The Austin American-Statesman devoted much of its editorial section today to the controversy over proposed new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The newspaper’s op-ed page includes a new column from Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller. Money quote:
(S)ome board members say they want to bring “balance” to social studies classrooms. But that’s just an excuse to rewrite history to fit a political point of view, not facts.
So over just a few days in January and March the state board made hundreds of changes to new standards that teachers and academic experts had carefully drafted over the course of the previous year. They refused to consult teachers or scholars as they made ill-considered deletions, additions and other revisions based on little more than their own personal knowledge — however limited — or what they could find in a Google search at their desks.
That’s no way to prepare our kids for college or the jobs of the 21st century.
The American-Statesman also published a counter op-ed from University of Texas philosophy professor Robert C. Koons. Koons argues that the Texas State Board of Education, in substantially rewriting standards carefully drafted over the course of nearly a year by curriculum teams made up of teachers and scholars, is simply correcting a “leftist” bias and bringing “objectivity” to classrooms.
But Koons’ argument ultimately boils down to the same contempt that far-right board members have repeatedly expressed for experts who actually study the issues board politicians obscure and distort with misleading talking points and personal agendas. In fact, one might be excused for thinking Koons is channeling Don “Somebody’s gotta stand up to experts” McLeroy:
The people must not develop the habit of blind deference to academic experts. Just as war is too important to be left entirely to the generals, so history education is too important to be left to the historians. It is through our conception of our history that we define ourselves as a country. The fundamental question is this: Shall we continue to have a government ruled by the people, or shall we instead yield to a self-perpetuating caste of “experts”?
So there you have it — the real issue at the center of all the heated rhetoric, political games and seemingly endless controversy at the state board is this: should the curriculum in our children’s public schools be based on the best academic scholarship, or should it be based on the opinions of a few politicians who happen to sit on the State Board of Education? Koons and too many state board members have made it clear that they side with the opinions of politicians. We side with families who want their children to get a quality, politics-free education that prepares them to succeed in college and their future careers.