dismantling education one mandate at a time

Texas is hell bent to use toxic partisanship instead of expert-vetted facts guide its education system, in denial that its students will suffer as a result.
us vs. them

Say what you will about school board members in Texas, but they’re consistent. Now if only they used all their fervor in boosting academic standards instead of tearing tearing them down into absurd over-simplifications of science and history, declaring that well established and proven scientific ideas about space and time are up for debate because a young earth creationist says so, appointing a crazed zealot as their chairman, then threatening to replace him with a lunatic who has a searing hatred for all public schools after he managed to lose his seat, and even after their former chairman and two of his cronies are defeated in their re-election bids, to keep wailing away at ensuring that no kids in Texas are allowed to have a well-rounded curriculum. In the last few days, the state’s board of education shoved through the kinds of mandates that would make any far right sophist proud, going as far as to ban the word “capitalism” because it’s used by liberal professors.

Yes, you read that right. Instead of taking their cues from academics, who many of the school board members loathe in their roiling anti-intellectualism, they apparently decided to ask Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh what Texan academic standards to peruse. How else can you explain the notion that the word capitalism has to be struck from that curricula so it could be replaced with a buzzword from archconservative economic think tanks solely on the basis of irrational, partisan hatred?

The board removed the word “capitalism” from [state] standards, mandating that the term for that economic system be called “free enterprise” throughout the standards. Board members such as Terri Leo and Ken Mercer charged that “capitalism” is a negative term used by “liberal professors in academia.”

Really? That’s the ironclad expert justification? To use the term liberal the same way one would pronounce a diagnosis and say that it’s used by college professors? How could there be a clearer example of the searing hatred the creationist/culture war faction of the Texas SBoE has for anything that even resembles knowledge or education that doesn’t simply pound students over the head with their personal ideologies? I don’t think the duo in question, Leo and Mercer, seem to have a working neural synapse between them. Or perhaps the two share a brain that was left on a dark, dusty shelf somewhere before the meeting began.

How does one even begin to describe how utterly inane and imbecilic this kind of reasoning is and the damage it will do? While a horde of far right ideologues pat each other on the back, praising American exceptionalism as they dilute the crucial educational standards of the nation’s second biggest state with nonsense and propaganda solely for the sake of their personal self-validation, they drag the country farther and farther behind. And then, they have the gall to call these standards “world class.” Are they even talking about the same world as we are?

To put it plainly, the school board members who thought it would be a great idea to turn a social studies class into an audition for right wing talk radio and declare that when teaching the importance of considering any and all opinions in a democratic republic, the teachers should really just explain that the students have the right to buy guns under the Second Amendment, are societal parasites.

They complain about intrusive, heavy-handed government intervention in business and society, yet they get themselves elected to government posts, issue intrusive societal mandates, take advantage of government-run medical care for them and their families, get a paycheck funded by taxpayers, benefit from all the things modern science gives them while viciously smearing scientists and academics, and produce nothing positive in their wake. The fact that American students aren’t quite on par with other students in the developed world in countless international surveys should be a glaring example of the cost of having these people mandate educational standards.

But then again, I’m sure they can find some tenet in their “exceptionalism” doctrine that can somehow “prove” that not teaching kids science or math and pounding them over the head with talking points borrowed from a partisan, hypocritical news pundit instead of involving them in social debates, somehow produces education so superior to the rest of the world that no standardized test could fully measure its sheer brilliance. Or simply call their critics “liberal academic demagogues” and spit in their direction, as they usually do.

# education // education / science education / texas sboe


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