Sunday, January 27, 2013

Last Call

The biggest problem with the GOP remains that in a majority of states, they run the show.  At the local, county, and state level Republicans are politicizing every possible state government function and stacking the deck with like-minded Teabaggers with the goal of using "small government" to control as much as they can.

One big area where the GOP is causing lasting damage is in public education.  In Texas for example, the war over the state's school textbooks has been hard-fought and ugly.  That battle is the subject of a new PBS documentary, The Revisionaries:

The movie follows the testimony and actions of the board as it tears through—and in some cases, tears up—the science and history standards that were forwarded to them. It uses footage of hearings and votes, along with interviews of many of the participants, including a professor involved in writing the science standards, and Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization dedicated to limiting the impact of the board's more ideological members.

And they are seriously ideological. McLeroy is quoted as saying, "education is too important to not be politicized," while fellow board member Cynthia Dunbar claims that "education is inherently religious." And she apparently treats the board meetings the same way, as she's shown giving an opening prayer in which she calls for Jesus to help everyone recognize that the US is "a Christian land, governed by Christian principles."

The existing Texas science standards had language that called for the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution to be taught. That language has opened the door to the sorts of spurious criticisms that McLeroy is fond of (and apparently, subjects some of his dental patients to). So when the proposed new standards came to the board without any mention of strengths and weaknesses, McLeroy and others fought hard to put them back in. As a compromise, the board simply renamed them to "analyze and evaluate," creating awkward results like instructing students to "analyze all sides of scientific information" about evolution.

If anything, the history standards were worse. Dunbar claims she's a "big fan" of Thomas Jefferson, but thinks a "secular humanistic ideology" has clouded current interpretations of his work. So she cuts him out of the standards on the Enlightenment and its influence on the US' founding documents, instead substituting in pre-enlightenment figures like Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. Further revisions to history come rapid fire, as others try to add the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, and NRA to a section on the '80s, and another person tries to make sure Barack Obama's middle name (Hussein) is added to the text where his name appears.

One board member, looking at the results, is seen saying, "I feel that I have let down the students in our state because all those kids in our schools right now, when they get to college, they're going to learn the real history."

The movie ends with McLeroy losing his reelection bid by a few hundred votes, but already thinking about running again at his next opportunity. But some of his many opponents note that the changes he helped make to the standards will be influencing entire generations of students before they're next revised in 2020.

And they will never give up until Americans are as stupid and as ignorant as they are.  A generation of talk radio and FOX News has given the reactionary right unprecedented power to eliminate critical thinking and turn us all into "Christians" who have only faith and no desire to learn anything but what they are told.

So get involved with your own school board, your own state textbook committee, your own city council, your own county commission.  The other side sure as hell is.

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