Texas Republican Dreams Up History Project To Teach Texas Exceptionalism. In A Pamphlet.
In the latest of several efforts to seize the teaching of history away from historians, who tend not to be trustworthy with their insistence on looking at even the less flattering parts of the American narrative, a Texas Republican legislator filed a bill this week to create something he calls the "1836 Project," named for the year white Texas settlers declared independence from Mexico. State Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound, a real place) told the Dallas Morning News that his legislation is completely unrelated to the rightwing backlash against the New York Times's "1619 Project," despite having a remarkably similar name. No sir, and it's also unrelated to former president Donald Trump's own hastily thrown-together "1776 Commission," either.
Parker's pet project you see, is "exclusively about celebrating Texas," so there won't be anything at all to object to. Its modest goals, according to the bill's language, are to "promote patriotic education and increase awareness of the Texas values that continue to stimulate boundless prosperity across this state." So you know, objective history facts, without a trace of the polemics or propaganda you might find in that New York Times thing to which this is utterly not related.
In a news release, Parker explained his objective, non-political motivations for proposing the project:
Throughout recent years, we have witnessed the destruction of historical monuments as many attempt to rewrite the past. [...] Many of our children are taught to denounce Texas history and do not understand what it means to be a virtuous citizen.
The Morning News asked Parker to elaborate a bit more on what some of those instances were, but instead, he explained his legislation was a "proactive" effort to protect Texas history. Gee, if children are being taught to denounce Texas history, you'd think he'd have a shocking example ready to mind.
Now, as the Morning News points out, Texas schools are already pretty full up with mandatory state history classes in multiple grades, so while Parker's bill sounds like an effort to remake standards for history education, the commission's actual work product will be the creation of a "pamphlet — to be handed out along with a driver's license" that would cover some key points of Texas history, like the war for independence, Texas's joining the US of A (which, presumably, it can still leave whenever it wants), and Juneteenth, when, a mere two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, federal troops made it to Galveston to let enslaved people learn they were free. Presumably, that part of the pamphlet will emphasize the freedom and opportunity stuff, without a lot of boring and frankly depressing detail on the slavery that preceded Juneteenth, nor the Jim Crow system that followed.
The bill is quite specific about the apolitical content of that pamphlet; it should explain how Texas's policy decisions "promote liberty and freedom for businesses and families." The pamphlet must also emphasize "the legacy of economic prosperity in this state" as well as "the abundant opportunities for businesses and families in this state."
Mind you, the proposal has generated just a teensy bit of skepticism from people who don't really understand Texas's boundless opportunities because they no longer live there. Dr. Lindsay Marshall, a postdoctoral fellow in Native American Studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tweeted yesterday that she sure is glad Rep. Parker
is as dismayed as I am that TX schoolchildren don't learn that a key motive for the TX Revolution was Mexico's abolition of slavery. I'm SURE that's going to be the point of this little commission.
She added that she expects
a big portion of this pamphlet will be the TX Republic's genocidal policies against Native nations under Lamar. We didn't learn about that in TX history when I was growing up there. I'm sure Parker wants to make sure that's well-known, too.
Somehow, the Dallas Morning News found naysayers too, which really goes to show how historians can't enjoy Texas's wonderful, blemish-free history for its own sake, and have to keep dragging facts into it:
Amanda Vickery, a social studies and race in education professor at the University of North Texas, questioned the decision to zero in on 1836, which she said erases the Indigenous communities who were already in the state.
"It's about reasserting whiteness and focusing on when white people 'founded' this state," she said.
Vickery and Richard McCaslin, a Texas history prof at University of North Texas, also had to go and suggest there might be something untoward about the makeup of the commission, which would be chosen by Texas's governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House — each would name three members to the body. McCaslin, in a shocking display of partisanship, noted that the three white Republican dudes are all "from one party, one political perspective and one demographic." Well sure, but that's what history is: They won elections, so they get to write it, duh.
But what about all the Texas history already foisted on kids in the state's schools? Isn't that plenty? Heck nah, says Parker, whose bill calls for the committee to go well beyond the one pamphlet and to
advise state agencies on how to ensure "patriotic education is provided to the public" at state parks, museums and landmarks.
"Civic education should not be limited to the classroom," he said.
Won't it be a fun place, with every state park and museum being mandated to emphasize how terrific Texas is?
Incidentally, while Parker doesn't appear to have retweeted that Morning News story, he was careful to tweet out a link to a very positive piece about his proposal from the respected and very real journalism outlet "The Washington News Post." In case you've forgotten its famous investigative reporting on Waterfencegate, or the Pentagon Files Papers, the News Post's "About" page lets you know what a serious enterprise it is, from "Washington":
WashingtonNewsPost in one of the trusted online newspaper which is continuously keeping all their reader updated with the latest, trending and breaking news of the US and World. WashingtonNewsPost a powerful online news media that delivers diverse and visually engaging stories WashingtonNewsPost publishes daily online articles to read which include news on politics, world, local, technology review and new tech products, celebrity, entertainment, music, movies & reviews, health with fitness food diet plans.
Oh, yes, and the entire text of the piece is identical to a story from the Daily Mail, which means the Washington News Post definitely gets its journalism from known sources. And that's how Texans should learn history, the end.
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