Curriculum, Texas Style
Quoted from Huffingtonpost.com:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said school officials “should keep politics out” of curriculum debates.
“We do a disservice to children when we shield them from the truth, just because some people think it is painful or doesn’t fit with their particular views,” Duncan said in a statement. “Parents should be very wary of politicians designing curriculum.”
Most of us agree with Secretary Duncan. And this statement works both ways, whether it is from the Democrats, the Republicans, or whatever else is deemed politically correct at the time. Social Studies seems to get the brunt of being tossed around political alley and this time, Texas has really re-invented history.
This week the Texas Board of Education approved a far more conservative curriculum. A couple of months ago ‘howlings took a look at the proposal. Not much has changed:
During the months-long revision process, conservatives strengthened requirements on teaching the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers and required that the U.S. government be referred to as a “constitutional republic,” rather than “democratic.” Students will be required to study the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.
They also rejected language to modernize the classification of historic periods to B.C.E. and C.E. from the traditional B.C. and A.D., and agreed to replace Thomas Jefferson as an example of an influential political philosopher in a world history class. They also required students to evaluate efforts by global organizations such as the United Nations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.
Former board chairman Don McLeroy, one of the board’s most outspoken conservatives, said the Texas history curriculum has been unfairly skewed to the left after years of Democrats controlling the board and he just wants to bring it back into balance.
It seems that it would be best to just deal with facts rather than the continual interpretations. No wonder kids perform so abysmally on routine history type questions. The answers keep changing.
Years ago kids studied a lot more geography. They knew about far away places most of them would probably never travel to. Today, most Americans are fairly ignorant about ‘where’ types of questions. How many of us would score 50% on naming the countries of Africa on an outline map? How about Europe? Asia? How about naming the countries of South America? How about the provinces of Canada? Yet our ability to travel to these places is fairly easy, given the affordability of air fares. Perhaps some good old fashioned geography ought to take the place of all this controversy.
If that doesn’t work, how about studying the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery exploration? It might give us more of an appreciation of who we are and how we got to be who we are. One person died–and he died of appendicitis. Those people traveled thousands of miles 200 years ago. The Corps of Discovery went across the nation, over uncharted territory. They braved wild animals, mosquitoes and other insects, native people, sickness, huge mountains, raging rivers, freezing weather, snow storms of epic proportion, all sorts of dangers. And other than the one guy with appendicitis, every last one of them made it home. Maybe Texas needs a lesson in what it is all really about. That was Mr. Jefferson’s dream. Perhaps he shouldn’t be dissed quite so rapidly.
Jefferson bought the vast expansion of land from the French–the Lousiana Purchase. He then arranged to have it explored–not by an army but by a band of men. The leaders were his Virginia neighbors. He scraped together financing for the trip. He set goals and objectives for the group. They were mapmakers, scientists, doctors, hunters, gatherers, climatologists, diplomats, whatever it took.
Texas needs to stop playing politics with American history. Kids are a captive audience. Many of their parents don’t know any better. Texas textbooks will dominate education in all states during this adoption. Texas needs to look at the Virginian–the quintessential Virginian whose insight and foresight made it all possible. TJ could teach them all a thing or two.
“. . . the object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, and such principal streams of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce . . .”
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