Monday, October 24, 2011
Crucify me, Cap'n.
For every school across America, curriculum and text books are not only a major concern but a major expense. Most schools do not have the money to fund the publishing of textbooks that have been customized to their state’s needs and beliefs. But for states that do have the money, like Texas, the customizations do not come easy. Texas school board members are elected like any other state representative. Member like Don McLeroy openly holds titles like “conservative republican”, while other call themselves “liberal democrats” but the majority of the board agrees on being “fundamentalist Christians”. Every ten years debates are held over the revision of the state’s textbooks and what topics, names and facts should be added or removed for the students of the next decade to learn. “How Christians Were the Founders?” Russel Shorto discusses how in the past several years the debates have become quite controversial over topics like whether the founding fathers wrote the constitution with Christian values in mind, if the country was founded on Christian beliefs and if ethnic minorities should allowed into the history books. And their team comes prepared, equipped with a practicing lawyer, Cynthia Dunbar is also an assistant professor who’s done her homework and is not shy about using debate methods like incorporation by reference. She states “When you have in one legal document reference to another, it pulls them together, so that they can’t be viewed as separate and distinct. So you cannot read the constitution distinct from the declaration.” And the declaration famously refers to a creator and grounds itself in “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Therefore, she said, the religiosity of the founders is not only established and rooted in a foundational document but linked to the constitution. Of course both sides have their own proposals for additions and ideas for editing but the conservative’s side of the argument goes a bit over the line of simple revision and crosses into attempting to change laws that have stood since the early years of our country. Laws like “the separation of church and state”, a term coined by Thomas Jefferson that got him removed from the curriculum, though the board is a democracy and everything is voted on, it’s still Texas, a notoriously conservative state. The criteria of Texas’ textbook would seemingly only affect the students of Texas, but like I said before, most states cannot afford to have customized textbooks published. So they buy the books they can afford, which by chance, are the books that the Texas board of education has revised and voted on. Texas is the largest of the upper 47 states and its educational decisions influence most of the other 46. California, the most populated state, would be one of the only exceptions if it wasn’t bankrupt. Like most other problems that we encounter as Americans, we confront this issue with our political party titles and all of our personal beliefs intact. As a country we seem to have a problem with tolerance, with our pride of freedom and democracy we find it hard to swallow anyone else could be having their way with things. So instead of trying to agree upon a fairly balanced curriculum that covers both sides of the nation’s opinions we try our hardest to force feed our young a mindset instead of an education.