March 17, 2010
Observant readers will note a recurring joke of mine is to mock anyone who brings up the innocence of children as an argument for censorship or any other type of control over ideas. The children are blank slates, these people say. We must protect their innocence, their big, cartoon-shaped eyes, and little ruffled heads from the harsh truths and evil of the world lest they sodomize the family dog.
First of all, what do these people mean by “innocent?” The dictionary.com definition states that innocence is:
1) the quality or state of being innocent; freedom from sin or moral wrong.
2) freedom from legal or specific wrong; guiltlessness: The prisoner proved his innocence.
3) simplicity; absence of guile or cunning; naiveté.
4) lack of knowledge or understanding.
5) harmlessness; innocuousness.
7) an innocent person or thing.
8 ) bluet.
9) blue-eyed Mary.
Definitions #6 through #9 are useless for this debate since no one is forcing children to have sex, #7 refers back to the original word, and #8 and #9 are about flowers. #1 talks about the freedom from sin or moral wrong, but if you haven’t made mistakes, you haven’t lived. The second refers to criminal cases, but it’s #3 and #4 that really interest me.
The absence of guile and cunning implies a lack of subtlety. Guile and cunning though, are not necessarily bad things. People need to be subtle, to act with precision in situations that require it. For example, reading someone’s body language and facial expressions to see if you’re making progress with him or her isn’t bad. It’s good diplomacy. However, #4 is the real kicker. It basically makes “innocent” a synonym of “ignorant.” In other words, innocence is really lack of knowledge. This, most would agree, is a bad thing. We want knowledge. It’s what makes civilization possible.
Even so, Texas has just decided to keep the “innocence” of its children by rewriting social studies books to such a degree that the next generation will know little to no truth about the world. This is dangerous not just for Texas, but for the rest of the country. The Lone Star State’s educational budget is well over $20 BILLION dollars. Books that get bought here eventually find their way into other states.
Among the noted changes are Thomas Jefferson’s deletion from early American history, talking about McCarthyism in a more positive light, and showing the Founding Fathers’ religious reasons and logic for the American Revolution and the founding of our country.
Were you as light-headed as I was after reading this?
This SCARED me. George Orwell wrote, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Human civilization, modern civilization at least, is based on the idea that accumulated knowledge passes on to the next generation. We continue to grow. Think of it this way. Before we had a way to accurately record information, it had to be passed from master to apprentice. When someone died, the information they knew died within them unless someone else remembered it. With the advent of writing, we now have a way for future generations to access the sum total of human knowledge.
Control what gets said or what doesn’t get said, control the record, and you have control over the future.
Some will argue that the Education Board has this authority. We did, after all, elect them to their positions. The problem is that NONE of the people on the Board are historians, sociologists, or experts in any field relevant to the changes they’ve proposed. They didn’t consult with said experts, either. In fact, many of them are vocal creationists.
In an effort to be as thorough as possible, let’s go through some of these changes just so we can all agree on why they’re wrong. It’s not enough to say they’re wrong. It’s important to understand WHY.
Removing mention of Thomas Jefferson and his work on the Declaration of Independence
While no one on the Board has explained this one, people in the blogosphere and all over the intrawebs have their theories. The best one is that Jefferson was a deist, which rubs the religious conservatives on the Board the wrong way. That is, he believed in some supreme being, but it wasn’t tied to a particular religion. He was more of a humanist than a religious man and is famous among advocates for humanism for his creation of the Jefferson Bible.
He essentially rewrote the New Testament to remove religious dogma and the supernatural and focus instead on Christ’s messages. It’s essentially a humanist version of Christianity.
In fact, most of the Founding Fathers were deists. While they used the words “Creator” and “God,” many like Jefferson were critical of religion and the regulation thereof. Anyone who claims the Founders were Christian and intended for the country to follow Christian ideals has never really read Jefferson’s work.
We’ll bring this up later…
Oh, and if you want to read the Jefferson Bible, it’s located here.
