Teabaggers do Texas

For whatever reason, last year's hearings in the Texas Board of Education attacking the basics of science education got less attention than this year's nonsense over social studies and history. The Washington Monthly did a great article on the process last month, and now the New York Times Magazine section has a long article about it.

Just as Don McLeroy urged his colleagues on the board to "stand up to experts" in the science hearings, he proposed a range of amendments to the social studies standards, what the Times calls "a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming."

McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she âand her followers promoted eugenics,â that language be inserted about Ronald Reaganâs âleadership in restoring national confidenceâ following Jimmy Carterâs presidency and that students be instructed to âdescribe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.â The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, âGuys, youâre rewriting history now!â Nevertheless, most of McLeroyâs proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.

Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.

This is how history is made â or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper.

McLeroy was ousted as board chairman last year in part because of his abuses during the science hearings, but "McLeroy remains unbowed and talked cheerfully to me about how, confronted with a statement supporting the validity of evolution that was signed by 800 scientists, he had proudly been able to 'stand up to the experts.'"

From this the article veers into a discussion of the role of religion in the founding of the United States. I feel like it gives too much of a "opinions on the shape of the earth differ" coverage. Too much respect is given to the absurd pseudohistory of activists bent on claiming the founders meant this to be a "Christian nation." While the views of actual historians who dismiss that view are given prominence, the he-said-she-said aspect could leave readers confused about actual historical knowledge. The founders had no intent of allowing religion to be established, and the religious views of the founders would be considered quite heterodox by modern standards. Martin Marty is quoted giving a complex view of the founders' views which, to readers unfamiliar with the debate, might seem to be supportive of the board's actions, when I imagine (having seen him speak at the University of Chicago and being a regular reader of his weekly email newsletter on issues of religion in society) he'd be firmly against the changes.

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Man, I wish I lived in Texas. Mississippi sucks. The people here aren't brave enough to take on the marxists here - the few asses that we have. We have to stop this insanity called evolution before our kids grow up believing we came from apelike creatures whioe in fact we came from dirt.

By Harry Palms (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink