September 10, 2009

Texas Textbook Controversy UPDATED & BUMPED

Since I am getting so many visits here to look for information on the recently adopted standards, may I suggest that you look at this much more recent post, which includes links to the standard for particular classes and my comments upon those standards.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Man, are the liberals upset over one sentence in a fifteen page document in the proposed 11th grade social studies curriculum in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority — but nothing about liberals — under the first draft of new standards for public school history textbooks.

And the side that got left out is very unhappy.

Now I’ll be honest with you – I don’t teach that particular class, so I hadn’t looked at that set of standards (in large part because of my recent vacation and my subsequent preparation for the upcoming school year). But as presented in the Houston Chronicle’s article, the proposal seemed to be too partisan for me – and who has EVER accused me of viewing the world through nonpartisan glasses (though I do teach my classes in a nonpartisan fashion).

So I did what I teach my students to do when confronted with such disturbing information – I went to the primary source, the website of the Texas Education Agency where the newly proposed standards are posted so that I could see the new standards for US History since Reconstruction.

Here is the entire proposed strand in which this particular proposal fits.

(10) History. The student understands the circumstances of the U.S. as it emerges into the 21st century. The student is expected to:

(A) describe U.S. involvement in world affairs including the Persian Gulf War, Balkans Crisis, 9/11, and global war on terror; and

(B) identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority.

(C) discuss the rise of domestic terrorism

(D) discuss the role of third party candidates, such as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.

Taken in that context, the focus on conservatism is mighty reasonable. Indeed, it parallels the sort of focus given to twentieth century movements such as the progressive movement and the civil rights movement. And while there are howls of outrage over the inclusion of Gingrich, Schlafly, and the Moral Majority, it is hard to argue that the three were not major figures in what has been a long-term shift of the political culture of the US to the right, one that has lasted some three decades and which may not be over. Indeed, I happen to think that there would be a place for Rush Limbaugh and the rise of conservative mass media in that particular standard.

But while there is outrage over the inclusion of two conservative individuals and one conservative group in the standards, let’s look at some of the other individuals and groups who are included who are pretty clearly liberal icons – and some of whom could be reasonably seen as less significant than the three conservative inclusions. These include Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr, Cesar Chavez, Betty Friedan, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), American Indian Movement (AIM), Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Henry B. Gonzalez, Thurgood Marshall, and Delores Huerta. Taken in that context, one might argue that conservative figures are decidedly underrepresented – where is Barry Goldwater, for example? And let’s not forget that there have been assorted proposed changes to include a contemporary liberal strand to balance the conservative strand and include additional liberal figures like Hillary Clinton and Harvey Milk elsewhere throughout the curriculum, but no significant effort to include a more extensive or balanced look at conservative figures.

And then there are the PC changes in the curriculum. For example, the standards dump Omar Bradley and George S. Patton (and have never included Chester Nimitz) from the WWII TEK while adding Benjamin O. Davis and Oveta Culp Hobby – and while I would never diminish the accomplishments of either (Davis is a particular hero of mine), I question their relative significance compared to the three excluded flag officers. Similarly excluded figures (besides Barry Goldwater, who I noted earlier) include George W. Bush and Clarence Thomas – and native Texan Barbara Jordan. I understand the need to limit the length of the standards, but surely these individuals each belong in the document somewhere.

But that also raises an additional point – as we teachers are often reminded, the TEKS are the baseline of what you must teach, not the boundary line of what you are allowed to teach. We teachers are not forbidden to teach about any excluded individual or group – or to contrast the included figures and groups with their opponents. And as I noted earlier, the curriculum does present a fairly balanced portrait of America over the last fourteen decades. So while I would certainly make changes, I don’t find what is currently written to be unreasonable.

But I am curious – would the Houston Chronicle have presented the story in such an alarmist manner if the standards included an explicitly liberal thread but not a conservative one? And would protesting conservatives be given the same sort of kid-glove treatment as the upset liberals?

UPDATE: There's an editorial on the standards in today's Houston Chronicle -- care to guess which side it takes?

