Monday, March 15, 2010

Texas Thrashes History: Will We Need Honest History Month Now?

This post has been updated and is now syndicated in its entirety with edits at

The people who keep asking "Is Black History Month still necessary?" may have to concede, thanks to Texas, that months acknowledging the contributions of specific groups may be more necessary than ever now and in the future. In fact, thanks to Texas, we may have to start something called "Honest History Month," 30 days of untwisted education. Yes, this post is about the Texas State Board of Education opting for social studies and history books that stress a conservative world view and how that move will affect your child's education and possibly America's political future.

If you've missed the story, here's a lead from the New York Times:
After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, 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.
That last part about "questioning the Founding Fathers' commitment to a purely secular government," should disturb you because it's referring to a belief that there's no such thing as separation of church and state.

There's a teaching among Christians, Dominion Theology, that says America is a Christian nation and therefore its laws may impose Christian moral standards on citizens. Say good-bye Civil Rights. Christian moral standards have been used in the past to promote segregation, that black people are cursed by God and deserve to be treated as such (justification for the slave trade), and that the head of woman is man (justification for a Patriarchy). So, condition a generation of children to think that there's no such thing as the separation of church and state and see where that road takes you.

I tossed Black History Month into this discussion because studying why we have BHM and how it came to be offers a lesson in how distorting history can swing opinion about certain groups and influence political decisions. Like so many issues in America, race is a factor in this Texas story as well. More from NYT:
Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

“They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”
Right now we're in Women's History Month, another spotlight on a marginalized group. If you downplay feminism and promote the likes of a Phyllis Schafly more to fill the void, what are you really doing?

So, Texas is doing something even more insidious than marginalizing a minority or oppressed group, which could be construed as an oversight. The Texas decision is a move to change the political landscape beginning with your child. Before you say, "Oh, well, I don't live in Texas so that doesn't concern me," please consider the following: Texas is so big that its textbook purchases can influence the history books used by other school systems in America, according to CNN and also Gabriel Winant writing at Winant's opinion piece tells why he thinks Texas's decision is dangerous.

While Texas just voted for what they're calling a "more balanced" history, conservative claims that America has been corrupted by liberal spin in education is not new. In July 2008, Leslie Madsen Brooks, who also blogs at The Clutter Museum, published at, "Are Liberal Professors Brainwashing Our Youth?" She said "no" and called the notion alarmist.

I think that these Republican and conservative Texans, with a completely different view from Madsen, believe they're doing just that, sounding the alarm against liberal tyranny. I suspect they see themselves as the Paul Reveres of the day.

But let the rest of us wake up, people! Pay attention. These Texas conservatives are employing the strategy of cooking the frog slowly. Should you object, I'm sure Texans who support this curriculum change have a ready answer for you: "States' Rights!"

The bright side of this is, per CNN and NYT, that digital publishing makes it possible for states that don't want to go the way of Texas to design their own textbooks. So, what does that mean? Will we be a nation of dueling histories? Is there no room for an objective telling of actual events?

Udated, 7:44 CST: I decided to add this ABC video that I received in email from a fellow blogger. The video is a profile of Dr. Don McElroy, the Republican who is excercising his power to influence what your children think. He's a dentist and self-described fundamentalist Christian who believes this world must be restored to biblical principals. Watch.


Anonymous said...

Two words come to mind, blue eyed devil! He looks like that killer BTK.....

Mary said...

I wish Texas would secede: we'll keep Austin and Dallas, and don't let the door hit your asses on the way out, buckos. Or better yet, see if Mexico will take the state back.

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

OMG, CactusRose. I looked up the BTK killer and you are right! Dennis Rader, BTK killer.

Mary, thank you. Gov. Perry has said Texas could secede.