Have You All Been Following the Texas Social Studies Curriculum Debacle?
Here’s a short introduction www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html and a profile of David Barton, one extremist advocate www.tfn.org/site/PageServer
What disturbs me most here is that the loud screaming of these wild radicals drowns out the most basic truth of Social Studies — none of the content we teach — not one single name, date, concept, event, principle that we pass on to our kids matters. Rather the entire purpose of Social Studies is to inculcate an approach to knowledge, an approach to researching, evaluating, assimilating, and passing on information and ideas. It could be that every single thing I thought and have written about is wrong. If someone can find those errors of fact or judgment in my work, great — we will have learned in the exchange of ideas. Nothing is absolutely settled — except that there is an approach to knowledge that is as important for students in how they pick what they eat, what they play, what they buy as it is in their understanding of the past, of citizenship, of laws, and of rights. We need to teach them an open minded effort to explore, test, verify, assert, challenge, defend, and — in short — to think.
Betty Carter sent me an email about a recent TV discussion about the supposed link between vaccines and autism. In fact there is no evidence of a connection — but people insist, against all studies and data, that there is. Sure there have been times when the scientific community covered up or ignorned real threats to our health — a healthy skepticism is in order. But skepticism must face two ways — question authority, but also, question yourself — you need to be as ready to doubt your certainties as those passed on to you. That is the Social Studies mindset — and that is what the extreme radicals on the Texas school board are attempting to silence. I call them radicals because they are the opposite of conservatives — they are not attempting to preserve the basic mindset of rational inquiry, but rather to wipe it out and replace it with blind allegience to preset ideas — that is, to impose ideology in the place of thought. In that effort they resemble nothing so much as the Communists in Russia who insisted that acquired characteristics could be inherited — because Stalin said so.
I find the Texas situation so upsetting because these adult radicals are abusing the children of their state. They are stunting the intellectual growth of young people — and that is not a matter of political debate, it is a fundamental violation of what we owe to our children.