Whose History

Only last year, without any expert input, the Texas Board of Education approved changes to history textbooks which included the rehabilitation of Joseph McCarthy (saying subsequent revelations had vindicated him), the minimization of Thomas Jefferson, and removal of references to the Enlightenment (TJ was likely a deist rather than a mainstream Christian, while many thinkers associated with the Enlightenment were devoted secularists and, in some cases, flat out atheists). The Board also stipulated that the phrase “the slave trade” would be replaced with the “triangular Atlantic trade.”
From a NYT article:

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”

“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,” said one conservative member, Terri Leo. “You know, ‘capitalist pig!’ ”

Now, from Mike Huckabee, a new series of historical cartoons are for sale which emphasize not only the principle of “personal responsibility” but God’s role in ordaining the United States as an exceptional nation among nations.

“Gimme Yo Money.” Classic.

I grew up with Schoolhouse Rock, which probably had an effect on my views of the US and its history. For example:

Not too radical, is it? You get some good information (historical figures, dates and the legislation in question) and what was then perhaps an uncontroversial celebration of victory in the struggle for political (if not social) equality. But it’s this sort of thing that signifies as the “liberal history” which Huckabee and the Texas Dept. of Education seek to replace. At issue in this respect is an anxiety on the part of many parents and educators that Texas’s textbook market share (roughly 4.7 million students will use the new, ideologically correct textbooks) will shape the market as a whole. Legislators in California went so far as to pass a bill requiring that the State audit its textbooks “to ensure that they have not been changed as a result of textbooks changes in Texas.” Leland Yee (SF) was the author of said bill. From his website:

Among the curriculum changes approved in Texas are: 

• reducing the scope of Latino history; 

• encouraging students to question the legal doctrine of separation of church and state; 

• terms such as “capitalism” replaced with “free market;” 

• labeling civil rights programs that protect women and people of color as having adverse “unintended consequences;” 

• emphasis on “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” including favorable mentions of the Eagle Forum, Moral Majority, Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association and New Gingrich’s Contract With America; 

• more positive portrayal of Cold War anticommunism; 

• removal of third-party presidential candidates; 

• labeling Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as a role model for effective leadership and a statement from Confederate President Jefferson Davis to accompany a statement from President Abraham Lincoln; 

• to include country and western music among nation’s important cultural movements while dropping hip-hop from the same list.

Given California’s response to the Texas Board of Education’s decision, we might consider what this means for the nation as a whole, particularly with reference to national identity, the national historical narrative, and  the so-called Culture Wars. A generation of children in Texas and California will grow up having received markedly distinct historical educations.

3 thoughts on “Whose History

  1. DoctorMontalban

    LMAO….gimme yo’ money! I’m sure the Obama similarity is totally unintentional. I never knew there were so many thugs in the 70’s wearing tight disco tanktops. The GOP is always good for some unintentional comedy. Their agenda isn’t so funny though.

  2. Eric Alexander-Hughes

    The Reagan Revolution video is pretty funny and really strange- that part, “gimme yo money!” with the urban black youth with a shank, in a jersey that says ‘disco’ for some strange reason. its especially ironic that they included that part in this video because, as i argued in my final paper, if anything, that type of archetypal ‘urban gangster’ character was popularized in pop culture the most during his presidency because of the neoliberal economic policies that were put into place as well as the whole crack epidemic conspiracy that i discuss. that may have been a run-on sentence, but i think it was comprehensible. and if your wondering why im posting on the blog at 4:18AM before the night of our 8:00AM final, the simple answer is- stress. i already made an attempt at sleeping early in the night; to no avail. so i figured i might as well keep studying the blog since im up anyway…

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