They’d been working at this awhile. Earlier this year, conservatives had advised changing the Texas science curriculum so that the theory of evolution would be treated with greater skepticism, just like global warming and other frauds. (They got a split decision — the Board disapproved of language against Darwin, but allowed schools to also teach alternatives to evolution, such as Intelligent Design and Jesus On a Dinosaur.)
In this week’s social studies curriculum vote, the reviewers’ recommendations to the board received a more sweeping endorsement. The Board approved many big changes, including removal of Thomas Jefferson from a discussion of the Enlightenment; adding Soviet archival evidence to suggest that McCarthy-era blacklisters were right to throw people out of their jobs on suspicion of Communistic sympathies; removing multicultural figures like Anne Hutchinson, Cesar Chavez, and Colin Powell, etc. Some of the removed figures and ideas were replaced with God and Jesus. In an earlier vote, they nixed discussions of the separation of church and state. A final vote will be held in May.
One of the conservative reviewers was Rev. Peter Marshall, whom the Wall Street Journal says “preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God’s judgments on the nation’s sexual immorality.” Marshall found the state’s teaching of history communistic. “Reading through the [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills] as they are currently constituted could give the impression that history just ‘happens,’ that random impersonal forces control events,” he wrote. “That is, of course, the false teaching of Marxism — i.e. that the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is inevitable.”
(Marxism is a major concern for these people; in January, a children’s book was briefly banned by the Board because of its members confused its author with the author of another book about Marxism, which was too close for comfort.)
Some of the Board’s changes seem merely mischievously partisan — such as one changing the reference to America’s form of government throughout the curriculum from “democratic” to “republican.” But taken together, they represent a conscious effort to indoctrinate Texas students, as conservatives have always believed is being done to kids by liberals, only this time the right way. “We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America,” says Marshall, “and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.”
The rightblogger response to this has been enthusiastic, but mostly in a selective, sometimes furtive way. Though some approved the changes wholesale, most focused on particular things to like about them — mostly, that they pissed off liberals and the newspapers allegedly in their thrall. It was a victory for them, in other words, because it was a defeat for the Left.
“The unabashed liberal bias of the mainstream media is on full display,” said Chip Bennett. “Apparently, to the far-left liberal media, any mention of the free-enterprise system, the Christian influence on the founding of our country; any less-than-utopian mention of liberalism; or any positive mention of the Constitution, conservatism, or Israel constitutes ‘far right’ influence.”
“The Texas School board has the liberals running for the hills,” cheered Right Coast Girl. “Pro-American School Curriculum Horrifies New York (Waste of) Times,” cried Moonbattery, who was enraged that the Times mentioned one of the conservatives was “a dentist by training.” “I bet your typical Texas Dentist has more common sense than a Harvard-educated Chicago community organizer, any day,” Moonbattery huffed.
“The New York Times tried to portray the Texas Board of Education members as overboard, so to speak,” said Opus at MAinfo, “but I find that the things they wanted included in the Texas curriculum should have been there all along.” (She added she’d “been blogging and praying for a year” for something like this.)
Don Surber took issue with AP calling the conservative faction “far-right” and “ultraconservatives” — why, said Surber, these carefully-selected portions of the changes I’m quoting don’t sound so radical! “Have liberals fallen so far intellectually that all they can do is push the use of B.C.E. and hop hop?” Raising the bar, Surber then similarly picked over the Times story, but ultimately judged that “the New York Times did not load up the adjectives” as AP had, and concluded, “Odd that the New York Times was more impartial than the Associated Press.” In other words, carry on hating both.
Some left the more controversial changes alone, and focused on those that appealed to them. Free Market Mojo was pleased that Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek were included in an economics module.
At Secular Right, David Hume felt it necessary to note that “Republican elites are split on evolution,” and that previous school board battles found business leaders siding with the Darwin faction. Nonetheless he decided that “resolution can only come if the Religious Right manages to capture the cultural commanding heights and make their beliefs normative, at which point they would be good for business.” (“I am skeptical, he added, “that this will happen.”) At the same site Andrew Stuttaford admitted there were some “idiocies” in the plan, but in general “was also struck by how sensible at least some of the changes (opposed by all the Democrats, it seems) appeared to be” — including the inclusion of Friedman and von Hayek.
Synthstuff also approved the Friedman-von Hayek bit, and Positive
Victory Liberty called it, “notwithstanding dubious historical, legal and religious claims the Board has insisted upon… some good news in the approved curriculum, too.” All this bodes well for conservative attempts to keep libertarians on board: Apparently all you have to do is give props to their favorite economists, and they’ll go along with anything you want.
You might be interested in the viewpoint of the Michigan blogger called A Conservative Teacher: “Yup, that’s why I went back to school to get my teaching degree, and why I am a conservative teacher — I really hope that I can catch these idiots in school before they are released into the wilds and teach them that socialist governments (like China or Soviet Union) are bad, and that Bush won the 2000 election according to the laws of our nation.” Also: “I mean, in Detroit (firmly controlled by Democrats), kids have an equal chance of being shot or graduating high school, but that’s okay to liberals and readers of the Daily Kos, as long as those students learn in their history classes about transvestites and transsexuals, and that’s wrong.”
There were a few apostates. Left Coast Rebel was among them, but suspected that the “conservatives” who pushed the changes “are really neo-cons,” as opposed to whatever kind he is. Say Anything wasn’t sure what he thought, except that the dust-up proved that the government had no business educating children (in contradiction to Jefferson’s idea of state education — that poor guy can’t get a break).
Some like Right Ideas were completely juiced by the whole thing: “[Texas] has great gun laws and now they are challenging the left-wing propaganda perpetuated in the public education text books!” “Taking back our country, one state, one text book, twenty million young minds at a time!” said Conservative American News.
They have a point: It’s speculated that, as Texas represents a massive textbook market, if these changes are approved they’ll find their way into other jurisdictions as well. Considering the state of public education, though, the new learnings would probably just be something else our young minds will misapprehend or forget entirely as soon as they get out the schoolhouse door. Few are worried about that at present; though the subject is schools, this one’s not really about the children at all, but about the politicization of everything at all times.