Discussing the violence of the Black Panthers alongside discussions on Doctor King in the Civil Rights movement while also mentioning the votes Republicans put forth for equality since, as one member on the Board said, “Republicans need a little credit for that [and] I think it’s going to surprise some students.”
Well gosh-darn, if it wasn’t for those brave Republicans, the Civil Rights Movement would have died in its infancy. I guess all those protestors who were beaten, attacked by dogs, had the hoses turned on them, were arrested, or otherwise suffered for their rights should be damn grateful for those Republicans.
Sarcasm aside, what is gained by mentioning one of the more militant and socialist groups alongside Doctor King’s message of non-violence and equality for all human beings? It tells students with little concept of the scientific method or historical analysis that certain groups got their rights not just through protest, but through violence and intimidation. While it is important to know that there were several groups involved in the struggle, it is the kind of thing that needs to be explained in context, and given the shortage of decent, honest teachers in this state willing to go against the curriculum, I wonder how many will actually do that.
The Black Panthers had many viewpoints and many agendas. Yes, they should be studied, but they should be studied in context.
Calling into question the existence of the Separation of Church and State and not having students learn that the Constitution prevents the government from favoring a single religion
Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by President John Adams in 1797, states:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
There. We signed a treaty stating we were not a Christian nation or a nation based or biased on ANY religious beliefs. The fact that we have leaders that frame the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in a religious, Christian context should frighten all of us. Not only are we in a situation where rational conversation and diplomacy could save us, but we are fanning the flames we thought we’d put out more than two hundred years ago.
Nothing like the ol’ Crusades mentality to diffuse tensions in the Middle East, huh? I mean, these problems have been going on for 6,000 years… They can’t go on forever, right?
Also, Thomas Jefferson is the one who coined the term “separation of church and state” in a letter written in 1802 to Danbury Baptists in which Tommy said:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
That slave-bangin’ Nazi communist! No wonder they took him out of the books!
Discussing the NRA, the Moral Majority, the Contract with America, and the Heritage Foundation in talks about the rise of conservatism in our country while also leaving out mention of minority groups and individuals like César Chávez
The one thing the Board kept saying throughout these debates is that history books had become too liberal. These changes were designed to correct that mistake and show the conservative side of things.
Wow. Pot to kettle. Pot to kettle. You’re black.
Given how long and hard so many conservatives rail against affirmative action, that’s what this is, but it’s even worse because instead of adding conservative ideology to the textbooks, they’ve taken out liberal, progressive achievements. They took out Hispanic achievements in Texas history, which is weird considering that Hispanics make up such a large section of the population. Basically, the new books show the last thirty years not as the overall history of our nation or state, but as a history of conservatism.
Even if you buy the argument that this is just to balance out the history and show both sides of things, you can’t have a debate if the book only has one side. This is also why you don’t “teach the argument” in middle and high school. It’s the same argument made for Intelligent Design and Creationism in science classrooms. You need a solid background in the scientific method, the tools to do research, and the maturity and wisdom to argue and make logical observations. Public schools rarely if ever do this, so how can you expect kids to make an informed decision if a) you present both sides as legitimate and b) the people debating (students) don’t know enough to understand the concepts by themselves?
McCarthyism will be shown in a positive light
According to Board member Don McLeroy, McCarthy has been vindicated since the good senator was asked, in a moment forever burned into the national consciousness, if he had any sense of decency in his witch-hunt for communists within the United States. The argument from the Board is that McCarthy was eventually proven right by the transcripts of the Verona intercepts from the former Soviet Union. These show, some Board members say, that McCarthy was dead-on in his suspicions that communists had infiltrated the government.
Even if he was right, utterly correct in every assumption, he used anti-communism as a weapon, not to destroy communism, but for political gain. The normal discourse that could have occurred between the parties was not about policy, but about the fear that anyone could be an enemy of the state, and by the time McCarthy came into the spotlight, he turned what could have been an investigation on a legitimate threat into public theater. Even worse, this paranoia ruined lives. Suspicion was enough to get people into real trouble, get them blacklisted, etc. While there may have been communists in Washington and elsewhere, and evidence has shown there were spies on US soil, he was and forever will be the 1950’s version of Glenn Beck.
