The article outlines the new standards decided upon by the Texas Board of Education.
While on the whole, the actions of the Texas state board are at most regrettable and undesirable, there are a few points upon which they must be taken to task.
On one hand they deplore vicious attacks on capitalism (exemplified by such heart-wrenching insults as “you capitalist pig!”) replacing it with the new-speak term “free-enterprise system,” they just as easily passed a measure applauding the McCarthy era’s vicious black-listing of supposed communists.
One member defends their actions by arguing that “We are adding balance… History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left,” the gaping holes of this logic aside (anyone who has spent any amount of time studying history can see that this question is not one so easily reductive). The board members seem almost unable to recognize their own hypocrisy, as if replacing bias for bias constitutes balance.
It becomes blisteringly apparent through the article, the members of this board have next to no regard for revolutionary or non-mainstream figures of any sort, when, for example, one Dr. McLeroy, “a dentist by training, “[pushes] through a change to 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.”
This is one point which may in fact prove to be an unintentional thorn in their side. The glossing over of the effect of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers on the question of civil rights has always left an ill-taste in my mouth, so Dr. McLeroy’s inclusion leaves open an unintentional battleground where there may be some strides made– namely, while McLeroy’s arguably finds these forces distasteful and intends the mentioning of them as a warning to those who would disobey authority, a clear-headed study of these figures proves enlightening, not infuriating or scary. To wit: Before his assassination, Malcolm X denounced the use of violence in the Civil Rights movement. To assume that the study of revolutionary figures can only be used to reinforce cultural norms and to frighten students into obedience is a sad, sorry stance to take.
“Dr. McLeroy also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported. ‘Republicans need a little credit for that,” he said. “I think it’s going to surprise some students.'”
While I’m never above spreading the love around where civil rights are concerned, a problem arises when on one hand, there is approbation for certain areas of civil rights, and scorn for other [liberal] areas, as another boardmember, David Bradley did, when he won approval for “an amendment saying students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. He also won approval for an amendment stressing 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.”
While the realistic recognition of wide abuses by the United States in War Time is to be commended, and the acknowledgment of all-too-human errors made by our country noble, to single out liberal policies whose effects are by no means easily parsed is entirely partisan in its aims and only further entrenches a sense of obedience. As educators, is not our job precisely the opposite? To address every issue openly and let our students try to parse for themselves their opinions and beliefs? The problem with the actions of these Texans is that, instead of redressing (possible) liberal biases in the framework of textbooks, they instead have created a system whereby they replace one (possible) set of biases for another. And to be honest, I’m not sure they quite grasp the depth of the epistemological clusterfuck into which they’ve wandered.
This disregard for epistemological issues also extends even to those those holier-than-holy American Saints, the forefathers, in particular, Thomas Jefferson. But again, their reasoning for almost wholly removing the author of the Declaration of Independence has nothing to do with a clear-headed study of the man, but rather, a reaction to his general distaste for Christianity.
Boardmember Cynthia Dunbar attempts to shroud this in arguing that “The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based.” While this is certainly true, to reduce their impact on the revolutions of the period is to cut the legs out from understanding them at all. Earlier Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke (from whom we get both the idea of the pursuit of [property] and a character on Lost) and Thomas Hobbes are entirely in dispensable. (Further, I was unaware that ‘The Enlightenment’ was a singular philosophy instead of the nomenclature of an era and intellectual movement lasting more than a century).
My question to Mrs. Dunbar would be this: Without Thomas Jefferson and his Enlightenment forbears, how exactly will you get from Medieval philosophers such as Aquinas to outright Revolution? Which non-enlightenment philosophers and theologists have you quoted and listed serve as direct linkage to the creation of our country?
What is to be gleaned, past their epistemological clusterfucks and blatant disregard for a logical understanding of the course of history is this: This whole charade seems to be a barometer of political hemorrhage. In the post 9/11-Obama-Administration-Tea-Party America, this odd blacklisting of a founding father seems disturbingly prescient. One of the largest red-herring debates of the post 9/11 era was that of divining the Patriotic from the Unpatriotic. But the actions of the Texas Board of Education completely dismantles that dialectic, and instead re articulates it as a struggle between conservative Christianity and Whatever-Power-Structure-Opposes-Christianity in that instant. A people who for so long hid behind the shield of Patriotism easily disregard it when it fails to suit their means. The question of God and Country becomes, simply, God. And while I by no means identify myself as patriotic and neither do I believe in deification of the forefathers, the realization of this new struggle somehow frightens me even more.
Finally, To Mr. Bradley– It took a few moments of arduous googling of the words “First Amendment” to stumble across this nefarious little nugget of wisdom, buried deeply in the first pages of the constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”
Make the check out to the ACLU, please.