Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Texas twist: textbooks unfit for consumption

Texas Gov. Rick Perry knew what he was doing when he declared with a straight face that he might lead a Lone Star State movement to secede from the rest of the United States and go it alone because of Washington policies. Such brash, wacky talk helped him beat the far more moderate, even-keeled Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the GOP primary.

Perry offered more big talk, which Texans relish. Yet, it's not big talk, but lunacy that's happening over at the state's Board of Education. The 10-member majority consists of unabashed far-out conservatives who are vowing to help create a new national group-think tilted toward their politics by approving social studies textbooks they deem historically correct and ideologically pure. The five-member minority's opposition has been futile.

Don't scoff. As the largest state buyer of school textbooks, Texas, in effect, forces publishers to adopt the Lone Star versions that are also sold in other states.

So, reasons the Texas education board, if other states teach young people what Texans believe about American history, in a generation or so the adult mindset will be canted toward conservatism.

Not all Texans are sanguine about this attempt to twist, rewrite and blur history.

Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd, among others, writes that "this whacked-out troop of under qualified ideologues ... embarrass us, humiliate us, make us look like a bunch of goobers."

A list of inclusions and omissions as well as twisted history suggests the board is unapologetically racist, revisionist and obsessed by what they consider "liberal."

The board eliminated listing eight Tejanos (Texas Mexicans) who died alongside Davey Crockett at the Alamo 174 years ago. It de-emphasized Thomas Jefferson and ordered more history about Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The board also included data suggesting it agreed with Sen. Joe McCarthy's allegations that the U.S. State Department was crawling with communists in the 1950s (never proven by McCarthy).

Hip-hop, mostly a black phenomenon, also was rejected for inclusion in the textbooks as an influence on culture.

The board majority also rejected requirements that teachers and textbooks cover the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, but increased textbook attention to President Ronald Reagan. The board has until May to change its mind. Not likely.

Textbook publishers should have the courage to print a Texas version and then protect the rest of the nation from this perilous, poisonous political demagoguery with more sensible versions for other American students.

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