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Don’t mess with Texas? Then don’t mess with history

Submitted by on Thursday, 11 March 2010 4 Comments

Life was so much simpler when I was in school. History texts focused on presenting facts – and back then, a fact was a fact was a fact.

Today, though, there are some who think the moon landing never happened, that 9-11 was an inside job and unemployment is so generous that it encourages people not to work.

And, sadly, we cater to them. Once in a while, they wind up in such powerful positions that they expect the world to cater to them.

Such is the case in Texas right now, where a Republican faction on the state school board is attempting to rewrite the social studies curriculum so that it complies with its world view. That wouldn’t matter in the least to people in the rest of the country, except for the fact that Texas is one of the biggest purchasers of text books so what it demands will carry weight with the publishers.

What it wants, in some cases, is ridiculous.

According to some, the Republican efforts are merely an attempt to overcome bias that many of us are too unenlightened to see.  “I think the left has a real problem seeing their own bias,” board member Don McLeroy told The New York Times.

According to copy of the Texas proposal compiled by the Texas Tribune – it includes deletions and additions – in a passage covering the 1970s and 90s, for example, McLeroy didn’t want to describe Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan’s “roles” in events of their day. He insisted that teachers discuss their “leadership.”

Maybe it’s just my jaundiced liberal eye, but I see “role” as pretty fact-based: Someone did something. Leadership, on the other hand, is a little harder to nail down. But if McLeroy wants to give credit for Reaganonmics, go right ahead. In the interests of balance, though, there should be some mention that even George Bush called it “voodoo economics.”

That would only be fair since the conservatives want to make sure they discuss opposition to New Deal policies and economic approaches to ending The Great Depression. That did end, didn’t it?

Betty Friedan is out – but Phyllis Schlafly is in. She’s important enough to be mentioned twice. The AFL-CIO was never in – but the Moral Majority is. Country and western music was inserted to “balance” hip hop – McLeroy initially wanted to dump hip hop completely in favor of country.

The funny part is, all of the board’s changes deal with facts – stuff students are more likely to forget anyway – and have nothing to do with the tools. The board has barely noticed sections covering analysis, problem-solving and decision-making, communications and technology.

If I had to choose between my kids learning how to evaluate data or cramming to memorize a laundry list of historical figures for a test, well, let’s just say I’ve never liked doing laundry.

Texas school board, Stop Wasting America’s Time by creating the curriculum equivalent of a bubble test – and a politically skewed one at that. It’s called a board of education, not a board of indoctrination.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Leslie K said:

    This is just another reason people should teach out of the Encylcopedia Britannica and the newspaper – two, one ‘liberal’ and one ‘conservative’….and no more text books except for Math.

  • Debra said:

    And think of all the money we’d save, too.

  • Jim M said:

    Yeah, definitely better not teach math out of the newspaper. At least not any newspaper I ever worked at.

  • Debra said:

    You’d have to craft it as a “catch the mistakes” curriculum. My 6-year-old would love that – he’s quite fond of telling me when I goof up.

    I think it says a lot about journalists and math that I was widely regarded as “good at math” at most papers I worked at. Most math teachers I ever had, though, would violently disagree.