Saturday, March 13, 2010

Only in Texas

This week the Texas Board of Education voted to update the state's social studies curriculum "stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."

Um, what? First of all, I'm pretty sure the superiority of capitalism is ALREADY stressed nationwide. I specifically remember in government class talking about both capitalism and communism (we probably talked about other systems too but those were the main ones) and the teacher even had two students debate both of those, but it was pretty obvious which one was "right." I'm not saying I disagree that capitalism is the best system in the world. I think for the most part it is (though it certainly has its pitfalls) but I disagree with altering history books to make it sound EVEN MORE superior. What's ironic is that they changed the word "capitalism" in all the books to "free-enterprise system" because “'Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,' said one conservative member." So, to recap, capitalism is the best, but we should change its name because we don't want kids to think there's anything wrong with it...

I think the second and third things that they are emphasizing are the most worrisome to me. Further down in the article it says the board members are calling into question things like "the separation of church and state." Their argument is that you don't find it in the Constitution. Nevermind the first amendment, and that Thomas Jefferson COINED THE TERM "separation between church and state." And nevermind that it is documented in the Library of Congress

The conservative school board here in Texas "cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century" Holy shit.

"Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students study the reasons 'the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.' It was defeated on a party-line vote." Talk about one sided. This just proves that this School Board isn't interested in "balance" but in furthering their own political agenda.

Ok, so they are also want to focus on Republican political philosophies and show those in a more positive light. As interested as I am in politics, I really don't think it has a place in the high school classroom. I realize sometimes its hard to avoid in a class like History or Government, but I honestly don't remember that much politics being discussed. Except maybe my junior year during the Bush/Gore election, my teacher was definitely for Bush, but I don't remember him bringing that up during actual lessons.

So, let's talk specifics. They want to make sure students learn about “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.”

I mean, I guess these things should be included but it depends on at what expense, which the article doesn't say. I mean, really, Phyllis Schafly? The woman who made a career out telling other women they shouldn't have careers?

They will also change the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

I wonder if Jim Crow laws and all the "votes in Congress" prior to Civil Rights legislation will also be emphasized?

Students will also study the "unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. The Great Society legislation was under Lyndon B Johnson, and his goals were the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. It was during this time that the Civil Rights legislation that forbade job discrimination and the segregation of public accommodations was passed... but I guess that wasn't a good thing, according to Texas school board Republicans at least. The Medicare and Medicaid programs were also created during this time, without which we would have millions more uninsured people than we do now.

The new social studies curriculum also stresses that "Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism." What, we weren't racist! Hello, we interned OTHER PEOPLE TOO!

I want to go back to the "unintended consequences" of affirmative action and Title IX legislation. To me this just screams of racism and sexism. I realize affirmative action has been controversial at times, but without it I really do think blacks and other minorities would've had a much harder time breaking down certain barriers in college admissions and the job market. Just because Civil Rights legislation was passed doesn't mean the white business owners were thrilled to start hiring minorities, and colleges certainly weren't thrilled at integrating at the time.

Speaking of minorites, Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

So, I took a grand total of one Master's level English class before dropping out, but I did actually finish this class, and one thing that stuck out to me was that within the last 20 years, the literature canon and list of authors who are taught has included many more women and minorities. Not just from present day, but from the past as well, from a time when it was thought that women and minorities didn't write great literature. They did, it just wasn't published. But it's being published and brought to light now, because people are more open to that now. This doesn't mean we should dismiss the classics that are traditionally penned by white men, but that the field has expanded. In the same way, I have to believe there are important people in history, including women and minorities who have been left out of the history books. It just seems odd to me that they have no problem with changing certain things and adding conservatives leaders to have a more prominent role in the curriculum but they are closed off to adding more Latino figures. The article doesn't mention any specific people that Ms. Berlanga wanted to add, but again, why the opposition?

The opposition they have to Title IX is just laughable. It's the law that says there needs to be equal funding and opportunities in athletics for women and girls in any school or college that receives federal funding. There has been nothing but positive effects after girls were given the opportunity to play sports in school. And boys participation in sports hasn't been hurt because of it. Today about 1 in 3 high school girls play sports, compared with about half of all boys.

Economists have done studies that show increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment and can also lowers the risk of obesity. Other studies (not mentioned in the above article) show that girls who participate in high school sports are less likely to use drugs, become pregnant, or commit suicide. How Title IX is anything but a positive life changing piece of legislation is beyond me. I mean, it's not like we're seeing cuts in Texas football programs or anything... so honestly with other things I'm willing to concede that there's more to the issue that meets the eye, but on this one, I think the opposition is just asinine.

Finally, they talk about Sociology. Well, to this school board the field of Sociology might as well be called Care of Magical Creatures.

In the field of sociology, another conservative member, Barbara Cargill, won passage of an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.

“The topic of sociology tends to blame society for everything,” Ms. Cargill said.

Look, I'm not against personal responsibility, but to say that societal structures, economic conditions, and the media don't have any influence is crazy. It seems like the goal is to create a victim blaming society particularly in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. Actually, there is enough victim blaming as is it, so to not teach students about sociology is very worrisome to me.

Finally, in all these votes and meetings to make changes to the HISTORY curriculum, "there were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings, though some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topics." They "held themselves as experts"?! Wow, I don't even know what to say here.

It's very unfortunate because I do want to have kids one day. I probably won't be able to afford private school (and probably wouldn't want to send them there even if I could), and I am not qualified to home school. So I will be trusting the public education system. I want my kids to have a solid foundation of history and to have critical thinking skills. I don't want the so called political pendulum to swing one way or the other in their classrooms. I'm not making these points here to say "liberal influence good, conservative influence bad." I'm just saying we're walking thin ice when we start altering history and what we teach our kids. It seems like these particular school board members and other conservatives I've observed in TX want to move our government more towards a theocracy each day. I think religion can be a good thing, but there's a reason we don't have an "established religion" here, and yes it DOES say in the Constitution that we SHOULDN'T have one.


  1. I believe that you are more qualified to homeschool your children than you think, and I believe you are more qualified than the public school system.

  2. This is the best post you've ever made, IMO. Wait until you check out the "qualifications" of some of the TX school board members, then you'll really be scared.

    There's a reason we have one of the worst education systems in the world, coupled with one of the best and most varied sources of inane entertainment. "Give them food and games" was a Roman quote used by senators, and it still holds true today. An educated populace is not an easily controlled populace, and no "government" wants that.

    Ah, capitalism. The system that puts PBA in baby bottles, creates an anti-public transportation society so 40,000 die annually in car wrecks, dioxins and other chemicals in tampons to increase blood flow, cares nothing of the future generations or sustainability, allows carcinogens to permeate every aspect of our lifestyle, stocks our grocery stores with food that no one should be consuming, and lets the company that controls 90% of the nation's food supply run the (supposed) FDA & USDA. What's not to love?

    Homeschooling, is about finding the curriculum that you feel is well-rounded and teaching it.

    Affirmative action is something I'll never be a proponent of. One should either meet the qualifications, or not. When you apply affirmative action to the police, fire department, EMS response, hospitals, lawyers, detention officers, judges, etc, you end up with unqualified employees that responding to YOUR emergency or making decisions that affect you or ones you know, sometimes for life, and sets the grounds for an instant lawsuit should they be fired for their negligence. I have loads of stories about this, and they're not pretty. This idea of political correctness (of which affirmative action is just another arm) might sound good to most of the insulated and ignorant populace, but it is not a good thing in reality, regardless of how rosy it might seem.