And the beat goes on.

Came across this gem of an article on Yahoo tonight:  Texas Debates the Way History Will Be Taught and thought the rest of you might want to give it a glance, if you haven’t seen it yet.

Basically, Texas is embroiled in a bit of an argument about what topics and which prominent people should be included in the public K-12 social studies program. It’s the usual fight: the Left versus the Right. The Left generally wants to make sure that No One Is Excluded at the expense of their religion, race, creed, gender, politics, belief in marsupial afterlife or odd persistence in drinking caffeine-free diet sodas. If you honestly believe in it, whatever it is, they’ll find a way for it to be included in the national curriculum. The Right generally wants everything to be very Christian all the time. Except for Santa. Santa can suck it, as far as they’re concerned. I’m pretty sure you can find that in the Bible somewhere, written in code maybe. So sayeth the Lord and all that.  Or maybe I’m thinking of Nostradamus. Dan Brown? Jerry B. Jenkins? I dunno. Somewhere, at least.

So, it’s really not surprising that the two sides of the Texas school board can’t seem to find a middle-ground on this issue. Nothing new there. And I don’t even live in Texas, so why should I even care, right? And I wouldn’t really, except for this:

The curriculum it chooses will set the guideposts for teaching history and social studies to some 4.8 million K-12 students for 10 years. The standards will be used to develop state tests and by textbook publishers who develop material for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets. (emphasis is mine)

So, basically, most of the nation will end up with whatever Texas decides. And frankly, if I weren’t homeschooling already, I’d be watching this one Very Closely, and carefully considering my options. Because if you haven’t read it yet, you really need to read this article: A Textbook Example of What’s Wrong With Education by Tamim Ansary, and see the politics behind how American public school textbooks are written and published. For example:

If you’re creating a new textbook, therefore, you start by scrutinizing “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills” (TEKS). This document is drawn up by a group of curriculum experts, teachers, and political insiders appointed by the 15 members of the Texas Board of Education, currently five Democrats and ten Republicans, about half of whom have a background in education. TEKS describes what Texas wants and what the entire nation will therefore get.

Texas is truly the tail that wags the dog. There is, however, a tail that wags this mighty tail. Every adoption state allows private citizens to review textbooks and raise objections. Publishers must respond to these objections at open hearings.

In the late ’60s, a Texas couple, Mel and Norma Gabler, figured out how to use their state’s adoption hearings to put pressure on textbook publishers. The Gablers had no academic credentials or teaching background, but they knew what they wanted taught — phonics, sexual abstinence, free enterprise, creationism, and the primacy of Judeo-Christian values — and considered themselves in a battle against a “politically correct degradation of academics.”

Phonics sounds good. So does free enterprise. But the rest of it… not our cuppa, so to speak. And before you all freak out on me for bashing on the Texas fundies, here’s what California likes to do with their textbooks:

Concern in California is normally of the politically correct sort — objections, for example, to such perceived gaffes as using the word Indian instead of “Native American.” To make the list in California, books must be scrupulously stereotype free: No textbook can show African Americans playing sports, Asians using computers, or women taking care of children. Anyone who stays in textbook publishing long enough develops radar for what will and won’t get past the blanding process of both the conservative and liberal watchdogs.

It’s not so bad as the conservative push in Texas, but it’s still over the top for me. The idea of never showing women taking care of children doesn’t sit well with me. There’s such a thing as Too Politically Correct, if you ask me. They’re shooting themselves in the foot at the expense of the children they’re trying to teach. And the result is social paralysis and an uneducated American public.

It’s really an eye-opening experience, revisiting this article. The kind that makes me grateful for even the most difficult day around here, when we’re just slogging through the material in the middle of an endless cold-snap and the holiday break is over and we’re all grousing and grumbling at each other and waiting for spring. Because at least I’ve got the freedom to choose what we study and to present the material in a meaningful way.

Yeah, we homeschool. Thank God.

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7 Responses to “And the beat goes on.”


  1. 1 Katherine January 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I’ve got no comment on text books, of course. But I will say that I love it when you blog! :o) Thanks for the info. Its scandalous.

  2. 3 Ami January 14, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    My friend writes for testing companies sometimes. She has a whole book of stuff she can’t use. Illustrations for example.

    No girls wearing dresses. Sexist.
    No one eating, because someone might get offended if the person is eating with the ‘wrong’ or ‘unclean’ hand.

    No stories about things like kids who live in a house… wouldn’t want to offend anyone who lives in an apartment.

    It’s a huge list.

    So what you wrote doesn’t surprise me, but the depth and breadth of it is shocking.

    I am astounded.

  3. 4 Mom #1 January 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    It’s all anyone is talking about down here. Don’t be surprised if the fundies win. They have a way. Boy oh boy, do they.

    Homeschooling rocks. There. I said it.

  4. 5 RegularMom January 17, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Yes, Mom #1, you were in my thoughts a lot when I wrote this post. But at least BabyBoy is almost done with his schooling. How bittersweet is that? He won’t have to worry too much about this. But then again… that means he’s almost all grown up. CHOKE! SOB! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! 🙂

    And Ami, yeah, it really rides that ragged edge of UNBELIEVABLY STUPID, doesn’t it? 🙂

  5. 6 barracudavisuals January 22, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Hey, cool blog.

    I don’t think those sort of images really are a big deal for kids to see. There’s plenty of stereotypes in the world anyway. California’s richness comes from its vast perspectives, which may seem difficult to empathize with when you come from somewhere else.

    I understand, but I don’t think it’s a reason to home school. Aren’t there times when you more concerned about about your kids socialization and the common, but sometimes journey they have to take to become well-rounded person.

    In your opinion, is it better to avoid this ritual by home schooling?

  6. 7 RegularMom January 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Hey Barracuda,

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. Are you saying that it’s not a big deal for kids to see pictures of stereotypes, or that it’s not a big deal for kids to see pictures in which stereotypes never appear? As for California’s vast perspectives, I’m also unclear what you’re saying. I lived in California for about 18 months, long ago, and yes, there was a significant variety of people and culture all enmassed together. But I’m not sure that really applies here. In all that richness, I saw, more often than not: women taking care of childen, black people playing sports, and Asian people working in the computer industry. The textbook industry in California refused to allow images of that type into their school texts because they’re worried about perpetuating a stereotype. Yet all around school children, every day of their lives, they see the stereotypes that their books pretend don’t exist. That’s what I find ridiculous.

    As for the decision to homeschool or not, I agree with you. I don’t think that the textbook industry’s problems are a bottom-line, THIS IS WHY I HOMESCHOOL kind of issue. It’s just one more piece of a very small pie. In other words, I homeschool for many, many reasons. The textbooks being used in public schools fall quite near the bottom of my list of reasons. But it counts.

    As for the whole socialization issue… the fact that you brought this up indicates to me that you haven’t really researched homeschooling at all. There’s a plethora of information out there regarding the social benefits of homeschooling. I can recommend some books and articles for you, if you’d like. Email me or leave another comment if you would like to read any further on that topic. 🙂

    But I can assure you that homeschooled children have no difficulties in making friends, having peer groups, and becoming “well-rounded” individuals. They just don’t do this kind of networking within an industrial “school” environment.

    Also: I’m not sure I agree with you that children emerging from 13 or 14 years of mass-market public education can be described as “well-rounded.”

    But, that’s a whole ‘nother post.

    Thanks for reading. 🙂


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