In USA Today (and by syndication in other Garnette papers), Dwayne Wickham has a May 25 column to show how the Texas State Board of Education’s (SBOE) newly-adopted standards for history education, despite intentions by the SBOE leading bloc of right-wing ideologues, actually can provide an opportunity for teaching real history.
Wickham notes that
Among other things, the Texas board wants students to be taught about the inaugural addresses that both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis gave on the eve of the Civil War. Its motive was to give credence to the South’s case for seceding from the union. I think the board’s change opens up another possibility. It unwittingly gives teachers an opening to prove that the Civil War’s root cause was slavery.
Wickham explains how he would lead high school students in a comparison of texts that would reveal how, contrary to what the SBOE bloc wants them to believe, secession and the Civil War were, indeed, motivated by the struggle over slavery. Then he adds:
Of course, it’s not likely that I’ll really ever get a chance to teach that history lesson to Texas schoolchildren. Not as long as the revisionists who now dominate the state’s 15-member education board are in power. The history they want taught is based not in fact, but in ideology.
But even as they cast their votes in May, three of the majority Republicans already were lame ducks, who will not retain their SBOE seats when the Board meets in January 2011. The issue now, politically, is subject to elections in November — and then to the struggle over how the standards will be interpreted by the new Board when textbooks are reviewed for approval.
But Wickham actually demonstrates what may be more important — what teachers actually can do with the source materials, even under SBOE mandates.
The point is one now being made by Diane Ravitch, whose testimony may be all the more significant, as coming from something of a convert. Although, throughout her involvement with the Reagan-Bush (41) administration, Ravitch supported calls for standards and testing, she has, since then, come around to the recognition that without good, educated teachers, such regimes cannot deliver real education; and that with such teachers, education can prevail despite even such wrong-headed regimes (as we now see in Texas [my example, not hers]).