Kyle Olson
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This is the final installment of the Indoctrination Fridays series. They can all be read at PublicSchoolSpending.com. A book featuring more leftist curricula, entitled, “Indoctrination! How Useful Idiots Are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism” will be released later this year.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake mercilessly shook the country of Haiti, causing death and destruction of Biblical proportions. By the time the last aftershock was registered, approximately 85,000 Haitians were dead, and hundreds of thousands more were injured or left homeless.

Some observed that the 1989 San Francisco earthquake also reached 7.0 on the Richter scale, but that left 63 people dead and left about 12,000 homeless. The difference between the two was that California’s buildings are designed to withstand powerful earthquakes, and Haiti’s are not.

That realization brought renewed attention to the poverty of the Haitian people. Onlookers began to question why the tiny Caribbean country was so hopelessly poor and ill-prepared.

Garrett Glass of the Digital Freedom Network suggested a possible reason:

“In Haiti's 200-year quest for freedom, one of the most crucial components of freedom, which leads to prosperity, has never been effectively implemented or even seriously tried (much less respected). The Haitian system of establishing property rights is so convoluted, complicated and corrupt that to the average citizen of Haiti owning any property will always remain just a dream. The connection between poverty and the lack of property rights is often overlooked.”

George Mason University economist Walter Williams noted that the rule of law is virtually nonexistent in Haiti:

“Crime and lawlessness are rampant in Haiti. The U.S. Department of State Web site … long before the earthquake warned, ‘There are no “safe” areas in Haiti. … Kidnapping, death threats, murders, drug-related shootouts, armed robberies, home break-ins and car-jacking are common in Haiti … Crime anywhere is a prohibitive tax on economic development, and the poorest people are its primary victims.”

A thoughtful social studies teacher could contrast the Haiti and San Francisco earthquakes as a way of teaching students about property rights and the rule of law (versus the rule of the mob or dictator). Students could learn that without the rule of law, individuals could not enjoy their natural, God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as set forth in our Declaration of Independence.

Of course, discussing Haiti in those terms would lead to an affirmation of the American way of life – individual liberties and economic freedoms – and that clearly doesn’t meet the goals of the Blame America First/Social Justice crowd that currently controls public education.

As such, when Haiti gets discussed in our public schools, it’s likely the Haitian people are depicted as victims of greedy capitalists who are trapped in poverty because U.S. corporations have turned Haiti into America’s sweatshop, making the products that fill our superstores.

That’s the premise behind “Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti,” a 1996 documentary that was produced by the National Labor Committee and has infiltrated elementary social studies classrooms all across the country.

The documentary opens with an unidentified man speaking outside of a Disney store:

“The profits that are made by the fashion industry and these conglomerates are astronomical. And not to be concerned for the people’s lives is a totally disastrous attitude – especially from a company like Walt Disney that makes their living … on children.”

In short order, the film asserts that the Disney corporation pays workers seven cents to produce a shirt that will sell for $12. The filmmakers go on to show the squalid living conditions of the Haitian workers who produce the clothing.

The film spends most of its 28-minute run time claiming that U.S. companies are attracted to poverty-stricken Haiti exploit its people. The film also suggests that there are so many Haitian workers that companies can play the unemployed against the workers to keep wages low. The message is very clear for viewers (read: students): profit-seeking corporations are the cause of Haiti’s suffering.

At one point in the film, a Haitian worker looks into the camera and says, “I’d like to send a message to the American people. If they send these clothes to be made in Haiti, if the Americans can’t give a living wage to us, to the Haitian workers, they shouldn’t wear the clothes we have made for them in Haiti. That would be better for us.”

Suppose you’re a fifth-grade student who is watching “Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti” as part of a multi-week unit plan titled, “Work, Workers & the U.S. Labor Movement.” What conclusions are you going to draw about corporations? About free markets and capitalism? About the American way of life in general?

A blog post written by a student who claims to have watched the documentary in school provides some answers:

“There is a documentary … I saw last week during my video class. It’s called ‘Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti.’ In the states, how much can you purchase a Walt Disney t-shirt (for)? $12?

“This corporation (including others) has factories in 3rd world countries such as Haiti and they charge labour workers about $0.28/h. By the end of the day, they make about $2.888 and about $14.00 at the end of the week.

“These people work full-time, 7 days a week and they still don’t have enough to feed the whole family, never mind medication or saving up for a more promising future ….

“People die in third world countries at a rate of about 1 person every 6 seconds, so the next time you go to the Walt Disney store, Disney World or the next hot feature presentation, don’t just admire the crews sitting in the office doing something you might want to do for a living, but also the millions who sewed your Lion King t-shirt you just used as a floor towel.” (grammar and spelling were corrected for clarity)

The student’s anger toward free markets, capitalism and corporations is palpable, which is surely the reaction activist-minded teachers are going for when they show the video.

The intent here is not to excuse corporations that exploit employees in third world countries. The American consumer is right to hold companies accountable for exploitative business practices.

However, social justice teachers must also be held accountable for twisting facts and misrepresenting situations to their students. To claim that Haiti is in dire straits because Americans practice capitalism is absurd. If anything, Haitians are suffering because capitalism (which requires property rights) does not exist in their country. The sweat shops are only a symptom of Haiti’s problems, not the cause of them.

“Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti” seems to be primarily used in fifth grade social studies classes – well before students have a clear understanding of our founding principles. To put it plainly, it is educational malpractice for teachers to propagandize students against a political and economic system that they do not fully understand.

The history of capitalism is one of freeing individuals to pursue their goals and dreams. The pursuit of profits has led to innumerable inventions and innovations that have improved the quality of life for all humanity. Remember, it was the free market system which allowed for the creation of the life-saving medicines and medical treatments that were delivered to the Haitian people after the 2010 earthquake.

Like all propaganda, “Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti” distorts reality by telling a skewed and incomplete story. But what makes it truly dangerous is that it might be playing in a classroom near you.

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Kyle Olson

Kyle is founder of Education Action Group and EAGnews.org, a news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary.

He is co-author of Glenn Beck’s “Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education,” available at Amazon.com.

Kyle is a contributor to Townhall.com.

He has made appearances on the Fox News Channel, The Blaze, Fox Business Network, NPR and MSNBC. Kyle has given scores of interviews on talk radio programs coast to coast.

Kyle likes talking about his family, as well as his favorite music. Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young and Johnny Cash are at the top of the list. He has attended 25 Bob Dylan shows.

Kyle can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.