Only this time, it's not just science they're going after. History has come under the withering glare of the religious right in Texas, and there's a healthy helping of both misogyny and racism thrown in there for good measure. The biographies of some members of the board are enough on their own:
Rev. Peter Marshall, for example, one of their appointed academic experts, wants to restore America, according to the website of his Massachusetts-based ministry, "to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America's Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival.” He also believes that Hurricane Katrina, Watergate and the Vietnam War are the result of divine wrath.Watergate? The Vietnam War? Hokay. I don't think I'm being Mr. Overly-Sensitive-Atheist when I suggest that maybe this guy ought not have a major say in Social Studies curriculum. To say he'd have a skewed view of US history is to be very kind.
But then we get a taste of what he'd like to do to the curriculum.
Marshall, along with his fellow reviewer David Barton, did not believe that students in the public education system should learn about Hutchinson:Because women couldn't have done anything of note in early US history, I guess, other than make trouble. Sarah Vowell talks a fair amount about Hutchinson in The Wordy Shipmates, a terrific book. She made trouble, all right, but she did a lot more than that.Anne Hutchinson does not belong in the company of these eminent gentlemen. She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn't accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble." (emphasis added)One of the original Puritans, Hutchinson disagreed with some of the scriptural teachings of the religious leaders and began hosting her own Bible study classes in her home. For this crime, Hutchinson was placed on trial and banished from her community. Later, she and her exiled family were killed in a Siwanoy attack.
But Marshall isn't done yet in denigrating the contributions and accomplishments of non-white-males. Oh, no. He gets a two-fer here.
Both [Dan] Barton and Phillips recommended that César Chavez, labor organizer and civil rights leader, and Thurgood Marshall — this nation’s first black US Supreme Court justice and who, as a young attorney, successfully argued the public school desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education — be removed from textbooks because they aren’t worthy role models for students.Let that wash over you. Let it sink in. The first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court and the most prominent (at the time) Latino civil rights activist aren't worthy role models for students. If César Chavez and Thurgood Marshall aren't worthy role models for students, then who the hell is? This is Pat "white people built it all" Buchanan quality thinking here.
The reason this matters, though, is because Texas has an inordinate amount of pull in the school textbook industry. Texas buys so many textbooks that the publishers all compete to be their supplier, and that limits the offerings to the other states, because publishers aren't going to spend the money on different versions with different standards. We get stuck with the stupid.
I have hopes that, in the long run, the increased availability and use of electronic texts will end Texas's stranglehold over the K-12 textbook market, but we're nowhere near the saturation point necessary for that to happen. Until then, if you have kids or if you're worried about this sort of garbage infecting the educational system, you have to get involved at the School Board level. You have to fight over textbook standards, even though it may be tedious and tiring.
Every so often, some polling company tests the US public on basic facts of history and civics, and every time, American citizens come off as the world's biggest ignoramuses, and this sort of stuff is part of the reason. Joe Public can tell you who won "American Idol" but can't tell you who his Representative or Senators are (or even how many of each he has). She can tell you what's happening on "True Blood" but doesn't know what the Bill of Rights is. That's the problem, in part, because we don't teach it, and we don't learn it, and we don't reinforce it over time. But the kind of crap that these people in Texas are trying to pull only make it worse.