Speaking of ‘indoctrination’…

SPEAKING OF ‘INDOCTRINATION’…. President Obama wants to encourage young people to do well in school. The right has deemed this an outrageous attempt at “indoctrination.”

But for those who really are interested in attempts to “indoctrinate” students with a political agenda, there’s a far more obvious example — which, wouldn’t you know it, conservative activists don’t find troubling.

As regular readers know, we’ve been keeping an eye on the Texas Board of Education, which has been working on a social studies curricula steeped in conservative Republican ideology. Given the right’s new apoplexy about schools and politics, Justin Elliott has a good item summarizing the problem.

The GOP-controlled State Board of Education is working on a new set of statewide textbook standards for, among other subjects, U.S. History Studies Since Reconstruction. And it turns out what the board decides may end up having implications far beyond the Lone Star State.

The first draft of the standards, released at the end of July, is a doozy. It lays out a kind of Human Events version of U.S. history.

Approved textbooks, the standards say, must teach the Texan student to “identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority.” No analogous liberal figures or groups are required, prompting protests from some legislators and committee members.

Board members — 10 Republicans to 5 Democrats — have recommended downplaying the contributions of civil rights leaders, minimizing an “emphasis on multiculturalism,” and trying to “exonerate” Joe McCarthy.

And let’s also not forget that these indoctrination efforts may have broader implications. As we talked about in July, what happens in Texas doesn’t necessarily stay in Texas. Textbook publishers are reluctant to create different materials for different states, and when one big customer makes specific demands, the frequent result is changes to textbooks nationwide.

Dana Goldstein adds that this reinforces the value in national curriculum standards, an idea pushed by the National Governors’ Association and supported by the Obama administration. “If 46 states can come together around core standards, it means a populous, outlier state like Texas will have less influence over textbook manufacturers,” Dana noted.

As for those deeply concerned about the politicization of America’s classrooms, I’m sure the right-wing critics of the president’s stay-in-school message will be quick to denounce the conservative efforts in Texas. Any minute now.