September 24, 2010

Texas school board tries to one-up Pastor Jones


Damn it, Texas! The other day we had nothing but praises to sing for your forward-thinking ways. But now look at you. We turn our backs for a couple of days and then you go and do something so mind-blowingly stupid we may have to retract the nice things we said.

As reported in a ton of places yesterday, the conservative Republican-dominated Texas State Board of Education, in its infinite stupidity, will likely vote tomorrow in favor of a resolution meant to correct for an “anti-Christian, pro-Islamic bias” in a certain history textbook. Here’s the problem, as reported by Fox News:

The resolution cites “politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christiancivilization,” as well as “sanitized definitions of ‘jihad’ that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims.” Its supporters say some textbooks used in Texas clearly display a favorable tilt toward Islam and a bias against Christianity.

And later on in the same report, Texas school board member Don McElroy expressed his own incredible stupidity with a few 5-dollar words by saying that, “Academia wants to lean over backwards to be politically correct and not be labeled ethnocentric, so it’s kind of a cultural relativism.” Oh, really? Well, what do the teachers (not the administrators) in Texas have to say? Gayle Fallon of the Houston Federation of Teachers told CBS News:

Don McElroy, giving bald heads (and smiles) everywhere a bad name

Don McElroy, giving bald heads (and smiles) everywhere a bad name

I’ve talked to the history teachers. They say there’s nothing there. A textbook should not proselytize for any side. It should present fact. And, from what we’ve seen of the text, they present fact.

Forget that the history teachers in Texas probably know a bit more about the historical method, how it works, and how to teach history than the state school board members. And forget that it’s nearly impossible to understand what the people who are advocating this resolution are saying (even though it’s English of some sort), or that the textbook they’re having so much trouble with was discontinued in 2003. If the board adopts the resolution and then decides to reject previous standards the very same board had already approved (!!!) by refusing to buy history books that don’t conform to the resolution (and according to this article in the New York Times, there’s no guarantee that they could anyway, but still), this whole inane episode may have national consequences. Thanks to the state’s size, textbooks printed for Texas have the habit of becoming the textbooks for the rest of the nation.

Texas, we love you. You have given us so many good things: BBQ, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Kinky Friedman, the list goes on and on. (I won’t cite the real stinkers you’ve given us lately here, though Melville House has published a whole book or two about those.) But please, our kids are dumb enough without you making it worse. Can you just give them a break?