This diary is part of a 24-hour blograiser for our Texas State Board of Education Candidates, Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau.
Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government. - Thomas Jefferson
This idea, that democracy requires an educated citizenry, has been essential to our development as a country. It is a core value of our system of government. But that's not the only good idea that our country was founded on.
But in Texas this very idea, so fundamental to our democracy, is under attack by the extreme right-wing activists who control the Texas Board of Education. A small group of self-proclaimed "experts" have set about a radical rewriting of Texas's curriculum to promote right-wing ideology and historical revisionism. In fact, they even tried to erase Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum.
And this is not the only Jeffersonian idea under attack by the State Board of Education. They are also going after basic American concepts like the wall of separation between church and state. The SBOE has gone after this fundamental value as well.
And now it looks as if they're jumping on board the Islamophobia train. These are just a few of the radical changes they've been pushing through. The Texas Freedom Network has a long list of some of the worst offenses, here's some of them.
- Religious conservatives on the board killed a proposed standard that would have required high school government students to "examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others." That means the board rejected teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America. (3/11/10)
- The board removed the concepts of "justice" and "responsibility for the common good" from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3. (The proposal to remove "equality" failed.) (1/14/10)
- Board members added Friedrich von Hayek to a standard in the high school economics course even though some board members acknowledged that they had no idea who the Austrian-born economist even was. (3/11/10)
- The board added a requirement that American history students learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. The board included no similar standard requiring students to learn about individuals and organizations simply because they are liberal. (1/15/10)
- Board conservatives passed a standard for the eighth-grade U.S. history class requiring students to learn about the ideas in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. (1/14/10)
- In a high school government standard about "the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic," the board added a requirement that students learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. (3/11/10)
Let's be clear: This is a full on assault on public education and the fundamental concepts of our country. We can't just sit by idly and let this happen. Texas's textbooks have a huge impact on the national textbook market and of course on the huge amount of students in Texas who will use them.
Now, say what you will about Texas. But I think it's a pretty great state. It helped produce my parents and some of my favorite people live there. It also happens to be critical for the long term prospects of progressives in this country. In fact, I'd argue that an investment in Texas is the best investment progressives can make right now. And that's what I'm asking you to do.
We have two great candidates with solid chances of winning: Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau. Their districts stretch over a land area the size of Mississippi and a little money goes a long way in getting the word out. If we tip these two races the board could tip back to sanity just in time.
Consider chipping in whatever you can over at ActBlue, $5, $50, $500, anything will make a difference. Far more than many more high profile races your money will make an impact, but the cause is no less critical to the future of our country.
I don't know about you, but I think my generation is worth fighting for. We just can't let reactionaries spread ignorance when we will face problems that require a deep understanding of our history and a fact-based education. At the close of our constitutional convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government the Constitution was bringing into existence. Franklin replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." That's our challenge. I hope you'll join me.