font-family: 'Arizonia', cursive; Michael Stichauf - "As I understand it now...'til it changes"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"FIRE"- A Troubling, Historic Decision

How the Education of Millions of Texas Students was Decided by Fifteen Individuals

You are not allowed to yell, "FIRE", in a crowded theatre because of the fear, pandemonium, and downright catastrophic results it causes! Having said that, I hate to be the one to yell, "FIRE", about this historic decision by the Texas State Board of Education but... "FIRE!!!!" What?!?!! "FIRE!!!!"

Friday, November 21, 2014, the Texas State Board of
Texas State Board of Education
Education (Republican controlled- by the way) voted to approve textbooks for their kids that publish historically inaccurate information that will be taught, AS FACT, to the children who are enrolled in the PUBLIC SCHOOLS of that state!  

In May of 2010, the State Board of Education approved a set of standards which the publishers of their textbooks need to follow in order for them to be used in the Texas school system. After reading these standards, no one in their right mind would consider them to be anything short of your typical "Christian Conservative Agenda". Also, anyone in their right mind should be yelling, "FIRE", like me.

I use the "Yelling, "FIRE", example because it's a shocking one needed for a shocking situation. This decision by the Texas State Board of Education is shocking in many ways. It's shocking in it's content! It's shocking in it's process to approve that content! And it's shocking in the ramifications it has on the country as a whole! 
Emile Lester- A specialist in
Church & State Issues

Every ten years, Texas' State Board of Education re-examines it's standards that are used as guidelines in the education practices of their teachers and the publication of their textbooks. Essentially, these guidelines tell Texas' teachers and the publishers of their textbooks, "This is how it is and this is what you teach our children". The latest set of standards has produced an outpouring of concern and outright indignant responses from critics as they stretch the bounds of accuracy to border on right-wing ideological talking points. As one critic of the "Standards", Emile Lester, a political science professor at the University
This man shapes the mind of young students
of Mary Washington in Virginia says, "The State Board of Education and these textbooks have collaborated to make students' knowledge of American history a casualty of the culture wars."

Texas' State Board of Education consists of two thirds Republicans and one third Democrats of their fifteen members. PBS's, "Need-to-Know" stated that the Conservative members of the Board felt that the previous set of "Standards" reflected a decidedly Liberal view and that they were "aiming to reverse the trend". Republican Don McLeroy, a social conservative on the Board told the Dallas Morning News, "I think we've corrected the imbalance we've had in the past and now have our curriculum headed straight down the middle. I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished."
The Slave Trade...Referred to and minimized as the "Atlantic Triangular Trade" is treated as just another European commodity that was traded.
What they've accomplished is to set their standards in such a way as to stretch the truth and indoctrinate their young students in a form of learning based on religious half-truths
The Slave Trade referred to as
the "Atlantic Triangular Trade"
and lies. Essentially, in Texas' public schools and their corresponding textbooks, the role that religion played in the founding of this country is overblown and the role that slavery played is downplayed. The proposed changes refer to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade" and Thomas Jefferson's ideas of keeping a strict separation of church and state are extremely minimized, this according to the USA Today. To further emphasize the "church and state"
issue, the Associated Press says, "In one of the most significant curriculum changes, the board diluted the rationale for the separation of church and state in a high school government class, noting that the words were not in the Constitution and requiring students to compare and contrast the judicial language with the First Amendment's wording." 

As shocking as these changes are, anyone who follows politics and the "culture wars" that politics have created shouldn't be surprised that the Republicans would exert their influence once they had the chance. Issues such as these have been on the agendas of the religious right since Ronald Reagan took office and the rise of Ralph Reed in the early eighties. Yet, most everyone on the left didn't worry too much as they knew they controlled the Congress. Now that
Another in the long line of "Plastic Haired"
Evangelical "True Believers"
things have changed, the Right have made many inroads as their influence in Congress and many local governments has increased. Make no mistake, though, the content (standards) controversy, no matter what side you sympathise with- Liberal or Conservative- comes down to one issue! Religion! Pure and simple!

