News that the Texas Board of Education had decided on Friday to revamp Texas school text books to reflect traditional American values, has whipped to life a hornet’s nest of liberal opposition. Not only did the conservative dominated Board have the gall to reject official texts which have been circulating inthe system for close to a decade, but they ordered important changes made to the curriculum that would bring the text books more into line with true American history and ideals. Conservatives on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school.
The curriculum standards will now be published in a state register, opening them up for 30 days of public comment. A final vote will be taken in May.
And what are the items the new curriculum seeks to correct?
Well, facts such as these:
- The U.S. Constitution’s failure to make any mention of the phrase ” separation of Chruch and State” ( a certain religious tenet of the left)
- The conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 90s
- That the rise of the violent Black Panthers should be taught along side the passive ressitance movement promoted by Martin Luther King Jr.
- That the Great Society programs, passed during the Johnson administration, had many unintended negative consequences
- That not only Japanese-American citizens were interned during the Second World War, but also Italian-Americans and German-Americans as well.
- In the field of sociology, a significant amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.
- In economics ‘capitalism’ be changed to ‘free enterprise system’ and that both Milton Friedman and Frederich Hayek, champions of free-market economic theory, be given pride of place alongside Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes.
The changes the Texas Board ordered wouldn’t have troubled anyone, say, fifteen years ago. But high school education has, over this period, become the bridgehead of reformers who have used text books to promote leftist causes such as radical environmentalism, multiculturalism and warmed over socialism.
With carte blanche the progresives have been able shift the emphasis of American high school education from deep rooted appreciation of traditional values to a picayune culture of criticism and complaint.
Liberals, of course, are apoplectic with indignation. The Huffington Post screamed out the headline The Texas Book Massacre; the New York Times opined that the curriculum has more to do with politics and ideology than education and the McClatchy Blog suggested that the new curriculum did ” a disservice to taxpayers and the very children whose education needs to be improved, not politicized.”
This last sling at the conservatives deserves a retort. Hearing liberals proclaim that until the conservatives came along educational curricula in the country was non-political is like hearing Americans claim that they have no accent. There is a sense among liberal educators that education should be driven by a progressive and modern agenda which is more in keeping with truth and objectivity than a passe retailing of conservative tropes which focus on patriotism, Judeo-Christian values and American exceptionalism.
But the kind of education our children receive these days, as derived from social studies text books ( and I am witness to some of these from my own children’s high school texts) is alarming, to say the least. For a reading of some of these texts could make anyone come away with the notion that Americans ( and namely white Americans) are racist colonizers who arrived on this continent four centuries ago to exterminate the natives, exploit the blacks and pollute the environment. Very little about the extraordinary achievements in securing a level of human freedom hitherto unknown to mankind or facilitating a measure of prosperity that has been a boon not just to Americans, but to the world.
Admittedly, there are some foolish and largely gratutious amendments, such as the decision to drop Thomas Jefferson as one of the intellectual leading lights of the independence movement. But for the main, the curriculum’s drive to restore a point of view which dominated our educational system for more than 150 years, draws from the same well as the desire to have our children recite the pledge of alleigence without any sense of irony or distate. It is the kind of educational systen in which patriotism is not a dirty word to be derided as old fashioned, but a symbol of pride in the achievements of a great nation.
The so-called Texas Book Massacre is therefore the first salvo in the war to reclaim that part of the nation’s heritage that liberals no longer deem worthy of discussion. The presentation of the curriculum change, with its many amendments, will be heard far and wide since publishers of text books pay particular atttention to Texas as one of the country’s most important markets. Only California is quite as significant to them. And even here, rumblings of dissatisaction are being heard about high school curricula and how it has plunged education into a nihilistic abyss.
Deeply politcized as our childrens’ education has become, it is time now to strike back against revisionism and return to an emphasis on the greatness of the American experiment, which should, fittingly, be discussed together with any of its failures or shortcomings.