I get e-mail: PFAW on Texas social studies follies (“please help!”)

April 23, 2010

Jeff Danziger cartoon, for the New York Times Syndicate, on Texas State Board of Education

Jeff Danziger cartoon, for the New York Times Syndicate, on Texas State Board of Education “changes” to Texas social studies texts.

People for the American Way have joined the fight for good education in Texas, pushing better social studies education standards.  The Texas State Board of Education will conduct final votes on social studies standards in May.

Grotesque slashes damaged social studies standards in the last round of amendments.  Conservatives will probably try to keep secret their proposed changes, offering a flurry of last-minute amendments carefully designed to gut serious education and make the standards work as indoctrination for young conservatives instead.

PFAW has good reason to fear.  Here’s their letter. from PFAW President Michael Keegan:

Dear People For Supporter,

Thomas Jefferson banned in Texas schools? Maybe… if the Right has its way. The fight is still on to keep absurd changes out of the Texas social studies textbook standards, with the final standards set to be adopted by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) on May 21.

Right-wing members of the SBOE are using the textbook standards in Texas to rewrite history in a way that could impact students across the U.S., tossing out facts in favor of propaganda like:

  • America is a Christian country, founded on “Biblical principles.”
  • Conservative icons from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, the Moral Majority and even Sen. Joseph McCarthy are history’s “good guys,” but progressives and progressive values are at odds with what it means to be “American.”
  • Words like “democracy” (sounds like “Democrat!”) have nothing to do with America — we’re a Republic — In fact, “capitalism” has sort of a negative connotation to some, so they want that word to be universally replaced with “free market.”
  • Some of the major contributions of Thomas Jefferson — arguably America’s greatest thinker — are on the chopping block, as are the contributions of other important figures not favored by the zealots on the Texas State Board of Education, like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall. (Who’s next? Martin Luther King? FDR?)

Texas is just ground zero for what is clearly a national effort. We need to make sure that whatever standards are adopted in Texas, they do not affect the social studies textbooks used by students in other states.

Please sign our petition to the major textbook publishers urging them to keep Texas standards in Texas and not to publish national textbooks based on Texas’ standards.

The Texas State Board of Education traditionally has tremendous power in determining the content of textbooks not only for Texas students but for students across the U.S. Texas reviews and adapts textbook standards for the major subjects every six years, and because of the size of the state’s market, textbook publishers often print books consistent with the Texas standards. Last year, they attracted national ridicule for trying to inject creationism into science textbooks. This year, they’re voting on social studies standards.

The right-wing majority on the State Board wants indoctrinate Texas students into this new perverse revisionist history. PFAW is supporting our allies on the ground in Texas who are working to make sure students have the chance to learn history as it occurred, not how the Far Right wish it had happened. But we need to do all we can to make sure this is not exported to other states and school districts as well. Help us take extremism out of textbook decision making and let our children learn the truth in the classroom.

Sign our petition to major textbook publishers urging them to keep Texas standards from spreading and not to offer Texas-style textbooks nationally by default.

Thank you for your activism and for your continued support of PFAW.

— Michael B. Keegan, President

Pass the word, will you?

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Social studies insanity spreads through South

April 23, 2010

Texas isn’t the only state afflicted with people trying to gut social studies.

A Georgia legislator introduced a resolution to instruct the Georgia Supreme Court that our government is not a democracy, but is instead a republic.

See what the Texas State Board of Education wants to have happen?

