Letter: Let’s not mess with Texas

In his column about education reform, Sam Brill ’10 sounded an outraged note at the recent vote by the Texas Board of Education to change the state’s high school curriculum (“Let’s mess with Texas,” March 24). Their new curriculum promotes, he wrote, a “Christianist, conservative ideology, often at odds with vast historical consensus. In other words, he claims Texas students will no longer be getting the facts of history, but rather the radical right’s interpretation.”

Leaving aside the question of whether the Board’s changes present a biased view of history, I wonder what’s so bad about history curriculum that’s biased. Brill seems to think that it is possible to teach only “the facts of history.” But we cannot view history objectively — humans have a limited memory and comprehension.

A deluge of “facts” overwhelms us and teaches us nothing. Someone must take a scalpel to the annals of history or our high schoolers will learn even less than they do already. One trick of storytelling is to leave out the minor details while still making a point, and history is just another story. The Texas school board agrees that our story is best told by leaving out some parts and including others, and that’s just fine. How else should our history be decided if not by the democratically elected bodies?

When the people of Texas decide how to tell their history, we have no right to criticize them.

Eli Markham

March 25

The writer is a freshman in Ezra Stiles College.

Comments

  • anonymous

    Really?
    Because our view of history is necessarily limited, let’s just teach any nonsense. So let me start: Oh boy, did the Jews have a good time during the Holocaust! And those sauna-like thingies that the Nazis organized for them, weren’t they a blast?!
    According to the author of this little piece of wisdom, “our story is best told by leaving out some parts and including others, and that’s just fine.” And since it’s fine, I am just leaving out those six million deaths or so.
    “When the people of Texas decide how to tell their history, we have no right to criticize them.” So, if the German people decide that they want to teach that Jewish terrorists killed six million Germans in WWII “we have no right to criticize them.” Or, if the people of Texas democratically decide that they should teach that the civil rights movement was on the wrong side of history because “colored” people are after all not that smart, and should be kept separated from the white folks, that I suppose is OK too.

    In a word, this letter brings shallowness to a completely new level.

  • Alum

    Eli’s letter makes it seem that Texas is another civilization writing about it’s own unique history. Last I checked, Texas had not seceded from the Union, and there is already a Texas-determined “Texas History” course taught in Texas public schools. Calling Thomas Jefferson a “minor point” of American history is either gravely uninformed or lazily disingenuous. If we take a scalpel to history, let’s not implant opinion in the place of facts.

  • yale10

    If the “people” of Texas had any say in this at all, I might agree with you. A vote by the Board of Education in a state that marginalizes progressive or liberal thought, a move such as this serves to do little more than perpetuate the repression of free thought and speech in a state where Democrats are a large, but silenced, minority.

  • BL

    And surely you would say the same about the post-Civil War South or post-WWII Germany? The question is not whether or not a legitimate representative authority should decide history curricula, the question is which one. Should kids in Texas learn a different version of the founding of America than the kids in Connecticut or California?

  • A Future Teacher

    Eli,

    In saying, “When the people of Texas decide how to tell their history, we have no right to criticize them,” you miss an important point of this whole issue. The Texas Board of Education’s decision is particularly troubling because their choices impact curricula across the country, not solely in Texas.

    That’s why many, myself included, think that it’s vital to mess with Texas on this issue – because Texas is messing with the way other states educate their youth.

  • 2010

    lol silly freshman

  • Branford ’10

    The veritas in lux et veritas is there for a reason. History (and every other discipline) should be about searching for truth and knowledge, not about twisting and omitting facts in order to push an agenda. The fact that a Yale student wrote this is just depressing.

  • Ken Mills

    A lot of the folks complaining about curriculum in Texas Text Books don’t mind that the material has been slanted to the liberal, left wing in the past but are squealing that now the material may be slanted a little right.

    For your information, Texas has always been a conservative, fundamental based religion dominated community so why shouldn’t the student’s be taught lessons that include material that is supported by the majority of it’s citizens?

  • @Ken

    Uhhh….how about because they support teaching things that didn’t happen?

  • Evan

    “How else should our history be decided if not by the democratically elected bodies?”

    If the votes on evolution by the Texas Board of Education are any indication, this is one of the worst ways to decide what goes into a school curriculum.

  • Mary Helen Berlanga put it nicely

    “I’ve done all I can do today, folks. I’ve listened, tried to work with you, given you names, come back with new amendments to satisfy everyone — and nothing works…So I’ve had it … I’m leaving for the evening. Everyone can go ahead and remove the Tejanos who died at the Alamo and we can all pretend that we live in white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

    Texas is a majority nonwhite state, and yet “Young Earth Creationist” Don McLeroy and company can’t seem to admit that fact. Here’s to hoping that Texans will elect Bill White and put an end to the reign of terror of Rick Perry’s appointees.

  • anon

    “How else should our history be decided if not by the democratically elected bodies?”

    You’re right. What are we doing spending four years at Yale learning things? We should just vote on what the answer is.

  • Yale 08

    This is why I will send my children to parochial school.

    Avoid the swamp of public education altogether.

  • Tanner Mayes

    WAIT! Are liberals complaining that there are problems inherent in PUBLIC education? Something that private schools avoid entirely? That government education is the lowest common denominator, just like everything else the government does?!?

    I am shocked!

  • joeyale

    Yet another reason why I don’t live in Texas.

  • JE ’10

    Um, kids, I’m pretty sure the guy is being sarcastic. No one can write that last paragraph with a straight face.

  • Egalitarian

    I agree with #1, but I also believe that liberals aren’t necessarily less willing to tamper with facts than conservatives. Several years ago, the former president of Harvard, Larry Summers, made a speech in which he claimed that there are more men than women in the sciences as a result of three factors, one of which was that there might be more men than women who had certain levels of aptitude in those fields. He was widely misquoted as having said that women are incapable of being good scientists. Back in 2008, my economics professor taught the class that he had said this. At the time, I sent her an email informing her that her facts were wrong and requesting that she recant what she had said to the class. She brushed off my concerns by saying that she had given a balanced view by presenting Summers’s view as well as her own. That doesn’t change the fact that she had misrepresented what Summers’s view was.

  • BK ’11

    This is exactly the sort of basic philosophical insight that people at Yale (especially on the left) tend to miss. Great point, keep writing.

  • A Currently Disinterested Non-Texan

    USA Today, a refreshingly point/counter-point newspaper publication, weighed in on this topic earlier in the week w/this astutely written article by a gentleman who goes by the name of Dwayne Wickham:

    “Opportunity arises in Texas History dispute”

    Please see link below if so inclined……JMcH.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-05-25-column25_ST1_N.htm