Am I a geek or a nerd?

If its scare tactics in SS, it must be Texas.
September 20, 2010, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For some background, read this.  And for the actual Texas SBOE Resolution go here.  To sum up: A defeated GOP primary candidate for the Texas SBOE brought a resolution to the board that essentially says that since Texas law states that instructional materials can’t conflict with the stated purpose of education and that the job of the SBOE is to protect basic values and heritage of the state and nation that the SBOE will reject any books that it deems to have demonized or given too much/too little coverage to a particular religion.

Sounds all good–treat all religions equally, make sure you don’t make them sound bad, be fair…

Read more. One reason for this resolution (stated in the resolution) is that Middle Easterners have bought into the US Textbook market. The proof is that a subsidiary of DubaiWorld, an investment company that represents the Dubai government, is, along with some partners, a 45% owner of EMPG. EMPG is a Irish company that went into serious debt to acquire and merge Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin. Clearly, the connection between Muslim extremists and our classroom textbooks has become dangerously close, what with debt ridden subsidiaries of Middle Eastern investment companies sharing ownership in a debt ridden Irish company who owns an American textbook company that just restructured its billions of dollars of debt. Now if schools just had money for social studies textbooks we’d really have something to worry about!!

And then there is the specific example that textbooks address the Crusades but leave out Muslim attacks on Jerusalem in 1244 and Antioch in 1268. The SBOE is right, those are left out. Textbooks don’t include every attack/invasion/siege of any war. For the record, the attacks on Jerusalem in 1244 were by the Tartars, and while they were Muslim, calling it a Muslim attack is sort of like saying the US declaring war on Japan was a Christian war. Same for Antioch in 1268. That was lead by the Baibars, the sultan of Egypt, who was Muslim. The same way that President Roosevelt was Christian. These events were part of a larger set of events that we call the Crusades, and in the text books I reviewed (World History: The Human Journey and World History: Connections to Today–two commonly used WH books) the information was limited but relatively balanced. Christians aren’t depicted as evil invading killers with no motive, nor are the Muslim forces shown as innocents.

My favorite part of all of this is that the textbooks reviewed by the resolution’s author are all no longer in use in Texas.

Honestly, I don’t like our textbooks. They treat history as set of facts without consideration for historian perspective, the art of interpretation, the idea that winners write the books, that all primary sources have a degree of bias. There is not a set of facts, there is merely as set of ‘he said, she said’ about everything. Consider too, that our books are trying to teach thousands of years of history in the space of a few hundred pages.

How about a resolution to include historical thinking as part of teacher training so that textbooks can be used more critically and effectively, regardless of what’s been included or excluded?


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