Culture club

The Washington Monthly has a good, disturbing article about the Texas Board of Education:

“I don’t care what the educational political lobby and their allies on the left say,” he declared at one point. “Evolution is hooey.” This bled into a rant about American history. “The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation,” McLeroy said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis. “But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”

[….]

Until recently, Texas’s influence was balanced to some degree by the more-liberal pull of California, the nation’s largest textbook market. But its economy is in such shambles that California has put off buying new books until at least 2014. This means that McLeroy and his ultraconservative crew have unparalleled power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.

Perhaps I’m wrong wrong to make this comparison, but the right’s obsession with altering textbooks seems of a piece with its obsession with critiquing ostensibly non-political movies like “Avatar”. While today’s left thinks in terms of public options and stimulus details — however heatedly and irrationally — the right thinks in terms of changing the nation’s culture.

I used to think of this as just another pony plan: it’s much easier to say you’ll deal with a problem by changing the culture than by commissioning studies, enacting new legislation, etc., but now I think it’s something quite different, that they really believe that if kids watch “Avatar”, they’ll grow up to be pagans and we’ll all end up in Hell.

74 replies
  1. 1
    jeffreyw says:

    frist?

    aha! take that you doubters

  2. 2
    SGEW says:

    [T]hey really believe that if kids watch “Avatar”, they’ll grow up to be pagans and we’ll all end up in Hell.

    But, from their perspective, they have a point, don’t they?

  3. 3
    Lisa K. says:

    Off topic, but here is why Martha Coakley will lose. I get this in my inbox this morning, but when you go to click on the Contribute button, this is what it opens to.

    Talk about clown shoes.

  4. 4
    Emma says:

    It’s called indoctrination, John. Some people never recover from it.

  5. 5
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Pure Orwell, innit? “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

    GOPSoc….

  6. 6
    dgm says:

    It’s a “pony plan” to the leaders of the right wing that use these cultural and moral issues to fire up the base. But, a considerable portion of the conservative base really believes in this stuff. As the tea party movement has shown. Some on the left never really get the fact that some of these people believe it deeply.

  7. 7
    Ash says:

    I really have nothing intelligent or witty to add, just that that quote fucking terrifies me.

  8. 8
    ChicagoBot says:

    Things never change, just the names.

    Evil Rock n Roll was replaced by Godless Hip Hop.

    Communists in the State Dept. is now ACORN.

    Now Avatar is gettin’ the kids all riled up…

    The constant? The ultra religious STILL have no concept of irony or critical thinking.

    (And are we going through a retro 50′ revival of stupidity and bigotry? Is that the new thing?)

  9. 9
    Demo Woman says:

    “But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.

    What principles? Help they neighbor as they self? Obviously not because the rest of the statement has to do with ranting with those that disagree.

  10. 10

    Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.

    The misinformed are in charge of misinforming the uninformed? Time to start a textbook publishing company!

    OT: “Fristers” should be pummeled relentlessly with rotted fruits and vegetables while staked naked to a compost pile.
    In winter.

  11. 11

    Just another reason to very closely monitor what your children might be learning in school. I have no problem with my children studying religion as an academic exercise e.g. the political controversy over evolution, so long as it is in the context of a social science classes. But having my children taught anything about a half-baked pseudo-scientific idea like Intelligent Design in a science class is unacceptable. Not to mention having my children learn anything other than the facts about McCarthy and climate science is not why I pay my taxes.

  12. 12
    Michael says:

    What good economy because of Bonzo? For me, GOP economics have been a career disaster.

  13. 13
    jwb says:

    @Lisa K.: Makes you worry about what she’ll be like as a Senator, no?

    ETA: Hopefully, she’ll get a chance.

  14. 14
    nepat says:

    Once you get past the workaday political details (GOTV, crappy candidates, lousy campaign management, etc.), the Coakley-Brown race is really just a symptom of this larger culture war. This is why the right is ready to excuse Senator Centerfold for his – ahem – shortcomings. Taking America Back is more important than living your values. Texas elementary school teachers could teach in the nude for all they care, as long as there’s a Jesus and Reagan chapter in every history book.

    Thanks for bringing this one forward, DougJ. It underscores how tactically off-track the “progressive” left is and brings some daylight to the real enemies of progress.