I use the term "Religion" because it's the formal structure of organizations, Religious organizations, who've been driving the issue. Many of us on "The Left", tend to be lumped together as "Atheists" and "Nonbelievers". Yet I and many of us on the left, are individuals who believe in the concept of a God but we seem to be able to understand that our concepts of that God don't have to conform to a particular organization's concepts. We also accept the fact that our "concept" shouldn't be shoved down anyone's throats. Sure, we acknowledge the fact that there is a liberal bend in the media and other areas but we've kept our concepts of God out of the textbooks and the teachings of our children. According to "" and the "Associated Press", "the board created history and social studies curriculums that emphasized conservative concepts, saying they countered inherent liberal classroom biases. The current controversy over the influence of Judeo-Christian values on America's Founding Fathers grew out of requirements that Moses and Mosaic Law be taught. 
"Extremism is a form of blindness that keeps it's "true believers" buried in the Stone Age and blind to the truth"   
As is always the issue with extremists, they end up
Secular Website
stretching the truth to the point of breaking it, just to prove their points. Patheos, a secular website that discusses faith, pointed out that the November 21st vote, "signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children." Texas' new textbooks teach their students the historically false information that it was Moses' influence on the founders that influenced the creation of the Constitution. Patheos also states that the Texas textbooks claim that it was the Old Testament that is at the heart of our Democracy. Extremism is a form of blindness that keeps it's "true believers" buried in the Stone Age and blind to the truth. Emile Lester says it perfectly when he states that Texas' textbooks are full of "inventions and exaggerations" about the role Christianity played in the founding of our country.

"...the process the (Texas) State Board of Education uses to adopt textbooks is a sham!" 
Another shocking issue involved in this controversy is the extent to which extremists (religious right extremists in this case) will go in order to shove their ideology down the throats of others. In an eleventh hour closed door session, literally at the last minute, the publishers inserted numerous changes that scholars, other board members and the public at large never got a chance to review. The vote was rammed through and the changes were accepted. As Kathy Miller, president of "Texas Freedom Network" said, "What we saw today shows very clearly that the process the State Board of Education uses to adopt textbooks is a sham." She is so right. 
Kathy Miller-Texas Freedom Network
So, if what you've read so far isn't shocking enough for you, there's one more issue that should seal the deal and make you cringe. We all know that Texas is an extreme and unique state. It has been since before it became a member of the Union. Extremists thrive down there because of Texas' "live and let live" attitudes (just don't get convicted of murder- Texas'll kill ya dead!). So when extremists won this "Standards controversy" people and other states took notice. Texas has the largest community of textbook publishers than any other state in the country! Consequently, when Texas sets it's standards, those textbooks are printed and then shipped to most of the other states as the textbooks that your children will be using for the next ten years. Not only will these decisions in Texas influence Texas' 4.8 million students, the will very likely influence many more millions of students across the country! If other states don't take notice of this extremist ideology being printed as we speak, their children will suffer under the same illusions which these extremists' children suffer under. California, though, is one step ahead of the religious right in Texas. According to the Associated Press, as a result of Texas' Standards, "A bill introduced into the California State Senate attempts to protect California schools from the decisions made in Texas by requiring California's board of Education to screen state curricula for any of the new standards adopted in Texas." The Associated Press further states;
The bill describes the Texas curriculum changes as "a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings' and 'a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards of California".
Wow! What an indictment! But it's so true! Just look at what's true and untrue here. Just don't take my word, take the word of professors and history experts. If you believe the Texas standards and their textbooks, Moses would be the original Founding Father of our country- WRONG! Slavery would be just another type of trade participated in by all the other countries NOT the heinous act of treachery that it was, and was ever perpetrated on a people! These are the things that need to be brought to others' attention! So, when I yell, "FIRE", in regards to this issue, it really isn't just an over-reaction to something that I simply disagree with, it's something that most every historical scholar agrees are misrepresentations and outright lies intended to shape the minds of our young children and possibly the future of our country. If the religious right had their way, this whole thing about the Earth being millions and billions of years old would be a thing of the past and all our future scientists would be teaching their future scientists that the earth was created in seven days and it's only a couple thousand years old!

That's, "As I understand it now... 'til it changes".

Thanks for your time,
Michael Stichauf.