Amity Shlaes: Conservatives are Giving Liberals a Taste of 'Balance'

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Amity Shlaes is a columnist for Bloomberg News, senior fellow for economic history for the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of "The Forgotten Man: A New History of The Great Depression".]

Lack of balance is the charge being levied against the Texas State Board of Education after it inserted changes to new standards in social studies programs in public schools. An Associated Press story said that a "far-right faction" of the board had succeeded "in injecting conservative ideals" into the curriculum.

The Texas flap matters because Texas is so big. Publishers will revise textbooks to win the prized Texas contract. But the debate also reminds us that our definition of balance is distorted. After all, what's wrong with "injecting conservative ideals" into a curriculum, as long as they aren't the only ideals?

At its most devilishly aggressive — and whatever lines it inserts about church, state, hip-hop or the Alamo — the board will not restore true balance. It will merely manage to make the curriculum a little less skewed to the left.

These days, the word "balance" means what policymakers say it does, not more or less. That kind of definition is responsible for the vertigo that impedes logical cooperation in crucial debates such as this week's over health-care....

In a more general way, the left also hijacked American culture. The most obvious example of this was the mainstream media, the broadcast networks and the big-city newspapers, with their centrist-to-left-leaning editorial stands. True, there were always token conservatives, but they were just that.

Conservatives were driven nuts by the pretense of balance. Eventually, those who understood the intensity of this rage were able to exploit it to undreamt-of commercial advantage — thus Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and Roger Ailes of the Fox News Channel. New technology, of course, did its part as well....

View the Texas social studies issue as a small check on a larger problem, and it makes sense...
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Rod Ellis MacLean - 3/25/2010

I guess my question is if the Texas texts were balanced in the first place.

A state with a governer who thinks he can up and decide to leave the union certainly does need some text renewal.