Friday, May 21, 2010

The "right" way to teach social studies

Today is perhaps the first day since my family and I left Texas five years ago that I am saying "Thank God I no longer live there."

Why? Because the state's Board of Education has opted to radically change the way social studies is taught to elementary and secondary students throughout Texas.

If your son or daughter attends a Texas school, his or her teacher will be asked to incorporate standards that "say the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated -- something most historians deny -- draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis's and Abraham Lincoln's inaugural addresses, say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty, and include a long list of Confederate officials that students must learn." (The Washington Post's complete report is available here.)

Indeed, the standards ensure that students will receive a "white"-washed version of social studies. The Houston Chronicle notes "[t]he document promotes traditional history, original documents, patriotism and free enterprise. The standards mention 'free enterprise' more than 80 times." (Here is the Chronicle's full report.)

Along the same lines, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports "[m]inorities reiterated assertions that the standards ignored the role of Hispanics and African-Americans in Texas history and glossed over generations of abuses." (The paper's story, which is the most complete of the many I have read, can be accessed here.)

And lest you think that Texas' kids are the only ones who will be affected by this controversial decision, think again.

The Dallas Morning News notes "Texas standards often wind up being taught in other states because national publishers typically tailor their materials to Texas, one of the biggest textbook purchasers in the country." (Here's the link to the full story.)

With this curriculum change as a backdrop, it should come as no surprise to learn that almost six of every 10 likely voters in Texas say they support an Arizona-like immigration law for their state.

What is happening in Texas is the third wave of a growing pocket of angry Americans responding with a deep-rooted anger to perceived injustices. The first occurred last summer when the initial Tea Party movement protests took place. The second was the re-emerging attack on illegal immigration. What took place in Arizona is (so far) the defining moment of that attack. Now comes a party-line vote to ignore the cultural diversity of our nation's history. (Please remember that this vote simply didn't happen in an overnight, willy-nilly fashion; the move to bring them about started two years ago.)

What comes next?

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