Saturday, March 13, 2010


Around the country, there's understandable outrage about this:

After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, 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....

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks....

So if this affects how children all over the country are educated, you'd think influential people who understand the potential damage this curriculum can do would want to rise up and take a stand against it. Right?

Well, I see this:

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.

What I'm not seeing, in any stories about this battle, is any indication that the sane people on the board even tried to invite real historians, sociologists, or economists to the hearing to try to present them as experts. I'm also not seeing any evidence that any real experts went to Texas on their own, to try influence the debate, or at least speak out against the doctoring of the history our children are taught.

And I don't just mean academics -- I'm also thinking of historians who write popular books, books Dad wants you to get him for Father's Day, even in red states. Folks like David McCullough and Walter Isaacson and Michael Beschloss and Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham. Where are those people? Why weren't they in Texas? Don't they care about our kids?

Well, there have been battles like this for years, and the good people always wring their hands, but no one ever really does anything -- not prominent people, not ordinary people. No one ever organizes a textbook tea party to bus in demonstrators from all over the country carrying signs that say KEEP YOUR PREJUDICES OUT OF OUR TEXTBOOKS.

Howell Raines was in The Washington Post yesterday asking why no one in the journalism business ever challenges Fox News. Well, liberals and moderates (and moderate conservatives) in this country hardly ever challenge right-wingers on any attempt to turn what's supposed to be an institution serving the common good into a tool for naked right-wing partisanship. Congress? The media? Schools? It's as if the supposedly reasonable people are deer in headlights, and can't quite process the fact that the institution is being warped, so they just freeze and act as if it can't possibly be happening.


I am struck -- and maybe this is a saving grace -- by the absurd triviality of some of the changes in the Texas curriculum. Much of it seems to be based on meaningless wingnut-media code-talk, the kind of thing that Beck and Limbaugh and their ilk use to fill up airtime on slow news days.

Here's my favorite:

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word "capitalism" throughout their texts with the "free-enterprise system."

"Let's face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation," said one conservative member, Terri Leo. "You know, 'capitalist pig!'"

"Capitalist pig"? Is it 1969 in here, or is it me?

So I guess if the word "capitalism" is out and Milton Friedman is in, then the textbooks are going to have to censor ... the title of one of Friedman's most famous books:

Also, the board

[s]truck the word "democratic" in references to the form of U.S. government and replaced it with "constitutional republic."

I think this goes back to 2000, when a lot of us pointed out that Al Gore won half a million more votes than George W. Bush. You couldn't throw a rock back then without hearing a wingnut talk about hos America is "a republic, not a democracy."

And, um:

...students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

Wonder if the textbooks will come with ads for Goldline starring Glenn Beck.

No comments: