Education ‘Reform’ Isn’t About the Kids: The Texas Schoolbook Edition

Here’s something you won’t hear any of the education reformers getting worked up about (boldface mine):

During a months-long process, publishers made a number of improvements to their textbooks. Those improvements included removing inaccurate information promoting climate change denialism; deleting offensive cartoons comparing beneficiaries of affirmative action to space aliens; making clearer that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War; and revising passages that had promoted unfair negative stereotypes of Muslims. Scholars and the general public had ample opportunity to review and comment on those revisions.

However, the new textbooks also include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament. Scholars from across the country have said such claims are inaccurate and mislead students about the historical record.

Here’s what the Moses bit really means (boldface mine):

Careful analyst by Justine Esta Ellis (a scholar who was not part of the TFN group) finds the strategy of starting with Moses is aimed at presenting the United States as a unique “redeemer nation,” predestined among all others to act out God’s will. Arch-conservative David Barton, who has no historian’s credentials but who nonetheless has had a huge impact on TEKS, maintains that verse after verse from the Bible is quoted “verbatim” in the Constitution. Checking Scripture demonstrates quickly that this is just not so. The language and the ideas do not match. Any professor of history teaches history majors not to make that kind of mistake…

One of those historians, my colleague and former Southern Methodist University department chair Kathleen Wellman, testified at the SBOE public hearing this month. She told the SBOE that the effect of the TEKS requirement to find biblical origins for the Constitution would be to make Moses the “first American.” Some historians give that honor to Benjamin Franklin. Whoever might merit it, Moses definitely does not qualify.

Will Michelle Rhee or anyone from Students First decry the teaching of outright falsehoods? Will the leaders of the Common Core, such as David Coleman, make the obvious point that this crap doesn’t belong in a school textbook? What’s the point of having a Common Core if it’s utterly ridiculous? Will Education Secretary Arne Duncan say anything?

Of course they won’t. They have never decried creationism, climate change denialism or any other rightwing hooey. It also explains the support for charter schools: it’s easier in charter schools to use public funds to indoctrinate children with less oversight (by the way, that link discusses Texas. Go figure).

Education reformers have an agenda, but it’s pretty clear the welfare of children isn’t at the top of the list.

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