Ahhh, this new layout feels…better. I like this one.
Oh right, sorry: post at hand. This has become a highly politicized topic, much to the detriment of the issue at hand. I’m not pulling any punches here, partly because I recognize I am heavily biased in support of this issue. But most importantly, I’m not pulling any punches because, if a silver bullet exists for fixing all the world’s problems in one fell swoop, this is it, ladies and gentlemen.
Education. Education. Education. And the wild ruckus surrounding it. Specifically, the latest installment of Texas’ elimination of the strong liberal bias in textbooks, replacing it with an even stronger neoconservative bias. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Texas Textbook War.
Texas is, by far, the largest customer of national textbook publishing companies, hence it has significant clout in determining the material of those textbooks. As is evident from this NY Times article, the Texas Board of Education has taken a nice conservative swing over the last many years, and is now poised to make some rather startling changes to the public school curriculum that has been more or less “standard” for the past many years.
This move by the board is getting everyone riled up. Even across the pond in the UK, The Guardian posted an interesting piece on the proposed changes and their impact. More locally, California made a direct challenge to Texas, proposing a bill that would investigate any textbooks arriving in California and block those containing edits made by the Texas board from being used in state schools.
I can see it now: The Universe According to Texas (or, perhaps more accurately, according to partisan whack jobs).
I cannot begin to enumerate how much of a mistake this is.
There is no greater issue here than the continued decline of our education system in the United States. Let’s face it, folks: our system isn’t where it once was. Over the past few decades, our universities have been suffering from a brain drain. The US isn’t “the place to be” anymore; rather, it’s where the brightest minds the world has to offer come to receive degrees before returning home to start companies, invent, innovate, and generally drive the wheels of the national economy…of their home countries.
Nevermind the brainless immigration laws (looking right at you, Arizona) that are making it more and more difficult for unfathomably bright individuals to even get into America. Nevermind the absurdly obfuscated visa laws, all but ensuring that foreign students are forced to return home at the earliest possible inconvenience. Nevermind that religion has absolutely no place in scientific research.
This is the upshot, ladies and gentlemen. There is no sugar-coating, there is no beating around the bush. This is how it is: by downplaying the role of truth in education, and emphasizing that which promotes an agenda – an agenda of religious zealotry, ignorant study, and general neoconservative wailings – our country’s educational system will start pumping out students that will be the laughing stock of the entire world.
Seriously. Republicans are actively blocking governmental funding of research, and this is somehow supposed to improve our system of education? I don’t know where Republicans have come up with this notion that it’s ok to label the US as a Christian nation, even in public classrooms, when we’re supposed to have a separation of church and state. I don’t know how they can justify the teaching of creationism alongside evolution, when these ideas deal in completely different terms. And most of all, I don’t see how they expect our educational system to get anywhere when it’s the first item whose funding gets cut in a budget crisis.
Education is the silver bullet. It’s also the longest-term investment known to man. The fact of the matter is that our system has depended largely on foreign students for decades to conduct the research, make the breakthroughs, and maintain our country’s position as a world-class educational institution. But now the burgeoning economies of China, Japan, India, and other countries are much more attractive, and let’s face it, American students by and large don’t care about higher education.
And that’s ok! If Americans want to go into Business and Law, that’s great! That’s part of what makes this country wonderful: you can pursue whatever interests you have. But here’s the problem: whether corporations like it or not, they’re living on the innovations of research institutes from years ago. Research and education is where the true breakthroughs are made, where the spark of intellect and innovation truly begins. If we can’t retain our best students, if we actively push them out the door and back to their home countries when they’ve completed their advanced degrees, our infrastructure is going nowhere but downhill.
And teaching our children partisan talking points like downplaying Thomas Jefferson’s role in history, solely because he was an ardent believer in the separation of church and state (as were the other founders…go look it up); or teaching our children that evolution is wrong and global warming is wrong, and offering creationism as the right explanation because the Bible says so; or teaching our kids that America is a Christian nation; or teaching them that America was put on this earth as a force of good so as to spread democracy; all of this (and quite a bit more) will only send our country further into the depths of failure that neoconservatives claim the US is currently headed.
Stupidity is the new cool thing, and anyone with a sliver of genuine intelligence is branded a “liberal elitist” and “out of touch” with America. Forced mediocrity under the guise of “GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD” has become the far right’s rallying cry. They’re destroying the foundations of the very country they claim to speak for, and it’s truly horrifying.