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The Hundred Years’ Curriculum War

When researching the history of a particular war, a good historian takes great pains to examine the causes, for hostile action is often the result of decades, or even centuries of tension. Yet, in a concerted effort to discredit the Texas State Board of Education, leftist ideologues assert the SBOE launched a surprise attack by suddenly deciding to rewrite history in a way that favors an ultra-right, fringe point of view. The “history of the teaching of history” in America, however, demonstrates that recent SBOE actions were only one battle in a war that has been raging since the late nineteenth century.

While the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for education, (a state responsibility,) Americans established publicly supported schools almost from the time they set foot on the continent. Historically, local entities developed schools that reflected American values, taught the 3 “R’s,” and instilled a sense of history and civic duty. Early educators realized the potential of public education to influence and change society, and in the late 19th century adherents of the new Marxist philosophy took note.

One such Socialist ideologue, John Dewey, undertook to commandeer public education as a means to implementing fundamental societal changes. A Columbia University professor who opposed individualism* and concepts of objective truth, Dewey sought to reform education and cultivate a curriculum that would advance Socialism, unity of thought, and an atheistic humanism. Known for his advocacy of propaganda in both journalism and educational curriculum, his teachings launched an American “hundred years” war over public school education. Since that time, education reformists have been gradually redirecting children from studying ‘history’ to ‘social studies,’ a subtle, but meaningful shift.

Fast forward to 21st Century Texas. In 2009 the Texas Education Agency assembled panels to review and revise social studies curriculum standards, and appointed mostly leftist ideologues who proceeded to carry out a not-so-subtle assault on the foundational principles of our country. Among their recommendations were the removal of Judeo-Christian holidays while retaining teaching of other religious festivals, replacing the term “American” with “Global Citizen,” teaching that our nation is “imperialistic, oppressive, and exploitative,” and removing references to individuals such as Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. Rather than rubber-stamp the work of the review panels, the elected SBOE members fulfilled their duty to the electorate by carefully examining and rejecting the more outlandish recommendations, while adding back to the standards a more balanced view of American history.

Hence the firestorm. When the academic Left realized the SBOE would not allow these socialistic world-view changes, Liberals enlisted the media in a campaign of distortion about Texas’ curriculum standards, falsely claiming that minorities, liberal groups, and even Thomas Jefferson had been removed. Fortunately, the entire text of recommendations is public record, and these allegations are easily disproved.

Now, however, Democrats are attempting to exploit the issue. Yesterday, the leftist group Texas Freedom Network released results of a push-poll claiming that most Texans oppose the SBOE revisions. Interestingly enough, initially only 32% of respondents opposed the revisions, and only after TFN “explained” the process did the number rise to 57%, a clear indication that TFN’s motive was to manipulate public opinion.

Locally, ardent Liberal Judy Jennings, who is running as a Democrat for SBOE District 10, is desperately trying to keep the controversy alive, and whining that students should not be learning the difference between legal and illegal immigration. (seriously). Furthermore, in the curriculum standards on Joe McCarthy, Jennings decries inclusion of the Venona Papers, primary source documents that demonstrate the scope and power of the American Communist Party during the McCarthy years. Should she be elected, Jennings vows to remove such ‘outrages’ from the standards.

Other than promising to cling to liberal/progressive curriculum standards, the Jennings campaign doesn’t seem to offer much in the way concrete proposals, and like many candidates for education-sector offices, her website is covered with vague, ‘for-the-children’ platitudes.

Voters in SBOE District 10, which includes all of Williamson County, should repudiate the liberal/progressive ideology espoused by Jennings, and plan to support Dr. Marsha Farney. While Jenning’s degree is in educational psychology, Farney holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas. She touts a superb resume, and clearly states her goals for the SBOE, which in addition to emphasizing core skills in curriculum, include insuring more education dollars go to the classroom rather than central administration.

Supremely qualified for the State Board of Education, Dr. Marsha Farney needs our support. Liberal/Progressives are pouring money into the Jennings campaign in the hopes of solidifying their dominance of public education. Visit Farney’s campaign website for information on how to help, and be sure to vote for her this November. An extension of the culture wars, the curriculum wars will continue, and we need warriors like Marsha Farney on the front line.

*Dewey often referred to protecting ‘individualism,’ but, in a spectacular example of what would later be called Orwellian Good-speak, Dewey redefined the term as a kind of ‘non-individual individualism,’ wholly subservient to the needs of society. (Reconstruction in Philosophy, The School and Society)

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