Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who's politicizing this, again?

...or, Has Kathy Miller ever heard of the "argument from authority" logical fallacy?

“What used to be a sleepy little board operating under the radar has attracted national and international attention solely because some members of the state board have willfully ignored the advice of teachers and scholars and, instead, politicized the content decisions they are making,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors the State Board of Education and usually ends up on the opposite side from the Liberty Institute.
Advice of teachers and scholars. Do these advisers really have that much credibility when they've been shown to be politicizing and modifying the curriculum to reflect their own politically correct ideology? Kevin Baker at The Smallest Minority recently pointed to a five-part essay in which said modification and its flaws vis-a-vis teaching American history was pointed out in stark detail. Here's just one example:
Editors [at Houghton Mifflin] were put in the hands of revisionist historians, Islamist activists, and diversity counters. … Its eighth-grade history, Creating America, produced by Houghton Mifflin’s McDougal Littell imprint, … identifies ten representative American heroes:

Abigail Adams
Crispus Attucks
Andrew Jackson
Queen Liluokalanai
Abraham Lincoln
Juan Seguin
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
George Washington
Ida B. Wells

In this popular textbook, to counteract the unfortunately necessary inclusion of the three Dead White Male presidents on the list (Washington, Lincoln and Jackson), the publishers selected an array of second-tier historical figures whose ethnic diversity is beyond reproach — and also ensured that the genders were represented equally as well. And while I have no problem with students learning about Queen Liluokalanai and the rest of the crew, in context, I fear that America’s children are coming away with the impression that these really are the most important people in our nation’s history, and not just a list assembled at random to satisfy multicultural pressure groups.
The author of the piece goes on to discuss his learning of "history viewed through the lens of race," and an example of it, the elevation of Crispus Attucks -- one of the colonists killed in the Boston Massacre -- to some sort of mythical figure seemingly because of his race (Attucks was, as you probably learned yourself, partly black), and how the American Revolution section of his history class revolved around Attucks. I'll honestly say I don't remember being taught that Crispus Attucks was "the original American patriot, a noble-minded martyr who almost singlehandedly brought America to independence" -- but I also do not remember being taught the names of the four other individuals who died in the Boston Massacre, either. Attucks' name was the only one I remember being taught. As the author of the piece also says:

"Multiply this scenario a million-fold and you can begin to see the problem with the kind of ethnocentric historical re-prioritization that has become commonplace in American education. It’s not that Crispus Attucks and Vernon J. Baker and Roy Benavidez (read Part III of the piece for the context -- ed.) were bad people, or are unworthy of praise, but rather that they are figures of at best secondary importance being given leading roles in history."

And why are they given leading roles? Because Kathy Miller's "teachers and scholars" advise that they be given leading roles. Viewed in that light, the Texas State Board of Education telling them to go pound sand doesn't sound quite as bad, does it?