Members of the Texas State Board of Education aren’t the only politicians pushing the national campaign to turn public schools into tools for indoctrinating students with right-wing ideology. A columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looks at how that campaign is unfolding in other states.
In Florida, for example, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would require high school students to watch a film about America written by and starring conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza is the author of numerous diatribes — in columns, books and film — that essentially describe President Obama as a Marxist out to destroy America.
Even fellow conservatives have labeled these claims by D’Souza as ridiculous. But now some Florida lawmakers want to force students in their state to watch a film from the same incendiary propagandist. (D’Souza, by the way, is also a law-breaker. He was fined and sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center last September after admitting that he deliberately violated U.S. campaign finance law.)
The Sun-Sentinel columnist, Rhonda Swan, explains how those Florida lawmakers are tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That right-wing group has in other states been pushing similar legislation that would require students to learn a sanitized and distorted version of American history. Here’s how Swan describes one part of the campaign:
[ALEC] wrote the Founding Principles Act, a bill the North Carolina legislature passed that requires high school students to pass a course on the founding principles of government. Earlier this month, North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction made a proposal to “highly recommend” the curriculum include material from the Bill of Rights Institute. The conservative Koch family, billionaires who finance an extensive political network, fund the institute.
Criticism of the institute’s social studies material mirrors that of the [D’Souza] movie: they seek to sanitize American history, downplaying the negative consequences of capitalism and the country’s mistreatment of people of color and the poor.
“D’Souza gives the impression,” Variety said in its movie review, “of someone obsessed with whitewashing any and all dark chapters in U.S. history books.”
It’s as if conservatives can’t handle the truth.
Swan also notes the textbook battles at the Texas State Board of Education, and she explains why the right-wing campaign to politicize public education is dangerous:
Students go to school to learn how to think for themselves. They do that by learning the facts — good and bad. Not by getting a partisan spin — liberal, conservative or otherwise — on those facts.
There is a reason educators, not politicians, design curricula. Lawmakers should leave the teaching to the experts.
If only it were true that politicians weren’t in the business of designing curricula. We’ve seen politicians on the State Board of Education rewrite curriculum standards for Texas public schools and then pressure publishers to make sure their textbooks conform to those politicized standards. That’s why we now have history textbooks that teach Texas students how Moses was a major influence on the writing of the U.S. Constitution — even though scholars across the country have denounced such a claim as nonsense.