Friday, March 12, 2010

Texas Had Better Not Lead the Way

Let me state this just as plainly as I can: There’s a faction of American conservatives who are just plain nuts, disconnected from anything having to do with sanity or reality. That includes members of the Texas State Board of Education who “succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history, and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.” As The Huffington Post reports:
Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than “democratic,” and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.
Since when did it become acceptable for political divisions on an out-of-the-mainstream education board to influence the content of school history textbooks nationwide? When did propaganda become a reasonable teaching tool in the United States? Education is about facts, not about the right- or left-wing opinions of people determined to indoctrinate still-forming minds with their viewpoints. If a bunch of intellectual pismires in Texas or elsewhere want their children to be taught B.S.--that evolution is debatable, for instance, and that Senator Joseph McCarthy was a democratic (oops, constitutional republic) savior rather than a lying, self-serving politician of the worst order--then let them “educate” their children themselves. They have no right to spread their misinformation further. Unfortunately, as The Washington Monthly made clear in an excellent recent article, Texas textbook standards affect what children are taught in other, more-enlightened parts of the country:
The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”
Teaching from a deliberately biased point of view--whether about politics, religion, science, or economics--isn’t teaching facts. Can that be said any more clearly?

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