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This is the kind of HOG WASH the progressives want people to believe. They have NOT read HISTORY. They want to ERASE history. Our founding fathers had a strong belief in God. They recognized the Blessing on this nation and carved out a non-dictatorial path for this republic. Now the Progressives want to DERAIL us into Socialist Dictatorships. They do this covertly, by lies, cheating, and deceipt. (Humm sounds just like Satan doesn't it??) Read this and tell me they aren't LOST!
"Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State warns, "There is a whole movement to convince Americans that this was founded as a Christian nation, and that's simply not the case." Lynn also worries, as others do, that elected board members - and not educators - are the ones making the final curriculum decisions. "The idea of electing people to make judgments about these topics, which frankly they often known nothing about, is a terrible idea," Lynn says."

|| Posted by Rich Stubblefield, March 9, 2010 07:15 AM ||

Heil Hilter all you Nazis. In your world it's OK to learn about the commie ACLU, but not about the other side. What's next, book bruning??? You bunch of psycho pathological liars are mentlly disturbed. Hey, I got some more kool aid for you if you ever run out.

|| Posted by J Thomas, March 10, 2010 07:50 AM ||

Which founding fathers do you refer? Jefferson? Franklin? Madison? All of these gentlemen were deists at best and outright atheists in many opinions. They lived during the Age of Reason, another time the Fundies want to gloss over.

As for liberals, do you mean liberals like Jesus?

|| Posted by Army Officer, March 10, 2010 03:01 PM ||

Those additions seem reasonable. While much of that history is currently extremely close ot us, hindering critical reflection on second and third order effects, it should be taught. Let's talk, expecially, about the rise of domestic terrorism and the organisations that most frequently engage in it.
In the spirit of being inflammatory, I offer the following: Students should be able to accurately identify the proximate causes of domestic terrorism including the OKC bombing, southern church burnings, and abortion clinic bombings.

|| Posted by M. Harris, March 12, 2010 09:39 PM ||

If you can't burn the books, rewrite them!

It almost looks like you wrote that you parallel the Civil Rights Movement with the works of Newt Gingrich. Isn't Newt the guy who helped lead the "Moral Majority" against the adulterous Bill Clinton while Newt was cheating on his own wife who had cancer. That's awesome!

You're an American hero!

|| Posted by Hunter Jones, March 13, 2010 08:49 PM ||

This entire controversy is horrible to me. Firstly, for you to compare a figure like Susan B Anthony to Newt Gingrich while painting her as a "liberal icon" and him as a "conservative icon" is utter crap. How can you compare a woman who was fighting for equal rights for her gender to the man the cartoon Pinky and the Brain referred to as "The Clown on Capitol Hill"?

These days conservatives cry about wanting everything to be "balanced" away from the liberal media. Well, conservatives have Fox News, a major news outlet that millions watch, you have countless talk radio programs, websites, and not to mention the mobilization of an entire religious community. CONSERVATIVES are NOT being underrepresented! That is not to say liberals aren't either... They have news outlets, websites, etc, as well as groups like the ACLU in lieu of the churches. In my opinion, both have more than enough exposure and should leave the book writing up to academia.

In conclusion, could textbooks use an update? Of course, but as others pointed out, let's give everyone a real picture of America, no more "Columbus sailed the ocean blue" crap, or claims that it was all New Deal that got us out of a depression (WWII created the jobs needed...) or glossing over of the impact that other cultures have had on our own.

|| Posted by Fred, March 16, 2010 12:03 AM ||

hey guys. all of you cheering the TX Board of Ed's decision are seriously, painfully, comically stupid. don;t make our kids stupid, too.

Every man "ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." - George Washington (Letter to the United Baptist Churches in Virginia in May, 1789)

"Question with boldness even the existence of a god." - Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787)

"When a Religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its Professors are obliged to call for help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one." - Benjamin Franklin (from a letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780;)

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of... Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."- Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason, 1794-1795.)

"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution." - James Madison

"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.'' - James Madison

|| Posted by Will, March 16, 2010 09:46 PM ||

This controversry is utterly ridiculous and I am in awe of how stupid this Board of "Education" really is. Honestly, this is conservative propoganda that is trying to push the American children to the right-wing. Liberals are not just upset with the emphasis of Conservative movements in the 20th century, my goodness how thick-headed you must be to believe that is what has caused such a debate.

Now im not anti-conservative, or anti-republican, im just anti-stupid. Im an undergraduate student who is studying to become a social studies teacher, emphasis on History (mainly American), psychology, and government/economics. And i do associate myself more with the left but mainly because the conservative faction of America has become so consumed with the idea of destroying any type of liberal change and progress that they are willing to let America burn to the ground, so long as the liberals burn with it.