  15. 15
    Jim says:

    Well, this is kind of on-topic

    Meanwhile, Focus on the Family is reportedly planning to run a 30-second, anti-choice TV ad during the Super Bowl featuring Florida Gators star quarterback Tim Tebow.

    can a brother get an “Oh for fuck’s sake”

  16. 16
    Lisa K. says:

    @jwb:

    Yes, no matter how clownish, she is still better than the alternative.

  17. 17
    Ash says:

    @Jim: I knew my hate for Tebow was justified.

  18. 18
    jeffreyw says:

    @ohiodudebruce

    Dude, you’re, like, harshing my mellow. LOL

  19. 19
    Lisa K. says:

    Why did we even care when Texas was threatening to secede, anyway?

  20. 20
    Demo Woman says:

    @Jim: Tebow’s mothers health was in danger and she decided to proceed with her pregnancy. To me that is called Pro-Choice.

  21. 21
    jrg says:

    Make it a teachable moment for the Texas conservatives. Let them fill the science textbooks with overtly religious stuff, but make it Catholic. Or Mormon. Then we can check back in with them and ask if it’s still OK to teach religion in a science class.

    We will call it “Operation Golden Rule”. Putting someone else’s religion in the textbooks is the only way this madness will stop.

  22. 22
    YellowJournalism says:

    You also have to consider that there are only a few major textbook publishing companies that control the market. It’s extremely hard for new textbooks to enter the market or for smaller, more independant companies to function under the current system of publishers. It’s not even about education; it’s about marketing and incentive programs, as well as appealing to those in charge of your largest consumer base. Often, this means that adopted textbooks are filled with errors, misinformation, and political manipulations, and there’s not much anyone who is directly impacted (teachers, students) can do about it.

    One of the complaints I hear about science and math books, especially, is that information is often accompanied by charts or other graphics that misrepresent the information they’re supposed to present. The editing of most textbooks is atrocious, as well. You’d be surprised to see the number of grammar and spelling errors in reading and language arts texts.

  23. 23
    YellowJournalism says:

    Texas elementary school teachers could teach in the nude for all they care, as long as there’s a Jesus and Reagan chapter in every history book.

    So that would be one chapter because they’re the same person, according to the far right?

  24. 24
    El Cruzado says:

    I know this has been repeated to death, but ain’t it funny how they do everything they accuse them damn commies to be doing?

    But it’s all for a good cause!

  25. 25
    Ash Can says:

    Thanks, DougJ, for highlighting this topic. While we spend time debating Gruber and Coakley and the NFL playoffs — as fun and interesting as those topics may be — this is what’s really a genuine and immediate threat to our nation. If these ignorant bastards are allowed to effectively scuttle the education of untold future generations in this country, we’d better all start teaching our kids Mandarin right now if we want them to be able to feed themselves and their families years from now.

  26. 26
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @jeffreyw #1
    @BruceFromOhio #10

    ‘Scuse my ignorance, but I’m not understanding the “Frist/Frister” references. I mean, I know Bill Frist was a sorry excuse for a senator, a sorry excuse for a doctor (see Schaivo, Terri, long-distance diagnosis of) and a sorry excuse for a human being (see Lab Kittehs, vivisection of), but what’s the connection here? (And I don’t even want to go to a possible wordplay on “Fisters,” that just lurches my stomach.)

    # #

    Okay, I Googled it and Fristers seems to be a networking support group for young mothers. I still don’t get the connection.

    # #

    It occurs to me that I might be able to clear up my befuzzlement by actually, you know, reading the WaMo article DougJ cited. Maybe the answer’s in there. Let me get back to you . . . .

  27. 27
    SGEW says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    There is an Internet Tradition(TM) of being the first commenter to post on a thread, and typing in “First!” to show your celerity; this was often undermined by the typist typing too fast and accidently typing in “frist!1!” This led to the self-aware snark of “frist” replacing “first” (much like the use of “teh”), whereby commenters would purposefully type in “frist” instead of “first,” with the added irony of Bill Frist references, in order to avoid the incandescent hatred of commenters who would try to be first to comment in a thread. This attempt at irony mostly fails.

    jeffreyw’s “frist,” in this instance, is, however, a reference to his previously stated desire to be the first to call John on his “I’m Going Galt, Oh Wait, Here’s Twelve New Posts” tendency in the last thread. Alas, he failed in this mission, so he attempted to make up for it here with an Awareness Of All Internet Traditions.

    There.

