the United Nations have grown louder in recent years. Some proposals have sought to limit the power of the Big 5 by taking away their veto power or adding more permanent members to the Security Council. Countries such as Brazil, India, Germany, and Japan are populous and economically important countries that exert leadership in their regions. Other proposals would replace or temper the Security Council with a more powerful General Assembly, which has been a largely symbolic body. The distribution of the world’s population in 2050 suggests that countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America should have a larger voice on important matters at the United Nations. Could the Security Council and General Assembly become more like a world parliament? Might the United Nations of 2050 work more like a world government? Only if states allow it to do so.
In paragraph one, do you see how this textbook states the UN is good as if it were a matter of fact? And it isn’t just good, but one of the greatest achievement in human history! Why can’t they just explain the UN. Explain how and why it was formed and its attributes and leave it at that. Leave it to the reader to form their own opinion as to whether or not they think it is good or bad. I do have my doubts that a freshman in high school would even think about whether or not the UN is a positive or negative thing without prompting. They may even automatically think of it in a positive measure, because it sounds good in theory. That would still be better than giving a freshman the impression that it is basically the crowning achievement of mankind.
The following two paragraphs go on to discuss all the flaws in this most important human achievement, without ever even alluding to the continual regional conflicts since its inception. Sure, we haven’t had a World War. That could have been the case without the UN given the horrible devastation from the first two world wars. I do not think anyone really wants a repeat of that.
The last paragraph encourages the reader not to question the existence of this fabulous but flawed human institution, but instead question whose interest should dominate world affairs. Apparently, it is an appeal to aristocracy, as one of the qualities seen as desirable to lead is being economically important. Particularly troubling to me is the suggestion to the student that the UN could work as a World Parliament or World Government. It smacks of an agenda.
I wonder if the authors think that they are being even handed, given that they criticize the UN. I wonder if they even recognize their own bias in this matter. They seem to take for granted that the UN is good and that some countries should dominate world affairs. Those things need to be questioned.