If you haven’t heard about the unbelievable moves in Texas to inject textbooks with Right-Wing Conservative ideology, it’s time to get up to speed. Activists on the Texas State Board of Education have been making changes to the curriculum in Texas that will help indoctrinate their children into a radically Conservative world-view, in the hope that Texas’ role as one of the largest markets for textbooks in the nation will help shape the school curriculums in other states, as well. It’s the classic bait-and-switch, which Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition espoused back in the 1990’s – that Conservative school board candidates should run as moderates so that they can be elected, with the intention of pushing the radical Conservative agenda once in office.
Among the many changes to textbooks in Texas is changing references to the “slave trade” to a more benign “Atlantic triangular trade” – you know, because “slave trade” has such negative connotations. Capitalism, again because of negative connotations, will in the future be referred to as the “free enterprise system”. And don’t even think about teaching the Theory of Evolution: children must instead be taught that God created Earth using the euphemistically-titled technique known as “Intelligent Design”. On the surface this all sounds like a discarded Saturday Night Live sketch, but these people are deadly serious.
Elsewhere, the new curriculum changes references to American “imperialism” to “expansionism”, and forces teachers covering post-war politics to tell students that Senator Joseph McCarthy’s notorious anti-Communist show trials during the 1950s may have been justified. The 15-member school board’s changes cover everything from Cold War history to the “correct” interpretation of the US Constitution. The proposed rules stipulate, among other things, that Republican superstar Ronald Reagan should be added to a list of “great Americans”. Country music can be described as an important cultural movement, but hip-hop can’t. And speeches by Jefferson Davis, the slave-owning president of the Confederacy, should be taught alongside those of Abraham Lincoln.
You can’t make this stuff up.
To make matters worse, the board has diminished Thomas Jefferson’s role in history because of his belief in the separation of church and state. Students also are required to learn that America’s founding documents were influenced by various intellectual traditions, “especially biblical law,” and principles laid down by Moses.
From the tenor of the changes, the board approved the foundation for a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. It would be kind of like Iran, only it would be the Right-Wing Christian kind. Social conservatives, creationists and religious fanatics who dominate the Texas State Board of Education want to redefine the Constitution as an explicitly Christian document and highlight the role of God in the establishment of the US, and they’re using Texas textbooks to do that.
The amendments also cast the United Nations in a critical light, asking students to evaluate whether the UN and its committees undermine US sovereignty – a familiar tune for Conservatives. Students would be required to learn about the “unintended consequences” of Title IX, Affirmative Action, and the Great Society, and would need to study Conservative icons like Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation, and the Moral Majority.
In transcripts of the board’s discussions, they specifically did not want to include President George W. Bush’s controversial 2000 election outcome nor the election of the first African American President Barack Obama. On the other hand, the board added positive references to the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association and the GOP’s Contract with America. They board finally agreed to add the current president’s name to history textbooks rather than simply referring to the election of the first black president, but which version of his name they’d use sparked contentious debate. One GOP board member insisted on Barack Hussein Obama (because Conservatives love to stir up the under-educated by scaring them with the name “Hussein” – you know, because President Obama is supposed to be a closet Muslim terrorist or something).
“I think we give him the full honor and privilege of his full name,” the board member averred. But under duress he agreed to drop the middle name, the AP reports. “To put an end to the whining I withdraw the motion,” he said.
More than 1,200 historians and college faculty members from across the nation have signed a petition calling the standards academically shoddy. Conservatives dismiss the criticism, however.
“Most of the complaints are coming from a liberal fringe,” said Jonathan Saenz, a spokesman for the conservative Liberty Institute. “They’re making a huge issue out of some very small changes. The people of Texas are simply trying to stop atheists and the extreme civil liberties lobby from taking over their history.”
Board member Cynthia Dunbar, another social conservative, summed up the issue best when she opened Friday’s board meeting with an invocation that referred to the U.S. and its history as a “Christian land governed by Christian principles.”
“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses,” she said.
These people are not even pretending to be impartial. The approved curriculum standards have a definite political and philosophical bent. High school students will have to learn about leading conservative groups from the 1980s and 1990s in U.S. history – but not about liberal or minority rights groups that are identified as such. When taken together, the many changes made by the Texas state school board represent a political, Conservative re-writing of American history – a travesty that the children of Texas will suffer for 10 years.
Hopefully the damage can be limited to Texas, and other states will move to protect their students from Texas’ historic revisionism. A new bill introduced in the California state Senate by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) seeks to ensure that none of the Texas standards are allowed to be used in California in any fashion. Under Yee’s bill, SB1451, the California Board of Education would be required to look out for any of the Texas content as part of its standard practice of reviewing public school textbooks. The board must then report any findings to the legislature and to the secretary of education.
Hopefully other states will take measures to limit the damage that radical Conservatives in Texas are trying to inflict upon the collective psyche of the citizens of the United States.