I received an e-mail earlier in the week concerning efforts to revise textbooks in Texas and the alleged whitewashing of history by the Texas Board of Education (click here for details on what is happening there). One writer described the Texas efforts as follows: “As the state goes through the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting the standards for its textbooks, [an activist bloc] is using its clout to infuse them with ultraconservative ideals. Among other things, they aim to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy, bring global-warming denial into science class, and downplay the contributions of the civil rights movement.” Given the level of interest in the topic, I thought it would share my response:
That link was certainly interesting reading, but I truly do not see those issues arising here in Franklin. The Massachusetts curriculum frameworks are some of the toughest and most respected in the country, and I do not see them moving in the direction of Texas in our lifetimes. In fact, even the recent efforts to develop national curriculum standards have not been well received by our state board of education (I understand that Texas did not participate). In fact, this was in a Globe article from last week: “The Patrick administration will not adopt national academic standards if they are lower than those established in Massachusetts, long championed as having among the most rigorous expectations, according to the state’s education secretary.” (Click here for the full article).
Also, readers should take comfort in the fact that the Franklin School Committee has a policy to deal with complaints about instructional materials in our schools. You can find a copy of the policy by clicking here. As stated in the policy, ” books and other reading matter will be chosen for value of interest and enlightenment of all students in the community. A book will not be excluded because of the race, gender orientation, nationality, political, or religious values of the writer or of its style and language. Every effort will be made to provide materials that present all points of view concerning the international, national, and local problems and issues of our times. Books and other reading matter of sound factual authority will not be prescribed or removed from library shelves or classrooms because of partisan doctrinal approval or disapproval.”
Finally, a few years ago I wrote a blog piece about similar efforts in Pennsylvania (the details from the blog with links to the case materials and documentary can be viewed by clicking here). The tussle over these emotional issues resulted in a very interesting trial in federal court in Pennsylvania. In the case decision, the judge ruled that introducing intelligent design was unconstitutional, and I believe that some of the Texas changes would fall into a similar category. PBS’s NOVA produced a two hour special on the case – entitled Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial — which aired for the first time on November 13, 2007. You can view the show online by clicking here. PBS has a website devoted to the topic which can be viewed by clicking here.