As President Obama signs the health care bill into law today, we are watching the first draft of history. But imagine what students a generation from now will be taught about the most significant overhaul of this nation’s health-care system since Medicare if the conservative activists on the Texas Board of Education are successful at their long-range goal of using the public education system to rewrite history.
If publishers kowtow to the board and rewrite their social studies textbooks to meet the new standards, what kids could someday learn about health-care reform might sound like watching an hour of Fox News. Kids might be instructed to learn to compare and contrast the landmark legislation to the Black Plague, the 9/11 attacks, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bloody Sunday, or even the Jonestown massacre, as commentator Pat Caddell told Sean Hannity. (Real classy.)
Rather than have students learn anything about the actual details of the plan and whether it was successful at increasing health care coverage to millions of Americans, the board would no doubt want students to be taught how reform represented the Communist takeover of Amerika. And that it was only the pushback from noble Tea Party brigades and their true patriotic efforts that kept this nation from descending into a Soviet gulag.
Of course, the ugliness and racism displayed at the Capitol by Tea Partiers this weekend will be airbrushed from history. Just as board members want students to learn the lie that the South seceded because of state’s rights and not slavery, they’ll probably want them to also believe that racism never had anything to do with their opposition to a health care program that is, as Investor’s Business Daily declared, “affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color.”
If you have trouble imagining reading such blatant Republican talking points in a textbook, remember, in board member Don McLeroy’s bizarro world, girls and black students should be taught that they should be grateful to white Republican males for granting them the right to vote, since it was white men who voted in favor of the 19th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act. (I wonder if it occurs to Dr. McLeroy that Bull Connor was a white man too.)
The board will vote on the final version of the social studies curriculum in May following a 30-day comment period.
Yesterday, the Interfaith Alliance stepped into the fray and urged publishers to reject the standards that are expected to serve as a guide for publishers hoping to land the lucrative textbook market of Texas. Texas is the second largest bulk purchaser in the country, second only to the bankrupt California education system. And many other states follow Texas’ lead and buy the same version. So that means students across the country could be forced to read McLeroy’s myopic vision of America’s past.
The organization, which champions faith and defends religious freedom, sent a letter to top publishing companies. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, said:
The Texas SBOE members certainly are entitled to believe whatever they want about our country and its history. The problem arises when their religious beliefs begin to essentially rewrite history for our children. Separation of church and state was a core tenet of our nation’s founding. Whether you like him or not, Thomas Jefferson was a leading thinker during the Enlightenment. It’s almost unfathomable to think that Texas schoolchildren won’t learn these basic facts now. We urge the publishers to ensure that other children still will.
Gaddy offered to stand by any publishers that refuse to write textbooks to meet the revised standards. I realize times are tough in the publishing business, so I’m really curious whether publishers will resist this push to whitewash history. I have a feeling, however, that they will decide, perhaps, to try to strike a compromise and meet Texas halfway. Death panels, anyone?