My fab friend Sarah H. recently posted an eye-opening article on Facebook: “Is the Texas School Board Rewriting History?” The piece, including a video clip, aired in March on PBS’ series Need to Know. It outlines the Texas School Board’s vote to eliminate and rewrite information in textbooks. Every 10 years, the school board reviews each subject’s textbooks and curriculum. The Texas school board made headlines last year for inserting Creationism and Intelligent Design into science textbooks. This time around, they took on overhauling the social studies curriculum. In May, they voted to eliminate certain terms (including “capitalism” and “imperialism”), highlight the NRA and Moral Majority, focus on the U.S.’s religious heritage as well downplay the role of Thomas Jefferson as a founding father (due to his secularism) and the separation of church and state. They say their goal is to paint a more positive view of America.
Now many of you may say, “Well that’s just crazy Texas. It doesn’t affect me.” But oh how it does. You see, Texas is the largest purchaser of textbooks in the state. So their choices impact textbooks for not just their own state but for schools across the nation. As the Washington Post stated,
“Because the Texas textbook market is so large, books assigned to the state’s 4.7 million students often rocket to the top of the market, decreasing costs for other school districts and leading them to buy the same materials.”
Don McLeroy, a dentist, former Chair of the Texas School Board of Education and an active school board member, states in the PBS video that academia teaches and researches in bias. And he’s sort of right; we all view things from our own biased view, even scientists and academics. Anthropologist Erik Wolf asserted that history is written by the “winners” and those in power. In recent years there has been a shift to try to rectify that view by incorporating myriad perspectives and experiences. Deleting words like “imperialism” and “capitalism” from textbooks (which is bullshit) just because the Texas School Board feels they bear a negative connotation is utterly ridiculous as those terms accurately describe our history. Newsflash, we invaded and colonized lands and you guessed it folks, we live in a money-based, private-owned economy. McLeroy’s potential good intentions go terribly awry in his blatant disregard for historical facts. He’s worried about an impending “liberal agenda” yet has no compunction for pushing his own religious conservative agenda down the throats of all children. As he stated in an interview with the Washington Monthly,
“…We are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”
Now, I kept wondering when sexism would creep into the story. And of course I didn’t have to wait long. McLeroy wanted to remove pictures of women carrying briefcases from textbooks and replace them with pictures of women baking cookies. Heaven forbid a woman goes to a paying job…the world must be coming to an end! Not surprising though as McLeroy voted for abstinence-only in health textbooks that discussed pregnancy and STDs. McLeroy also argues that textbooks shouldn’t claim that women won the right to vote. He asserts that since they couldn’t vote in the first place, and men could, men played the pivotal role in granting women that right. This douchebag completely ignores the struggles of women like Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt and Ida B. Wells who fought tooth and nail to earn the equality of suffrage. McLeroy argues the same stance for describing the civil rights movement too. Apparently, women and people of color still don’t count; we should thank our lucky stars the benevolent white men bestowed us with rights. Of course it had nothing whatsoever to do with all of the rallies, marches, parades and protests to raise awareness to the plight of inequality.
As Fritz Fischer, the Chairman of the National Council for History Education, told the Washington Post,
“The books that are altered to fit the standards become the bestselling books, and therefore within the next two years they’ll end up in other classrooms. It’s not a partisan issue; it’s a good history issue.”
So the Texas School Board already voted on these amendments; the changes are a done deal. But not so fast…a silver lining remains! During the latest school board elections, Don McLeroy lost to Robert Thomas Ratliff. And on July 30th, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced a House resolution HR 1593 in response to the Texas School Board’s vote to “support academically-based social studies curriculum standards for the Nation’s elementary and secondary education public school textbooks.” Sean Faircloth, the Executive Director for the Secular Coalition for America, said,
“The imposition of theocratic bias by the Texas Board of Education underscores the need for any national educational standards to apply equally…Right now standards apply to English and math, but fail to encompass social studies and science as well – the two areas most vulnerable to theocratic meddling. The passage of Rep. Johnson’s resolution would send an unmistakable signal that our Congress will not stand for our children’s education being tampered with to suit a religious-extremist agenda based on religious bias and outright falsehoods.”
So please contact your Representative and urge them to pass this bill. If this resolution doesn’t pass, I weep for the children of Texas and for all future generations in this country.