Dear Texas: Please shut up. Sincerely, History

The Sanfrancisco Chronicle has an article titled, Dear Texas: Please shut up. Sincerely, History.  I decided to print the entire article because it was so spot-on:

Hey, kids! Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: Black people? Back in 1800 or whenever? They liked being slaves. True! Many savvy, industrious Negroes actually volunteeredfor that fine, desirable position. It was a completely balanced, fair, hugely successful system, until those damn liberals came along and ruined everything. I know, right? What a shame.

Do you know what else? America was wholly victorious in Vietnam. It’s a fact! Kicked some serious enemy butt! Mission accomplished! Sure it was a little bumpy for awhile, but President Nixon, that great and wronged American hero, put us on the righteous path in the end, wrapped that sucker up beautifully and made America the noble Superman to the world. Hey, it’s the truth! You can look it up in your history textbook!

Even more good, newly historic news: Despite what you may have heard from the liberal media, America has very much won its recent, God-sanctioned wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Angry Allah loses again! Just look at this handy diagram on page 281, Figure 4-9. See those little dark-skinned bodies stacked up neatly beside that minaret? Right next to that completely unstaged photo of the toppled Saddam statue? Look how many there are! Graphs never lie.

Did you know, back in the frontier days, that Native Americans welcomed the white man with open arms? Absolutely true. Those poor, sunburned people were so beaten down and exploited by their oppressive dictator “chiefs,” they were forced to believe in all sorts of disgusting pagan sun gods and had to eat, like, rocks and snakes and stuff.

It’s no wonder they greeted proud, fair-minded American colonials as great liberators — yes! Just like in Baghdad! — and happily gave us free access to their fields and their women and their wonderful bead-making technology, in exchange for, you know, gin and fireworks. And casinos.

Never doubt America’s irrefutable greatness, kids. Our prison system, for example, is the finest in the world. Also, dirty Mexican people had no role whatsoever in the Civil War or U.S. history (except as troublesome immigrants, yuck), hip-hop music is in no way, shape or form to be considered a significant cultural movement — unlike totally awesome Country & Western, and the War on Drugs is going spectacularly well, thanks to our fine military, numerous Afterschool Specials and the deep love of Jesus — who, if you look really closely at those old photographs from the Bible, is clearly wearing a U.S. flag pin on his robes to go along with his friendly, competely legal sidearm. God bless America.

These irrefutable facts — and many more just like them — are brought to you by the Texas State Board of Education, packed like a jug of rancid tartar sauce with intellectually numb simpletons who smell like ignorance and taste like fear. The TSBE: We make revisionist brainwashing fun!™

Maybe you didn’t hear? The little item about how a small pod of pale ultra-conservatives in Texas has just demanded a whole slew of specific changes be made to history textbooks down in the Lone Star State? About how, in fact, nearly every change is a rather ridiculous rewriting of history and the language surrounding it, all tending to favor — can you guess? — white privileged capitalist males, a bitter Christian God, and a whitewashed version of history that never actually existed?

Not much shocking about it all, really. “Texas education” has never exactly equated with “intellectual range and nuance.” But there’s a big, ugly snag: Due to the state’s huge purchasing power, the decisions of these tiny-brained ultra-conservatives could well influence what goes into various school history textbooks nationwide.

So it is that that some inbred neocon beliefs about homophobic God and gun-loving country will ooze their way into the minds of unsuspecting youth in a completely different state say, 10 years’ hence, like a poison slowly leeching into the cultural water supply. Ah, Texas conservatism. It’s the new DDT!

What, too harsh? I’m not so sure. Yes, everyone knows that history is slippery and spurious to begin with, all about context and spin and who’s telling the tale. History is, after all, written by the victors.

What they don’t usually add is how history is then revised by the politicians, gutted by the church leaders, molested by the power mongers, skinned alive by paranoid militants, poorly codified by the speechwriters and then spun, torqued and diluted by countless mealy “experts” before being shoved down the gullet of unsuspecting youth, where it is partially digested like so much liquefied school lunch meat, only to be wrongly half-remembered later in life by the most insane among them, who then quickly gets his own talk show on Fox News. And lo, the circle of life continues.

Say what you will about standardized testing, draconian teachers’ unions, lazy tenured teachers, crumbling campuses, slashed budgets, et al. I can think of no better argument for mortgaging everything you own so as to afford a private/charter school for your kid than the disturbing fact that these Texas State Board mongrels might have any power whatsoever to shape young minds by way of further tainting the already wobbly, spurious historical record.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter. After all, it’s widely understood that, given the state of public education, children don’t really learn much in school anyway. The system is so problematic and the teachers union so dangerously obstinate, there’s a good chance your kid will never crack open one of these flawed, historically inaccurate textbooks in the first place. Small consolation indeed.

