If the Republican party controls the Texas legislature after next month’s (11/06) elections, will they ban the use of the National Economics Standards (or their Texas equivalent) as a limit on the teaching and learning about economic matters in that state?
That would seem to be the inevitable consequence of a provision in the 2006 Platform of the Texas Republicans. (The link above is for the entire platform at the Texas GOP website. I have also excerpted and posted here the four pages of that platform that deal with education policy.)
One provision of the platform declares:
Theories of Origin – We support the objective teaching and equal treatment of scientific strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design. We believe theories of life origins and environmental theories should be taught as scientific theory not scientific law; that social studies and other curriculum should not be based on any one theory.
Since I’m teaching Social Studies education rather than Science education, I have to think first about what this means for social studies; and the social studies subject that is most prone to being taught as something “based on one theory” is, of course, economics.
As I discussed in Whitson, 2004, pp. 27-30, the lead authors of the National Economics Standards explain in their Preface (Meszaros and Siegfried 1997, p. viii) that
The standards attempt to reflect consensus in the discipline. . . . The final standards reflect the view of a large majority of economists today in favor of a “neoclassical model” of economic behavior. . .
As they explain their rationale for excluding minority views even from within the mainstream discipline,
Including strongly held minority views of economic processes risks confusing and frustrating teachers and students who are then left with the responsibility of sorting the qualifications and alternatives without a sufficient foundation to do so.
They go on to explain that
some very important aspects of economics are either quite complex or so controversial that no existing consensus seems to exist. In spite of their importance, such complex or controversial aspects of economics receive less attention in the [Economics] standards for pedagogical reasons.
Apparently the Texas Republicans will not accept this excuse for teaching Economics in a way that’s limited to the “one theory” of free-market economics that is now the consensus view of academic economists in the United States.
But why is this provision regarding social studies tucked into the platform point on “Theories of Origins”? Apparently it reflects an agenda that includes teaching from a creationist standpoint not only in science, but in social studies and other subjects as well.
Someone who’s familiar with curriculum conflicts over recent years will recognize the entire education section of the platform as coming chapter and verse from Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. The agenda they are pushing here is not something home-grown in Texas, but an agenda that we can expect to see being advanced all over the United States.
That’s why the Social Studies profession needs to be prepared for demands that we must “teach the controversy” about Intelligent Design / Creationism in social studies classes, and that’s why I have been concerned about what people have been taking as a victory for science education in Michigan.
Meszaros, B. T., & Siegfried, J. J. (1997). Preface. In National Council on Economic Education (Ed.), Voluntary national content standards in economics (pp. vii-ix). New York, NY: National Council on Economic Education.
Whitson, J. A. (2004). What social studies teachers need to know: The New Urgency of Some Old Disputes. In Critical issues in social studies teacher education (pp. 9-35). Greenwich, Conn.: Information Age Pub.