  28. 28
    CalD says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Or maybe…

    “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
    __
    — George Orwell

  29. 29
    Alex S. says:

    Well, the “simple” folks, sure, they believe that Hippie utopia is upon us. It is almost impossible to break through the cycle of indoctrination, especially if you live in an isolated town in one of the interior states, like Oklahoma or Wyoming. But at the higher level, most of it is politics. However, it seems to me that conservatism is suffering from a bit of a brain drain, especially after Bush Jr. That leads to the ascendancy of the second row-people. And suddenly you have people who really believe in all those things (creationism, rapture, homosexual agenda etc…) in powerful positions, like Huckabee or Palin.

  30. 30
    Hiram Taine says:

    @YellowJournalism: Excellent point.

    Let me add that Texas controls textbook publishing to a large extent because it has so many students and buys so many textbooks, publishers are loath to print many different versions because it is more expensive to do that so they print what Texas will buy. If a school system wants something other than the Texas version of facts then they often will have to pay extra to have a different textbook “custom” published.

  31. 31
    John Harrold says:

    but now I think it’s something quite different, that they really believe that if kids watch “Avatar”, they’ll grow up to be pagans and we’ll all end up in Hell.

    I grew up in Arkansas, and this pretty much correctly describes the perspective of these people.

  32. 32
    Zifnab says:

    Lie to the kids early and often. Then when they grow up, after years of being told that Reagen single-handedly saved America from the Russians and Jimmy Carter, JFK and Clinton were just a pair of perverts who got into high office, only tax cuts can stimulate the economy, and Jesus Jesus Jesus Democrats are Hitler, maybe they can turn around the absolutely atrocious age gap in GOP enthusiasm.

    It’s the same reason they’re so adamant about seeding Universities with conservative professors and kicking the media for being too Liberal. These are just cogs in the Right Wing Wurltzer Machine. I’m sure if the GOoPers on the Texas Board could have it all their way, they’d mandate course curriculum detailing why Obama doesn’t have a valid US Birth Certificate.

  33. 33
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @SGEW #27

    That was a thing of beauty.

    And, you know, when I first saw jeffreyw’s “frist” I figured it was either accidental or deliberate typo, but then your “Fristers” rant made me rethink the whole thing.

    Finally have coffee at hand, am headed to a service station or Valvoline place to find out why the hell my “check engine” light went on (the day after an oil change TUVM), and will while away my wait time reading the WaMo article.

  34. 34
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    Ah, the joys of religion.

  35. 35
    Citizen Alan says:

    @El Cruzado:

    I know this has been repeated to death, but ain’t it funny how they do everything they accuse them damn commies to be doing?

    It cannot be repeated enough, as far as I’m concerned. People like McLeroy are exactly like the Stalinist bureaucrats who denounced Russian composers for failing to sufficiently glorify the Soviet state. If McLeroy could banish “liberal” textbook manufacturers to a gulag somewhere in northern Alaska, he’d do it in a heartbeat.

  36. 36
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

    —George Orwell

    So let’s fucking spell things right, okay?

  37. 37
    Brachiator says:

    @Alex S.:

    That leads to the ascendancy of the second row-people. And suddenly you have people who really believe in all those things (creationism, rapture, homosexual agenda etc…) in powerful positions, like Huckabee or Palin.

    All this week, some friends and I have been talking about supposedly smart people who make a fatal cascade of dumbass decisions. Fer xample, NBC seems to be backing Leno over Conan. Does this mean that the unbelievably crappy Jimmy Fallon will inherit the Tonight Show when Leno finally loosens his deathgrip on the franchise?

    Some of Palin’s biggest boosters are hyper-educated elitists like Bill Kristol and Ross Douthat who couldn’t possibly believe in creationism or the other crap that so feverishly animates Palinistas and some evangelicals and fundamentalists. These people will cheerfully exploit those they would otherwise dismiss as ignorant rubes because their only goal is to return Republicans to power.

  38. 38
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    It cannot be repeated enough, as far as I’m concerned. People like McLeroy are exactly like the Stalinist bureaucrats who denounced Russian composers for failing to sufficiently glorify the Soviet state.

    The Soviets hated evolution too. It didn’t fit in with their beliefs, so it had to go.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko

  39. 39
    inkadu says:

    I still haven’t figured out why the textbook model still exists.

    Why don’t we open source text books yet? There would be some initial investment, but most subjects have a very stable base (history, math) that does not need to be changed. Additionally, several different modules could exist to help expand information.

