It takes years to develop a textbook. Five million is a lot of consumers. There are five million school children in Texas. As Texas goes, then, so goes the country—at least in terms of textbook adoption.
In her 2004 book The Language Police, Diane Ravich documented in frightening detail how political pressure groups have learned to take over local and state-level school boards so as to dictate what children learn. This year in Texas, that means extreme right-wing conservatives—ten of whom have infiltrated the 15-member state school board—are deciding what children throughout the nation will learn.
In with Jefferson Davis, out with Thomas Jefferson (who had the audacity to pen the phrase “separation of church and state”). In with Phyllis Schlafly, out with Ted Kennedy. In with creationism and the NRA, out with evolution and animal rights. Ronald Reagan saved the world, and ol’ Joe McCarthy wasn’t such a bad guy, after all.
According to the pictures, Americans are almost universally white, and a woman belongs in the kitchen (and not with a briefcase in her hand).
The problem isn’t so much that the right wing is propagandizing school books. (In fact California, the other state with the largest student population, has a tendency to skew some publishers’ textbooks to the left.) The problem is that education shouldn’t be about politics, and facts shouldn’t be subject to vote.
As the great ship of state now turns to the problem of reforming educational reform, perhaps it’s time to have a serious discussion about national curriculum standards. It’s not healthy when a handful of people with no expertise in a subject area decide how that subject will be taught to the nation’s children.
It’s time we got over the notion that “all politics are local.” Truth is not.