By now, it may be old news to you that the Texas State Board of Education is gearing up to re-write history with a decidedly conservative bent. In January, the board obtained approval for an amendment requiring high school U.S. history students to know more about Phyllis Schlafly than Thomas Jefferson. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Last Friday, the Board approved right-wing alterations to what most students in the state will be studying in history, social-studies and economics classes. It’s all being done, they say, to counter “leftist influences” in history texts. What they are doing is expunging progressive leaders and erasing the contributions of minorities.
The board seeks to place a greater emphasis on “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s.” That means texts will include increased favorable mentions of Schlafly, the founder of the antifeminist Eagle Forum, and more discussion of the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association and Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America.
Member Mary Helen Berlanga stormed out of Friday’s meeting in protest after efforts by Latin@ board members to highlight more Latin@ figures were consistently defeated. “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”
The new recommendations stress the need for a more positive portrayal of America’s economic superiority. Terms deemed too ideologically loaded are being retired in favor of Newspeak. “Imperialism” is giving way to “expansionism,” and “free enterprise system” will replace “capitalism.”
In the curriculum’s preferred language, Title IX and affirmative action are said to have created adverse “unintended consequences.” Because, in her words, “the topic of sociology tends to blame society for everything,” conservative board member Barbara Cargill introduced an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders. It passed.
Heavy emphasis is to be placed on the founding fathers having been (allegedly) guided by strict Christian beliefs. Thomas Jefferson, a deist who helped pioneer the legal theory of the separation of church and state, is to be dropped from the list of writers influencing the country’s intellectual origins. Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas and Puritan theologian John Calvin will replace him.
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson is listed as a role model for effective leadership and Communist witch-hunter Joe McCarthy is vindicated. Country and western music is listed as one of the nation’s important cultural movements. Hip-hop is being dropped from the same list.
It’s easy to say, oh, it’s Texas; what do you expect? But the revised Texas standards have implications for students all across the country. The print run for Texas textbooks is so large that most districts in other states adopt the same course materials. Effectively, the Texas School Board spells out requirements for the majority of the nation’s textbook market. This scares me to death. It’s exactly the sort of thing that makes me want to unschool my hypothetical children.
After a period for public comment, the board will vote on final recommendations in May. Please let your voice be heard. This decision must be fought for the sake of the students and the nation’s future.
If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry:
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