Why Texas social studies standards matter: Tea Party misuse of history

May 27, 2010

Something to think about from “The Tea Party Challenge,” by Erik Christiansen and Jeremy Sullivan, at Inside Higher Ed:

When considering the political scene of the moment, it is difficult not to see how historical allegory plays an important role in the public spectacle known as the Tea Party movement. From the name itself, an acronym (Taxed Enough Already) that fuses current concerns to a patriotic historical moment, to the oral and written references by some of its members to Stalin and Hitler, the Tea Party appears to be steeped (sorry) in history. However, one has only to listen to a minute of ranting to know that what we really are talking about is either a deliberate misuse or a sad misunderstanding of history.

Misuse implies two things: first, that the Partiers themselves know that they are attempting to mislead, and second, that the rest of us share an understanding of what accurate history looks like. Would that this were true. Unfortunately, there is little indication that the new revolutionaries possess more than a rudimentary knowledge of American or world history, and there is even less reason to think that the wider public is any different. Such ignorance allows terms like communism, socialism, and fascism to be used interchangeably by riled-up protesters while much of the public, and, not incidentally, the media, nods with a fuzzy understanding of the negative connotations those words are supposed to convey (of course some on the left are just as guilty of too-liberally applying the “fascist” label to any policy of which they do not approve). It also allows the Tea Partiers to believe that their situation – being taxed with representation – somehow warrants use of “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and links their dissatisfaction with a popularly elected president to that of colonists chafing under monarchical rule.

While the specifics of the moment (particularly, it seems, the fact of the Obama presidency) account for some of the radical resentment, the intensity of feeling among the opposition these days seems built upon a total lack of historical perspective.

It’s worth a read at Inside Higher Ed.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the May History Carnival at the Vapour Trail.


Texas education: Social studies on the gallows today

May 18, 2010

Social studies curricula climb the scaffold to the gallows set by the “conservative” majority of the Texas State Board of Education today.  If they get their way — and signs are they will — they will hobble social studies education for at least a half generation.

As The Dallas Morning News explains this morning, lame-duck board members fully intend to change Texas and American culture with their rewriting of history, de-emphasis of traditional history education, and insertion of what they consider pro-patriotic ideas in social studies.

AUSTIN – When social conservatives on the State Board of Education put the final touches on social studies curriculum standards this week, it will be a significant victory in their years-long push to imprint their beliefs upon what Texas students learn.

We in the part-time blogosphere can’t cover the meeting as it deserves — nor have we been able to mobilize pro-education forces to do what was needed to stop the board — yet.

McLeroy will make the most of his remaining time on the panel. He proposed several additions to the social studies standards for the board to consider this week. One would require students to “contrast” the legal doctrine of separation of church and state with the actual wording in the Bill of Rights that bars a state-established religion.

McLeroy has resurrected the old Cleon Skousen/David Barton/White Supremecist argument that “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, disregarding what the document and its amendments actually say.  Jefferson warned that such discussions poison children’s education, coming prematurely as this one would be as McLeroy wants it.

Watch that space.  Tony Whitson at Curricublog will cover it well, and probably timely — read his stuff.  Steve Shafersman’s work will be informative.  The Texas Tribune offered great coverage in the past.  Stay tuned.  And the Texas Freedom Network carries the flag and works hard to recruit the troops and keep up morale.

People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have already chimed in.

It is discouraging.  Under current history standards, Texas kids should know the phrase “shot heard ’round the world,” but they do not get exposure to the poem from which the phrase comes, nor to the poet (Emerson), nor exposure to Paul Revere whose ride inspired Longfellow later to write a poem that children have read ever since — except in Texas.

But under the new standards, Texas children will learn who Phyllis Schlafly is.  Patriots are out; hypocrites and demagogues are in.


NAACP letter campaign against gutting Texas social studies standards

May 6, 2010

I get e-mail from the NAACP; the rest of the nation is paying attention to the follies run by the conservative bureaucrats at the SBOE:

Ed,

Don't Erase Our History I wouldn’t want to be a Texas State Board member this week.

Last week, we asked you to write to your representative, telling him or her that rewriting Texas history textbooks is ignorant and unpatriotic.

Over 1,500 people have already written in, filling the inboxes of our school leaders.

This week, we’d like to offer you one more chance to get involved. The NAACP is planning rallies, hearings and press conferences in Texas to stop the state board from rewriting history. But we can’t do it without you.

An issue as controversial as rewriting history elicits strong emotions, and we want to give you the chance to speak out. Do you have something you would like to say at the hearing?

http://action.naacp.org/TextbookHearing

The NAACP works to ensure equal rights and to eliminate discrimination against all racial and ethnic groups. The proposed changes to our textbooks threaten our mission. This is not about Republicans or Democrats — it’s about our shared history as Texans. That’s why we want to use the words of our Texas supporters to turn the tide.

The Texas textbook vote is just two weeks away, so we need to push ourselves harder now than ever before.

The future of our children’s education is in the hands of just a few State Board members. Your voice could be the one to tip the scale.

Take a moment to tell us what you think about the Texas State Board rewriting history. The best submissions will be read at the hearing on May 19th.

http://action.naacp.org/TextbookHearing

Thank you for helping to protect our history.

Gary Bledsoe
President, Texas NAACP


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