Sunday, February 14, 2010

The most dangerous unknown man in America

Who knows best about what to teach American students? Educators, experts in their fields, or a right-wing dentist who believes the earth is under 10,000 years old?

If you believe right-wing loon Don McLeroy, the dentist, he's just the man to do it.

The dentist is also a member of the Texas State Board of Education, and what makes him so powerful is that every textbook purchased by public schools in Texas, some 48,000,000 textbooks a year at a cost of $22,000,000,000, must conform to the textbook standards promulgated by the Board. This means that if Dr. Don doesn't like the fact that, for example, the best-known history textbook refers to the "living Constitution", and has for fifty or sixty years, he has the power to squeeze the publisher and get them to change it.

Or if Dr. Don wants to cram his Christianist ideology down the throats of your kids, he has seven allies on the Board to help him do it.

And because the Texas market is so huge, what is verboten in Texas isn't likely to show up in the public schools in your town, or your state, either.

You should read about it in today's Times Magazine. Here's just an example of how dangerous he is:

“BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, What Do You See?” It’s not an especially subversive-sounding title, but the author of this 1967 children’s picture book, Bill Martin Jr., lost his place in the Texas social-studies guidelines at last month’s board meeting due to what was thought to be un-American activity — to be precise, “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.” Martin, the creator of 300 children’s books, was removed from the list of cultural figures approved for study by third graders in the blizzard of amendments offered by board members.

In this case, one board member sent an e-mail message with a reference to “Ethical Marxism,” by Bill Martin, to another board member, who suggested that anyone who wrote a book with such a title did not belong in the TEKS. As it turned out, Bill Martin and Bill Martin Jr. are two different people. But by that time, the author of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” was out.

Or another example: just last Friday, the Board, acting on McLeroy's motion, has voted to reword the standards to say that Joe McCarthy was right.

As I say, this is a dangerous guy.

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