Texas Spins History, Again

cowboy.jpgIn a straight party-line vote, ten people on the Texas "Board of Education" voted Friday to change history textbooks to advance right-wing ideological positions on historical matters (the five members of the other party voted against the measures as a whole). Because Texas is one of the most populous states in the union, the contents that it requires in its history books will affect the quality of historical education students receive in other states. (Hawai'i, for example, lacks the population leverage to push for a laid-back island view of history.) In all, the Board has passed over 100 amendments to the curriculum since the beginning of the year. According to the New York Times, "no historians, sociologists or economists" were consulted during the Board's meetings on these right-wing changes, which were spearheaded by board member and dentist Don McLeroy, who claimed expertise in a host of serious educational matters not involving tooth decay.

In the "highlights" of this Texas-sized historical spin, the Board:

* Required that students learn positive things about "Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association."

* Replaced the word "capitalism" with "free-market system."

* Ordered that students learn “the unintended consequences” of progressive legislation, including "Title IX legislation" (which protects the rights of girls to have equal athletic opportunities and has actually empowered generations of women to be physically stronger and psychologically more confident) and "Great Society" legislation, which includes Medicare (health care for the elderly), Medicaid (health care for the poorest members of our society), food stamps (to help keep the poorest families from starvation), public broadcasting (that helps ensure that press coverage is not only what commercial broadcasters and their corporate sponsors will permit), consumer protection (such as health warnings about tobacco), truth-in-lending laws (which were intended to help people know the true finance charges of some types of loans), civil rights laws (which includes the Voting Rights Act that prevented poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent the poor from participating in our democracy), and environmental legislation. Yep, there sure is a lot there for the right-wing to be concerned about -- little girls as athletes rather than simply cheering the boys on from the bleachers and efforts to help keep the poor from starving to death or dying from being denied basic medical assistance!

* Insisted that textbooks stress that Americans of German and Italian heritage were held by the government during World War II to undermine the historical fact that anti-Japanese racism led to exponentially greater numbers and proportions of the population of Americans of Japanese heritage being stripped of their property and moved to prison camps. (The Board wants to counter the idea that any "racism" was involved in Japanese internment decisions.) The attempt to make these black marks on our history of equal magnitude really is "white" washing.

* Demanded that McCarthyism be defended, because there were some actual communists who were discovered;

* Deleted founding father Thomas Jefferson "from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century," and replaced him with conservative religious figures St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, and also made changes that called into question the U.S. tradition of the "separation of church and state," despite efforts of the Framers of the Constitution to ensure that no religious oaths were required by the Constitution among other protections from religious persecution or preferential treatment via the government.

* And blocked efforts to include more Latino Americans as examples of leaders in government, business, and society.

But don't worry, pard'ner, there's a thirty-day public comment period before the partisan Board ignores public sentiment and imposes its agenda on young minds in Texas and elsewhere. (And, Dr. McLeroy lost his primary last month to more moderate Republicans than he, but the right-wing block on the Board still has the votes to ratify its re-write of history.)

They really do make things big in Texas, including the spin and propaganda!

Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of PRWatch.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



So your system of thought can't withstand the mention of the NRA and F.A. Hayak? Poor baby... Do you really think legislation doesn't have unintended consequences? It does, and unfortunately, it almost alway will. One side's legislation does seem to have more of it though. Poor baby would rather not have to think about those consequences... Poor baby.

Of course there are unintended consequences, just look at the disaster that is named "no child left behind," but maybe some of those consequences actually were intended. Seriously, though, the dark consequences of Title IX are what, funding for both girls and boys basketball or a little less funding for extra football coaches so girls can play soccer? Talk about sore losers and cry babies. And, I never mentioned Hayek. As for the NRA, it's not clear by which criteria interest groups get into or out of the list for inculcation. I'm not a card carrying member but I grew up shooting and have damn straight aim, but does the right to bear arms include the right to build bombs or missiles--that question has been raised in legal opinions--and if not then what is the test for regulation. Certainly from a membership and money standpoint it's a big and influential group, with some leaders who have stood up for liberty in other areas, like Bob Barr, but it's repeated misinformation campaigns that Obama or Gore were going to take away people's firearms are just fear tactics utterly devoid of facts. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be mentioned in history books. If you can tolerate ensuring the downside of Title IX is underscored (as if it's some sort of "fair and balanced" tit for tat rather than proportionate to the benefits versus the costs, will you tolerate the downside or flipside of the NRA or Phyllis? I doubt it. Poor anonymous. I'm sure your history books were just filled with liberal teachings like terms of presidents, wars and major battles. That "liberal" bias just skewed your education, I'm sure. The poor right-wing with its boogeymen of liberal secondary education history books. And, if the dentist were spearheading a re-write of the history of the dental arts, I might have more sympathy....

