Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Politics in Developing Standards

If you ever feel frustration at how you perceive the Iowa Core was developed, it is good to consider a state like Texas, and then reconsider. After making news in appointing a creationist to head the state's educational board, the state continues to look for outside influences for its schools.

Recently, they asked 6 individuals for their thoughts on the state's history curriculum, which they will use to revise the standards in the coming year. Out of those 6 are David Barton, a founder of WallBuilders, a "group that promotes America's Christian heritage", and Reverend Peter Marshall, a pastor who "preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War, and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgment on the nation's sexual immorality".

Some of their suggestions, from the Wall Street Journal:

Multi-culturalism and diversity awareness should be pared back. According to Barton, "Reaching for examples of achievement by different racial and ethnic groups is divisive and distorts history."

Delete Anne Hutchinson from a list of colonial leaders. According to Marshall, "Anne Hutchinson does not belong in the company of these eminent gentlemen. She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn't accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble."

Include the study of America's Religious Revival Movement. Or as they state, "Evangelist Billy Graham should be included on a list of transformational leaders of the 20th century and students in fifth and eight grades should study the colonial-era religious revival known as the Great Awakening as a force in shaping a national identity."

Replace Thurgood Marshall with Harriet Tubman or Sam Houston. Marshall described Thurgood Marshall as a weak example of someone who has influenced the course of history. He suggested Tubman or Houston as better examples.

Delete César Chávez from a list of figures who modeled active participation in the democratic process. "He's hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation," Rev. Marshall wrote.

and my personal favorite...

Replace references to America's "democratic" values with "republican" values. As Barton explains: "We don't pledge allegiance to the flag and the democracy for which it stands."

The process was not without political balance, as university history professors "representing the liberal to moderate view" also expressed some suggestions as well, which can be argued, show as much political influence in the shaping of curriculum as the conservative viewpoints.

That Barton and Marshall, as well as the others expressed their viewpoints with obvious political slants is not that troubling. What is troubling is the state's desire to have those slants have such a large influence over their curriculum. Given that Texas has a very large textbook market, if the proposed changes find their way into textbooks, they will have an influence over other state's curriculum as well, including Iowa.

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