Monday, July 20, 2009

More Troubling Standards

The drive to national standards is making some more headway with members being selected to start sussing out what students should know and when they should know it. Of course, you didn't think it would be easy, did you? Because as soon as progress starts getting made, in comes Texas, again, with what is hopefully cause for pause.

Last we saw the Texas standards it was because they were trying to make sure that creationism was being taught alongside evolution in science classrooms. Having worked their magic on the science curriculum, they're now eyeing social studies. Members of the Texas Board of Education are seeking to revise the social studies standards to "emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history." This extra emphasis would apparently come at the expense of such figures as Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall who have apparently not contributed much to American history.

Without getting into a discussion of whether or not emphasizing the Bible and Christian faith actually contributes to a significantly better understanding of American history, you can see how this is the kind of thing that can happen should we really go down the road of national standards. Interest groups are always going to try to press their advantage and national educational standards are going to be a major platform upon which we're going to see a series of bitter fights in the "culture wars." Agree or disagree with this one, who knows what the next major thrust is going to be. Unless we start figuring out now how much ideology we're going to include in the standards (and how realistic it is to try to exclude ideology) we're going to see a string of bitter fights that are always going to undermine the standards on one side or the other.

Of course, Texas hasn't signed on to agreement to push for national standards. So maybe they can keep their cultural battles to themselves.

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