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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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The Texas Textbook Massacre

“Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state,” so quoted the once Fuehrer regarding the changes he and Joseph Goebbels, his head of propaganda, had made to the textbooks of Germany.

Nothing that was detrimental to the reputation of the Nazi party could be published in case it affected the impressionable minds of the German youth.

This was because Hitler was fully aware that  molding the minds of the youth to his liking would aid in shaping the future in his favor as well. The Hitler Youth was what came to mind when reading about Texas’s textbook rewrite. Obviously the Nazi regime was much more serious business, but Texas’s alteration of significant historical facts that have been taught to generations is disturbingly reminiscent of Hitler’s censorship of textbooks.

Though there was much debate over such a decision, in the end the Texas Board of Education permitted for major alterations of the state curriculum to take place. To discern the reason for such a critical event one merely has to look at the political leanings of the Board members. The Texas Board of Education is comprised of 15 officeholders, seven of whom are highly conservative republicans while three are members who are moderately so. Naturally due to the Republican’s ultra conservative clout the vote was highly skewed in their favor at 10-5.

What does this imply for the material that will be taught to pliable pupils in Texas and all over the nation? Their textbooks will have highly Christian leanings, diluting their neutrality even further. The reformers seek to dismiss the idea of ‘separation of church and state’, a phrase originating from Jefferson. Perhaps him coining such a term has something to do with the fact that he has been excluded completely as one of those who inspired revolutions with his literature. Instead they are replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone, all who are palatable to the Conservatives due to their adherence to Christianity. Rather than turning a historical microscope towards figures of a variety of opinions they choose to merely focus on those that agree with their own. This tendency put figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall in danger of deletion if it were not for strong public opposition. However, their role in spurring revolutions is fairly negated because as Barton, one of the so-called consulted experts (he has a bachelor’s degree in religious education but no qualifications in history) stated, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.”

Downplaying the effort and the sacrifices these historical figures made to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles is an odious action to take, however that is just the beginning.

Not only are there exclusions of important historical figures that may have left a bad taste in conservative mouths but modifications have also been made to events so that they shed a kinder, less critical light on conservatives and America as a whole.

Remember learning about slavery in grade school and how it was still prevalent in America a few decades after it had been abolished in Britain? According to these textbooks we are going to blame slavery on the English and claim that it was a residue of British colonialism that America had been fighting from day one. The word “capitalism” will also be changed to “free-enterprise system” in all these books. Terri Leo, one of the conservative members, said “Capitalism does have a negative connotation,” as justification for this.

Creationism is touted as more scientifically sound and Darwinism is made practically extinct in this intrinsic story of conservative creation.

All in all, two facts about this whole debacle are especially bothersome. Firstly, none of the Board members had any expertise in the subject of history. They based their decisions on political, religious and personal factors. Not only is this highly unprofessional, but it leaves history at the mercy of conservative claws, which have apparently whittled history down to a shape of their liking. Secondly, though this has all occurred in Texas it is bound to leak out of its borders. Texas happens to be the nation’s second-largest textbook market.

It selects which books schools can purchase rather than allowing them the freedom of having the local district choose. Since publishers will mold their products to please the most profitable customer, Texas has a lot of weight in the matter. This means that it definitely has major influence over what is read in classes all over the nation.

Though history has always had a tendency to be somewhat subjective, this sort of change is ludicrously so. To make such blatantly biased changes to American and world history, then feed it to children as “academics” is a moderate form of what could be called brainwashing. History should not be subjected to the whims of a select group of people, and trimmed accordingly. If this is the case then what makes such a case different from Hitler and his textbook rewrite?

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