Thursday, March 25, 2010

Texas Textbooks Become Campaign Issue Where they Belong, Unfortunately

Bill White, the Democratic candidate for governor in Texas, has called on Governor Rick Perry to ask (can the governor order them to?) the State Board of Re-Education to send the politicized right wing social studies curriculum they recently voted on back to committee. How this will help Mr. White politically in a predominantly red state is unclear, but by making it a campaign issue the Democratic candidate elevates its profile nationally. This is one of those issues that the more people -- parents, educators, voters -- become aware of the more concerned they become. And the more difficult it becomes for Governor Perry to try to defend the ultra-conservative political bias being injected into an educational curriculum.

This is what happens when a group of right wing extremists ram through the Texas Board of Re-Education a political and ideological document masquerading as a social studies curriculum. It has become clear from the controversy surrounding the rewriting of history by commission (there is no “wall of separation” of church and state) and omission (Thomas Jefferson) among many other offenses, e.g. against the contributions of non-whites to our nation’s history, that the Board is seriously dysfunctional, a national disgrace and international laughingstock. A Board member who opposed the changes, said they amounted to a “whitewash.” As if education isn’t enough of a problem the Board’s actions, unchalleged, will do the most damage precisely to the education of children who would rely on these biased and deeply flawed textbooks.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that two of the right wing Board members were voted out, as the public became aware of what was going on, yet will remain to cast a final vote on the changes in May, after a comment period. They have no intention of recusing themselves, and will be voting for final adoption of the changes as lame ducks. This, by itself, is a fatal flaw in the system since it is clear that at least two votes will be cast by defeated Board members who were in effect fired from office by the voters for making these changes.

The more the public becomes aware of this issue nationally, because it has national implications as Texas standards are widely adopted by other states, the greater the public alarm and pressure to reverse, or at least limit these changes to Texas.

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