Friday, March 26, 2010

Just How Nutty is the Texas Board of Education?

Just How Nutty is the Texas Board of Education?


Right-wing fanatics are turning "Texas education" into

an oxymoron.


by Jim Hightower


March 25, 2010


In the good-and-good-for-you department, food scientists

are now touting the health benefits of enjoying a

handful of nuts every day.


I, for one, am glad, because I love nuts -- pecans,

hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, you-name-'em. But my

favorite nuts, by far, are the homegrown natives that

have taken root in one particularly fertile area of my

state: the Texas Board of Education. You just can't get

any nuttier than this bunch!


This board, little-known even to us Texans, has lately

risen to national notoriety, making our state's

educational system a punch line for comedians

everywhere. That's because a handful of ultra-right-wing

nutcases have taken over this elected overseer of Texas

educational policy, and they're hell-bent to supplant

classroom education with their own brand of ideological



Their way of achieving this political goal is to rewrite

the state standards that textbook publishers must follow

to get the lucrative contracts for providing teaching

materials for every student in the state, from first

grade through high school.


Their latest exercise in ideological correctness comes

at the expense of the social studies curriculum. They

spent last week going through guidelines for history,

government, economics and sociology textbooks, purging

references that offend their doctrinaire sensibilities

and substituting their own nutty biases and ignorance.


How nutty? Take Thomas Jefferson. They did! They

literally did take Jefferson off a list of revolutionary

political thinkers from the Enlightenment period,

replacing him with a favorite of Christian

fundamentalists, John Calvin. Thus, the prime author of

our Declaration of Independence -- poof -- disappeared!

Jefferson's unpardonable transgression? He coined the

term "separation between church and state."


Any concepts that might spur progressive thoughts in

young minds were also expunged. "Justice," for example,

was stripped from a list of virtues meant to teach

grade-schoolers the characteristics of good citizenship.

No doubt the board majority would love to get its hands

on the Pledge of Allegiance's assertion of "justice for

all," but luckily, the pledge doesn't come under the

members' purview. Yet.


The nuts were able to strike "responsibility for the

common good" from the citizenship characteristics list,

however, and they just missed deleting the American

ideal of "equality." They also narrowly lost on a vote

to impose a new requirement that students be taught that

the civil rights movement created "unreasonable

expectations," but they did manage to balance the

positive impact of Martin Luther King Jr. with an

insistence that the "positives" of Joe McCarthy's witch-

hunt for commies and of Jefferson Davis' secessionist

government also be taught.


Likewise, the full-tilt rightists expelled Delores

Huerta, the much-admired farm worker leader, from a list

of "good citizenship" models, airily dismissing this

courageous champion of justice as a socialist. On the

other hand, they mandated that Phyllis Schlafly, the

Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich's Contract With

America be taught as historic icons of a "conservative

resurgence" in America.


One especially delicious moment came when the board

considered a listing of world leaders who fought

political repression. On the list was Archbishop Oscar

Romero of El Salvador, who led an indigenous poor

people's movement in the 1980s before the country's

right-wing death squads assassinated him as he was

celebrating mass.


The board cut Romero from the list, declaring that he

lacked the stature of such other repression fighters as

Gandhi. After all, one board member explained, unlike

Gandhi, Romero had not had a movie made about his life,

so how important could who've been? But -- oops! -- there

was a popular 1989 feature film called "Romero" about

the archbishop's exemplary life. The board was

embarrassed, but it axed him anyway.


Words were banned, too. The phrase "democratic

societies," for example was replaced by the cumbersome

"societies with representative government." And even the

term "capitalism" was censored for having a negative

connotation. Instead, the board decreed that "free

enterprise" be used throughout all social studies

courses. In addition, all references to the Age of

Enlightenment were dropped, because ... well, because

these full-fledged political purists don't want any

concept based on reason getting into the heads of our

school kids.


Texas education wasn't that great before all this

folderal, but these doctrinaire morons are turning

"Texas education" into an oxymoron.


Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer,

public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim

Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the

Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly

"Hightower Lowdown," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.




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