In case you missed the story back in March, the Texas Board of Education did a number on social studies books to give history a more conservative-friendly ring.
Changes included—among many others—removing liberal historical figures like Thurgood Marshall, dropping Thomas Jefferson from the list of figures who inspired political revolutions after the 1700s, debunking the separation of Church and State and referring to the United States as a “republic” instead of a democracy (in case kids associate the word “democrat” with patriotism).
“We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy the leader of the conservative faction on the board (and dentist). “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”
Thomas Gokey of Syracuse University disagrees. Gokey recently organized a wikibook titled “A Supplement to the Texas US History Textbook” which is meant to reset the balances of historical perspective. Even history can be crowdsourced.
“If students can create their own textbook and in the process enter into debates in real time with historians and amateur history buffs, it will demystify the process of historical research. I want to get students to really confront critically the way a history gets produced. How exactly do historical facts and cultural values entangle themselves in the production of history? Instead of writing term papers I would like to see teachers have their students research a particular historical event and write an article for inclusion in the textbook.”—Thomas Gokey, in an email correspondence with blogger Douglas Rushkoff.
Gokey made it clear in his explanation of the project that this is not meant to be an attack, it simply “aims at presenting aspects of US history that are excluded from the Texas textbooks and to present them from a neutral point of view.” (Incidentally, even former President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education, Rod Paige objected to Texas’ policy, saying that “What students are taught should not be the handmaiden of political ideology.”)