    And it wouldn’t have to be completely volunteer funded. Some states could hire teachers to write a state version… anyway. This comes up everytime a textbook conversation comes up, and I still haven’t heard a satisfactory answer as to why its not done.

  40. 40
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    I

    used to think of this as just another pony plan: it’s much easier to say you’ll deal with a problem by changing the culture than by commissioning studies, enacting new legislation, etc., but now I think it’s something quite different

    Well, duh…

    Why do you think they simply HAVE to rewrite the Bible (talk about hubris…) or come up w/ something as silly and embarrassing, to the rest of us, as Conservapedia?

  41. 41
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    @inkadu:

    This comes up everytime a textbook conversation comes up, and I still haven’t heard a satisfactory answer as to why its not done.

    Prolly not enough money in it for the publishers…

    I wonder how far off the day is when students all have Kindle type readers and just down load the year’s texts on-line?

  42. 42
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Brachiator:

    As far as Kristol is concerned, the only goal is to bomb the fuck out of brown-skinned Muslims. Returning the GOP to power is merely a means to that end.

  43. 43
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    Probably not enough money in it for the publishers

    Hey, this is America! Someone has to profit from everything! So what if some kids get crappy educations that cripples their adult potential?

  44. 44
    Citizen Alan says:

    @The Republic of Stupidity:

    Why do you think they simply HAVE to rewrite the Bible (talk about hubris…) or come up w/ something as silly and embarrassing, to the rest of us, as Conservapedia?

    Prediction: Within 10 years, major fundie figures (like Mullah Dobson and Mullah Robertson, assuming they haven’t ascended to paradise by then) will be praising the conservative bible and encouraging believers who support the 700 Club and Focus on the Anus to buy it. Within 20, Republican politicians will be getting sworn into office while holding one.

  45. 45
    Hiram Taine says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    So what if some kids get crappy educations that cripples their adult potential?

    You mistake a feature for a bug, intellectually crippled adults are cheaper to hire and far easier to brainwash into supporting self destructive policies.

    There may be a conservative policy that does not directly or indirectly lead to cheaper labor but I don’t recall ever hearing of one.

  46. 46
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    Within 20, Republican politicians will be getting sworn into office while holding one.

    And frankly, I think we better keep track of what they’re doing w/ the OTHER hand whilst this is occurring…

    Jusr sayin’…

  47. 47
    inkadu says:

    @The Republic of Stupidity: This semi-open source project would not be run by textbook publishers, but, if by anyone, state and federal departments of education.

    Unless you mean to say that textbook lobbyists would kill it before it killed them.

    There are some “a laptop for every student” projects out there, which I think is disastrously stupid. You’ll have to be installing a new OS on those every week after it gets clogged up with viruses and porn…. your kindle idea sounds much more workable.

  48. 48
    Mike G says:

    It’s the same uptight rightards always bitching about ‘political correctness’ suppressing their Jeebus-given right to vent their bigotry in public that have such an obsession with censoring and policing speech and text and media for ‘bad thoughts’. More projection going on here than at a 23-theater multiplex.

    And fuck Texas. Try not to live down to your stereotype for once.

  49. 49
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    @inkadu:

    Unless you mean to say that textbook lobbyists would kill it before it killed them.

    Uh… yes… that, what you just said…

    I don’t know how much money textbooks generate for publishers on a yearly basis, but it’s GOT TO BE in the multiple billions, and I can’t seem them giving that up w/out a tremendous, dirty, mean-spirited, no-holds-barred fight.

    I know when I go to buy a textbook these days, I just hope the publisher is gentle and uses a decent grade of lubricant…

    I hadn’t really thought much about the Kindle/electronic downloads thingy before, but it really does make a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’ve heard, and read, stories of students developing serious back problems from lugging so many texts around… and this would certainly alleviate that…

  50. 50
    Phyllis says:

    @The Republic of Stupidity:

    I wonder how far off the day is when students all have Kindle type readers and just down load the year’s texts on-line?

    Not so very far off, I think. My rural district (in SC) is moving towards providing netbooks for every high schooler, starting with our freshman this year. Many textbook providers are also providing content on CD roms, and we will be loading these on our virtual server so the kids can access w/out having to tote those monster books home every day.

    And I think the real money crunch that’s coming to states over the next two budget years will lead some forward thinking state to tell textbook companies to bugger off. They are frightfully expensive to purchase as well as maintain (inventory systems, etc), easily damaged and quickly out of date. With what’s available from open source, I believe it’s only a matter of time.

