Texas is the perfect example of why we should support Democrats in every single election, big or small.
As you read this, Texas Latinos are mobilizing to stop their state’s selection of a textbook called “Mexican-American Heritage” for the state’s new Mexican-American studies classes. “It is one of the most racist textbooks I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading,” activist Tony Díaz told NBC News.
If you’re at all familiar with the history of the Texas Board of Education, this is not a shock. But if you don’t live in Texas, why should you care? Because the extraordinarily conservative Texas board, which has become a bastion of fundamentalist extremists of both the religious and political types, gets to select which books textbook publishers will actually print. The reason? Because Texas is so large, and buys millions of textbooks, the publishers limit most press runs to the ones they choose. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the gist.
Religious extremists have targeted Texas textbooks since the 1960s, often successfully. That’s because the 15 districts don’t conform to any familiar boundaries, and the elections take place in off years, where turnout is even lower than usual. So because they’re the only ones who show up in the voting booth, a relatively small group of Republican primary voters have tremendous political clout that affects the entire country.
The conservative majority of Texas board members has always devoted their energies to purging “anti-American, anti-Christian” content. Some of their accomplishments:
- In 1995, the Board got unfavorable national attention after questioning whether environmental science texts taught children to be more loyal to the planet than their country, so the Texas state legislature passed a bill restricting the board’s oversight to “factual errors.” But to fundamentalists, anything that contradicts their worldview is a factual errors.
- In 2009, conservatives on the Board backed off on demanding alternate views of evolution for their state standards after outraged parents pointed out (rightly) that this would affect the ability of their children to get into most colleges. (Chairman Don McLeroy famously said, “Evolution is hooey!”) But that might change this year.
- After the board’s 2010 social sciences recommendations, publishers adjusted textbooks to point out that sure, slavery was bad — but it had its good points, too! They weren’t really slaves, they were more like contract workers. The Civil War didn’t have a thing to do with slavery, it was over states’ rights. And they don’t mention what color the victims of the KKK were.
These are the kind of things that happen when Republicans are in charge. They don’t actually want to make progress, they just want to play to the most extreme part of their base.
Democratic majorities, on the other hand, mean a better quality of life, a better future for your kids. The Texas Board of Education is just one more example of what we get when Republicans are left in charge of anything.
(Creative Commons/Kiran Foster)