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Education Reporter

Essay Contest Reveals Bias
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An essay contest sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opened an interesting window onto the state of high school political education in this red-state Midwestern city. The contest asked students to write on the topic, "If I were president, here's what I would change." The finalist essays revealed not only political and historical ignorance and a low level of writing skills, but also a strong predilection for leftist ideas and policy goals. Twelve of the 14 finalist essays were strongly left-leaning. Whether the liberal bias arose primarily from the students' education or from the voting process that selected these 14 finalists is uncertain, but both probably had their roles to play.

Most of the essays named key policy goals of the left: government-subsidized or -enforced alternative fuel, universal government health care, subsidies for higher education, or greatly increased federal power over the economy. One student said she would establish a "task force to oversee large corporations." The students seemed confident that increased public sector spending would create jobs, and would be the best (and perhaps only) way to stimulate the economy. Could this perception result from how the Great Depression and the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt are taught in history classes and textbooks?

Most authors of the finalist essays demonstrated a total lack of awareness of the separation of powers or the existence or importance of state or local governments — let alone of the private sector or mediating institutions. One recommended that Obama make a high school diploma necessary for all job applicants. Another advised requiring parenting classes for all.

The environment loomed large in the finalists' essays. Several mentioned alternative fuel, and none seemed to envision a future in which such fuels would become popular through demand rather than through government mandate. One essay recounted alarmist scenarios from Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

The essayists did not lack the extreme self-confidence their generation is known for (see brief). "Presidential power would overwhelm most, but not me," declared one.

Only one finalist mentioned the Constitution, in an essay titled "To Preserve, Protect, and Defend." "I would veto all laws which are unconstitutional; I would refuse to let Congress usurp the power of the States," wrote senior Joseph Gazzoli. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1-11-09)

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