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Texas Set to White Wash U.S. History

The Texas Board of Education has made a series of history revising moves to its curriculum, altering how the Civil Rights Movement is taught among a host of other things. These new changes include some very overt attempts to give white men credit for championing civil rights while ignoring the minorities who fought and died for those rights. These changes will be in place for the next decade.

Why you should care? Even if you and your kids live nowhere near the Lone Star State, Texas, as one of the biggest states in the union, has a huge amount of influence when it comes to shaping history books nationwide. Textbook manufacturers essentially shape their books around the needs and recommendations of their largest clients. In this case, there is no client larger than the state of Texas -- other than California. New York is the third largest state in the union and therefore also has significant sway when it comes to influencing textbooks.

The right wing activists are motivated and mobilized, and they are the most vocal and active on these school boards. They are getting elected to office, and they are influencing curriculums. Education activists or the real nonpartisan experts who have been fighting for years to make public school curriculums more inclusive aren't even in the room when these decisions are made. Texas is comprised of some of the most diverse school districts in the nation. In it’s largest city of Houston, Hispanic and Black students make up nearly 60 percent of the student body and there are more than 30 different ethnic groups represented. Yet all the recent changes seek to elevate the importance of white men in U.S. history.

These new conservative textbooks will filter throughout the U.S. over the next decade. And is this is not the first time that right wingers in Texas manipulated what our youth learned about U.S. history. Last year, it tried removing any mention of both Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez from its history books.

According to one of the six “expert reviewers” revising the 1997 curriculum, Chavez: “lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others; and his open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is praiseworthy.”

Another reviewer concluded that Marshall, a Supreme Court justice who as an attorney argued the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, is “not an appropriate example as a historical figure of influence.” At the same time, it introduced strangely deceptive passages touting the Bible as being a critical motivation for the very founding of this country. Not religious freedom—but the Bible.

And the folks down in Texas continue to furl their brow wondering why the drop out rate of minority students is so high? Maybe it’s because you are erasing any mention of them from your textbooks.

“Although increased Latino voting will soon reduce the clout of the Texas right wing, the curriculum standards now being updated will stay in place for a decade. So unless activists and editorial boards get busy, public school students in Texas will be taught a right-wing, Christian fundamentalist perspective on United States history,” Randy Shaw, editor of 'Beyond Chron', and author of'Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century', wrote last year.

This year, there are more than 300 proposed changes to the curriculum and text books, just about all of them are transparent attempts to re-shape U.S. history with a conservative anti-minority bias.

"Probably the biggest [change], the board refused to require is that students learn that our government, that the founders barred the government from promoting one religion over all others in this country," said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, adding that the Texas Education Board entirely removed all references to Thomas Jefferson and the age of enlightenment.

"On the other hand, they turn around and exaggerate the influence of religion on the founding documents."

Other changes: They entirely remove the term Democratic government and replace it with “constitutional government.” They include several references to far right groups such as the Heritage Foundation while omitting any mention of more progressive or minority groups. They change economic terms such as “traditional market" to “free enterprise and capitalist free market." They have drastically elevated just about every reference made to Ronald Reagan. And they have included the passages where students will need to understand the importance “morality.”

Thomas Jefferson and the age on enlightenment? Also now gone and replaced by religious right icon John Calvin. Board members also rejected requiring history teachers and textbooks to provide coverage on the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. What it included? A historically wrong allegation that the U.S. was overrun by communist during the Cold War.

See the story here.