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Texas - the North Korea of the US?


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Ok, that's a bit hyperbolic, but this trend is numbingly stupid and frightening.

Texas Textbook Massacre

AUSTIN, Texas - A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.

The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum's world history standards on Enlightenment thinking, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.â€

From the Texas Freedom Network's live-blog of the board hearing:

Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings ofâ€) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.

We’re just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board’s far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America’s exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America’s Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.

Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic," and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

"We have been about conservatism versus liberalism," said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. "We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it's appropriate."

Following three days of impassioned and acrimonious debate, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards with a 10-5 party line vote. A final vote is expected in May, after a public comment period that could produce additional amendments and arguments.

Decisions by the board -- made up of lawyers, a dentist and a weekly newspaper publisher among others -- can affect textbook content nationwide because Texas is one of publishers' biggest clients.

Ultraconservatives wielded their power over hundreds of subjects this week, introducing and rejecting amendments on everything from the civil rights movement to global politics. Hostilities flared and prompted a walkout Thursday by one of the board's most prominent Democrats, Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi, who accused her colleagues of "whitewashing" curriculum standards.

By late Thursday night, three other Democrats seemed to sense their futility and left, leaving Republicans to easily push through amendments heralding "American exceptionalism" and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best absent excessive government intervention.

"Some board members themselves acknowledged this morning that the process for revising curriculum standards in Texas is seriously broken, with politics and personal agendas dominating just about every decision," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for religious freedom.

Republican Terri Leo, a member of the powerful Christian conservative voting bloc, called the standards "world class" and "exceptional."

Board members argued about the classification of historic periods (still B.C. and A.D., rather than B.C.E. and C.E.); whether students should be required to explain the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global politics (they will); and whether former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir should be required learning (she will).

In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class.

Conservatives beat back multiple attempts to include hip-hop as an example of a significant cultural movement.

Numerous attempts to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history also were denied, inducing one amendment that would specify that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Another amendment deleted a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."

Democrats did score a victory by deleting a portion of an amendment by Republican Don McLeroy suggesting that the civil rights movement led to "unrealistic expectations for equal outcomes."

Fort Worth Republican Pat Hardy, a longtime teacher, voted for the new standards, but said she wished the board could work with a more cooperative spirit.

"What we've done is we've taken a document that by nature is too long to begin with and then we've lengthened it some more," Hardy said, shortly after the vote. "Those long lists of names that we've put in there ... it's just too long.

"I just think we failed to keep that in mind, it's hard for teachers to get through it all."

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No doubt Americans of reasonable thinking should be freaked out by this. There's already incredible cultural and historical myopia, and a major shift towards the right is only going to make that worse. It reminds me of the textbook debates in Japan, and how incensed Koreans, Chinese, Indonesians, etc., would get with the revisionist history there.

I'm going to downgrade my own response to "shaking head slowly and sadly," since what I really have to deal with is the continual downward slide of the calibre of students coming out of high school here at home, which is both an academic problem (McGuinty's education policies have only heaped more damage on top of Harris') and a cultural one (the endless pandering towards whatever makes us lazy). Even colleges now are starting to talk about credit recovery programs. (My own $.02: sometimes people just need to fail in order to get a taste of real life.)

(But I digress.)

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well you being scared is a lot different than it just potentially being able to scare you or someone like you.

I thought you were trying to make some sort of point with your question. Dr. Mouse clarified he's not scared. That's what I was looking for anyway...sorry to read about your fear.

To me this is more a form of terrorism than some guy trying to blow up his underpants.

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My point (intention) was to bring about discussion.

My point (illumination) could also be that in dramatic description (using a term like 'frightening' instead of something like 'alarming' or better yet 'immoral') we may have kept alive the potentially crippling trend of poetic license in news - but that's more an aside and I wasn't exactly getting at that to begin with.

I didn't really have anything to chime in about until you had me define the distinction, PT.

I'm sure we could go on and on about how 'the media' keeps us scared and distracted, but all that would do is illustrate that point perfectly.

'Revisionism is indeed frightening' is too much of a blanket statement for me to take seriously.

As it stands, revisionism is something that mustn't be shied away from in principle just because of its recent examples.

'Revisionism' is not denial.

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If by "revisionism" you mean just that history has to be looked at and assessed over and over again, then sure, of course - that's just good science. The trick is to keep peeling away the blinkers and the veils, and looking to incorporate new perspectives, rather than continually reinstalling the barriers to seeing difference, which is what's going on with these folks in Texas.

It all reminds me a bit of the Critical Theory assessment of how political agitators work - "doing psychoanalysis in reverse."

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That's exactly what I mean by 'revisionism', the former rather than the latter being something which I identify as being extremely crucial to respectfully moving forward.

The 'new perspectives' aspect of your description makes something like the 'unhanging Riel' topic a tricky one that demands objective approach.

Simply pardoning the guy to give him a distinction of a 'father of confederation' rather than finding a better way to extend him justice and reverance.

Those Texan Textbook 'revisionists' are most like holocaust DENYING revisionists that then make honest WW2 revisionism akin to terrorism and hate crime.

If only they were looked at as critically as Zundel.

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