    Now if some state department of education would have the balls to tell the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, etc that if they want a built-in cradle-to-18 farm system, they can damn well pony up for them, that would be a thing of beauty.

  51. 51
    JWeidner says:

    Ah crap. We’re like this close to relocating to Dallas from California and then I go and read this article. If it were just me, or just me and my wife, that would be one thing. But I can’t stand the thought of exposing my kids to institutionalized ignorance.

    I guess we could still make the move, but keep the kids in a Montessori program.

  52. 52
    Ecks says:

    @jrg: Brilliant, yes!

    Having taught some in the midwest now, I’m discovering that this is not just a pony show, and that a portion of the students here are actually pretty well indoctrinated already. It is axiomatic to a bunch of them that Fox is conservative, but the rest of the media is very liberal, that taxes are currently very high, that unconstrained amrkets are always good (even when you teach some of the limits of markets, I’ve had them write things like “well, X would be better because it is a more free market, and it has this problem,” where the problem they are acknowledging is one that would call for a slightly constrained market. They acknowledge the critique, but simply cannot square it with any other solution than maximally free markets. In discussions of about eco stuff, some of the absolute brightest ones think that global warming is a hoax pulled by Al Gore and scientists who want the media spotlight, and insist that nuclear power is part of the answer to everything. One even said “well I’m conservative so I like nuclear power”. Note they said it in THAT order, and not the opposite (“nuclear power is a good idea, that’s why I’m conservative”).

    It’s a mixed bag, and they aren’t all like this, but enough of them are, that I despair sometimes. Putting this kind of crap in textbooks is all they need to cement it in place for some of the marginal ones.

  53. 53
    Seanly says:

    This control of the textbooks has been going on for a very long time. I remember reading an article about this over 20 years ago.

    The article in question mentioned some old Texas couple who would scour the textbooks for any un-American bias. Things like mentioning that George Washington had a temper or that some people claim the Earth revolves around the Sun (this one I’m making up, but it isn’t far off their views) drew the ire of these people. They were pretty successful in getting items they didn’t like out of textbooks.

    Then in the early 90’s the Ameritaliban figured out it was better to just control the school boards, education commissions and textbook committees.

  54. 54
    bernard says:

    where have all the “thinkers” been in the last 40 yrs. this is but another brick in the wall for the “right”.

    these Righties are much smart than all the people who are lambasting or decrying such “religiosity.” The right now own, through constant effort and shrillness, the education in our country.

    and you wonder why Palin, Beck are popular.

    the coffee is way cold by now, people. i would say wake up but…

  55. 55
    Ecks says:

    Open source may have a lot of advantages, but freeing kids from the grip of brainwashing won’t be one of them. If anything it’ll make it easier because you can literally make conservapedia (or it’s inevitably soon-to-be-anounced textbook version) the standard. That way they can avoid all fights and simply get on with shutting out any semblance of reality from the world the young future-voters are raised in.

  56. 56
    inkadu says:

    @The Republic of Stupidity: My last calculus class had a very understanding teacher that gave us the problem sets for the last three editions of our textbook. The format and organization of editions rarely change.

  57. 57
    inkadu says:

    @Ecks: I know opensource would probably make things worse in some states, but i feel like the rest of us have to protect ourselves from their godbesotted ignorance.

  58. 58
    Nylund says:

    If the right has its way it’ll only be a couple more generations until the top “scientists” in America will be nothing more than a Bible study group praying for God to create the next vaccine / computer / spaceship.

    I do not think it bodes well for the future of this country.

  59. 59
    Martian Buddy says:

    The Panda’s Thumb had a quote from a foreward written by William Dembski that has some relation here:

    There exists an invisible world that is more real and weighty than our secular imaginations can fathom. I commend this book as a way of retraining our imaginations about that reality. (Dembski foreword, p. xii)

    That’s the world McLeroy thinks he lives in; one populated by invisible armies of angels and demons, where the least little mistake like reading Harry Potter or learning evolution can open you up to corruption by Satanic forces.

  60. 60
    Chris says:

    OT but a great story on the GOS of the day the KKK ran into the Lumbee Indians in NC…Not that my people are politically homogenous, but we’re fairly solid D’s. I sometimes feel the party could use some of this spine.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyo.....ong-people

  61. 61
    inkadu says:

    @Martian Buddy: The world discovered by science is legions weirder than anyone could imagine. The hidden world offered by religions are often easily imaginable to an eleven-year-old guilty over his first ejaculation.

