Texas School Board Rewrites History

For those who have not heard, on March 12th the Texas Board of Education rewrote history. They did this, self-admittedly, out of motivations to “add balance,” to the annals of record. Conservative board member Dr. Don McLeroy continued that, “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.” The hundred plus changes to the Texas social studies curriculum didn’t remove political bias, however, they removed historical fact.

The range of amended subjects is broad, and bound around the common thread of conservative revisionism. The least egregious of these are almost laughable in their banality, like entirely supplanting the word capitalism with the term “free-enterprise system”. This, as reflected by board member Terri Leo, is necessary because, “Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation. You know, ‘capitalist pig!'”. The revisionism continued by passing an amendment claiming that the Venona papers exonerated McCarthyism because they “confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government”. Along the same lines, LBJ and the Great Society are to be more heavily critiqued, while Nixon is cast as a great president. Teachers and textbooks should now reflect that the United States clearly won the Vietnam War. Hip-hop is not a cultural phenomenon. The War on Drugs is just and winnable. Reaganomics works. The board also found it necessary to require teachers to instruct that some African blacks volunteered for slavery.

Now elbow-deep in this historical gutting, the board rejected the teaching of a constitutional separation of church and state, and declared that the American Revolution was not a largely secular event. They continued in this vein by requiring that Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and a man regarded as one of the finest US presidents in history, be stricken from a list of influential and revolutionary writers. His replacements? The likes of St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. How the hell is predestination revolutionary? Their fault with Jefferson? He was the first to coin the expression “separation of church and state”. An amendment put forward by a Democrat that required the instruction that, “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others” was defeated by unanimous conservative opposition.

But wait, it get’s worse.  This board approved curriculum sets the standard for classroom instruction and textbook content. If the publishers want to sell to Texas districts, they will have to fill their books with these mistruths. Disturbingly, the purchasing power of the state of Texas is significant enough to heavily influence the content of all textbooks. Even in these days of highly customizable laser printing, textbook publishers create financial incentives to purchase their standard texts, which themselves are based on the most common books on the market (i.e. the ones written for big states like Texas). In this cash-strapped economy schools are saving money in every way possible, and it’s likely customized textbooks aren’t in their budgets.

The bright side is that textbook manufacturers are in their death throes. The market is quickly going digital, and paper and ink publishers don’t stand a chance in that environment. The internet is the ultimate textbook, and most of its content is free to the public. MIT’s Open Courseware program offers almost 2000 classes, complete with video feeds, lesson plans, and homework assignments – all for free. Wikipedia is an organically growing encyclopedia which is quickly becoming one of the most accessed sources for information in the world. The old paper and ink giant, Encyclopedia Britannica, can’t even begin to compete. Publishers selling $120 chemistry books will not survive in this kind of climate. The unconfinable nature of the web has proven itself immune to most censorship, and the kids in Texas will continue to have access to the same internet as the rest of us. Here’s hoping that’s enough.

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~ by Wil Finley on March 18, 2010.

8 Responses to “Texas School Board Rewrites History”

  1. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Scary. Shame on you Texas

  2. two things come from Texas, Steers and Que…wait…..I meant fascists and farmers.

  3. Having lived in Texas as a youth, during 1978-1986 (due to my fathers work), the history taught in classrooms was of a very selective nature, so much so as to be purely propagandist, o missive and factually contradictory,. I think the term I would describe would be self congratulatory, more akin to masturbatory. It is no wonder the Americans are regarded as largely ignorant of historical fact, of their own and the world. The chips on their shoulders are put there from a very early age.
    I escaped back to England as soon as I could. It took me some time to recover from the U.S. experience..That is a fact…

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