Friday, February 12, 2010

How history is made

The Texas Board of Education is one of the most influential school organizations in the country.  Because the state of Texas is such an enormous purchaser of text books, the board exercises a tacit control over what is put in and left out of text books.  As a result, the board's influence over curricula nationwide is significant.

Yesterday The New York Times ran an article that I found deeply troublesome.  At a public meeting about the state's social studies curriculum, Don McLeroy, an arch conservative, strong armed the board into passing a deeply flawed and partisan course of studies for Texas students.  According to The Times (the emphasis in bold is mine):
McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagn's “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands. 
Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton,  and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.
Wow.  This is what our kids are learning?  That Phyllis Schlafly (left) and Newt Gingrich were more important figures than a man who is widely considered -- by both Republicans and Democrats -- as one of the most influential senators in our history?  And if you're going to promote the National Rifle Association and ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, where's the ACLU?  What about feminist leaders?

Scary stuff, I think.

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