Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh, Curriculum!

Sunday the New York Times reported on the textbook curriculum changes that were made to appease the State of Texas special interests. As usual, the changes are both dogmatic and intended to imprint students with ceratin myths that make open-minded learning and thinking difficult.
Battles over what to put in science and history books have taken place for years in the 20 states where state boards must adopt textbooks, most notably in California and Texas. But rarely in recent history has a group of conservative board members left such a mark on a social studies curriculum.

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.”

“They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”

The curriculum standards will now be published in a state register, opening them up for 30 days of public comment. A final vote will be taken in May, but given the Republican dominance of the board, it is unlikely that many changes will be made.

The standards, reviewed every decade, serve as a template for textbook publishers, who must come before the board next year with drafts of their books. The board’s makeup will have changed by then because Dr. McLeroy lost in a primary this month to a more moderate Republican, and two others — one Democrat and one conservative Republican — announced they were not seeking re-election.

There are seven members of the conservative bloc on the board, but they are often joined by one of the other three Republicans on crucial votes. 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.

The conservative members maintain that they are trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

They also included a plank to ensure that 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.”

Dr. McLeroy, a dentist by training, pushed 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. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

No sooner had the article been published than a twitter feed dedicated a parody of these changes was established. Twitterers from all over the country have added their own changes using a tag of #texastextbookfact to identify their entries.

Here are a few:

  • Texas was the first state to recognize the value of the Negro race to high school athletic programs
  •  Mountain top removal mining puts everyone on the same economic playing field.
  •  Slavery was an ambassador program meant to bring people to America to save them from poverty and socialism.
  •  Women should have the right to choose between paper and plastic. 
  •   Adam & Eve waited til they were married before the consummated their love.
  • You are only required to be able to count as high as your largest ammo clip.
  • Every time you shoot something, an angel gets its wings.
  •  Racial disparities in sentencing are the fault of activist judges.  
  •  native americans welcomed americans as liberators
 If you enjoy snarky humor just type #texastextbookfact into the twitter search app and it will begin listing the latest Texas revisions to American History, Science and Math.

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