Friday, March 19, 2010

State of Texas versus Everyone Else's Board of Education

The Founding Fathers were well-educated, forward thinking men who set upon the task of creating the framework for what they hoped would be a long-lasting government; a republic with representational democracy to and prove that man was fit to rule himself, freely and peacefully. Feeling that they themselves had a better understanding of the world around them - as a result of access to better information in both quality and quantity - than there forefathers, our Founders assumed that future generations of Americans would, as a result of continually expanding and improving information, be even better informed about the world than the Founders were. What they did not foresee, however, was Texas.

Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change - New York Times

"After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."

"The conservative members maintain that they are trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution."

"They also included a plank to ensure that students learn about 'the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.'"

Any unfavorable situation can be quickly and summarily can be dismissed with two words: "liberal bias." At this point "liberal bias" is an acceptable, no-thought-or-explanation-required response to anything you don't like: your credit card debt, the hometown sports team not making the playoffs, the gout on your neck, tomorrow's weather forecast, an overcooked steak, being late for work, a shitty singer winning American Idol. The possibilities are endless.

Look, you can tell kids that Reagan "fixed the economy" by cutting taxes and "single-handedly won the Cold War" by using his laser eye blasters to kill Stalin, but unless you balance this by pointing out that Reagan also raised taxes twice after cutting them and the Cold War ended when sixty years of containment policies bankrupted them, then all you're going to accomplish is creating a generation of people too retarded to actually find themselves in control of a functioning economy who will die expecting Zombie-RoboReagan to rise up from his grave and protect us when the Chinese finally tire of our shit and invade. And honestly, political bias or not, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the NRA are not notable enough to earn a mention in a grade-school level history textbook.

"Dr. McLeroy, a dentist by training, pushed through a change to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

'Republicans need a little credit for that,' he said. 'I think it’s going to surprise some students.'"

This is some particularly odious bullshit, with leading conservative thinkers William Buckley and Barry Goldwater opposing Civil Rights legislation and in the aftermath of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law, the Strom Thurmond-led Dixiecrats abandoned the Democratic Party...right into the open arms of the Republican Party, where they would remain until they died decades later. I'm also interested to see if McLeroy is going for the relatively recent political gymnastic routine of trying to get credit for Dr. King being a registered Republican.

Revisionaries - Washington Monthly

"In the 1960s, Norma and Mel Gabler, a homemaker and an oil-company clerk, discovered that Texas had a little-known citizen-review process that allowed the public to weigh in on textbook content. From their kitchen table in the tiny town of Hawkins, the couple launched a crusade to purge textbooks of what they saw as a liberal, secular, pro-evolution bias. When textbook adoptions rolled around, the Gablers would descend on school board meetings with long lists of proposed changes - at one point their aggregate 'scroll of shame' was fifty-four feet long. They also began stirring up other social conservatives, and eventually came to wield breathtaking influence. By the 1980s, the board was demanding that publishers make hundreds of the Gablers’ changes each cycle. These ranged from rewriting entire passages to simple fixes, such as pulling the New Deal from a timeline of significant historical events (the Gablers thought it smacked of socialism) and describing the Reagan administration’s 1983 military intervention in Grenada as a 'rescue' rather than an 'invasion.'"

"Barton’s goal is to pack textbooks with early American documents that blend government and religion, and paint them as building blocks of our Constitution...but his agenda does not stop there. He and the other conservative experts also want to scrub U.S. history of its inconvenient blemishes - if they get their way, textbooks will paint slavery as a relic of British colonialism that America struggled to cast off from day one and refer to our economic system as 'ethical capitalism.' They also aim to redeem Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy, a project McLeroy endorses. As he put it in a memo to one of the writing teams, 'Read the latest on McCarthy - He was basically vindicated.'"

Downplaying slavery and rehabilitating Ol' Redbaiter Joe McCarthy. How sad. I suppose what was done to the Cherokee People will be portrayed as providing a free "Relocation Service" after "Downsizing" their tribe due to "pessimistic economic forecasts."

One might think this is merely the culmination of decades of screeching loons from the intellectually-dilapidated fringe who haven't quite gotten over prohibitions against forcing unmarried single-mothers guilty of brazen hussery to wear a bright red "A" on their clothing, people who will watch helplessly as their ignorant worldview is torn to shreds in a confrontation with unbending reality and slink back into the darkness broken and spent. But with Texas being the second-largest textbook market in the country, it's entirely possible this river of gibberated nonsense may well shape textbooks across the country for the near future. Barring a sudden return of sensible thought among the Texas State Board of Education, our best hope may be that publishers determine Texified American history textbooks won't sell well enough in other states to be profitable and thus decline to conform to Texas' standards, which would be a very amusing example of the superiority of American capitalism.


Ron said...

I'm on the fence on part of this. Only on part though.

Clearly, there were Soviet spies in the US. The Venona project shows that without a doubt. The idea that all anticommunists were nutty witch hunters, therefore, needs to go away. However, McCarthy never knew about Venona because it was highly classified. George Marshall was reluctant to tell President Truman about it, so its certain that Joe didn't know. The proper way to say it is "There were Soviet spies, but McCarthy was still nuts." Venona in no way vindicates McCarthy.

Also, why shouldn't the con resurgence of the eighties and ninties be taught? It happened. Schlafly's group stopped the ERA, so it is worth mentioning I think.

*side from that, yeah I think a lot of what they are putting in and taking out is silly. It isn't about balancing the left. It is about controlling it entirely.

Rev. Joshua said...

There's no issue with teaching about the resurgence of the conservative movement in the 80s and 90s, but groups like the Heritage Foundation and Schlafly's group are almost too minute for pre-college history. Granted, there's never a reason not to learn things and subjects at every level should be more expansive, but these are probably more appropriate for a politics/civics class where you can get deeper into the nuance. The Contract With (On) America is definitely high-profile enough for a pre-college history class. And the NRA is just a nonstarter.

I am concerned with the beatification of Reagan and adding a thinly-veiled, criticism-free hagiography of him is probably the goal on that score, but we'll see.