3/14/2010

Texas Stupidity Spreads

Everyone gets a chuckle out of the good ol' boy, cowboy, teased hair and shit kicker boot loving Texans. They're sort of America's version of a running sitcom with their chest thumping threats to secede, their mega churches and generally insane world view.

But, Texas happens to be a big state and probably our biggest mistake in admitting it in whole. That means that some decisions they make in that joke of a legislature affect all of us. One of those decisions is textbooks. Texas is large enough that they can influence exactly what is taught in schools around the nation. They want some right wing Christian nuttery in their textbooks, the companies are going to put it in for economic reasons. That means every other school system in the country is going to have to possibly use that same textbook in their classrooms. If every publishes (and it often happens this way) decides to try for the biggest cut of pie in the USA, then there are no alternatives.

That is exactly what is happening at the moment. The Texas state board of education passed new "textbook standards" that lay out only their warped fantasy of American History can be mentioned in their textbooks. So, they put the emphasis on learning about John Calvin, a minor player in the Reformation ahead of learning about Thomas Jefferson and John Locke whose ideas shaped our system of government. The reason? Jefferson was a Deist (meaning he did not believe in a personal god) while Calvin is a "good Christian" because his religious philosophies eventually grew into what is now Right Wing Protestant Evangelical Christianity. Likewise, minority groups were stripped from the textbooks. Students will not hear about the Tejanos who fought at the Alamo. Instead, they will be taught they were all good Christian Anglos fighting against evil Mexicans. Likewise, a section of a book that explored institutional racism in the United States was expunged on the vote of the majority white board. Other standards approved were "American Exceptionalism" which promotes the United States as the best in everything in the world since its founding and "Free Enterprise" which teaches that any government regulation stifles economic growth and personal security.


Positively amazing and makes you wonder what kind of educators are making these decisions. But, that's the point, they're not educators. They're a dentist and a bunch of ultra right wing lawyers. Not a teacher or historian among them.

Is that not astounding? The people who decide what books should be used in our schools and what should be taught know absolutely NOTHING about the subject matter. They pick and choose based upon their fantasies of how things should be. They choose not based on historical or scientific facts but rather to promote their own world view and to whitewash their own complicity in terrible historic events.

I'm thinking that unless something changes radically with Texas, we can soon be expecting things like slavery to be portrayed once again as a benevolent system of employment and segregation to be completely dropped from history books altogether - or maybe presented nostalgically as "the good ol' days."

But, what they are really doing is perpetuating a divided America. When I was in school I had older white teachers who taught that:

1. Slavery wasn't all that bad. Slaves were not mistreated EVER because they were too valuable. They were given free healthcare, housing, food, and clothing.
2. The Civil War was not fought because the South wished to protect the institution of slavery but rather because there were some disputes over taxes.
3. All the abolitionists wanted to end slavery not out of compassion or morality but because they hated the slaves and wanted to get them out of the United States before they destroyed the moral fabric of the nation.

Yup, those were actually lessons taught by some of my teachers. This was in South Carolina in the 70's to early 80's. Imagine my disgust when I finally had a teacher who actually taught us facts and not white pride propaganda! Imagine my sick feeling when I read primary sources on my own that showed my teachers, whom I'd trusted and loved had lied to me. Not only lied but attempted to pervert my entire world view so that their own prejudices and hatreds could be perpetuated into the future.

I managed to avoid this racist and right wing indoctrination because I lucked up with a decent teacher and a textbook from a college level class from which she taught. But many of my classmates were not that lucky. Their view of the world was forever warped by early teachers. They never were interested in history so never looked beyond what was in the textbook and what they were told in class. They went on to become things like lawyers and dentists. Today, they perpetuate the lies of white power and right wing ideology they were taught because they remained ignorant and they are now too old to learn reality from white pride fantasy.

In Texas, that ignorance means we all pay the price.

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