7 Ways to Get the Texas School Board Attack You for Being Too Right-Wing
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My friend Bob had a brilliant idea for fixing the public school system: "You pick a year and no one has any kids that year. Six years from now there's no one in first grade. Then you fix first grade. Then the next year there's no one in second grade, so you fix second grade," and so on.
It's a good idea, like giving the staff a week off when you tent the building for bugs. I think of it every time I hear about attempts to tinker with the education system and certainly upon hearing about what's been called the Texas Textbook Massacre.
In case you missed that one, the Texas Board of Education voted 10-5 to make changes in the state's textbooks reflective of conservative elements they feel have been neglected by liberal bias. Board member Mary Helen Berlanga walked out of the meeting after attempts to include more Hispanic role models in the curriculum were "consistently defeated," says the New York Times.
"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," Berlanga said.
A few other examples of changes the board made:
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and fan of separation of church and state will be replaced as an example of Enlightenment thinking by others such as Thomas Aquinas, William Blackstone and John Calvin. The inaugural speeches of Jefferson Davis will be studied alongside those of Abraham Lincoln (hopefully they'll mention who won). In the arts the study of hip-hop will be dropped but country and western will stay. Presumably there's so little country music in Texas that it's worth spending tax money on.
On one hand, sure, it's depressing in that "What, again?" way it always is when people want to fire up the wayback machine and take the rest of us back to the past with them. On the other hand I'm not the one with the kid who's going to look like a dunce, having to hiss "Who's Thomas Jefferson?" to a neighbor in his or her first college American History class.
And as Newsweek's David A. Graham points out, kids don't pay attention in high school anyway. I swear on a stack of pancakes that I remember only nine things from my three years of public high school -- seven of them from one beloved lit class. (One of the others was how to develop black and white film, a skill as useful now as how to spot dodo eggs.)
There are some additions to the curriculum, like Phyllis Schlafly that are genuinely intriguing. Schlafly is, fair and square, an influential public figure, but including her might benefit progressives more than regressives. Why shouldn't the young women of Texas, the upcoming Joan Crawfords, Molly Ivins and Farrah Fawcetts, know about a woman who lobbied against equal pay for women and helped defeat the ERA in the '70s? They would learn how she was against feminism, and about the wage gap and a time in history when they would not have been allowed their own credit cards. This'll make them awesomely pissed, maybe even enough to revive radical feminism -- now that would be a backlash of poetic proportions. It's patently true that kids rebel against much of what they learn in school anyway -- compulsory gym class is probably why a lot of today's adults would literally rather die than work out and Catholic school is why you know so many ex-Catholics.