The worst Texas social studies standard?
I think we have a winner.
I’ve been reading the social studies standards in Texas as well as the many proposed changes being pushed by religious conservatives on the Board of Education, and playing an entirely subjective game: Which is the most egregious twist of history?
For a while I thought it might be the effort by board member Cynthia Dunbar to remove Thomas Jefferson from the Enlightenment curriculum and replace him with John Calvin. She argued that the Founding Fathers were guided by religion and that Jefferson was either wrong or didn’t really mean it when he called for a sharp separation of church and state.
I confess that part of the reason this was on my list was because of Dunbar, who was appointed to the state education board that oversees public education even though she doesn’t believe in public education.
In a book she wrote called “One Nation Under God,” she called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” and said the establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and “tyrannical” because it undermines the authority of families that was granted by God to direct children’s instruction.
Other changes were considered too; capitalism can now only be referred to as "free enterprise system," mostly because the word "capitalism" apparently is negatively perceived.
Then there’s the new language that includes positive references to the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association, and that softens the despicable legacy of the late Sen. Joe McCarthy.
One change just approved Thursday requires third-graders to learn “how government regulations and taxes impact consumer cost.” The board is set to vote today on all of the proposed changes.
Why was this done? Because, said David Bradley, one of the ultra-conservative majority on the board, “I wanted to get taxes back in there.”
And so he did.
There are a lot more changes, but I think we have found the most egregious, even insidious proposal: Calling the country’s slave trade the "Atlantic triangular trade." That refers to the trade system that included the American colonies, Europe and Africa, which, if drawn on a map with arrows from place to place, certainly looks like a triangle. The proposal is correct on the geometric merits.
On historical and moral merits, however, it fails miserably. Trying to whitewash the country’s ugly past is itself ugly, and dangerous.
Even Rod Page, the conservative who former president George Bush picked to be the first African-American education secretary, pleaded, to no avail, with the education board this week not to pass the changes.
Things are wacky in Texas when the board of education won't listen to the man that Bush, the former Republican president and Texas governor, tapped as his education chief.
It makes you wonder why education reformers only insist that teachers are highly qualified to keep their jobs. Shouldn’t there be some basic test of sanity for people who make education policy?
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| May 21, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: History | Tags: revising social studies standards, texas and standards, texas board of education, texas social studies standards, texas standards
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