Wednesday, June 30, 2010
More on the Texas textbook fiasco...
Tainting textbooks, abolishing academic freedom, and maligning gay Americans: Tales from the Texas GOP
Let’s begin with two basic premises: 1. Textbooks used in public schools should be as accurate, honest, and as bias-free as possible. Their content should rely on the work of recognized scholars, not ideologues, elected officials or politicians who bow to the whim of “the people” even when those people base their views on religious superstitions and dogma or ingrained biases. 2. The tenure system in higher education was instituted to protect professors and the academic environment from pressure by religious zealots, political ideologues, and other outside forces.
“Academic freedom” was meant to ensure professors could discuss -- in an open forum -- ideas that may not be socially or politically popular and would not be punished for doing so.
The Christian Right and their GOP sycophants have been very busy in Texas revising guidelines for textbooks to be used in that state’s public schools:
Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change
By James C. McKinley Jr.
March 12, 2010
AUSTIN, Tex. -- After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it. . . .
In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state. . . . rarely in recent history has a group of conservative board members left such a mark on a social studies curriculum. . . . There were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings, though some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topics. . . . [italics added]
No historians, sociologists or economists consulted? No experts in theses disciplines were asked for their professional advice? Elected board members -- with occupations such as real estate agent and dentist -- made decisions in specialized fields of knowledge in which they had no expertise? Does that make any academic sense?
“Some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topic.” Have they published in legitimate peer-reviewed professional journals in the subject areas and on the topics they claim to be experts? If not, what’s the basis of their claim to expertise? Reading a few books on a subject does not make one an expert, especially if those books were chosen because they supported preconceived beliefs and opinions.
Aside from pushing an ultra-conservative ideology, perhaps the most egregious change proposed by the Texas board was this one:
Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”) . . .