The United Farm Workers recently sent out an alert. The Texas Board of Eduction is “erasing Cesar Chavez and all Hispanic historical figures from public school text books.” Given the size of the Texas schoolbook market, its government specifications tend to have a wag-the-dog effect on the national industry.
Chavez, in particular, was eliminated on the grounds that he “lacks the stature…and contributions” and should not be “held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.” According to the UFW press release, the state School Board and its appointees have complained of “over representation of minorities” in the current social studies standards.
This is in keeping with the Board’s broader approach, which includes downplaying the contributions of the organized labor movement and exonerating Joe McCarthy. If Cesar Chavez fails to meet the Board’s notability requirements or serve as a proper role model, however, that’s not true of “the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association.” No, seriously. (They forgot to mention Fred Phelps.)
This is actually an old story in Texas. For years, state education authorities have been a prime target for the most reactionary and troglodytic lobbyists in the country, because of the state’s disproportionate influence on the national textbook industry.
Frankly, I don’t know why anyone should be surprised by this sort of thing. Texas being what it is, you might expect the Bob Jones University rejects on its state School Board to be a little more over-the-top than average. But other than that, they’re doing essentially what the publik skools are supposed to. As George Carlin put it,
“There’s a reason that education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed…. Because the owners of this country don’t want that….
“[T]hey don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking…. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. You know something, they don’t want people that are smart enough to sit around their kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago….
“They want obedient workers, obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.”
If you think what Carlin said is an overstatement, just read the work of John Taylor Gatto or Joel Spring, and you can find plenty of quotes from the founders of the modern public education system saying the same thing, in almost exactly the same words (minus an f-bomb or two).
The whole point of the state’s education system, from its beginning, was to process human raw material into docile and obedient “human resources,” just intelligent enough to carry out their assigned tasks as efficiently as possible, without ever stopping to examine the system that employed them, or question the authority figures behind desks who assigned those tasks.
If dissatisfaction with the further nationwide bastardization of history and social studies texts gives some more impetus to open-source textbook initiatives, that will be good. But more than anything, this should serve to reinforce the need to circumvent the state’s education system altogether.