  62. 62
    Brachiator says:

    @inkadu:

    I still haven’t figured out why the textbook model still exists. Why don’t we open source text books yet?

    I’m not sure exactly how this is supposed to work. Knowledgeable historians writers aren’t cheap or plentiful. Knowledgeable historians who can write well are even more scarce.

    There would be some initial investment, but most subjects have a very stable base (history, math) that does not need to be changed.

    Huh? Historians are revising and re-assessing material all the time. New discoveries, newly released or discovered papers and other archive materials have sometimes radically changed how we view historical events.

    And it wouldn’t have to be completely volunteer funded.

    Even Wikidpedia is running out of money and asking for donations. With the current disdain that many Americans are showing towards education, do you really think that stable funding for open source textbooks can be sustained? Hell, there are people who believe that all you need to know can be obtained by reading the Bible, listening to Rush Limbaugh and watching Fox News.

    Some states could hire teachers to write a state version… anyway.

    Most teachers can’t even teach, let alone write.

    Ah crap. We’re like this close to relocating to Dallas from California and then I go and read this article. If it were just me, or just me and my wife, that would be one thing. But I can’t stand the thought of exposing my kids to institutionalized ignorance.

    Sadly, much of Dallas and the entire state of Texas is organized on the principles of institutionalized ignorance.

  63. 63
    inkadu says:

    @Brachiator: Your points sound convincing until you think about what a huge shit pile text books are.

    If I a group of PhD college history instructors can’t get together to write a passable history text book for elementary school children, they should be fired and their departments closed.

    As for costs, in the long run, owning the texts themselves will be cheaper than paying rapacious amounts for textbooks… the states will be spending the money; the only question is to whom and for what.

    And your cost comparison to Wikipedia is weak. Wikipedia is a huge sprawling enterprise with massive server needs and an unmotivated customer base. An open source history project can be managed more closely, edited by a smaller (perhaps federally or state funded) group with easily verifiable qualifications, and be of interest to a much smaller group of people. And they could charge a few bucks for the right to print material… there are ways it could work.

    And I know history is constantly being updated… but i wonder how much elementary school history has. I think of elementary school history as mythological indoctrination anyway. I could definitely be wrong, since I haven’t looked at one in very long time.

  64. 64
    zhak says:

    Well, no, it’s more insidious than that. If you control the contents of textbooks — bend & twist the facts out of all shape, you have also succeeded in bending & twisting the minds of the youths who are taught with those books.

    There was a book, a reading primer, if I recall correctly, that was used in Nazi Germany shortly after they achieved their stranglehold over Germany. It was called “The Toadstool” and basically the message was “just as a toadstool can be mistaken for a mushroom, so too can a Jew be mistaken for an Aryan” and then proceeded to list a series of handy tips to help identify those nasty “toadstools” that might be mistaken for “mushrooms” by the unwary. And just a few years later, those German children who had been raised to believe that Jews were somehow poisonous and sub-human would take part in culling them from the “real human” race.

    I can say that Reagan was a lucky guy to be president around the time that the Iron Curtain was crumbling, but that doesn’t make him our savior against the evils of Communism. Communism imploded. Much like the USA is imploding now, in fact, with its bloated military spending, its broken domestic infrastructure, and crippling tax cuts that succeed in not just letting the rich get richer, but also succeed in starving a once-proud and progressive nation into a shell of what it could have been.

  65. 65
    Brachiator says:

    @inkadu:

    Your points sound convincing until you think about what a huge shit pile text books are.

    I agree with you that text books are mostly crap. But this does not make your open source model viable.

    If I a group of PhD college history instructors can’t get together to write a passable history text book for elementary school children, they should be fired and their departments closed.

    Having a PhD doesn’t make an instructor an effective writer. Sometimes it assures the opposite. And along with the religious and culturally ignorant, you have the lumbering educational establishment to deal with. Some years ago, a group of professors offered to help California come up with new, more effective math education teaching guidelines, only to be told to slag off by state teacher organizations because they obviously knew nothing about curricula or the edumakation of little kiddies.

    Who were these guys told to go stuff themselves? A group of freakin’ Nobel Prize winners in science.

