Jan 19 2010

The Book Barons of Texas

At the Austin American Statesmen, Kate Alexander reports that the Texas State Board of Education’s [SBOE] writing of textbook standards for the subject of social studies has became a debate over which names will be omitted because the standards are “too full” to begin with.

The teachers who had helped draft the revised standards over the past year had dropped many names because they said the standards were too full.

But the board disregarded much of that work, prompting board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, to worry the board was “choking our kids with a list of names.”

But because the standards are “too full” even putting on good names can only be ineffective.  The standards must be made “less full” before names are added.

It is in the interest of the SBOE to keep saturating its textbook standards so that they are “too full,” rather than act as caretaker for the educational interests of the parents of students, because the SBOE is like any other mom-and-pop bureaucracy:  it must expand itself to justify its own existence by including, evaluating, proposing, and applying new and improved bloated standards.

Even if the stars aligned and fire came down from Heaven, and the SBOE actually provided “not-so-full” standards of only GREAT names in the subject of social studies, and parents and SBOE members and textbook publishers all shook hands, the impact it would have on students lives would less than petty.

“Choking” in Pat Hardy’s sense of the word seems to imply forced-feeding, or forced reading, both of which are really impossible in a public school setting.  Even when forced to read the best books, there is no guarantee that the student ever had any enthusiasm or a will to learn.  When it comes to reading textbooks, what is there to stop students from acquiring a “play to lose” strategy to end the reading assignment as quickly as possible so they can go do something they really care about? Because what students care about ain’t gonna have nothing to do with reading.


Jan 13 2010

Writing and Selling Textbooks in Texas

From the Washington Monthly via Little Green Footballs:

As [Texas] goes through the onceinadecade process of rewriting the standards for its textbooks, the [Creationist] faction is using its clout to infuse them with ultraconservative ideals.

An unstated assumption in the above article from Mariah Blake implies that well-written textbooks might have a positive effect on the lives of American public school students.

That assumption might hold true for well-written “books” but not for the tautological tangles found in a composite term such as “textbook.” (If a text can exist as a book, and a book can exist a text, a textbook is a tautology, no?)

But even if Blake’s assumption were true, one must still ask: Why not let Creationists and book publishers conduct a social experiment financed by voter’s property taxes? Why not let them run their liberal scheme which uses the public schools for their laboratories? What’s wrong with exercising the determination (even after their savior warned them otherwise, i.e. John 18:36) to built a Creationist publishing kingdom that rules over America’s public schools? Perhaps they are already predestined to try.

The Creationists might all worship the same god, but if they can’t even agree upon which building they want to talk about him in, why should any citizen or student of Texas expect a Creationist-approved textbook to exhibit any kind of moral influence on their behavior and thinking? Even if the textbook in question specifically concerns creation and Christianity, no Creationist textbook editor or team of editors will ever produce anything about American Christianity teachable, memorable, or influential to students because of the religion’s vast and various theologies, denominations, spin-offs, creeds, sects. Students–even those most enthusiastic, most receptive to ANY kind of Creationist and/or Christian eduction–would encounter at best, a gray haze.

Blake further fails to mention that there was never a time in Texas history when some faction wasnt:

using its clout to infuseultraconservative ideals.

And because Blake seems to assume that some Great Liberal/Progressive Era of Texas once existed, her report can permit such farcical, absolute statements like:

never before has the boards right wing wielded so much power over the writing of the states standards [for textbooks].

When did the right wing not have power in the State of Texas (including power over the state’s standards for textbooks)? Really, when was this?

While Don McLeroy and the Creationists’ liberal experiment stands doomed to fail (predestined, if you will), the rest of the nation can take comfort in knowing that Texas Tradition (or Conservatism, or Creationism, or whatever they’re calling it this week) will continue, will abide, will endure and insure that no graduate of the state’s public school system will ever receive a Nobel Prize for any branch of science or work of literature (much less be nominated). Perhaps that is predestined also.

Surely there are more interesting ways to waste property-taxes other than buying shoddy schoolbooks. Surely Texans have not lost complete creativity in that regard. So first thing’s first. It’s time to say bon voyage to NASA. “Adios, all you asshole astronomers!” because to continue maintaining the National Aeronautic and Space Administration within the State of Texas makes about as much sense as opening up a sausage shop in the middle of Mecca.

UPDATE I:

The context of the post above is limited to the medium of textbooks only. But as John Derbyshire observes over at National Reviews The Corner, if textbooks can’t quite indoctrinate students, electronic media certainly can:

The Children’s Hour [John Derbyshire]

The Hamas TV channel, those jolly folk that gave us Farfur, the Jew-hating Mickey Mouse clone, are at it again:

Hamas’ terrorist TV channel — which routinely indoctrinates kids by portraying Israelis as ghouls — is launching a new cartoon series that depicts another enemy, the Palestinian Authority police.

A pilot episode shows a toadyish Palestinian officer watching as a Jewish character machine-guns a group of West Bank children to death and drinks their blood. “You killed our children before my eyes,” the officer says meekly. “I will respond with even more peace.”

But wait — who’s this? Why, it’s al-Bahni the purple dinosaur! Come on, sing along now, children. You all know the tune:

I love death, death loves me,
Martyrdom will make us free . . .

UPDATE II: I concede to Blake that an instance of a kind of Great Liberal/Progressive Era in Texas, and probably more progressive than liberal, is mentioned somewhere in Robert Caro’s The Path to Power (1982) (to which I have on loan at the moment). I seem to remember, in the context of LBJ’s first campaign for Congress in TX District 10, someone quoted for the farmers political movement of the Texas Hill Country as having said:   “You have to remember that Roosevelt was a kind of God around here,” however, in the context of the quote, LBJ was struggling in his campaign despite Roosevelt being “a kind of God” to poor, progressive farmers.