Texas Cooks the Textbooks


Who says school is boring? The Texas State Board of Education will make a final vote today on a long list of controversial changes to its textbook standards. The 15-person board, dominated by 10 Republicans, is expected to approve many alterations that give a conservative slant to the study of U.S. history and economics. Fittingly, today’s meeting opened with a prayer by board member Cynthia Dunbar, who “used the opportunity to lay out her views that the Bill of Rights and the constitutional founding of America were divinely inspired by her Lord Jesus Christ,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Liberals across the country fear that, because of the state’s size and buying power, Texas’s new requirements will influence textbooks sold in other states. Below, 10 of the conservative, reactionary, or just plain bizarre changes the board is likely to adopt:

1. Many of the proposed changes come from Don McLeroy, a creationist, former school board member, and dentist from Bryan, Texas. One of his gems: students must learn to “evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.” To clarify, he’s referring to the United Nations, not Goldman Sachs.

2. You’ve got to give McLeroy credit for long-term thinking, though. He also expects students to be able to “discuss alternatives regarding long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, given the decreasing worker-to-retiree ratio.” Presumably the favored alternatives will not include national health care or raising taxes.

3. Religion, of course, makes its way into the curriculum. McLeroy wants students to “contrast the Founders’ intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term, ‘Separation of Church and State.’” It’s a veiled way of asserting that America is, indeed, a Christian nation.

4.Currently, Texan students are expected to learn about “the impact of muckrakers and reform leaders” such as Upton Sinclair and W.E.B. DuBois. McLeroy instead wants students to “contrast the tone” of such people “versus the optimism of immigrants including Jean Pierre Godet as told in Thomas Kinkade’s The Spirit of America.” Kinkade is the schlocky, sentimental painter popular in malls everywhere.

5. McLeroy also wants to clear the name of Joseph McCarthy. In sections of history books that deal with McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee, McLeroy wants to emphasize first and foremost “the extent and danger of Soviet agent infiltration of the U.S. government as revealed in Alger Hiss’ guilt and confirmed later by the Venona Papers.”

6.Some of the changes aren’t political; they’re just random. Thanks to a successful lobbying effort by a Republican from suburban Houston, Texas textbooks will now include a reference to 1920s singer and composer Julius Bledsoe. “How could any of us forget his rendition of ‘Old Man River’ in Showboat?” Cargill said.

7. Doublespeak alert! There’s no longer such a thing as U.S. “imperialism”—it’s “U.S. expansionism.” It’s only imperialism when the Europeans do it, naturally. And when the Soviets did it, it was “aggression.”

8. A new history requirement for high schoolers: understanding “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” including the role of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the NRA. Sounds like a wild afternoon!

9. A meta-lesson: never miss an opportunity to stick it to a Democratic president. A section on “political scandals” including Teapot Dome and Watergate, now includes “Bill Clinton’s impeachment.”

10. A new addition to world history: “Explain how Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict.” Now that’s not at all a loaded statement, is it?

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