James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Other states should nix vexing Texas texts

Posted by James McPherson on May 26, 2010

OK, coming from a state where a substantial percentage of residents think their president is a Muslim socialist  illegal alien and perhaps the anti-Christ, a decision to ignore recommendations from a panel of experts and to insert more God and conservatism into social studies texts is no big surprise. After all, as one blogger notes, “Stupid is as stupid’s taught.”

Which raises a problem for me: I debated whether to write about this, because the Texas textbook decision seems to support so many flawed “dumb southerner” clichés. Having lived in the South, having been raised in Idaho, I know better than to buy into that stereotype. Three of the country’s best and brightest political writers of recent years have been Texans Bill Moyers, Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower (whose name raises the unrelated question, “Can there be a low tower?”).

I suspect and hope that the actual effect of the Texas folly will not be as large as feared. After all, though Texas often helps set the agenda for other states simply because of the number of textbooks it buys, other options such as e-books are becoming increasingly available (not to mention the Internet, though members of the Texas board may be unfamiliar with that particular invention). Besides, the content of most textbooks is far less likely to be read or remembered than any issue of People magazine featuring Jennifer Aniston (who today may be about as politically relevant as the Moral Majority, which makes its way into the Texas board mandate).

I also think other states should step up and tell book publishers that they refuse to follow the lead of Texas. If a few smaller states band together–perhaps even agreeing to accept the orginal recommendations of the Texas committee of experts–Texas could be the only state where children are subjected to the whims of ultraconservative wannabe educators.

One side note, in which I agree with the Texas board: It would be helpful to know more about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” After all, I wrote a book about the topic, and would give Texans a great deal on the book if they want to put a copy in every Texas school library. Still, as I suggested in the book, even more useful than having Texas kids learn about those conservative groups might be having American political journalist learn more about them.

Not surprisingly, as can be seen in the video below, The Onion offers some of the best commentary on the issue. Incidentally, one of the highlights of a trip to New York last year was a visit with Onion staffers, who were as funny and irreverent in person as in their work.

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5 Responses to “Other states should nix vexing Texas texts”

  1. […] hesitate to paint with a brush so broad, though I have previously noted some activities by conservatives that seemed at least unenlightened. But presumably these are some […]

  2. You wouldn’t happen to know any journalists covering education issues that might be able to converse with me on some troubling developments in my state? My local reporters/media are in the pockets of the Governor, and vice versa, so not having much luck there.

  3. James McPherson said

    Sorry, no–I’ve been out of real journalism too long, and newspapers have been cutting back like crazy. If one of your universities has a good student newspaper that covers off-campus affairs, that might be a possibility. College journalists aren’t as good, but they’re sometimes ambitious. The young woman who won a Pultizer for breaking the Jerry Sandusky story actually started working on it as a student journalist.

    Another option: Is it something you might be able to pursue and report yourself? I’d be glad to offer tips/questions if I can. Good luck.

  4. Thanks anyway. Figured it was worth a shot. I’ve touched on it in my blog but don’t see it gaining real traction. I did not take any data with me when i left,(state and federal law an all that) but i was in charge of most of it and know where it all is and what exactly to request. I am certain my DOE won’t give it to me to produce reports or stories on them. They didn’t even want me to pursue many of these issues when i worked there for fear they’d have to do something about what i was finding out and showing them. I’m trying to work with third parties, who are not blacklisted, to get the data i need. Because of their intentional blindness they probably won’t realize what I can ask for that will show their malfeasance and willful ignorance. I have a few interested parties but probably not as interested, nor as knowledgable on the specific issues as Id need them to be, nor as main stream. I will keep plugging away though. 🙂

  5. […] Security Agency wiretapping; Texas textbooks and evolution (a subject of this blog in 2009 and 2010); George W. Bush addressing the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute; some loony Sarah Palin fiscal […]

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