I always thought that school boards are made up of dull, but sane and reasonable people who make good decisions about education. Then I heard about the Texas Board of Education. They have been debating for several months about the curriculum of public schools throughout the entire state. The debate is mainly between extreme conservatives on the board and the remainder which consists of moderates and liberals. The conservatives on the board feel that current textbooks, having been written by “academics,” have an unfair liberal bias and that by making certain amendments, they will restore balance to the classroom.
Specific examples of the Texas school curriculum that will be changed are, “stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.” Doctor Don McLeroy, a board member, insists that, through these changes, they are restoring balance and that, “academia is skewed too far to the left.” Dr. McLeroy has degrees in electrical engineering and dental science, which leads me to question what makes him think he is qualified to say there is a liberal bias in history, economics, or biology. Dr. McLeroy even attempted to give Republicans credit for the civil rights movement, which he claims some Republicans supported. While this may be true, social conservatives in the United States consistently fought that movement.
Another board member, David Bradley, is quoted as offering $1,000 for a charity of one’s choice if that person can present evidence of a constitutionally mandated separation between church and state. It’s been over four years since high school, so I could be wrong, but…
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
U.S. Constitution – First Amendment
“…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
U.S. Constitution – Article 6, Section 3
I learned this at my public high school. I’m not normally one to rub a legal document in someone’s face, but Mr. Bradley’s comment begged it. I do it without apology.
There are many other aspects of the new curriculum that are not right. There is the virtual exclusion of Latino historical figures. There is an amendment to require the teaching that the Venona papers confirmed the presence of Soviet spies in the United States, somehow justifying Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt in the 1950s. Because of Thomas Jefferson’s opinions on the separation of church and state, his role in inspiring revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries was cut from Texas’ curriculum.
There are too many things to mention all of them here. I value the education I received in public school. All of my teachers were very fair about how they handled historical events, evolution, public opinion, etc. They did not sway far to the left or to the right, nor did the textbooks. I feel sorry for Texan students and I fear for the future of education across the United States. Texas is a large purchaser of textbooks and textbook companies will be more inclined to produce one set of textbooks for the entire country. This does not necessarily mean that those companies will be compelled to print books that conform to Texas’ new curriculum. It just means that they will feel some pressure to put some conservative spin into a vital teaching tool.
Thank you for reading this wall of text. It upset me enough that I had to get all the way through this.