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Monday, March 15, 2010

History According to Texas

(Disclaimer: I have nothing against Texans, my girlfriend is from Texas. I just see this as something that’s probably common to the South in general to an extent, or some fundamentalist idea of traditional “values”. Just to clarify)

I read a few days ago about the troubling movement in Texas’s State Board of Education to rewrite history to fit a particular preference: such as emphasizing the conservative resurgence in the 80s and 90s, emphasizing the “religious” background of the founding of the country, and generally pushing the ideology of tradition and small government over and against any “liberal” ideas. Now I can appreciate their goal of moderating and balancing the curriculum since in all fairness there is probably something of a bent towards leftist politics in some regards. But I was raised with the prior textbooks and I don’t recall feeling like we needed excessive government to solve our problems. Even reading about FDR’s New Plan and other associated “socialists” like Lincoln and Washington (that surprises me) didn’t make me think that the notion of a limited government was unrealistic or archaic. On the contrary, the general theme of history textbooks that I recall was valuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, though admittedly there was a bit less emphasis on the counterparts to MLK Jr. and other nonviolent protestors. I find it ironic that the goal here is to have a group of people that are so called representatives of the parents voting on what they think the parents want their children to be educated on. Many have already criticized this as hypocritical and for good reason, since these people only seem to want limited government when it suits their desires. Otherwise, they want bureaucrats and plutocrats to wield the power, since they know what’s best for everyone else. So parents can’t get into this? I’m hoping they will in the May voting that will revive the discussion.

To outright remove Thomas Jefferson from textbooks would frustrate even much more libertarian and conservative college friends of mine. Just because he happens to be a Deist and values the separation of church and state (however he meant it, it’s not necessarily agreed on) doesn’t mean you should replace him with John Calvin. I’m all for a comparison and contrast of views on church and state and the like, but there’s no reason to remove Jefferson from the textbooks entirely. No more reason than removing MLK Jr., however “liberal” he might have been to some political analysts. And changing the word capitalism to free-enterprise system seems unnecessary. There are other synonyms that would work: free market, laissez faire, and other terms that escape me. Similarly with the issue they have with labeling the country a democracy as opposed to a constitutional republic. It’s both in some regard, but there’s also the term representative republic coming to mind. But one could go on and on analyzing each point they’re attempting to change and find either stark inequalities or just willful ignorance to the idea of moderation of education (such as NOT putting such a large emphasis on the Second Amendment.) Guns are nice, but they’re not the best thing since sliced bread. That would be the printing press, which helped to spread the Bible many Americans love to read. A gun doesn’t spread knowledge, it spreads power, and they’re hardly identical, however related they may be.

Not to mention there’s a larger issue at hand here. From what I understand, Texas purchases a vast majority of textbooks that are published in the United States. So by association of economics, Texas has a larger influence on the publishers themselves. If they put forth such a reform in the textbooks themselves as opposed to just altering their curriculum, they could essentially rewrite history books and associated subjects to their worldview. The problem with this advocacy of the principle of majority rule is that this is more like a mob pressuring change in the system. They have advantage of numbers, so they can push through whatever they want. It’s a problem in any political or economic system when the inequality isn’t tempered by the valuing of the minority even when they lose. But the phrase “History is written by the victors” comes to mind here quite poignantly. This also connects to the issue of homeschooling, since the way I keep reading about these changes to the books you’d think they were rewriting history to completely remove non Christians from the books. It stands to reason that they might as well just purchase textbooks that do that, unless there somehow aren’t textbooks that are based in the prevalent fundamentalist Christian patriotic school of thought that pervades the homeschooling environment. But to do yet another thing that tries to cross the wall of separation of church and state to the detriment of learning about the historical influence of Jefferson, Lincoln and the like on culture and politics is going beyond any understanding of an informed education. I can only hope this goes through more stages of adjustment in May, or my future children will suffer an ignoble blow to their understanding of the complex nature of such things like history, politics, economics and even religion. And I don’t think I have the capacity to homeschool, since I can barely teach myself to remember things half the time. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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