Have you been paying attention to what is going on in Texas’s Board of Education the past couple of weeks? If not, you might want to perk your ears up and take notice. Texas has managed to do it again—provide more evidence of why they should secede, that is.
In a 10-to-5 vote split by party lines, the Texas State Board of Education approved some right-leaning alterations for social studies textbooks. After a public comment period, the board will vote on final recommendations in May.
These changes have the potential to affect about 80 percent of the country’s students because Texas purchases so many textbooks that other states end up buying the same ones. But enough with the small talk. Let me share with you some of the changes they have endorsed:
– A greater emphasis on “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s.” This means not only increased favorable mentions of [Phyllis] Schlafly, the founder of the antifeminist Eagle Forum, but also more discussion of the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association, and Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America.
– A reduced scope for Latino history and culture. A proposal to expand such material in recognition of Texas’s rapidly growing Hispanic population was defeated in last week’s meetings—provoking one board member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out in protest. “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist,” she said of her conservative colleagues on the board. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”
– Changes in specific terminology. Terms that the board’s conservative majority felt were ideologically loaded are being retired. Hence, “imperialism” as a characterization of America’s modern rise to world power is giving way to “expansionism,” and “capitalism” is being dropped in economic material in favor of the more positive expression “free market.” (The new recommendations stress the need for favorable depictions of America’s economic superiority across the board.)
– A more positive portrayal of Cold War anticommunism. Disgraced anticommunist crusader Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator censured by the Senate for his aggressive targeting of individual citizens and their civil liberties on the basis of their purported ties to the Communist Party, comes in for partial rehabilitation. The board recommends that textbooks refer to documents published since McCarthy’s death and the fall of the Soviet bloc that appear to show expansive Soviet designs to undermine the U.S. government.
– Language that qualifies the legacy of 1960s liberalism. Great Society programs such as Title IX—which provides for equal gender access to educational resources—and affirmative action, intended to remedy historic workplace discrimination against African-Americans, are said to have created adverse “unintended consequences” in the curriculum’s preferred language.
– Thomas Jefferson no longer included among writers influencing the nation’s intellectual origins. Jefferson, a deist who helped pioneer the legal theory of the separation of church and state, is not a model founder in the board’s judgment. Among the intellectual forerunners to be highlighted in Jefferson’s place: medieval Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, Puritan theologian John Calvin, and conservative British law scholar William Blackstone. Heavy emphasis is also to be placed on the founding fathers having been guided by strict Christian beliefs.
– Excision of recent third-party presidential candidates Ralph Nader (from the left) and Ross Perot (from the centrist Reform Party). Meanwhile, the recommendations include an entry listing Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as a role model for effective leadership, and a statement from Confederate President Jefferson Davis accompanying a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.
– A recommendation to include country and western music among the nation’s important cultural movements. The popular black genre of hip-hop is being dropped from the same list. (Full article here)
Uhh… wow? What are these “unintended consequences” of Title IX? Why would hip-hop (one of the best-selling genres today) be excluded from the list? And what the hell did Thomas Jefferson ever NOT do to deserve being downplayed or excluded? The man wrote the Declaration of Independence for crying out loud.
It has been a widespread belief among conservatives that news outlets (and, evidently, education) are far too liberal. They complain about the “MSM” (mainstream media) and then flock to Fox News, with their joke of a “Fair and Balanced” slogan. I agree with Farhad Manjoo that the country has become so split down ideological lines that it is not even that we disagree on the opinions—we now don’t even get the same facts. He writes:
In the last few years, pollsters and political researchers have begun to document a fundamental shift in the way Americans are thinking about the news. No longer are we merely holding opinions different from one another; we’re also holding different facts. Increasingly, our arguments aren’t over what we should be doing—in the Iraq War, in the war on terrorism, on global warming, or about any number of controversial subjects—but, instead, over what is happening. Political scientists have characterized our epoch as one of heightened polarization; now, as I’ll document, the creeping partisanship has began to distort our very perceptions about what is “real” and what isn’t. Indeed, you can go so far as to say we’re now fighting over competing versions of reality. And it is more convenient than ever before for some of us to live in a world built of our own facts. (Full article here)
And though Manjoo was discussing the news, the stakes are raised even higher when the medium giving differing facts is a student’s trusted textbook. The Texas Board of Education does not deny that it is attempting to “balance” history to give greater favor to conservatism. What is your reaction to this? Do you think textbooks are too liberal? Do you think it’s fair to insert Phyllis Schlafly in favor of Ted Kennedy, one of the most prominent and influential lawmakers of his era? Do you think the government should be dictating requirements to private textbook companies—and if not, then who should dictate the requirements? What should a history book’s approach to slavery be? Please feel free to share whatever opinion you may hold!
I will leave you with some words on the matter from conservative Texan Chuck Norris himself:
[O]ur nation’s public schools, and especially our nation’s colleges and universities, are the seedbeds of politically correct and liberal indoctrination, out of sync with our founders’ vision and views. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. … It’s a travesty that we have even come to this point that we have to protect our children from the public-school systems, by policing their policies, testing their textbooks, and combating their biases to education. But such is the sign of our times. My personal warning to educational tyranny and tyrants is this: best not to test or mess with Texas. If you thought we fought hard for the Alamo, wait until you see what we can do for the right to educate our children. You can hide behind your No. 2 pencils, but our branding irons will find your tail sides. (Full article here)
Thanks again, Texas.