New Texas Textbooks Love The Confederacy (And Their Sisters) So Much
Hey, just in time for the post-4th-of-July reminders that school starts up again far too soon, comes this Washington Post story about the brand new history books that will be hitting Texas classrooms in the fall. As we've noted previously, the Texas Board of Education adopted some fun new history standards in 2010, and the final products of all that hard work to ensure that children know that Moses wrote the Constitution are finally on the way! We can hardly wait to get our hands on a copy!
What with all the fuss over that Treason Flag that so many states are suddenly starting to chuck, the new textbooks' revisionist views of the Civil War and slavery -- which seemed so hip and with-it for the conservatives who set up the standards just five years ago -- are getting a second look, at least by interfering Yankees at the Washington Post, which is published in the enemy's capitol city and probably doesn't even recognize Abraham Lincoln as the traitor that he was. Why, just look at this totally biased description of Texas's patriotic history standards:
[When] it comes to the Civil War, children are supposed to learn that the conflict was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” -- written deliberately in that order to telegraph slavery’s secondary role in driving the conflict, according to some members of the state board of education.
Slavery was a “side issue to the Civil War,” said Pat Hardy, a Republican board member, when the board adopted the standards in 2010. “There would be those who would say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was over states’ rights.”
Even in Texas, there are those who question the wisdom of teaching Confederate Fantasy in U.S. History classes. Dan Quinn, of the Texas Freedom Network, the watchdog group that has fought off some of the worst excesses in the Textbook Wars, says that now that Confederate flags are coming down, maybe it would be a good idea to pay more attention to how the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights movement are taught. "Not only are we worried about the flags and statues and all that, but what the hell are kids learning?” said Quinn, an obvious elitist who eschews the proper Texan locution "what the hell is our children learning?"
There are some really cool history facts mandated by the 2010 standards. For instance, while Texas schoolchildren will learn that states' rights and sectionalism were just as important as slavery in causing the Civil War, they won't be required to learn anything about the KKK or Jim Crow laws. They'll be required to study Jefferson Davis's inaugural speech, but not the infamous "Cornerstone" speech given by his vice president, Alexander Stephens, in which Stephens proclaimed that the brand-new Confederate Constitution "has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization" and bragged that, unlike the squishy U.S. Constitution, the Confederate government is a lot better, because "its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition."
Obviously, there's no reason for kids to know about that speech, because who in the world studies speeches by vice presidents? Nobody even knows Alexander Stephens's name today, so he was probably a minor figure with crazy views, like Spiro Agnew or something.
Dan Quinn, the Texas Freedom Network guy, is hopeful that most of the state-adopted textbooks
manage to “thread the needle,” meeting state standards while still acknowledging the importance of slavery.
“But the books muddy things by presenting sectionalism and states’ rights ideas throughout,” he said. “A lot of white southerners have grown up believing that the Confederacy’s struggle was somehow a noble cause rather than a war in the defense of a horrific institution that enslaved millions of human beings.”
A lot of that, of course, will depend on how the textbooks are actually used in class; even though history standards in most states emphasize slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War, a 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that 48% of Americans think the war was about "states' rights," while only 38% said it was about slavery. More disturbingly, it looks like revisionist views are gaining ground: among respondents under 30, the survey found that 60% attributed the Civil War to states' rights. Yes, that was Yr. Dok Zoom you just heard sighing heavily.
Happily, not all Texas teachers are going to just blandly repeat the state-dictated guidelines; WaPo spoke to one eighth-grade history teacher, Stephen Wright (not that one), who said he makes a point of having his students read the Confederate states' declarations of secession so they know that slavery was the cause for secession:
He deals with the Civil War standards — he has to teach the standards, because they might show up on the state’s history test — by explaining the reasons that “some people believe” the war happened.
“Man, it’s all about slavery,” he said. “The students know that.”
Sounds like a troublemaker to us. Thank goodness -- the best teachers usually are.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.