Paranoid, self-righteous, and so utterly convinced in his world-view that the real issues became lost.
Referring to capitalism as “free market enterprise”
When I worked as a speechwriter in Congress, I had a meeting with my boss and his chief of staff. The purpose of the meeting? To find out what my formal title would be. Apparently, “speechwriter” wasn’t the kind of term they wanted on their business cards. Eventually, we settled on “Congressional Researcher.” Research was, after all, one of the things I had to do to write speeches.
I still called myself a speechwriter when someone asked me what I did.
Board members say the word “capitalism” has too many negative connotations, hence the name change. Well, yes, it has negative connotations because of the recent Wall Street fiascos and the economic meltdown caused by the banks. Capitalism is good in that it allows people to work and receive payment based on their input, at least in theory, but when you live in a country where a small percentage control over 90% of the wealth and corporations now have the same rights as people, people are going to question it. Changing the name is a cheap attempt at diverting criticism.
After all, who would argue against freedom in a free market enterprise?
Them damn commies, that’s who!
Requiring students learn about personal choices because, said another member, “sociology tends to blame society for everything”
Maybe because sociology is the study of SOCIETIES?! A psychologist would look at individuals. Sweet and sour baby Jesus, I want to find these people’s elementary school teachers so I can smack them for letting these wastes of genetic material graduate.
Hip hop is not considered a social movement, but country and rock and roll are
Not a legitimate social movement? It started in the Bronx in the late 1970’s and has spread to every corner of the world, including the Middle East. National Geographic called it “the world’s favorite youth culture.” It’s become a rallying cry, and whatever you might think of its merits as an art form, it’s been part of struggles here and abroad.
Besides, are you telling me artists like THIS haven’t impacted society?
Please. I don’t listen to hip hop on a regular basis and have a lot of derision for the stuff that shows up on the pop charts and calls itself hip hop, but even I can appreciate the contributions of people like Run-DMC, Jay-Z, NWA, and 2Pac to music and society.
Oh, and to anyone who still says this isn’t a significant movement, do a Google search for “hip hop.” I turned the filters all the way up and still got 146 million hits. That means anything with “objectionable” material got left out.
I then looked up, without ANY filters, “conservatism” (7.88 million), “conservative” (55.5 million), “Glenn Beck” (13.7 million), “Sarah Palin” (24.6 million), “Rush Limbaugh” (4.47 million), and “George W. Bush” (30.9 million). These six search terms totaled 137.05 million hits.
For the three or so of you that are still reading, I went into this much detail because the actions of the Texas Board of Education are going to hurt this country for the next ten years unless their actions are countered. When I was attending public school, I excelled in spite of my education. I learned outside the classroom because I knew I wasn’t being taught properly. I had the very good fortune of having teachers who took time away from their schedule and gave extra attention to the students who wanted to learn more.
But they are the exception.
The children aren’t innocent. Never have been. They’re ignorant. Ignorant little ragamuffins who really don’t know anything about the world except what we teach them. Knowledge is the currency of academia. It shapes our world view. The problem with these changes in the textbooks is that some are half-truths and others are outright lies. If a child is brought up a certain way, that child will likely stay on that path until something drastic happens to change its world view.
History is science. In science, theories are subject to brutal, adamantine-edged razors that will shred anything without proper proof. These changes are propaganda. The Board has stated it has an agenda. These are lies!
And children will believe them.
Children believe their adults. They have faith. But faith is blind. Faith is trust without evidence. Kind of like how the Board has faith in this interpretation of history. They can’t prove it. Seven lies multiplied by seven, multiplied by seven again.
Am I being too unreasonable if I write that I want to napalm these people, then shove a bunker-buster down their throats?