Binoy Kampmark: Education in Texas is Moving Right & Going Wrong





[Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he earned his PhD in Modern History. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.]

Censors, it has been said, are paid to have dirty minds. Education panellists, at least in certain jurisdictions, are paid to prevent the exercise of one at all. For that reason, fifteen unknown individuals in a state should not be vested with the power to centrally control what is read or taught in texbooks. But that is certainly not the case in Texas, where educational expertise is less prized than political expediency in the coverage of such subjects as history and economics. The Texas Board of Education members have endorsed a draft proposal on the state’s social studies curriculum that is a miracle in not only being long but patchy. The [Republican] faction was glowing with triumph after the vote.

These events will hardly come as any surprise to the student of Texan curricula. Each curriculum reform tends to return to basic, patriotic principles in Texas. ‘American, and especially Texan, history is glorified,’ claimed a 2006 study from the Fordham Institute’s review of Texas’ existing history standards. Jim Crow’s legacy and the KKK are not so much condemned as wholly ignored. The history makers that matter are corporate giants who represented the best type of capitalism. History is made by robber barons rather than the sweat of the ‘common’ folk. The Texan class room is evidently no place for the pedagogical techniques of Howard Zinn....

One wonders whether the board has simply missed the point to this whole, rather silly exercise. Irrespective of what subject matter, erroneous, contentious, or otherwise is fixed in such a curriculum, fundamental matters such as literacy and lack of resources in teaching remain. Texas remains a considerable offender in that regard, with a functional literacy level of 19 percent. This is compounded by a considerable number of undocumented immigrants, mainly Hispanic, whose role in Texan history, like those of other minorities, has been airbrushed in this curriculum. Whether any of these considerations will be addressed by the time the final vote takes place in May is unlikely. Illiteracy, and a considerable degree of ignorance, is set to flourish.



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