    And your cost comparison to Wikipedia is weak. Wikipedia is a huge sprawling enterprise with massive server needs and an unmotivated customer base. An open source history project can be managed more closely, edited by a smaller (perhaps federally or state funded) group with easily verifiable qualifications, and be of interest to a much smaller group of people.

    Parents, teachers and students are hardly a “much smaller group of people.” If your editors need to be qualified, so do your writers. You haven’t made any case for open source. An additional comparison with Wikipedia is also useful. Wikipedia is an excellent general source, but is often hopelessly shallow. The best articles cite references, which are generally ignored by most who browse Wikipedia. The shallowness is a function of it being open sourced. The same issue would undermine the usefulness of open source texts. You have to be willing to pay for expertise.

    And I know history is constantly being updated… but i wonder how much elementary school history has. I think of elementary school history as mythological indoctrination anyway. I could definitely be wrong, since I haven’t looked at one in very long time.

    You’re not far wrong. My niece’s history text is homogenized mythology. Her mother and grandmother have to supplement it with more useful materials.

  66. 66
    Chad S says:

    This is annoying to see, but this is why we have federal courts. They can put whatever creationist nonsense into school books, but the courts have consistently thrown this shit out when people challenge it. The PA school system that tried it lost badly in court and its going to be hard for any texas school system to make a better case than they did, even to a conservative judge.

  67. 67
    Brachiator says:

    @Chris:

    OT but a great story on the GOS of the day the KKK ran into the Lumbee Indians in NC…Not that my people are politically homogenous, but we’re fairly solid D’s. I sometimes feel the party could use some of this spine.

    Thanks for the story about the Lumbee. I recall that some reference links to a PBS documentary about race in America mentioned the Lumbee, and noted that the were mixed white, African American and Native American.

    The references mentioned in passing that blonde hottie actress Heather Locklear is Lumbee, and probably of mixed ethnic descent, and I note that one of the people mentioned in the story is a Sam Locklear. I wonder if there is any relation.

    And yeah, I agree that the Dems could use some spine and sense of purpose.

    By the way, the Lumbee story also indicates that history is often more complex than we like to think.

  68. 68
    slag says:

    Unfortunately, the right is absolutely on target with regard to focusing on culture. Their methods are stupid (because they don’t understand how people work), but the goal is very reasonable. If the left could have a stronger influence over our culture, we’d practically be able to achieve world domination. Think of how different our media would be. Our public spaces. And yes, even our entertainment.

    As someone who grew up in a conservative household, I’m happy to give credit for my liberalism to my cultural (rather than parental) influences. I can even point to specific influential scenes in the television I watched–Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, etc–that informed my thinking. Maybe I was more impressionable than some, but I still think influencing culture is the Holy Grail for instigating change.

  69. 69
    Chris says:

    @brachiator
    Glad you enjoyed the story. There are 1000’s of locklears in this neck of the woods. There are probably 10 times more Locklears than Jones in the phonebook. The hottie heather is related to SOMEONE here…but god knows who…LOL This story is told with some pride by the elders around here as you might expect…its strange how it crops up in the national media from time to time.

  70. 70
    inkadu says:

    @Brachiator: I’m not sure what model I’m arguing for exactly. I think the one I’m settling on as most likely to be workable and most likely to have good results is department of education funded with a small staff of volunteer but qualified writers. Schools would pay for the right to print it.

    But here’s an outfit that’s making the content of their open-source textbooks free, but selling the formatted information.

    I don’t really know what’s viable. But the current system is just so expensive with such a poor product, something has to change.

    Maybe we should stop worrying about elementary school text books being tools for indoctrination. Fact is, from your experience and mine, that is exactly what elementary school text books are for — to give a sense of America the Wonderful. If they want to throw garlands on Reagan, that’s fine. Republicans will always have the votes of people who never outgrew elementary school history.

  71. 71
    Cerberus says:

    @slag:

    This. Well, mostly this.

    The right tries and clamp down on culture to keep people’s imaginations small and petty and their access to reality at a minimum. This encourages any abnormality from the stated norm to be treated as an individual problem rather than a wide-spread thing, especially if that abnormality is a young kid who will then wonder to themselves what they did to be weird.

    I argue the left fights for culture in many ways, but that it’s a different, less Stalinist fight and a far more natural fight. That is arguing for things that are true, presenting reality as is and fighting for the acknowledgment of things that are, including people as are and as they are or were.