Im sorry, i do not know who right this article but shame on you for letting your conservative views skew the truth of this controversy. Have to looked at the other provisions included? Have you seen any video of the preceedings that took place to discuss this curriculum reform? you not think that telling our students that little goverment regulation is what allows an economic system (or anything at that matter) to thrive. Because thats what these textbooks will say. Do you not have an issue with adding references to "laws of nature and nature's God" to a section in U.S. history that requires students to explain major political ideas? Im an agnostic and while i dont refute the idea of a higher being or "god" the reference to "God" is blatantly Christian which i find unethical and misleading. This also resurfaces with the refusal of the board to change BC and AD to BCE and CE, as all modern historians have come to refer to. Why?? I suppose teachers will still incorrectly refer to them as "Before Christ" and "After Death" as i was taught and believed until i was in junior high. Ridiculous, utter whitewashing. Does it not bother you that in addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specifies a reference to the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class (oh Texas...)? Students should be learning all 27 amendments anyways, so why is special emphasis being put on the right to bear arms?? Also the National Rifle Association is included in the "Conservative Resurgence" section...not surprising i guess. And even though it has become engrained in our culture, hip hop music is still being shunned as an important cultural phenomena...while country music was easily allowed in. Are the refusals to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history also were denied and an amendment deleting a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society." not disturbing to you? because they are to me. The best example of this injustice is a video of the preceedings in which the board denied any reference of Archbishop Oscar Romero, in a section of civil right and welfare movements in Latin America, because the member who opposed his inclusion felt that because she and others did not know enough about him, that he shouldnt be taught to our students so that they might not be as stupid as these people. My biggest fault once again strikes with religion and the fact that non-scientific views that hold now concrete evidence besides what many of these dim-witted morons have been told to be the "infalliable" word of a Christian God, will be emphasized over the ideas of evolution which has been scientifically proven time after time after time. As a former Christian i understand that this is an incredibly touchy subject and that this ultra-conservative board is quite God-fearing, but we are talking about our childrens education. If i ever find any reference in a textbook that i give to my students that puts any sort of emphasis on creationism and tries to wrongfully deny evolution i will white out every single word of that section in every single book. If we are to bring America's educational standards up to par with other countries of the world, then we need to actually educate our children on correct and unbiased information.

Im not long removed from US History lessons and there is plenty of emphasis on the Christian Heritage of the United States. More is not needed, and more would be harmful. I believe the American Constitution specifies a seperation of Church and State. Does Texas get to bypass this simply because they buy more textbooks than anyother state? Now that my conservative friends is "burning the constitution" that is what would make our founding fathers sick. If it werent for all of the economic importance of Texas to this wonderful country, id wish James Polk would've let Texas stay with Mexico.

|| Posted by Andrew, March 23, 2010 12:49 AM ||

Andrew -- did you notice that this piece was written in September?

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, March 23, 2010 07:54 PM ||

What "revision of history" did I support here? If you had bothered to read what I wrote here, I wrote about ONE OBJECTIVE that had nothing to do with Jefferson.

By the way, Jefferson is found repeatedly in the curriculum of the state -- he was removed from one standard in World History, and i expect that error to be fixed (as a former world history teacher in this state, I know that will be among my recommendations to the board during the comment period.

Might i suggest that you read this post:

Oh, and this one, too:

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 21, 2010 07:32 PM ||

And one point i would like to make regarding Jefferson in the curriculum -- many of the same folks who claim that Jefferson was dropped from the curriculum are also complaining about a reference to "the laws of nature and nature's God" which appears in the standards, neglecting to note that the very thing they wish to see eliminated is A QUOTE FROM JEFFERSON FOUND IN THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. So which is it, folks -- do you want our man Tom in the document, or do you want him cut?

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 21, 2010 07:36 PM ||

Since I am getting so many visits here to look for information on the recently adopted standards, may I suggest that you look at this much more recent post, which includes links to the standard for particular classes and my comments upon those standards.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, May 23, 2010 07:33 AM ||

If you want to know what is truly at stake here, go read (or re-read) the novel 1884.....

|| Posted by imateacher, August 19, 2010 04:19 PM ||

I'm unfamiliar with the book 1884.

But I'm curious -- have you read the standards? Not the articles about them, but the actual standards. If you have, can you tell me what is wrong or lacking in them? What you would delete that they included, or what you would include that they deleted? Be specific. But if all you have to go by is secondary or tertiary sources, don't bother.

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