LAST MONTH, A WEEK before the Senate seat of the liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy fell into Republican hands, his legacy suffered another blow that was perhaps just as damaging, if less noticed. It happened during what has become an annual spectacle in the culture wars…
Texas Board of Education members… the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption is the subject of much attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years…
Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down…
This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper…
As Cynthia Dunbar, a Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”
AUSTIN, Tex. — The Texas Board of Education on Friday, March 12th voted to approve a social studies curriculum standard that places a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing:
- the superiority of American capitalism,
- questioning the Founding Father’s commitment to a purely secular government, and
- presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.
Kansas City announces it’s closing half of the city’s public schools, and Now… This? Democracy demands an educated, thoughtful citizenry. The United States continues its hurtling degradation toward a second-tier nation behind Europe and China. While the advanced nations progress and improve quality of life, the U.S. degrades and suffers deterioration of lifestyle, opportunities, peace, and freedoms… but… energetically sings some old-time hymns to the Lord along the way.
Voting 11 to 4, ten Republicans and one Democrat voted for the curriculum standards, and four Democrats voted against. The board’s influence radiates well beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks. Reviewed every decade, the standards serve as a template for textbook publishers, who must present drafts of their books to the Board next year.
A board of professional teachers proposed the original standards, but since January, Republicans on the board passed more than 160 amendments to the 120-page teacher-recommended curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school.
Hispanic board members’ efforts to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population consistently fell to defeat, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying,
They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist… They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians… They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.
For years, Board of Education members engaged in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the fact-based and scientific teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state that Thomas Jefferson clearly documented as original intent.
No historians, sociologists or economists were consulted at the meetings, though some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topics. For instance, leader of the board’s conservative faction, Dr. Don McLeroy says, “I’m a dentist, not a historian. But I’m fascinated by history, so I’ve read a lot.” A self-proclaimed Christian fundamentalist, McLeroy then explained how his Christian perspective both governs his work on the state board and guides him in the current effort to adjust American history textbooks to highlight the role of Christianity.
Well, golly, I guess if you watch a lot of movies, too, you’re qualified to be a movie director, producer, or Hollywood executive! The idiocy of conservatives’ logic never ceases to astound and insult.
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.
“Textbooks are mostly the product of the liberal establishment, and they’re written with the idea that our religion and our liberty are in conflict,” proclaimed McLeroy. “But Christianity has had a deep impact on our system. The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible [Well, never mind the fact that founding fathers were self-professed Deists believing in a non-intervening “God of Nature” ]. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”
“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”
They also included a plank to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schalfly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”
Dr. McLeroy pushed through a change to teaching about the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent approach. 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.” Wow! That’s fairly ballsy. The Republicans have never met Civil Rights legislation they didn’t hate!
Mr. Bradley won approval for an amendment saying students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation (yeh, like more equitable and improving incomes, better nutrition and health, equal and not separate education… actually delivering on the promises the nation professes).
He also won approval for an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians were interned in the United States as well as the Japanese during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism. Another wow! Really? That’s interesting because half of my family came from Germany, lived near DC, and never mentioned they were suspect or even potentially interned.
Other changes seem aimed at tamping down criticism of the right. Conservatives passed one amendment, for instance, requiring that the history of McCarthyism include “how the later release of the Venona papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government.” The Venona papers were transcripts of some 3,000 communications between the Soviet Union and its agents in the United States.
In economics, the revisions add economic fascists Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”
“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,” said one conservative member, Terri Leo. “You know, ‘capitalist pig!’ ”
In the field of sociology, another conservative member, Barbara Cargill, won passage of an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teen suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.
“The topic of sociology tends to blame society for everything,” Ms. Cargill said. Hummm… Or maybe sociology professionals tend to explore the development of the individual within a society. No one lives in a vacuum, on an island alone, or is unaffected by their environment.
Even the course on World History did not escape the board’s scalpel.
Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among the conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)
So… understand the thrust of conservatives’ arrogance… Thomas Jefferson, THE author of this nation’s Declaration of Independence (the single-most influential document EVER to influence revolutionary movements towards independence, freedom, and democratization)… this Thomas Jefferson will not be listed in textbooks citing revolution-inspiring literary works, but three religious geeks that had nothing to do with our revolution will be cited! Man, the Chinese government has nothing over American conservatives!
“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.
Well, Ms. Dunbar, that’s utter bullshit, as the founding fathers themselves clearly documented that both Science and The Enlightenment created their motivating philosophy. These anti-intellectual, conservative dolts should read the recent book, “The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature,” as it makes the case for science as the inspiration behind the rise of liberalism and democracy. Ferris, the author, argues that just as the scientific revolution rescued billions from poverty, fear, hunger, and disease, the Enlightenment values it inspired swelled the number of persons living in free and democratic societies from less than 1 percent of the world population four centuries ago to more than a third today. Sorry but while it may be an inconvenient truth, it is still the truth that Science and The Enlightenment established the primary philosophy advancing progress and liberty.
Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students study the reasons “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.”
It was defeated on a party-line vote.