Go, Lisa! Anon is just another right wing troll, who has a job keeping 'orthodoxy' safe on the ever erasable internet. We know they're lying, they know they're lying, and they know that we know they're lying. Then they proudly lie, telling us 'I have MY version of reality, reality be damned!' The repugs are against an educated population, 'cos it interferes with repug power and profit. Anything they can do, to short circuit education or throw a monkey wrench into the works, they will do. And if they can steal some taxpayer money while promoting nazi know nothing ideology - like Lamar Alexander does with Whittle / Channel 1; or Neil and Bar bush do with Excite; or text publishers do with 'Intelligent Design' in Kansas, Dover, PA, or Texas - well, that's just a little lagnaippe for them, just an added bonus on top of their primary goal of destroying public education and crushing the unionized intelligensia who toil to help young Americans become smarter.

This is not the first time american history textbooks have been re-written to either leave out important information and include fictitious or one sided accounts of half truths to further propaganda and mind control. They'll only teach children what they want them to learn to ensure they grow up to be the kind of people who will vote a certain way, buy certain products and continue to be brainwashed to become racist, god fearing, gun carrying misogynists. What's new? What happens when they go (if they even make it) to college? Are they going to be able to keep up in American History class with all the other facts or is history going to be changed again and again to pacify those already lied to? Or will history's accounts become what the word ''reality'' (as in reality TV being actually scripted and not real at all) has become? Don't learn this because even though it's factual, it's not my opinion it will be to your best interest. We're teaching children that it's okay to leave out information (basically lying) as long as it's negative? There are always different sides to a story, is history just another opinion or side to the story anyway and shouldn't there be a choice to which story is the truth? Kids are smarter than you think and just because a history event is negative doesn't mean they can't handle the truth. The truth is they are in danger being at school in the first place. What does these books say about NRA and what does the NRA say about Columbine- if it's even in these books? Why isn't there more focus on the American History Textbooks that already have these falsities in them? What if these kids are not as stupid as the school board makes them out to be and what if they get their information from other sources (as they often do today with the internet) and they challenge these textbooks? Will this urge more parents to send their children into alternative schools or home school? I'd like to see if these books say anything about the alleged 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'' and the fact that the US generates these weapons. Youtube "drunk history"- where you can probably get a better depiction of truth from than these books.

One could argue that politicization of education is an inevitable consequence of public schools with electable school boards; but school board members can and should both show restraint in acting on their own biases and defer to experts when formulating curricula. In this case, the Texas school board did neither. It is not the job of public schools to teach morality, but rather reading, writing, and arithmetic. Personal responsibility for one's actions shouldn't be taught at school; it is something that parents must teach at home, or that should be taught at church. http://www.theinductive.com/blog/2010/3/16/fake-history-in-texas.html

I think this story I just stumbled upon is one sided. You should have been at the hearings. It was full of people and everyone had their own opinions. Everything can't be put in print. The real problem here is textbooks. You see if we quit going with textbooks and give every kid a laptop and free ISP and put everything (links) online through a State database, it would allow all the info to be read. As it stands we still use books which is just silly. There is just not enough room in a book anymore for everyone to agree with what we teach our kids. Get over it.

I really appreciate your note and the notes of others who have weighed in. I think you're right that textbooks are probably too small for everything to be included that should be in there. At the same time, with every aspect of history and teaching, it seems, being disputed, textbooks are probably too big a space for what little there is with agreement any more. And, you make a great point about online learning being the future. I just hope that somewhere in the curriculum or at home kids are taught to question assertions, investigate facts, and analyze the differences between opinion and evidence as well as discern fallacious reasoning in superficially appealing claims, regardless of politics. Also, I didn't mean to pick on Texas this week! I was there just last month, again, and met some wonderful concerned citizens and super-nice people. Just the confluence of the Board of Ed actions and Dick Armey in the news again.... Thanks for reading and joining in the conversation! Lisa

.... while the rest of the world moves forward, the USA steps back. Again. Sucks to be you, and particularly sucks to be your children.

Being amazed today is not a hard thing to do. The cons are out and about to run us screaming nuts. Yes the right is in power for the good ole boys in Texas cut a wide swath to pick up big checks from our communed held wealth. Those fat cats could care less about the children in Texas for to them our kids are just fodder for them to eat. And the clowns abound down here in Texas they run the gambit from being totally nuts to on the edge of being put in a straight jacket. Some of the worst are in Congress, others sit as our Judges, and Rick Perry does a good job of taking care and passing the money bucket around to his big buds. Our children get new text books each year--- I suppose history needs to get a new spin maybe leave a few things out along the way that does not work or sit well with those in power. How’s about new math books has math changed much in the last 2,000 years?