Friday, March 12, 2010

Texas Had Better Not Lead the Way

Let me state this just as plainly as I can: There’s a faction of American conservatives who are just plain nuts, disconnected from anything having to do with sanity or reality. That includes members of the Texas State Board of Education who “succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history, and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.”

According to The Huffington Post:
Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than “democratic,” and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.
Since when did it become acceptable for political divisions on an out-of-the-mainstream education board to influence the content of school history textbooks nationwide? When did propaganda become a reasonable teaching tool in the United States? Education is about facts, not about the right- or left-wing opinions of people determined to indoctrinate still-forming minds with their viewpoints. If a bunch of intellectual pismires in Texas or elsewhere want their children to be taught B.S.--that evolution is debatable, for instance, and that Senator Joseph McCarthy was a democratic (oops, constitutional republic) savior rather than a lying, self-interested power-grabber of the worst order--then let them “educate” their children themselves. They have no right to spread their misinformation further. Unfortunately, as The Washington Monthly made clear in an excellent recent article, Texas textbook standards affect what children are taught in other, more-enlightened parts of the country:
The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”
Teaching from a deliberately biased point of view--whether about politics, religion, science, or economics--isn’t teaching facts. Can that be said any more clearly?

UPDATE: Think Progress provides a taste of the ridiculous changes the Texas State Board of Education wants to make to the textbooks our children will receive in the future. Among them: “The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.’” Meanwhile, the Texas Freedom Network live-blogged this week’s Board of Education meeting at which public testimony was heard on the proposed social studies curriculum standards. You’ll find that coverage in several parts: I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. And click here to read Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller’s statement regarding the “politics and personal agendas” that have dominated the Board’s efforts.

READ MORE:Texas’ Standards ‘a Debacle for Education,’” by Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly).


Patrick Murtha said...

Agree 100%.

Ed Gorman said...

This is a true scandal. The racists yahoos secessionists and scum have won a very important round in the never ending battle to keep America at least reasonably well-informed. Richard Hofstader's classic book Anti-Intellectualism in America has never been more relevant than it is today.

Bill Crider said...

This makes some Texans pretty sad. I'm glad my own kids have long since graduated, and I feel sorry for the ones who haven't.

Scott Parker said...

As a Texan, I also agree 100%. And I also hold two degrees in history so I'm pretty darn fluent when it comes to American history. I almost can't wait to read my son's history textbooks in the future. Then, I'll be able to tell him (a) this is the answer you have to know for the test and (b) this is the real fact.

Patrick Murtha said...

I should add, that I absolutely love the State of Texas, and have spent many happy days there. I've never had a friendlier greeting in a new city than I had the first time I visited Dallas. There are great minds and hearts throughout the state, and so this sort of news makes me all the sadder.

le0pard13 said...

Hear, hear.

kathy d. said...

Agree 100% and feel bad for the poor children who have to read this hocus-pocus which passes for textbooks around the country.

Saw a PBS show a few years ago about high school students in Eastern Kentucky. One student poked fun at the idea that humans have an evolutionary link to primates and his teacher said,
"that's their belief. That's not what we believe." This in a public high school!

There should be a national curriculum in science, history and social studies, which is based in fact and logical, rational thinking.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Rap Sheet was here to inform us about good books to read,not political information.Why must you add things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the intent of this publication? Whether I agree or not with all the political information you add to the newsletters,I receive it for the book information.Which,by the way,I love.I can go elsewhere for the politics.Thanks for taking the time to listen.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Actually, Becky, this item DOES have to do with books. It has SPECIFICALLY to do with books, and the honesty--or lack thereof, in this case--involved in their dissemination of information.

What’s more, I don’t believe that it’s necessary for a blogger to divorce him- or herself from the myriad complexities of life. Yes, The Rap Sheet does concentrate on crime fiction, and will continue to do so; we have no intention of turning it into another politics blog. But those of us who write for The Rap Sheet are also citizens of the world. What happens beyond the printed page affects us, too, and we reserve the right to comment on it occasionally. Especially when, as in this instance, what’s happening has the clear potential to undermine the education of the next generation of readers/leaders and thereby damage the future of a nation.


kathy d. said...

You're absolutely right. And many of us who enjoy this blog about mysteries, are interested in truth, facts and reason being written in textbooks, and students across the country actually learning to think in a scientific, rational way.