There’s more good reporting, (see earlier reporting here), regarding the writings of the six social studies expert reviewers for the upcoming review of the social studies Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) by the State Board of Education (SBOE).
Yesterday”s article in the AAS highlights some of this upcoming areas of conflict, Controversy looms in board’s decisions about history, government and culture.
Potential controversies appear on virtually every page of history, government, culture and economics that Texas school children learn.
There could be tussles over the role of the Bible and Christian influence on the founding of the United States; debates on which historical figures warrant a spotlight role; and hand-wringing over students learning about the “republican process” — not the “democratic process” — because the U.S. is a republic as well as a democracy
The objective should be to create standards that are rigorous, coherent, clear and teachable, said Mike Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based education think tank that regularly reviews state curriculum standards.
The Fordham Institute’s review of Texas’ existing U.S. history standards, which are part of the social studies curriculum, found that they push a political agenda.
“American, and especially Texan, history is glorified,” according to the 2006 study. “The documents avoid the less laudable parts of the nation’s and states’ histories — such as Jim Crow and the KKK — and instead point to, for example, oil and gas companies as manifestations of the wonders of laissez-faire capitalism.”
Not only do the push a particular political agenda, they leave out significant parts of the history of our country and states. Here’s the full excerpt on U.S. History from the 2006 Fordham Institute report [.pdf] – Texas got a “C” – referenced in the above article.
Texas’s standards are reasonably comprehensive and the state
does a marvelous job of sequencing the information from kindergarten on up. Yet, while the standards’ specificity in some areas is surely admirable, it falters in other realms. The Treaty of Versailles and Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive agenda are not mentioned,for example,and,despite the fact that Texas was a leading Populist state, Populism is nowhere to be found. Further, the Lone Star State pushes in its standards a political agenda. American and, especially Texan, history is glorified. The documents avoid the less laudable parts of the nation’s and state’s histories—such as Jim Crow and the KKK—and instead point to, for example, oil and gas companies as manifestations of the wonders of laissez-faire capitalism.Texas commuters paying $3 a gallon, and perhaps some former Enron employees, may disagree about the degree of wonder such companies actually bestow. These standards are a good start, but young Texans deserve an equally compelling finish.
Hmm….wonder which particular ideology wouldn’t want to teach about Teddy Roosevlet, Populism, and corporate excess? Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican president. But his stewardship of the environment, holding corporations accountable, and progressive politics, it seems, is too much for these Republicans to bear. Here”s an excellent column from the DMN on the issue, Curriculum debate marred by ideologues, (tip to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub).
A lot of what the expert advisers have to say about the standards for teaching social studies to Texas kids is genuinely depressing stuff.
It’s depressing because, as you wade through the half-dozen point-by-point reports that will be used to advise the people deciding what your kids will learn, you might wonder whether the people who oversee our public schools care a lot less about education than they do about ideology.
You might even get the sense they care an awful lot less about helping the next generation of Texans lead meaningful, productive lives than about telling them how to vote.
It’s not a big surprise, since some members of the State Board of Education sometimes behave as if schooling children is simply a matter of making them memorize an encyclopedic list of political talking points.
Of course there’s always much deserved derision heaped on many of the religious zealots on the SBOE, but it must be remembered that they also worship at the free-market as well. The ever benevolent free-martket, and it’s think-tank, must also be protected at every turn.
When going through issues on the far right it’s always interesting how those with a religious agenda are almost always intertwined with the free-market corporatists. It always seemed weird when members of the so-called Christian Coalition – that means you Ralph Reed – would be on cable TV ranting about tax cuts for the rich. Which begs the question, would Jesus have gone Galt?
An update here from TFN, SBOE Right-Wingers in a Snit.