Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kneejerk Alert

The left seems to be engaged in a colossal knee-jerk over the Texas board of education's reform of text in public school literature. Here's HuffPo, pointing to Think Progress, pointing to the New York Times, all using some degree of hyperbole and scare mongering--including a picture of Jefferson with a red X and rhetoric such as "Jefferson removed".

But those are just liberals being liberals. Did the Texas board really go overboard? Are they re-writing history or just decades of liberal history? Judge for yourself, from the Times report:
Dr. McLeroy, a dentist by training, pushed through a change to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

“Republicans need a little credit for that,” he said. “I think it’s going to surprise some students.”
A "dentist" (scorn), as if only lawyers and college professors should have any input on history books. But isn't providing both sides usually called balance?
Mr. Bradley won approval for an amendment saying students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation.
Since liberals don't generally believe in any unintended consequences of social programs the anger over this shouldn't be a surprise but it will be nice to see Bill Clinton's State of the Union comment, "the era of big government is over", and his ensuing welfare reform possibly getting some page space.
He also won approval for an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.
This happens to be quite topical with the Tom Hanks' recent comments about wartime racism making news. Wait, were Germans and Italians actually interned? Sort of.
Other changes seem aimed at tamping down criticism of the right. Conservatives passed one amendment, for instance, requiring that the history of McCarthyism include “how the later release of the Venona papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government.” The Venona papers were transcripts of some 3,000 communications between the Soviet Union and its agents in the United States.
In other words, McCarthy might have been a pompous ass but he was partially correct, there were communists hiding in plain sight. This is something that usually gets lost in the shuffle of history. Matter of fact, Obama's own communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis most likely moved to Hawaii in the 40s to escape such "McCarthyism".
Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students study the reasons “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.” It was defeated on a party-line vote.
Sounds like they could have given the Democrats this one since it's clear that while the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution the founders were wary of religion in state affairs. By the way, wonder if Texas school books include the full history of Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates?
In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”
Friedman and Hayak weren't already in there?
In the field of sociology, another conservative member, Barbara Cargill, won passage of an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.
So Texas conservatives are agreeing with the New York Times, and the Times is upset? Don't they listen to Obama's speeches? And wait, backing up a minute, the welfare reform act of 1996 had a similar label.

The Times ended their coverage with what appears to be an editorial comment:
(Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)
But surely Jefferson will still be taught in Texas schools, along with all the juicy stuff about Sally Hemmings, etc.

In summary, this kneejerk is perplexing. Leftists usually pride themselves on upholding and demanding fairness in all areas of society, yet for some reason they seem upset about adding some historical balance to school books after decades of one side guiding the ship. A lot of the angst is about the addition of material rather than the removal.

Some of this may be a secret fear these Texas yahoos are getting too close to bringing that Jesus fella into the school books--you know, the one who, if he were around today would likely be a social justice supporter of government-run health care and spreading the wealth around.

But nobody on either side should be for having history controlled by one side of the political spectrum. When it comes to education both sides need to be kept in check as much as possible, so perhaps the board will take a careful look at the reaction to this story before the final vote in May. At least both sides should be able to agree on this one:
[The Board] Struck the word “democratic” in references to the form of U.S. government and replaced it with “constitutional republic.”
Presumably, at least.

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