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Conservatives see liberal bias in class - and mobilize

Complaints that teachers push liberal ideology are trickling down from college campuses to the K-12 level

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Concerned that public schools are becoming sites of liberal indoctrination, activists have generated a wave of efforts to limit what teachers may discuss and to bring more conservative views into the classroom.

After all, they say, if related campaigns can help rein in doctrinaire faculty on college campuses, why not in K-12 education as well?

So far this year, at least 14 state legislatures have considered bills aimed at colleges that would restrict professors and establish grievance procedures for students who perceive political bias in teaching. None have become law, but the movement has momentum: Four state universities in Colorado, for instance, adopted the principles under legislative pressure in 2004.

"The last six months [have] been kind of a watershed for the academic-freedom movement," says Bradley Shipp, national field director for Students for Academic Freedom, a group founded by conservative activist David Horowitz in 2003. "It is going to filter itself down to the K-12 level."

It's an important battle front, proponents say, because younger students are more impressionable. They are concerned about multicultural lesson plans that go into detail about the Muslim faith, and cite incidents such as a young child being reprimanded by a teacher for writing about wanting to become a soldier.

An aggrieved faction of conservative high school students and parents appears eager to take up the cause:

• ProtestWarrior.com has equipped 160 high school chapters and about 100 individual students with materials to publicize, for instance, whenever a teacher "tries to shove his ideology down someone's throat."

• A group known as Christian Copts of California has distributed 5,000 booklets in Florida and California this year denouncing a seventh-grade world history section as an "attempt to engrave Islam in the minds of ... children."

• Parents and Students for Academic Freedom formed in August 2004 to give parents a forum to address "the one-sided teaching and partisan indoctrination in our nation's secondary schools." The group urges school boards and legislatures to adopt the same speech-restricting principles that its parent organization (Students for Academic Freedom) urges at the college level.

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