On the Sphere blog today we find an article entitled History Textbook Controversy Roils Texas that tells us that the state board of education has concluded that a major liberal bias infects the way American History is taught in the school system and needs to be corrected. Here is an excerpt:
“Many on the board, which is made up of 10 Republicans and five Democrats, seem to have concluded that Texas’ classrooms have been infected with a liberal bias. As a result, the board has spent numerous hours hearing from members of the community on subjects such as whether labor activist Chavez and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall deserve space in history textbooks alongside founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin.”
Wow! They are questioning whether or not the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court should be named in history books. Wow! It does not seem outlandish to mention his name to me. But then…that is my liberal bias I guess….
My first undergraduate degree was in history and my first master’s degree was in social studies, secondary education. I have taught business courses in public high school myself after my retirement from the Coast Guard and I am here to tell you that this kind of thing is very prevelant in Virginia also as well as most of the South and parts of the West.
There is no way to stop the constant jockeying for position among social elements in a state to tell the national story. Although on first blush when one reads an article like this it may appear draconian and like something out of the Scopes Monkey Trial this is really quite common among state boards of education.
Each of our states has a particular political party that under normal social conditions is the majority in the state assembly and each majority has a particular way that they want history taught in the school systems throughout the state. Discussions among educators and politicians can get very, very heated over these issues. Why?
Because the ability to tell the national story to children then affects directly the ability of that political party to influence the students’ thinking once they are old enough to vote. That is the bottom line here. This is about votes.
The stakes for the future of that political party in that state are very high if they want to maintain control, and they know that teaching children a certain historical paradigm will ensure the dominance of that particular party, whichever it is, if they can control the curriculum.
This is mind control and paradigm shaping at its most basic level. The political fights that this desire to control the history curriculum starts in the various state legislatures is ongoing and unstoppable. It can get downright bitter.
This is a very common situation in our country. Texas is not alone in this predicament. My original home state of Pennsylvania has two Democratic Party bastions, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The rest of the state is pretty much Republican. The social studies curriculums in those areas of the state reflect differences in the local populations.
I have lived in Virginia since June 1996 and I taught public high school here for a short while. The same is true in this state. Depending on where a child lives in the state, the social studies curriculum taught by any particular teacher in any particular shool district can run from mildly liberal to outright ultra-conservative.
Ignoring the teaching guidelines laid down by the state can cost a school district state funds, so that is almost never done. But what happens in the case of a school district that does not agree with the state standards is this. The state standards are taught but not emphasized. The local school district’s slant on things are then emphasized with teacher-supplied handouts.
It is a common way to have it both ways. The school district will not lose state funds and the school district gets to teach what it wants to teach based on handouts.
Welcome to educational politics in the USA!
And you thought politics only concerned those of us who were of voting age, eh? Nah! This jockeying for the hearts and minds of children in order to gain their votes in future years starts in pre-school.
I was a very, very minor and unimportant officer in the Virginia Education Association which is a state affiliate of the National Education Association when I was a teacher in Prince William County here after my retirement from the Service. Trust me, state educational politics is more cut throat and bitter than national politics could ever be.
It is all about ensuring that the “proper” paradigms are taught to the young children of the state in order to ensure dominance by one party or another in the state assembly years from now. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.
I just thought that you would want to know.
CWO3 Tom Barnes, USCG (Ret.)