It’s not all dire and brimstone. Prior to this ridiculous move — and by the way, the board’s revisions still have to be ratified, so there’s a slim chance public outcry and a deep sense of shame at their own repellant personal politics will get them to back off — there’s apparently been a small amount of improvement in school textbooks over the years.

From what I understand, in the wake of wildly influential bestsellers like “Lies my Teacher Told Me” and the late, great Howard Zinn’s “People History” series, among many others, school textbooks underwent some significant improvements in the past couple of decades, slightly more multicultural and inclusive, balanced, realistic. Not nearly as thin, lopsided, sexist, jingoistic, myopic as they used to be. Is that damning with faint praise? Maybe.

Alas, if California weren’t so utterly broke, slashing education budgets and shutting down schools, maybe our fair state could launch a counter-attack, demand some reasonably accurate historic revisions in those selfsame texts. Time was when we had some killer purchasing power of our own. Remember? Yeah, me neither.

Sadly, from what I hear, California schools don’t even use textbooks anymore. Or classrooms. Or desks. They all disintegrated sometime back in 1987. History is now taught by means of sock puppets, toothpick dioramas and firecrackers. And gin.

Of course, I’m completely exaggerating. The changes the Texas Board is shoving through are probably relatively innocuous, just another toxic chemical added to the already lethal school lunch menu, one of a thousand, really. I’m sure everything will be fine. Kids won’t mind a whit that they’re being fed heavily processed, dangerous, non-nutritive mental crap. Hell, they’ll probably enjoy it. You know, just like all those happy, contented slaves.

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6 thoughts on “Dear Texas: Please shut up. Sincerely, History

  1. Two of the Board members were interviewed this AM on CNN- one ‘normal’ and the other a fundamentalist christian. The normal member said that after the curriculum was reviewed by teachers, sociologists and history majors, the fundamentalists on the Board made their own changes based on what they believed in.

    No surprise there. After all, what they ‘believe in’ can all be found in that wonderful fantasy land called, The World of Delusion.

  2. Love that title, but Texas isn’t the only state containing far-right wingnut revisionist historians. They’re EVERYWHERE, as Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Virginia Foxx, Virginia and Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, John Boehner, Mike Pence, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reiily, liz and Dick Cheney…ad nauseam all prove. Great article, mud_rake—thanks for sharing!

  3. I used an avatar of a sock puppet dinosaur attacking a 1956 Chevrolet to identify myself on the internet for a few years. I shot the pic myself when the Creationism Museum opened in Kentucky for one of my illustrations….
    Today I read a piece reporting that China was aggressively recruiting tech and science graduates from American Universities. Is that what it comes down to?
    We have the means to turn out some of the most cutting edge educated minds, but we lack the industry and the incentives to make it woprth their while to stay in America.

    My take on the Texas text book debacle? Sure, these small town yahoos can write their revisionist history books. An order from Texas is pretty big money for a publisher. Give the order, they’ll print them up and send the bill as fast as you can say Bob’s yer Uncle…
    But those books are going to end up in landfills before the bill will ever get paid by a state which is claiming that they will refuse bail out funds and doesn’t want any of that liberal socialized health care reform….
    Frankly, I doubt the book orders will ever go to press…
    This is a very entertaining prime time world class quality fuck up of biblical proportions in the making. It will be like going to a fundamentalist conservative christian version of seaworld and watching whales bite the heads off of the committee members. I can’t wait.

  4. I read a science article recently that showed with MRI studies that people with strong religious beliefs use the same parts of their brain that interpret reality. What I mean is that their religion is as real to them as the sky is blue to any other observer. Most people when confronted with esoterica tend to contemplate and hold a debate within their mind on the merits of whatever it is they are exploring. So a person looking at something as nebulous as faith will juggle and spin and contemplate, but won’t really hold it in their minds as irrifutible truth. But people of strong faith will hold unproven or illogical belief AS irrifutible truth. That’s why when a “Bible Believer” tries to argue something from the point of view of the Bible and you point out that the Bible isn’t proven fact.. their response is usually “Well the Bible says” in some kind of crazy circular logic. Debate just doesn’t compute with this type of mind.

  5. Microdot- the problem with Texas [well, THIS problem with Texas] is that publishing companies often defer to Texas for ‘standards’ in school textbooks they print and distribute across the land. Yikes!

    Steve- I am going to Google that religion-brain connection of which you speak and see what it purports. Thanks for the tip.

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