Texas, My Texas – Oh, See What You’ve Done!
June 7, 2011 § 3 Comments
Call this the “I’m on my high horse today” blog post!
In May 2010, a controversy brewed in Texas, or I should say in one conference room in the Texas state capital, Austin. In that little room, 15 men and women [5 Dems/10 Reps] grappled with a political issue that should never have been political in the first place, i.e., what is taught in social studies and history in the public schools of America. Yes, AMERICA!
What the majority of the Texas Board of Education decided as “correct and appropriate”, now dictates how the next generation of history and social studies textbooks are being written. As a result, their majority-rule has determined what will be taught in our schools for the next 10 years. An entire generation of students will be taught that:
“Country music is an important modern cultural movement; hip-hop isn’t. Thomas Jefferson deserves to be erased from a list of “great Americans”, but Ronald Reagan doesn’t. And we should re-evaluate Senator Joe McCarthy: he was almost certainly a national hero.” [‘Texas schoolbook massacre’ Rewrites American history. Guy Adams in Los Angeles, for The Independent, March 2010 – search “Texas Schoolbook Controversy” to read the entire article and many others!]
Why does the decision of the Texas BoE affect ALL schools in the US? Economics! (I’m beginning to hate the “E” word!) There are 4.5 million school children in Texas, and the state provides the textbooks for each child (no parent has to pay for them!). That’s BIG BUSINESS!
Because of this, publishers are writing the new textbooks to please the Texas Board of Education (shame on them!). Because Texas will order so many of them, these new textbooks will be cheaper than any other. Because they will be cheaper, school boards across the country will buy them. Economics!
This burns me up! I don’t understand it? How can anyone rewrite history?!? Perhaps I’m using the wrong verb. Perhaps I should say “revise” history, for that is what they are doing.
Now, I don’t write textbooks, so how does this affect me as a writer?
Simple (or maybe not!). I write historical fiction for middle grades and young adults, and I try to be so careful to get all the facts straight! I people my novels with historical figures about whom children in our schools study. I strive to give them an experience in the time-period, customs, and historical events of our past. The object of my books, besides as good and fun reads, is to be a companion to their curriculum.
So how do I as a writer respond to this new twisted look at our history? I can tell you now that I will NOT rewrite history by word or implication. I stand firm. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was a man of letters and deep philosophical thought. Yes, he held slaves, but so did Washington. Are we going to write him off, too?
And yes, Jefferson believed in the Separation of Church and State (the given reason for his being diminished in importance in the curriculum), and so do I! One branch of my mother’s family immigrated to this country to find religious freedom. How can we maintain that freedom if we allow government interference? How can we maintain that freedom unless future generations understand what it means?
Okay. Rant over! However, I have just ONE thing more to say. I stand with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which seeks to preserve for us, and forever, the birthplace of our republic’s fundamental concepts: responsible leadership, a sense of public service, self-government, and individual liberty. These were nurtured under the leadership of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Peyton Randolph of Virginia, as well as other founding fathers. The legacies of are ALL of these men are worth fighting for!
Can we fight this? Yes! At the ballot box every chance we get! At school board meetings, wherever you live.
Up the Republic! Down with Dictatorship!