    Such as fighting for the inclusion of gay people in culture as they appear in life, acknowledging female contributions to history instead of just men, asking for some inclusion of African or Asian or Middle Eastern history at all in Western textbooks rather than continuing to treat it as a tabula rasa that never happened.

    Or more generally, just living one’s natural life proudly and loudly or simply adding one’s own voice to the sea of culture by books, films, blogs, and other methodologies. Indeed the internet makes this both easier to do and for those with access to the internet to eventually find them and learn from them.

    And it’s why the Right are reduced to Stalinism. They must censor everything to sustain the Lies that people are the one way in order to get the conformity and both outward hatred and self hatred for differences that are necessary for authoritarianism and conservatism, especially now when their children are an internet search function from finding the truth about the world or hell even a trip to a big box bookstore like Barnes and Nobles.

    Cause when the Left finally does breakthrough, slowly and painfully, culture is forced in shame to acknowledge the reality revealed in painful half-steps.

    And suddenly it comes that it’s standard that they have to mention Booker T Washington and Susan B Anthony in history textbooks, and that shows on the TV might contain gay characters, and that a book by a latino or an asian person might be on the reading list of the literature class, and Avatar is castrating all the republican men in the audience with its evil blue rays or what not.

    Suddenly the life that is is and no one can ever imagine going back to when women and coloreds were legal property and you could kill as many chinamen on your railroad as you wanted and no one would raise a fuss and all of the “breakdown of the family” that such a reality entails.

    It’s important to fight against things such as this if for no other reason than to protect the rate of progress, but we are moving, achingly slow towards it.

    Their desperation proves this point. Before they would mumble blather about tradition and respectability and what was always done to protect political machinations with the teaching of history and the like (in the early early days, churches were pretty much sole teachers of anything, thus ensuring the church dictated what was known and how), now they’re scrambling and openly admitting their goal is the insertion of propaganda.

    Somebody’s scared.

  72. 72
    Cerberus says:

    Hmm, a post went into moderation. Length, maybe. Oh well.

  73. 73
    inkadu says:

    @inkadu: And then of course there are all these “open courses” from MIT and Yale, where you can log on and see recordings of classes. I think that’s really the way to go in the future. Unless you’re going to be in a small class with discussion and time for questions, what’s the point of going to a lecture hall with fifty other students, to hear a teacher who might be feeling particularly uninspired?

    You’ll still need someone to make sure you’re learning and someone to give you credits… and that takes expertise and it costs money. But it doesn’t take an endowment.

  74. 74
    Cerberus says:

    @inkadu:

    While important, critically so, especially with the way k-12 education in America has shall we say failed to be funded adequately and thus grow with the times, teaching college-level courses are not the main reason for the employment of teachers, nor their main job*.

    The main functions and also the main money-soaks are more in the research side for the most part. Creating all those nice papers and inventions that allow industry to waltz in and sell people those nice finished bnr pllz and computery thingies and new versions of the iPod. Almost all of our much prized innovation comes from (usually also public) universities. And not just in the sciences. Our knowledge of history often comes from people tirelessly working through the scattered remnants of time to find out what was and what happened and correct any “inadvertent” often racist lies that have been repeated into the historical record.

    Our knowledge of people resulting from the tireless work of sociologists, anthropologists, and psychology professors whose published studies often give us liberals an authoritative and factual voice we can point to and say “aha, I knew I wasn’t crazy” about. Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Queer Studies professors put together the ignored fragments of history from ignored subgroups. And literature and linguistic departments can find and translate the written records that have been or are being ignored, the cultures and languages long gone and still existant and preserve them or unbury them. Ditto for philosophy professors.

    In short, university professors are very valuable and do need quite a bit of money…from the state who’s underfunding them, the corporations who rely on them if they ever want a new product again (not to mention employees who can actually make their current products), and society in general. Though I’ll admit there are a fair share of administrators who are indeed taking more than their fair cut and far too much of a burden falls on the students.

    *Of course, this is not an absolute. Art, writing, music, and theatre teachers are often those who are not creating anything more remarkable in “research” than that which could be created with decent public funding of the Arts and artists, and who are indeed more valuable in their roles as teachers where they can carefully undo the last 6+ years of “Humanities” classes where students were taught nothing but essay writing and carefully nurture back creativity and temper it with some teaching of craft and some honing of skills so it looks like something someone would actually want to read, look at, pay to see and/or listen to, etc…

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