Julie Marsh, Photo by Aimee GieseLast year, Texas governor Rick Perry made a few offhand references to the possibility of secession. Given the idiocy of the Texas State Board of Education, I'm all for Perry making good on his lighthearted threats. Then maybe the rest of the country can get on with the business of educating our kids without the input of a young-earth creationist dentist.
The Texas Board of Education stirred up discussion last year on the topic of intelligent design; namely, whether it ought to be taught in public schools as an alternative theory to evolution. Under the guise of advocating "critical thinking," the conservative faction of the board argued that high school students should explore the "weaknesses" of evolution.
Considering that the most vocal member of the board, Don McLeroy, "believes that the earth was created in six days, as the book of Genesis has it, less than 10,000 years ago," it's not surprising that he wants students to question evolution. I wonder if he's ever applied any critical thinking to his belief that scripture is more compelling evidence than carbon dating.
Texas didn't manage to excise evolution from the science curriculum last year. But this year, it's another story where it comes to social studies. Among the changes that have been preliminarily approved by the state Board of Education:
* Removing Thomas Jefferson from a section on how Enlightenment philosophy influenced the founders;
* Requiring that students learn about the conservative political groups and figures...such as the Moral Majority and Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly -- without having a similar requirement for learning about liberal movements;
* Replacing the term “capitalism” with “free enterprise” in economics and history standards, because...[it has] been tainted by liberal academics;
* Requiring students to learn about the “Judeo-Christian” influences on the nation’s founders.
Source: Associated Baptist Press
Did you catch that source? A Baptist news site quotes a Christian organization in Texas that "promotes religious liberty and church-state separation." Disagreement exists even among devout Christians in Texas.
Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd isn't happy either, but she's glad to have company in her misery. She writes:
"It is a comfort to know I have company here in the doghouse, that there are others who share my prickly chagrin over the State Board of Education's painfully well-publicized hatchet attack on accepted scholarship.
Their busy toils have successfully made Texans look like fools, but it's a relief to know a lot of people besides me are mad about it."
Texas-based religious groups and native Texans object to the board's conservative cherry-picking, but why should the rest of the country care? As I explained in another piece:
"Texas’ state education fund is $22 billion -- one of the largest in the nation. They were also the first to develop statewide curriculum guidelines, which other states use as a model for their own. Textbook publishers tailor their content accordingly to maximize their markets ... In essence, a fifteen-member board in Texas makes decisions that directly affect what the majority of public school children in the United States are taught."
The bulleted list of changes to the Texas social studies curriculum will most likely find their way into my children's -- and your children's too -- public school textbooks. That's why we should care.
Want your children to learn about creationism and intelligent design and the Moral Majority as a force in American society? Put them in private school. Leave the public schools to those of us who are truly capable of critical thinking.