April 1, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Over the past two months, as the nation debated the merits of health insurance reform and troop escalation, another major political movement quietly slipped by the American public virtually unnoticed. In Texas, the uber-conservative State Board of Education has tentatively endorsed a set of curriculum reforms that will have a devastating impact on the entire nation.
Under the guise of providing “ideological balance” to the Texas curriculum, the school board has recommended a sweeping set of changes that will strongly tilt the district’s curriculum toward a far Right ideology. Among the board’s proposed changes: eliminating figures like Cesar Chavez, Edward Kennedy, and even Thomas Jefferson; replacing the word “capitalism” with “free enterprise system,” implying that there wasn’t a racial dimension to the internment of 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and emphasizing the Christian beliefs of the Founding Fathers.
Scared yet? It gets worse.
Because of Texas’ enormous $22 billion educational endowment, which it uses to purchase nearly 50 million textbooks per year, the state holds considerable sway with the handful of publishers that service U.S. school districts. As a result, the decisions made by the highly partisan board will radically reshape the content of textbooks not only in Texas, but around the nation.
To be fair, school textbooks have never been apolitical or neutral. Like all aspects of schooling, they always reflect and reinforce a particular agenda, worldview, and ideology. This is not only because of political machinery, but because knowledge itself is under constant debate, reexamination, and revision. What counts as a “fact” today may be disproven and discarded next year. As a result, we must always make tough decisions about the people, events, and ideas that will be included or excluded within our canons of knowledge. This unavoidable subjectivity, however, cannot be used as an excuse for installing arbitrary procedures that only serve to reinforce the interests of dominant political groups.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in Texas.
Instead of assembling experts who make informed decisions on relevant issues, the Texas school board is primarily comprised of random ideologues whose primary qualification is being conservative. Of the fifteen current board members, ten are Republican. Seven of the ten identify as extremely conservative. The board is comprised of multiple attorneys, a dentist, a newspaper publisher, and several other people who are perfectly intelligent but thoroughly unqualified to be the arbiters of historical, scientific, or social knowledge for an entire nation.
April 1, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Last weekend, I joined Tim Wise and Ben Zimmer in a great conversation about the dangerous tone and tenor of the current health care debate.
March 24, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Last night, I appeared on Larry King Live to discuss the recent health care vote in the House. The discussion, which included Aisha Tyler, Kevin Madden, and Stephen Baldwin, was both interesting and civil with one exception: Alec Baldwin. Instead of offering a substantive critique of the president or a policy, Baldwin elected to name call and throw out false claims. His comments last night represent all that is wrong with American political discourse at the current moment.
March 11, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Today’s video of the day comes from Larry King Live, where former Congressman Eric Massa gave his second major bizarro interview of the day. The clip below shows Ben Stein and me debating the controversy, as well as several other issues of the day.
March 8, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Tonight, Mo’Nique won the the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In her speech, she was dignified, brief, and poignant. The light swipe she took at her critics –who lambasted her for allegedly bucking the tradition of promoting the film for free– will be sure to provide fodder for tomorrow’s headlines. Still, her Oscar victory and powerful performance should open up new possibilities for Mo’Nique, as well as other women of color in Hollywood.
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