Good old Texas, where I grew up. You can always count on the Lone Star State to do things with an in-your-face swagger. This time it’s the audacious rewriting of history by conservatives on the Board of Education, which sets the curriculum for the state’s schools.Texas schools buy so many textbooks that the book publishers often write textbooks to Texas’ standards, however outrageous or deranged those standards might be. Those texts, alas, are bought, not just by Texas schools, but by by school districts around the country.
As the state has veered politically to the right, so has the elected Board of Education. Modesty is not an admired quality in Texas, where citizens are raised on triumphal notions of Texas exceptionalism. In Waco, where I spent my youth, a fiery Southern Baptist religious fervor is part of the air one breathes. Combine that with the pervasive attitude reflected in the state’s unofficial motto, “Don’t Mess with Texas,” and you get an aggressive polticial/religious conservatism. So it’s not a surprise that the Board of Education’s right wingers were only too willing to rewrite history according to their own lights, colored by religious and political bias as they may be.
Texas students will be taught, for example, that the Founding Fathers really didn’t believe in separation of church and state. This is a curious stance, because they will also be taught that Thomas Jefferson wasn’t one of the inspirations for other 18th century revolutions. He’s not well-liked by the conservatives, because he coined the phrase “separation of church and state.” These are only two of the more than 100 curriculum changes made in service to an abridged history that stresses Christianity, capitalism and the influence of conservative ideology in our history. None of the board members, by the way, is an historian.
The only good news in all this is that, thanks to technological changes in the publishing industry, it’s now easier and less expensive to publish multiple editions of textbooks for different markets, lessening the national impact somewhat. That doesn’t help the poor students of Texas, who will be indoctrinated of with a bizarrely warped view of this nation’s history.