Leading Source

Don’t mess with Texas— or its version of history

ist1_3162960-flag-of-texasThanks to the patriots on the Texas Board of Education, the words of Jefferson will long be enshrined in that state’s social studies curriculum.

Jefferson Davis, that is: defender of states rights, bulwark against unwarranted federal intrusion, and, incidentally, president of the Confederate States of America.

That other Jefferson? The one who lived down the road in Monticello? He’s not so popular with the conservative majority on the board, which voted provisionally last week to adopt the standards. Might have something to do with his little line about “separation between church and state.”

At any rate, according to the Washington Post, Thomas Jefferson has been cut “from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century” …” (Pssst: He was also a deist!)

So why, for example, will Jefferson Davis’ Inaugural Address be studied alongside Lincoln’s?

“We are adding balance,” says Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist and leader of the board majority.

Apparently, the majority put more stock in the views of McLeroy and his allies than it did in historians, economists, and sociologists, who weren’t consulted on the standards.

This would all be merely exquisite farce if it wasn’t for the real-world consequences for Texas’ students and those in other states as well. Because, as you know, publishers tend to base the content of their textbooks on the requirements of big, lucrative markets like those in Texas and California. It’s just part of capitalism.  Whoops! Can’t say that in Texas. According to the curriculum, it’s now “the free enterprise system.”

“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,” conservative board member Terri Leo told the New York Times. “You know, ‘capitalist pig!'”

Now, some of what conservatives say about the liberal education establishment is true. The teacher unions are, indeed, very liberal: they have power, and they support Democratic candidates (their current spat with the Obama administration over teacher evaluations notwithstanding).

Most college professors are indeed liberal — it has much to do with the kind of people attracted to that field. And these professors certainly have an influence on young minds, sometimes inordinately so. (As a onetime sophomore “existentialist,” I can attest to that.)  But would you really want to attend a place like, say, Hillsdale College in Michigan, which famously accepts no federal aid and inscribes conservative dogma into the very mission of the school? How intellectually challenging is that? 

Hillsdale political debate:

“Reagan was the greatest conservative.”

“No, Thatcher!”

“No, Reagan!”

It seems like that’s the level of discussion the state Board of Education is trying to promote in Texas. And if that happens —  if the proposed curriculum changes are approved in a final vote, as expected, in May — Texas’ students, and perhaps yours as well, will be poorer for it.

“Rather than acknowledging that genuine disagreements over interpretation and emphasis are the lifeblood of history, they reduce it all to a cartoonish process of balancing ‘bias,'” writes Daniel Czitrom, a textbook author and professor of history at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, in a letter to the New York Times. “This sort of right-wing political correctness impoverishes our students and teachers.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor




Washington Post:  “Historians Blast Proposed Texas Social Studies Curriculum




New York Times – Letters


Naomi Dillon|March 23rd, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

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