NAACP president: Texas curriculum will turn world ‘upside down’ for kids

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 10:36 EDT
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Previewing the tone of his testimony in Austin on Wednesday ahead of a crucial vote, NAACP president Ben Jealous forcefully condemned the influential Texas State Board of Education’s slew of pending revisions to history and social studies curriculum.

The modified curriculum – approved in March on a party line vote and facing a final motion this Friday – diminishes Thomas Jefferson’s significance and commitment to secularism, tempers criticism of McCarthyism, downplays Darwin’s theory of evolution, and emphasizes the “conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s.”

“It’s outrageous,” Jealous said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “It’s going to lock kids into the dark ages, where the whole world’s been turned upside down – where Thomas Jefferson is not a founding father, there’s no good reason to talk about [the first black Justice] Thurgood Marshall, and Joe McCarthy is a hero.”

The alterations by the Board stand to have major national implications. Texas, as one of the largest purchasers of textbooks, wields momentous influence in what children across the country will learn because textbook companies generally sell the same books across the country.

Jealous will testify against the revisions alongside former education secretary Rod Paige today. The NAACP chief accused the 15-member Texas education board of “changing the record on slavery, celebrating the Confederacy and shedding a positive light on Jim Crow laws.”

With Republicans outnumbering Democrats by two-to-one, and seven of its 15 members comprising a Christian conservative bloc, the NAACP and other opponents of the new curriculum face an uphill battle in preventing its ratification Friday.

“We really need each person who cares to pick up the phone and to call the State Board of Education,” Jealous said. “It’s a critical vote that’s going to impact school books for ten years.”

“If the proposed textbook changes take place, children will not learn about civil rights icons like Malcolm X and George Jackson. [And] Sam McCollough, who gave his life for Texas independence,” he added. “In addition, they will not learn that Texas seceded from the Union to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War.”

Board member Don McElroy, who leads the seven-member social conservative bloc, called the effort an attempt at “adding balance” in the classroom. “Academia is skewed too far to the left,” he said, according to Yahoo News.

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