Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Glorious Theocracy of Texas

My favorite state Texas has done it. Once again they have embodied the spirit of America by making their curriculum more . . . American. Let me use a better term, they've made the curriculum more pro-American. From now on students in Texas can expect to receive a good ol' conservative education, which will teach them how awesome America is and how liberals are trash. This mindset has been made visible with their changes to the social studies departments, which includes history, sociology, and other similar subjects. You should be able to tell, just from that, that there is going to be some bad news coming up.

Let me just make a short list of the changes. Then we'll talk about how Texas is essentially destroying the education of every single student in the state.

1) A proposal was killed that would have required high school government students to examine the reasons the framers protected religious freedom in America by banning the government from promoting or rejecting any particular religion.

2) Thomas Jefferson was removed from a world history standard regarding the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from 1700 to the present. In his stead, they inserted notable theologians John Calvin and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Also removed was a reference to "Enlightenment ideals". In it's place, it was decided that students should simply learn about the writings of various "thinkers".

3) The word "capitalism" was censored in the standards, being replaced with the term "free enterprise". Board members felt that capitalism was a negatively charged word used by liberal professors.

4) The concepts of "justice" and "responsibility for the common good" from a list of good citizenship characteristics.

5) Paintings done by famous Texan Santa Barraza have been removed from a 7th grade history standard. The reason? One of the pictures showed a woman with exposed breasts.

6) The board removed Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, from a 3rd grade list of "historical and contemporary figures who have exemplified good citizenship". Conservative board members felt that she wasn't a good role model because she was a "socialist".

7) Students are required to learn about "communist infiltration in U.S. Government" during the Cold War. Board member Don McLeroy even claimed that Joseph McCarthy has been vindicated.

8) Austrian-born economist Friedrick von Hayek is now a requirement in high school economics classes. This was approved, even though most of the board members had no idea who he even was.

9) American history students are required to learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation, and the Moral Majority.

10) Eighth grade history students are required to learn about the ideas behind Jefferson Davis' inaugural address as the president of the Confederacy.

11) The use of the word "democratic" or "representative democracy" to describe our country has been changed to "constitutional republic".

12) A high school sociology standard that asks students to "differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how our gender and socialization interact" was removed. Board member Barbara Cargill insisted that this would lead to the study of "transsexuals, transvestites, and who knows what else". She supported this with a Google search.

13) High school economics students will learn about and "analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard."

14) Students are to learn about any "unintended consequences" of the Great Society, affirmative action, and Title IX.

15) They removed the term hip-hop because they equated it with "gangsta rap".

16) The board voted against the use of BCE and CE as standard dating conventions, instead opting to use AD and BC. If you didn't know, BCE and CE are the secular alternatives to AD and BC, and are becoming more and more common in the professional circle.

17) The board removed Oscar Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 (as he was celebrating Mass) by rightists in El Salvador, from a world history standard about leaders who led resistance to political oppression.

18) The board removed the idea that propaganda was a factor in the U.S. entry into the first World War from history standards.

19) The term "imperialism" was changed to "expansionism".

I'm sure there is more to add to this list, but you get the basic idea. What is happening in Texas is nothing short of Orwellian revisionist history and the spread of conservative propaganda. You know what's even scarier? Texas buys a lot of textbooks. Some would even say most, or put numbers on it like 80%. This means that there is a possibility that some of their new curriculum standards could leak into other states by means of these books.

At this point, I don't think I would mind if Texas seceded. Well, of course I don't really mean that, but that is roughly the level of anger and dislike for the Texas Board of Education that I currently foster. These politicians, each with their own agendas and goals, are ruining the education of thousands of students all for what? That they may get re-elected? Or maybe that there will be more conservatives in the future? Who knows, but none of the potential outcomes look good.

My biggest issue with this is the blatant misuse of history. History is objective, not a matter of opinion. Just because what was in the current history standards didn't raise America high enough on the pedestal doesn't mean that you can make it that way. Students must learn the objective truth about the history of America, and decide for themselves where we rank among the great civilizations of earth. This is just sick.

I like to compare this to the Evolution and Creation debate. Evolution, just like history, is composed of a huge amount of facts (gathered in different ways, maybe, but facts nonetheless). Denial of the facts, or disregard for them entirely does not remove them from existence! Just because you can change what is taught in history doesn't mean you can change what actually happened. This is just what the Texas Board of Education is attempting to do.

And this is why I disapprove of public education. People with private agendas and goals for the whole of society should not be allowed to dictate what is taught in schools. What is taught should not be a matter of Republican vs. Democrat, but rather a matter of what is objectively true and useful to know in order to function correctly in a society. You know who should be on those boards? Experts. People who know what the hell they're talking about and why it's important.

Unfortunately, this cannot happen with a public education system. This is because the people who elect the school boards have an agenda and a goal too. They want to see their children taught certain things, and want everyone else to have to learn it as well. This is not how it should be. As long as education is public in America, people need to seriously consider not electing politicians to these positions, but instead elect scientists, historians, sociologists, mathematicians, and everything else in between.

A private education system is a fool proof way to fix the problem of personal agendas governing the curriculum. First off, private institution teaching standards do not affect society as a whole as public standards do. This makes it so that bad decisions made by the few do not immediately affect the many and can be removed efficiently. Private enterprise would also mean that parents have the choice to send their child to a school that teaches things correctly and provides a better quality education. Though, I suppose that it also means they have the choice to move to Texas and teach kids that Jesus walked the founding fathers through the writing of the Constitution. Whatever floats their boat, as long as I have the choice to opt out. In the case of public education, I don't have that opportunity. I am at the mercy of the majority.

Please, sign the petition.

4 comments:

  1. -Uribe (REDRYNO1221)March 29, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    I do agree that public education is far from the standard it should bhe reaching and political agendas are worsening schools but private schools are not fool proof. As long as there are political parties and religion a bias will always be clearly seen. History must be taught objectively not opinion based. In fact history based on opinions and satire is just another story with no facts to back it up *cough like the bible*cough *cough.

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  2. Ahh, but a private school comes under the influence of a market. At least with a private school you have the ability to choose not to go to a school if they teach bullshit. I don't get that choice with a public school. :)

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  3. Private education is far from a fool-proof way, Matt. You're right that public education leads students to be at the mercy of the majority, but private education is highly subject to even more censored methods of teaching.

    You already know I have gripes about the American Education System on the whole, but public education that is secular, free, and objective is the best way to go. The issue is just making this happen.

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  4. Ah, but the issue isn't just secularism. With respect to this case maybe, but not public schools in general. A private school cannot simply teach whatever they want, because they have the financial incentive to provide the best education that they can. If they are questionable, then you don't pay for the school: they'll learn real quick. The reason private schools now are so . . . not great is because they don't have to compete (the feds subsidize them). They can teach whatever they want and get away with it. I'm not implying that we are always being taught wrong, but there exists a potential for it that can't be easily dealt with because the parents and the children don't have a choice in the matter. If schools were to operate on a market, they would have to compete with each other. You can't compete if you are teaching things that are blatantly untrue. Those schools would be weeded out (sort of like natural selection).

    A public school, however, does not have the incentive to do any of those things. It doesn't compete, therefore eliminating the need to provide a better product. You can't always keep public schools secular (or even truthful) when they are the beck and call of people whose interests are beyond education. In the end, because you are mandated to go to school, there is almost nothing you can do to change how it is run.

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