Texas, Our Texas

Texas: It’s a whole other country. While this phrase once caused me to smile and reflect fondly upon my native state, I’m not a fan of the latest manifestation of Texas’ rogue attitude: Rewriting History. On May 21, the Texas State Board of Education voted 9 to 5 to amend the social studies and history curriculum. The votes were taken right along party lines, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.

The board members voted to, among other things, downplay the civil rights movement, question the validity of the separation of church and state, and describe the U.S. Government, as a “constitutional republic,” not “democratic.”

I really like that last one. I say we take it a step further. Those mind-controlling media and academic elites have been brainwashing the public for too long with suggestive words like “democracy.” Pshh. While we’re at it, we should take a hard look at “demographic,” “demonstration”, and “demolition.” Let’s put ‘em all on the chopping block, and replace them with more Republican friendly alternatives. Instead of a demographic, it’s a “republigraphic.” A demonstration becomes a “republistration.” And demolition…wait…they can keep that one.

I almost forgot to mention the amendment that tried to give Thomas Jefferson the ax. Apparently being one of our founding fathers, overseeing the Louisiana Purchase, and starting the University of Virginia doesn’t make you a shoe-in for the history books these days. One of my favorite (read: sarcasm) amendments includes undercutting the beneficial role of the United Nations on the world. Rumor has it that we should in fact be “very, very afraid” of the UN.

To be fair, there are quite a few amendments that are perfectly benign. But that in no way makes this act defensible. The best description of what happened with the board in Texas goes to Rep. Mike Villereal, who voted against the amendments and said this:

“They have ignored historians and teachers, allowing ideological activists to push the culture war further into our classrooms. They fail to understand that we don’t want liberal textbooks or conservative textbooks. We want excellent textbooks, written by historians instead of activists.”

To me, that’s the crux of the matter. I realize everything is political these days, but this seems over the top.

Educational experts, (teachers, professors and the like,) who are qualified to develop school curriculum, spent a year and a half writing the textbook material. While I don’t expect the board to blindly approve whatever copy the experts provide, any alterations need to come with serious, academic backing, not merely political buzzwords.  The board attempted more than 200 amendments in the past week, some being presented on the final day, just minutes before the vote. As if it weren’t already painfully clear that this was a dig at Democratic politics, and not about providing the best education for students, Board Member David Bradley spelled it out for everyone.

“We took our licks, we got outvoted,” he said in reference to the debate 10 years earlier. “Now it’s 10-5 in the other direction … we’re an elected body, this is a political process. Outside that, go find yourself a benevolent dictator.”

Why do I feel like it’s entirely plausible that Bradley did a “nanny nanny boo boo” dance after that statement? Bradley also introduced an amendment that President Barack Obama be listed by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, in history books. Never mind that very few presidents are ever called with three names, or that the reason for using two or three names is left to the preference of each president. Let’s just make our own rules on this.

Truthfully, I’ve avoided writing a political post for a long time. And not for lack of material. I generally refrain from talking in absolutes, but it seems literally everything is polarized these days.  You can’t buy an organic apple without being a hippie. Anyone who wants cheaper healthcare is a socialist. If you’ve made money during the recession, you’re a greedy schemer. I’ve tried to watch the political arena from afar because I found it entirely too frustrating to explain that yes, I support Obama. But no, I don’t agree with the bailouts.  And yes, I’m pro-life, and that means I’m anti-death penalty. My political leanings don’t fit in the angry box that cable news networks have painted so neatly for both sides. I refuse to believe that I am the exception, but there’s this narrative out there that keeps trying to beat me down. It tells me there are only two sides, two colors, and it’s a cage match.

Despite my ribbing of this vote, I really don’t want to mock right now. I’m trying my hardest to view the extremists for what they are and look to the core of both parties for the good that they represent. But it feels like a losing battle. It doesn’t help that the nature of news is to bring to light the most interesting, unique, and by default, extreme position on matters. People like Bradley make headlines. To be frank, he sounds like one hell of a fun interview. But at the end of the day, he is further dividing our country.

These amendments embarrass me as a Texan, and are yet another sad sign that our country’s politicians are vehemently and fundamentally divided. Whether our citizens truly are, remains to be seen. It’s a challenge not to mimic the arguments we see congress and educational boards engaging in, but I hope we can rise above their poor example. Standing up for students’ rights to an unpoliticized education would be a good start.