The Texas textbook travesty

THE TEXAS TEXTBOOK TRAVESTY…. After a contentious debate and international scrutiny, right-wing activists in control of Texas’ State Board of Education did exactly what they set out to do: they approved a new social studies curriculum that ignores reality, and reflects history the way they wish it happened.

The State Board of Education Board, ending nearly two years of politically divisive deliberations, approved new social studies curriculum standards for the state’s 4.7 million students despite vigorous objections from the board’s five minority members.

The revisions have drawn national attention amid complaints that conservative Republicans on the board are attempting to alter history and trying to inject their political beliefs into the curriculum. […]

The curriculum, which will be used in classrooms beginning with the 2011-12 school year, will also serve as a template for new textbooks. They will remain in effect for more than a decade…. With one member absent, the board voted 9-5 to accept the new curriculum for kindergarten, elementary school and high school.

As we’ve been reporting for months, the board’s version of history is a fairly ridiculous one, which will now be imposed on public school students.

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated — something most historians deny — draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses, say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty, and include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.

Of particular interest, the new standards dictate that students must “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association.”

A majority of the state board took an especially hostile view of the separation of church and state — which, of course, has been removed from the curriculum — and board member Cynthia Dunbar (R) spoke for her cohorts when she insisted the nation’s origins were “a Christian land governed by Christian principles,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

At its core, this is not just a travesty for academic integrity and students in Texas, but it’s also a reminder of what’s gone horribly wrong with the twisted right-wing worldview. These state officials have decided they simply don’t care for reality, so they’ve replaced it with a version of events that makes them feel better. The result is an American history in which every era has been distorted to satisfy the far-right ego.

Of course, the concern outside of Texas has been that the state-mandated ignorance might spread — Texas is the nation’s second-largest customer for textbooks, and “publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers.” This week, however, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNN that he does not believe there will be a “ripple effect” that undermines education elsewhere.

Texas school kids, however, will be punished by the right-wing agenda, and there’s not much anyone can do about it.