Thursday, May 13, 2010

Texans Should Just Ignore State Board of Education, Houston Chronicle Says

The Houston Chronicle recently had a great editorial, summarizing the most recent antics of the infamously dysfunctional Texas State Board of Education--and suggesting it would be best for all Texans to just ignore the board's latest curriculum mandates. Editorial follows:

How bad is the new history curriculum now under consideration by the Texas State Board of Education?

It's so bad that Jon Stewart made fun of it on TV. He played footage of the board voting to remove Oscar Romero from a list of great political and moral figures of the 20th century — because one board member said she'd never heard of the archbishop assassinated by an El Salvador death squad. “That,” cracked Stewart, “is how Oscar Romero got disappeared by right-wingers for the second time!”

The proposed curriculum is so bad that it would strike Thomas Jefferson from a list of Enlightenment thinkers who influenced the world. So bad that it plays down the civil rights and women's rights movements — in a state where minorities and women easily form a majority.

It's so bad that to date, more than 1,200 historians and professors have signed a letter complaining that the revisions “undermined the study of the social sciences in our public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of American society.”

But you know what? There's something even worse than that curriculum. And that's the multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall facing Texas.

So we think it makes sense for the Legislature to put off buying $800 million in history books based on that curriculum. “There's no rush necessary,” argues Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. “We have plenty of time to do it right.”

In these lean times, students and teachers can make do with their old textbooks. And certainly, using them for another year or two beats investing in bad books that would stick around for a decade.

In the meantime, the state board can redeem itself by formulating a less-embarrassing curriculum. Or maybe the Legislature can reformulate the board by putting it up for a sunset review.

To slash the state budget, the Texas Legislature will have to make lots of hard choices. But not buying lousy textbooks? That's a no-brainer.

Let's disappear that curriculum. And let's bring back Thomas Jefferson and Oscar Romero.

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