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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Texas turns education on its head

A longstanding battle has been waged in Texas over the school curriculum. The 15 person Board of Education is elected and the far right have stealthily managed to run enough candidates to take control of the board. With that power they have tried and now succeeded in politicizing the Social Studies curriculum in a vote this past week.

Among the changes are a radical de-emphasizing of the Civil Right Movement, a complete vindication of the McCarthy era, describing America, not as a Democracy but as a Constitutional Republic lest people connect 'Democracy' with Democrats.

The curriculum now gives as much weight to Jefferson Davis' (President of the Confederacy) inauguration speech as it does to Lincoln's.

One change that was initially approved but then rescinded, apparently because it was simply too embarrassing even for these people, was to require that the system known as the "slave trade" be known instead as the "Atlantic triangular trade." The fact that it was first approved is more than disturbing.

Even more disturbing is the facile attempt to change the role of religion in the founding of the country. Thomas Jefferson will no longer be a part of American history in Texas, excluded because of his belief in the separation of church and state. In March, a majority of SBOE members voted “against requiring high school American government students to learn that the nation’s Founders barred government from favoring or disfavoring one religion over all others.”

Except for the minor inconvenience of the first Amendment to the bill of rights which does quite clearly state that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech".

Texas unfortunately wields a big influence on school curriculums in other states. As the 3rd most populous state, textbook publishers will make the necessary changes and will then make those books available to smaller states that don't have the clout to influence content. California has fortunately already said it will not allow any Texas style amended textbooks in the State.

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