I have a confession to make...
I am insane. I have to be. Yes, I did turn on the live stream of the Texas Board of Education curriculum standards meeting at 9AM Thursday morning and yes, I stayed with it until 6pm, live-tweeting the whole thing until I could stand it no more. Still not content with the assault on my sensibilities, I came back for more at around 8pm, until it finally adjourned at 10pm my time, 1am Texas time.
I did it for you, all for you...
Bless their hearts....
Here's my biggest takeaway, and I mean this with all sincerity and respect: These people should not be doing this. They just shouldn't be. Not because they're evil. They're not. Well, maybe some of them are just a little bit, but more fundamentally they don't have the first clue as to how absolutely screwed up these curriculum standards are getting. Forget the textbooks, no teacher -- not even one with a masters from Harvard or University of Texas or ANYWHERE -- could possibly teach what they've put together.
It's incoherent. It makes no sense. They've created something that I should be able to define without resorting to NSFW terms, especially a compound word that begins with the word "cluster" and ends with an additional four letters, but really, that's what they've made. A colossal one, even.
Some highs (or lows, or you'll wish you were high)
Don't acknowledge truth without a tinge of pettiness
While it was certainly big of them to include a standard acknowledging the 2008 election of the first black President of the United States, it was not without moments. One of the conservative members thought that would be fine as long as he was included as "Barack HUSSEIN Obama". There was a bit of a verbal tussle over this as the more reasonable members suggested that might be just a little bit petty. Ultimately, the Henry Cabot Lodge false equivalency failed, and they agreed to Barack H. Obama. Grudgingly.
What's a little eugenics between friends?
After tonight, there is an extra word nestled in the following standard:
analyze causes and effects of events and social issues such as immigration, Social Darwinism, race relations, nativism, the Red Scare, Prohibition, and the changing role of women; and...
It reads this way now:
analyze causes and effects of events and social issues such as immigration, eugenics, Social Darwinism, race relations, nativism, the Red Scare, Prohibition, and the changing role of women; and
That's right. Our kids in Texas will possibly learn about eugenics. Why do I say possibly? Because there are two ways to word a standard. One is to use the term including, which means everything may be on a standardized test and therefore must be covered. The other is to use the term "such as", which means the teacher must teach the concept but has the option to use some or all of the terms.
It sounds like a benign enough compromise until you begin to consider the insidious ways it was used to denigrate in some cases and slide references into the material in others. Like eugenics, for example. Or to downgrade the elevation of our first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, to a "such as" when the original list without her was an "include". But, they did manage to remove Phyllis Schlafly from that same list, so there's that, anyway.
Speaking of Phyllis Schlafly...
Yeah, not so fast. Some members tried to apply the "such as" standard to the Contract
on with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association as examples of "a conservative resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s." Alas, no luck. They remain as "including", so they will all have to be taught. Dolores Huerta, Hispanic heroine of farm workers everywhere, however, was dropped like a cold stone because (lean in close, now) we can't tell the 3rd graders she was a...socialist. No socialist heroines in Texas. Only confederate heroes there.
The Great Civil War Debate
This one went on all day, from kindergarten right on up through 12th grade. The argument, of course, was over slavery, and the role it played as a cause for the Civil War. One board member, clearly frustrated by the ongoing claim that slavery wasn't really too much of a contributing factor, finally said straight up "It was all about slavery. That's ALL it was about. You can call it what you want, it was about slavery."
Sadly, her point was not well taken. Texas children will learn from the time they enter school until the time they graduate, that the causes of the Civil War, in the order of importance, were sectionalism, states' rights and slavery.
Comic relief: Probably the best moment of the whole stupid debate was when one male board member referred to sectionalism as "sexualism."
Side arguments: Whether Jefferson Davis' inaugural address should be studied and analyzed alongside Abraham Lincoln's. The board concludes that yes, it should. Also, should Jefferson Davis be characterized as a "hero"? Yes, the board says, he should. Finally, should Confederate generals be included on a list of "heroes of the Civil War"? Yes, the board says, oh hell, yes. All hail, Confederate heroes, kids. Because we just don't have enough of them.
Immigrants (legal and otherwise), totalitarians and assorted sordid details
Immigration - when one board member proposed removing the term "illegal" from a standard about demographic shifts as a result of "legal or illegal immigration", there is discussion. One member rightly points out that with regard to demographics, the issue of legality is not really relevant. Off with her head! The word "illegal" remains, because Don McElroy, Mr. Conservative Dentist who loves his country, likes it just fine that way. Seriously. I heard him say so.
McElroy also wants all Texas schoolchildren to love their country as much as he does, so he includes language to add a standard to "describe the optimism of the many immigrants who were thankful to find a better life in America." It passes, along with my kidney stone and my optimism, which was here before it wasn't.
Entitlements bad, free enterprise good Another McElroy classic: Discuss alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, given the decreasing worker to retiree ratio.
It lives, but in a slightly revised form. Now students will "discuss the solvency of long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare."
Mega-win there. Gets "entitlements" as the concept, along with the notion that we're all gonna bankrupt the children. Come over here, little kids, let me bankrupt you. Please.
When is a totalitarian unlimited?
When the definition of "unlimited government" is totalitarian, and the definition of limited government is constitutional, that's when.
What the Tea Party likes
Evidently the Tea Party, who was consulted for some 5th grade standards, likes the characterization of capitalism as "free enterprise" when framed against communism and socialism as economic systems. First they argue that communism and socialism are interchangeable. Then they argue that students in the fifth grade -- FIFTH GRADE, FOLKS -- should have to adhere to this standard:
explain the importance of morality and ethics in maintaining a functional free enterprise system.
I have an active imagination, but there is no way I could make this stuff up. Not even a fraction of it. Only wingnuts and teabaggers have this kind of imagination.
Make it stop, she whined...
The thing is, after awhile it's just mind-numbingly insane, and I have to wonder why any teacher would bother for the small paycheck, sneery attitude, and screwed-up job description. When these standards are voted on as a whole, they will be in effect for ten years. TEN YEARS. They'll be in effect, but they're unintelligible. Seriously, there IS NO FREE ENTERPRISE economic system. NONE. Zero. It's invented. But these clowns will have students make it all up, despite the fact that they live in a world with boundaries that stretch outside of Texas.
Like I said, this group has no business doing this. They just don't. The member who went looking for his Doritos during the break after announcing it first should lead them all to the Promised Land of Limited Government and Hands-Off curriculum standards.
For you, the faithful here on Crooks and Liars, I will be back listening to the live stream again today. So now comes the pitch...will you please donate?