My good friend Matt Davis who had a starring role in my Goodbye Old Friend blog post two months back, hates Texas. But that’s because he was born in Oklahoma, and has been a lifelong Sooners fan. You can’t blame the guy. In fact, we can all probably laud him for being such a soothsayer of things to come.
The news that Texas will single handedly rewrite the history of the United States for school children could be viewed as the most asinine thing to come out of the Lone Star state in a long, long time. Some highlights include:
- Deflecting Thomas Jefferson’s role as a Founding Father to de-emphasize the role that Deists played in building this nation
- Making sure that the “great” speeches of Jefferson Davis are taught beside the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s inaugural speech
- Adding the rise of conservatism, the NRA, evangelicalism and other extreme right (but not Neo-Con which is different) to the curriculum when teaching about the 1990s and the 2000s.
- Making sure that country music is listed as a key cultural contribution of the United States to the world, and making sure that hip-hop, R&B and rap don’t appear on the list
I have no verification that this was in the draft resolution which was passed, but I’m pretty sure that the 44th President of the United States will be re-drawn as a Southern, white protestant male so that the minorities across Texas don’t think they could do something as prestigious as run for President.
What makes the situation much, much worse is that 80% of the country’s school systems use the same textbooks which are published for Texas. Texas has one state curriculum for a state which contributes 34 electoral votes to the presidential election. The massive purchasing power that this one state wields means that many others are forced to swallow the decisions that the Texas Board of Education makes, which as an example includes teaching creationism beside evolution in science class. This centralization of education is both awe-inspiring (that Texas understands their position, and their conservative bloc is arrogant enough to use it), and simultaneously demotivating.
When I read about this issue, I came to the conclusion that the only solution was to home school my children or make sure that I live somewhere outside of the 80% who are using Texas textbooks. Both of these options have their drawbacks, namely in terms of matching careers, lifestyles, family and everything else that goes into where you live and how you live with the the time investment of home schooling or the moving investment of finding a non-Texas textbook school district. I really got to thinking that there had to be a better solution… and I think I may have discovered it.
I think that the Obama administration should take this opportunity to empower local school districts with the technology and resources necessary to move away from physical textbooks and towards using virtual education resources. We need more students who learn how to learn from a young age, and less of the rote memorization and recitation which is our current education curriculum. I don’t care if it means we have a nation of Bohemians as a result because at least we’re building thinkers and leaders as opposed to cogs in a national factory which no longer exists.
I know school districts hate the Internet for what it is, but imagine how much it could enhance a student’s experience to have a textbook which while you’re learning about Egypt has three-dimensional renderings of the pyramids through which the student could walk, or to watch Churchill speak instead of reading about how inspirational he was. What the Internet could be, and what virtual textbooks could be, for K-12 education isn’t something that I think we should toss aside lightly, and now we really have an impetuous to act. We don’t want our children to learn from Texas textbooks.
Let me back up for 2 sentences and say that I was never a fan of a big healthcare bill, but that’s a discussion for another day. I was really hoping that immigration reform, infrastructure investment and government transparency were going to be the hallmarks of Obama’s first term. Given that two out of three of those are a lost cause at this point (who the hell thought that mid-term elections were ever going to be a good idea?), this is something that I could really rally behind.
It creates opportunity in two areas that sorely need help:
- Bringing more meritocracy to education at all levels of the socioeconomic ladder
- There’s no reason to believe that a program like this doesn’t bring a sense of meritocracy to public education. Everyone know of the woes of inner-city schools, but reducing operating costs of everyone involved is one good way to allow all schools, but especially schools where budget is an impeding factor, to invest in teachers, facilities and opportunities
- Create jobs for this new wave of educators
- We need a new technological revolution in the US. I don’t for a second believe that building more Internet applications will help the US maintain its role as a thought leader in the global economy. In that sense, I’m not delusional enough to think that the Facebooks and the Twitters of the world create value, but I also believe that where research is, as far as I know, and where arenas such as bio-medical engineering and clean-tech are, as far as I know, we are still at least a half-generation away from that technological revolution. In the meantime, I assumed that the nation’s infrastructure was the proper investment, but I’m not convinced that our education system is the proper investment. This will, of course, create jobs for all of the individuals involved in this new age of education.
The nerd in me wants to label this Education2.0, but really it’s the hundredth or thousandth iteration of what education could be from when we started to teach until today. Thank you Texas for kicking us in the ass, and showing us that we need to take back control of something as sacred as our own history, and we have the tools ready to do it now.
And while you’re at it, please take your governor seriously and consider secession. It would do the rest of us a huge favor.