Texas standards ‘a debacle for public education’

TEXAS STANDARDS ‘A DEBACLE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION’…. It just keeps getting worse.

After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it. […]

Battles over what to put in science and history books have taken place for years in the 20 states where state boards must adopt textbooks, most notably in California and Texas. But rarely in recent history has a group of conservative board members left such a mark on a social studies curriculum.

Keep in mind, the right-wing activists on the board are just relying on their own wishes — 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.

The results are predictably ridiculous:

* Domestic politics: Students will now have to learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

* Civil Rights era: The curriculum will mandate that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers, and emphasize that many Republican lawmakers voted for civil rights laws.

* McCarthyism: History lessons must tell students that Joe McCarthy’s suspicions were later “confirmed.”

* Economics: The new curriculum add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek to lesson plans, and replaces the word “capitalism” with “free-enterprise system.”

* Founding Fathers: Among 18th century figures whose work inspired revolutions, Thomas Jefferson has been cut, replaced with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and William Blackstone. Jefferson is generally hated by right-wing activists for his support of church-state separation.

Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network described all of this as “a debacle for public education.”

And as our own Mariah Blake explained in the Monthly‘s print edition, “[W]hen it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas. The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers.”

A final vote on the curriculum standards will be taken in May, but given the right-wing domination of the board, the outcome appears to be a foregone conclusion.