Georgia House of Representatives H.R. 1770 (2010):

A RESOLUTION

Informing Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein that Georgia is a republic, not a democracy; recognizing the great differences between these two forms of government; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, on March 16, 2010, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein appeared before the Georgia General Assembly for the State of the Judiciary address, and in her speech Chief Justice Hunstein mistakenly called the State of Georgia a democracy; and

WHEREAS, the State of Georgia is, in fact, a republic and it is important that all Georgians know the difference between a republic and a democracy -– especially the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court; and

WHEREAS, the word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica, which means “the public thing” or “the law,” while the word “democracy” comes from the Greek words demos and kratein, which translates to “the people to rule”; and

WHEREAS, most synonymous with majority rule, democracy was condemned by the Founding Fathers of the United States, who closely studied the history of both democracies and republics before drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and

WHEREAS, the Founding Fathers recognized that the rights given to man by God should not be violated by an unrestrained majority any more than they should be restrained by a king or monarch; and

WHEREAS, it is common knowledge that the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase “and to the Republic”; and

WHEREAS, as he exited the deliberations of the so-called Constitutional Convention of 1787, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin told the awaiting crowd they have “A republic, if you can keep it”; and

WHEREAS, a republic is a government of law, not of man, which is why the United States Constitution does not contain the word democracy and mandates that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”; and

WHEREAS, in 1928, the War Department of the United States defined democracy in Training Manual No. 2000–25 as a “government of the masses” which “[r]esults in mobocracy,” communistic attitudes to property rights, “demagogism, … agitation, discontent, [and] anarchy”; …

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body recognize the difference between a democracy and a republic and inform Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein that the State of Georgia is a republic and not a democracy….

Tip of the scrub brush to the Volokh Conspiracy, where you’ll find erudite and entertaining comment, and where Eugene Volokh wrote:

Now maybe this is just a deep inside joke, but if it’s meant to be serious then it strikes me as the worst sort of pedantry. (I distinguish this from my pedantry, which is the best sort of pedantry.)

Whatever government Georgia has, and whatever government the English language has, it is not government by ancient Romans, ancient Greeks, the War Department Training Manual, or even the Pledge of Allegiance. “Democracy” today includes, among other meanings, “Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them. In mod. use often more vaguely denoting a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege.” That’s from the Oxford English Dictionary, but if you prefer the American Heritage Dictionary, try “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” Government by the people’s representatives is included within democracy, as is government by the people directly.

“Joke” is an accurate description, but one that escapes the sponsors and irritates the impedants on the Texas SBOE.

Gavel to Gavel offers the insight that this is the legislative response to an address to the legislature by Georgia’s Chief Justice.

When legislatures have too much time on their hands, and engage in such hystrionics, one wonders whether the legislature wouldn’t be better off left in the dark by not inviting the views of the Chief Justice in the future.  Perhaps the Chief Justice should decline any invitation offered.

What we now know is that some Georgia legislators are all het up about the difference between a republic and a democracy, though I’ll wager none of them could pass an AP world history or European history quiz on Rome and Greece.  And what is really revealed is that some Georgia legislators don’t know their burros from a burrow.

You can also be sure of this:  Such action is exactly what the so-called conservatives on the Texas SBOE wish to have happen from their diddling of social studies standards.


What if the old curmudgeon teaching economics married that cute, brainy geography teacher?

April 23, 2010

Or, was it the cute curmudgeon teaching econ and the old cartographer in geography?

I think I’ll add this to my TAKS review.  What other classroom uses can you find for it?

I found it at Cool InfoGraphics.

Seriously, geography and economics teachers, this is big stuff:

Follow the Money” is a video summarizing the results from the project by Northwestern University grad students Daniel Grady and Christian Thiemann.  Using data from the website Where’s George?, they have been able to track the movement of U.S. paper currency.  What can you learn from this?  That there are natural borders within the U.S. that don’t necessarily follow state borders, and it can also be used to predict the spread of disease because it maps movement of people within the U.S.

From Maria Popova on BrainPickings.org: This may sound like dry statistical uninterestingness, but the video visualization of the results is rather eye-opening, revealing how money — not state borders, not political maps, not ethnic clusters — is the real cartographer drawing our cultural geography.  The project was a winner at the 2009 Visualization Challenge sponsored by the National Science Foundation and AAA.

Tip of the old scrub brush to VizWorld and Maitri’s VatulBlog


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