Call it one small step back for the TEA, one giant step back for the people of Texas.
The Texas Education Agency has been in the news lately due to efforts to become a completely mockery of itself during revisions to state-approved textbooks. First, there was a push to remove Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall from the history books, as the Dallas Morning News reports:
Two members of a board-appointed advisory panel had suggested removing Chavez and Marshall from fifth-grade social studies, which triggered a strong backlash from civil rights groups, teachers and parents statewide. …
Supporters argued that Chavez greatly improved conditions for Hispanic farm workers, but critics said he lacked the stature and impact to be listed next to the likes of Benjamin Franklin. …
Others testified that to not include Marshall, the attorney who won the case that integrated the nation's schools and later became the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, was an insult to his contributions.
Yeah, maybe Chavez lacks the necessary stature to willfully-ignorant folks who don't care about Hispanics, or who feel threatened by the growing Hispanic population in our state. To remove him from the textbooks would only force this same ignorance on our Texas schoolchildren, who wouldn't be required to learn about his immense impact on the lives of so many Americans. And I can see why removing Marshall from the books might provide succor to those conservatives continually reeling at the progress of African Americans in our society. However, I'm pretty sure that if you kick Marshall out of the history books, the President's still going to be Black.
And as if removing noted Civil Rights leaders from textbooks wasn't ridiculous enough, now they've set their crusading sites on… Neil Armstrong?! From the Houston Chronicle's SciGuy Blog:
…a Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills review team composed of parents and teachers has suggested removing Neil Armstrong from a “science strand” in a 5th grade social studies book.
Why? Because apparently, the first man to walk on the moon isn't … wait for it… a scientist. So though he's perhaps history's most famous spaceman, and though NASA's home in Houston has been a huge boon to Texas, we'd better wipe him out of the history books. Except for one key detail: Armstrong actually is a scientist. SciGuy points out that Armstrong received aerospace engineering degrees from Purdue and USC, and taught science at the University of Cincinnati. Sounds like a scientist to me. Meanwhile, featuring prominently on the list of People Who Are Not Scientists would be most of the State Board of Education, the people who set science standards for the state.
As for the anti-astronaut efforts, maybe it's the fact that by its very existence as a government agency, NASA is a publicly-funded, dare-I-say Socialist program. I sense their fear: was Armstrong sent to the moon to try and start a socialist, government-funded space colony?
In their defense, the TEA name-unnamers in question claim that kids these days are just required to learn about too many prominent people. Too many good Americans doing too much good stuff! If we can't stop the do-gooding, maybe we can just keep other people from finding out about it.
Other famous folks potentially soon-to-be-stricken from the historical record, as taught by our Texas textbooks? Carl Sagan, Colin Powell, Nathan Hale, Eugene Debs, John Steinbeck and Mother Teresa. Well, not too many shockers there. Debs was an avowed Socialist, Mother Teresa ministered to the suffering, and Steinbeck wrote about the plight of the poor. Hale fought for American independence against the British, rather than Texan independence from America. Powell has three strikes against him: prominent African American, endorsed Barack Obama, and spoke out against the Bush administration. As for Sagan, his science fiction probably counts as religious blasphemy to some of the SBOE members.
Not only is this whole textbook revision process embarrassing, it's one of those times when I just want to throw my hands up and say “Fine, TEA. You're making it too hard to try and defend Texas as anything other than a huge tundra of ignorance.”
However, we have a chance to fix this: there are several SBOE seats up for election this year, including the two that subdivide Austin: SBOE 10, home to Cynthia “The President is a Terrorist” Dunbar, and Ken “Evolution Is For The Weak” Mercer in SBOE 5. Strong Democrats have declared for both primaries, and Texas will finally have the opportunity to elect folks who believe in book-learnin'.
In the meantime, to quote our the ex-president, “Is our children learning?” Maybe. We're just not sure about whom.