Thomas Frank: Don't Mess With the Texas Board of Ed





[Thomas Frank is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.]

At some point during the deliberations of the Texas State Board of Education last week, that august body decided that when public school students came to study the era of the Great Society and affirmative action they should henceforth be required to "analyze any unintended consequences" of those 1960s reforms.

I do not know what "consequences" board members had in mind when they approved that measure. Texas's social studies guidelines are immensely influential with the publishers of the nation's textbooks, and for the past few months the liberal world has watched in horror as the board's dominant conservative faction has edited its guidelines to better reflect its views of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and just about everything else. Still, the "unintended consequences" change was voted in without further discussion or explanation....

I have no desire to excuse academia's failings. Its peer-review system sometimes encourages fads and self-reinforcing groupthink. But at least it demands fairness and careful research.

The state's board of education, by contrast, feels entitled to enforce its homemade party line with a rigidity that no comp-lit pinko would dare to dream of. Back in January, for instance, it struck the author of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" from a list of people for third-graders to study because it got him confused with the similarly named author of "Ethical Marxism," a book that, according to board member Pat Hardy, makes "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system." And, as we all know, those who criticize capitalism deserve to have no place in public life, especially in this age of affluence and financial probity. (The board later discovered its error and reinstated the "Brown Bear" author.)...


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