Untimely Observations

The Culture War Lives

The people of Texas didn’t get the memo from the neo-cons that the culture war is dead.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas State Board of Education agreed to new social studies standards on Friday after the far-right faction wielded its power to shape the lessons that will be taught to millions of students on American history, the U.S. free enterprise system, religion and other topics.

While the Texas standards are described as “far right,” I somehow missed the headline which told us about the “far left” takeover of the education system which presents Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks as more important than Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison.

In a vote of 11-4, the board preliminarily adopted the new curriculum after days of charged debate marked by race and politics. In dozens of smaller votes passed over the three days, the ultra-conservatives who dominate the board nixed all but a few efforts to recognize the diversity of race and religion in Texas.

Decisions by the board — long led by the social conservatives who have advocated ideas such as teaching more about the weaknesses of evolutionary theory — affects textbook content nationwide because Texas is one of publishers' biggest clients.

As part of the new curriculum, the elected board — made up of lawyers, a dentist and a weekly newspaper publisher among others — rejected an attempt to ensure that children learn why the U.S. was founded on the principle of religious freedom.

But, it agreed to strengthen nods to Christianity by adding references to "laws of nature and nature's God" to a section in U.S. history that requires students to explain major political ideas.

They also agreed to strike the word "democratic" in references to the form of U.S. government, opting instead to call it a "constitutional republic."

In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class and agreed to require economics students to "analyze the decline of the U.S. dollar including abandonment of the gold standard."

Conservatives beat back multiple attempts to include hip-hop as an example of a significant cultural movement that already includes country music.

"We have been about conservatism versus liberalism," said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. "We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it's appropriate."

Republican Terri Leo, a member of the powerful Christian conservative voting bloc, called the standards "world class" and "exceptional."

Over the past three days, the board also argued over how historic periods should be classified (still B.C. and A.D., rather than B.C.E. and C.E.); whether or not students should be required to explain the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global politics (they will); and whether former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir should be required learning (she will).

Numerous attempts to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history also were denied, inducing one amendment that would specify that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

A day earlier, longtime board member Mary Helen Berlanga accused her colleagues of "whitewashing" the standards and walked out of the panel's meeting in frustration. Berlanga voted against the standards on Friday.

Berlanga also bristled when the board approved an amendment that deletes a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."

Funny that she would appose “whitewashing” school standards as it appears that Ms. Berlanga has been whitewashing her appearance.