3.14.2010

texas textbook massacre: as texas goes, so goes the nation

I've seen quite a few bloggers alerting people to the recent work of the Texas Board of "Education" - and if ever there was a need for scare quotes, this is it.

If you haven't heard, the radical right, radical white, faction of the Texas Board has succeeded in re-writing US history.

What many people may not realize is that the implications of this classroom coup reaches far beyond the Lone Star State. Because Texas is the second-largest buyer of textbooks in the US, and purchasing decisions are made at the state (not local) level, textbook publishers can't survive without the Texas seal of approval. To guarantee that approval, they adopt Texas Board of Ed standards as their own. In other words, what young Texans read, young people all over the country read, too.

In my freelancing days, I had some work editing textbooks. Copy-editors kept the Texas Board of Education requirements on-hand as a checklist, and everything we turned in had to meet that checklist. I haven't been able to find reliable figures on what percentage of US textbooks conform to Texas standards, but I recall it being greater than half.

So what will - and will not - be in these books?

From Think Progress: Thomas Jefferson is out, replaced by John Calvin and St. Thomas Aquinas. (Did I just write that? Did you just read that? Thomas Jefferson will not be included in US history textbooks.)

Freedom of religion is out, along with "transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else"; that is, the concept of gender and race being social constructs.

The word "democratic" is out, replaced by "constitutional republic."

From HuffPo: Judeo-Christian influences of the Founding Fathers (minus Jefferson, that is), in. Separation of church and state, out.

From the New York Times: Hispanic Americans, out. All-white history, in.

Black Panthers, in. (To "balance" the view that the civil rights movement was non-violent.)

Supposed vindication of Marthyism, in.

The word "capitalism" is out, replaced by "free-enterprise system". Also in, Milton Friedman. Somehow I don't think children will read about his role in overthrowing democratically elected governments and subsequent torture and massacres.

Also in: Phyllis Schlafly, Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, the NRA. (The NRA wasn't there already?)

Washington Monthly reminds us that "no historians, sociologists, or economists have been consulted. The ideologues simply decide what kind of "truths" they like best, and then shape the state's curriculum accordingly."

For details, the Times story is best.

Today I am really missing Howard Zinn.

18 comments:

redsock said...

Well, Jefferson was born in Kenya ...

David Cho said...

Given the great clout the state of Texas wields in textbooks, I am actually surprised that it has taken this long for the right to do this.

Why can't California and New York balance this out? I guess I am not understanding the dynamics of textbook politics.

Dharma Seeker said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea that one state had so much influence over the national education system. Do you think history textbook publishers of books used in Canada will follow suit?

Mike said...

Next up from the Texas Board of Disinformation, the flat earth theory and intelligent falling.

L-girl said...

Given the great clout the state of Texas wields in textbooks, I am actually surprised that it has taken this long for the right to do this.

Exactly what I was thinking! Apparently they had to get the seats on the Board, and - knowing what was at stake - there has been a lot of activism Texas Board of Ed elections. This year when one Democrat was defeated and two decided not to run for relection, they made their move.

Why can't California and New York balance this out?

California has not been a good influence on textbooks. There's massive corruption and all kinds of crazy stuff. I don't think New York figures into this at all - but New York State, minus NYC, is conservative.

Do you think history textbook publishers of books used in Canada will follow suit?

I don't know anything about textbook publishing in Canada. But this is has been the system in the US for at least 50 years. I worked on textbooks in 1985 and it was an old system at that time.

Texas Board of Disinformation

Mm-hm.

impudent strumpet said...

Do you think history textbook publishers of books used in Canada will follow suit?

Pure speculation because all I know about textbooks is from having used textbooks in school just like everyone else, but I don't imagine this would have any effect on Canada. Unless they've vastly changed the core basis of the curriculum, the required history classes are Canadian history, and modern world history classes tend to be targeted to a Canadian audience. I'd imagine US history textbooks used in Texas look at the US as "we", whereas textbooks used in Canada would have to look at it as "they".

L-girl said...

I'd imagine US history textbooks used in Texas look at the US as "we", whereas textbooks used in Canada would have to look at it as "they".

US textbooks are US-centric to the extreme. To the extreme extreme.

But I thought Dharma Seeker was asking about the method of decision making, not the content itself - ?

David Cho said...

One of the additions highlights the Republican vote on landmark civil rights legislation.

The guy who pushed it thinks Republicans aren't getting enough credit for it. Is he supportive of the political alignment of the South orchestrated by Nixon's cynical attempts to capitalize Southern whites' resentment in the aftermath of the passage of civil rights legislation?

David Cho said...

Love your blog title, BTW! Did you coin that?

L-girl said...

Love your blog title, BTW! Did you coin that?

Well... I wrote it, if that's what you mean. But it's a pretty obvious play on the real title (plus the election saying). I'm sure a lot of other people online thought of the same thing.

But thanks :)

L-girl said...

Is he supportive of the political alignment of the South orchestrated by Nixon's cynical attempts to capitalize Southern whites' resentment in the aftermath of the passage of civil rights legislation?

*crickets*

He says: A little slower please, you lost me after "is he".

David Cho said...

I've known people who describe the pro-segregation force in the South as the "southern left." Funny stuff.

Northern Girl said...

"Brown bear brown bear what do you see?

I see a frightening scenario in the future for me.

What is the frightening scenario you see?

The re-writing of history to an alarming degree."

The beloved children's book "Brown Bear" is due to be banned due to a Texas Board of Education member "discovering" that the author (Bill Martin) wrote a treatise on Ethical Marxism in 2008.

The Bill Martin who wrote Brown Bear died in 2004. Oh well, the truth doesn't matter anyway since the Texas Board of Education believe that history and fiction are the same thing.

Thank you for the information – absolutely shocking!

James said...

And this is what they came up with after Don "Someone's got to stand up to these experts" McLeroy was voted out.

MSEH said...

The only little, teeny, tiny, pick up the rock, look underneath, possible, maybe, sort of glimmer of hope in this otherwise horrifying story is this...

A lot of textbook production has gone digital. I have, e.g., been able to assemble a reader, choosing from a lengthy list of possible articles, order that as a text, have it printed, bound, and distributed to only my class as a unique text with its own ISBN. I've heard that, in a similar fashion, states will be able to order textbooks that are more "tailored" to their interests.

Of course, the HUGE, HUGE, HUGE problem with this is that someone in that/each state has to actually read the textbooks and provide the edited copy, requesting an alternate printing.

So, yes, this IS the "texas textbook massacre," but there may be a tiny, miniscule glimmer of hope for those who do want to take them on in their respective states.

All that being said, it's not like I think that will happen - and, it would likely be easier to simply make a point of obtaining textbooks that aren't used in Texas.

Sigh...

L-girl said...

Thanks for the info, MSEH. It's some comfort to know there's a workaround.

One of the many "unfortuantely..."s, of course, is that such a digital plan requires resources, and US public education being what it is, those are mostly nonexistent.

The whole thing is so mind-blowing. Imagine that these radical right-wingers are STILL perpetuating the myth that things "have gone too far in the liberal direction" and so-called "balance" is needed. When they have controlled absofuckinglutely everything since the early 80s. (Or at least began their takeover of everything in 1980, and have been steadily advancing with no let up since then.)

Oh god, I'm ranting again...

deang said...

And I am really missing Molly Ivins.

Having school-age Texas nieces, I sometimes see the effects of the horrible Texas educational system. This should only make it worse.

L-girl said...

Oh yes. Molly.