What does Texas want?

Texas’ newly approved social studies standards swing to the right to counter perceived liberal bias, writes the Washington Post.

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated — something most historians deny — draw an equivalency between Jefferson Davis’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural addresses, say that international institutions such as the United Nations imperil American sovereignty, and include a long list of Confederate officials about whom students must learn.

Not true, writes Ann Althouse, who links to the text of the standards.

The students are required to “describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government…” . . . One can be informed of the reality of what the Venona Papers revealed about communist infiltration into the U.S. government and still understand and deplore the excesses of “McCarthyism.”

Students are required to “analyze the ideas contained in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address and Abraham Lincoln’s ideas about liberty, equality, union, and government as contained in his first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address,” Althouse quotes.  “Analyze” is the key word.

On the United Nations and American sovereignty:

What I’m seeing is “explain the significance of the League of Nations and the United Nations” and “analyze the human and physical factors that influence the power to control territory, create conflict/war, and impact international political relations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the control of resources.” Where is the language that can be paraphrased “imperil American sovereignty”?

On the “long list of Confederate officials” students must learn:

Students are required to “explain the roles played by significant individuals and heroes during the Civil War, including Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and congressional Medal of Honor recipients William Carney and Philip Bazaar.” Only Davis and Lee were Confederate officials! There is also this: “describe the role of individuals such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox and groups, including the Congressional bloc of southern Democrats, that sought to maintain the status quo [in the Civil Rights Era].” That’s obviously not from the Civil War, but I can see why it’s annoying to Democrats.

I’m always queasy about standards that go into excruciating detail about what to teach, often falling victim to “mentionism.” But Althouse’s critique of the Post’s analysis is devastating: You can’t pan the standards without referring to what the standards actually say.

Update: Althouse has updated her post to concede that last-minute changes to the Texas standards — mentioned in an earlier Post story – did require students to be taught a list of Confederate generals and about how international groups threaten U.S. sovereignty. Those changes were not posted on the Texas board of education web site.

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