Textbooks for the Children of Dolts

March 15, 2010

Jefferson, nyet!.........St. Thomas, da!

Textbook-wise we’re being dumbed-down by conservative religionists operating with the Texas State School Board who want to return us to the 17th and/or 18th century, but without the Enlightenment.  Blame free market capitalism which will chase a buck no matter what the consequences for the greater good —rank air, dead seas, species extinction, who cares if it means a better bottom line?  Have these folks never heard about the “arrow of time“, or Thomas Wolfe’s wise observation, “You can’t go home again?”  And what about a similar idea from the bible summarized, “Put your hand on the plow, don’t look back“?   

The truth is progress is a one-way street for textbook companies who must make a buck. The state of Texas is their biggest customer, so dumbing down school textbooks, filling them with fiction, and garnishing them with Christian sanctimony, is just good business if it means satisfying dogmatists and sectarian proselytizers with checkbooks.  Forget about what it does for the future prospects of young Americans who must compete in a global market requiring a fundamentally (no irony intended) sound education.  

If it were just Texas that was affected by the recent victory of Bible-centric conservatives striving to down-grade textbook standards it would be a pity for just Texan children —which might be god’s way of punishing Texas for its obtuse backwardness.  But because of the economic clout of the Lonestar state  in the buying of textbooks we must pity all American students —ah, if only Texas were really lone (all alone) floating somewhere between Mexico and the U.S. trying to wring sound science and practical sustenance out of a 3000-year-old book of legends).  Sadly, these new textbook guidelines will corrupt the textbooks that will be the basic reading material of most children in the United States; instead they’ll be studying info that has been yanked politically rightward, colored by religious dogma, historically questionable, scientifically untenable, and fictional at least in part.   

Here are some of the things the Texas State School Board wants to change in
school textbooks (From Texas Freedom Network):  

“Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for
separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture
about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment
‘not historically accurate’ “.   

“Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans
vote no, Democrats vote yes.  

“Let the word go out here: The Texas State Board of Education today refused
to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government
from promoting one religion overall others. They voted to lie to students by


“Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students
study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to
the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing
with ‘the writings of’) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and
others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers
listed in the standards.
We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out
that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas
and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist?
The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history

“Board member Barbara Cargill wants to insert a discussion of the right to bear
arms in a standard that focuses on First Amendment rights and the expression of
various points of view.
This is absurd. If they want students to study the right to bear arms, at least try to
find an appropriate place in the standards for it. This is yet another example of
politicians destroying the coherence of a curriculum document for no reason other
than promoting ideological pet causes. Republican board member Bob Craig of Lubbock
is suggesting a better place for such a standard. But the amendment passes anyway.
The board’s far-right faction is simply impervious to logic.

It’s pretty clear that Republicans (many of the changes passed on party-line votes) and far-right conservatives in general have no compunction about using the Texas State School board as an instrument of the right to slant American history to favor their ideological view regardless of what that history may actually be.  They’re shameless in this regard.  It’s also clear what the economic rationale of textbook publishers is. 

Since Texas is the nation’s biggest buyer of textbooks, publishers must rewrite history to mollify conservative Texans, it’s the way capitalism works. The cost/benefit analysis for textbook publishers is simple: it would be unprofitable to turn out historically truthful and accurate books untainted by religious bias if they won’t sell in Texas.  And it would be even more economically unsound to publish separate lines of textbooks: one for the children of dolts and one for kids of parents who are not afraid of the truth and who care about how their children and the nation will fare in global competition.   

Since “the rapture” is just around the corner for fundamentalists (or is at least a real possibility), the day-to-day future of their offspring or the country is not their front-burner concern.  Better to prepare their kids for mass assumption into heaven to meet Jesus in the clouds. 

Meanwhile the Lord is probably weeping at how his simple teaching of love and justice for the poor could have become so methodically misrepresented by hierarchies, misused by demagogues, tortured by theologians, and pathetically misunderstood by the faithful.


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