For Ted Cruz it was not merely a narrow recommendation from an educational advisory committee to remove what they called a “value-charged word”. It was instead the latest example of out-of-touch liberals trying to sabotage American greatness.
The Texas senator and failed Republican 2016 presidential hopeful tweeted his delight when the state’s board of education spurned the suggestion that teachers stop referring to the Alamo’s defenders as “heroic” in their defeat by Mexican forces. “They remain a symbol of valor for all Americans,” Cruz wrote.
While the battle of the Alamo ended on 6 March 1836, today the Texas culture wars rage on with no end in sight. A deliberative body that in other parts of the world would be a wonkish, anonymous collection of independent civil servants is, in Texas, a nakedly partisan group that often attracts the gaze of national and international media.
Cruz penned an opinion piece for Fox News ahead of last week’s decision that managed to link a debate that was in part a technical question of avoiding repetition in the seventh-grade social studies curriculum to the NFL’s national anthem kneeling controversy.
“Somehow, in an age when professional athletes disrespect our flag only to get millions of dollars in advertising deals, and our public forums are increasingly devoted to tearing down our national legacy rather than building it up, it is not surprising that some bureaucrats rewriting schoolbooks should try to eliminate one more source of American pride from our schools,” he wrote.
Disagreements over curriculum contents are nothing new. But when it lurched to the right as conservatives responded to Barack Obama’s first term and the growth of the Tea Party movement, the Texas board of education acted as a canary in the coalmine for the national hyperpartisan political era of pliable truths and politicians scorning expertise as they smash norms to advance anti-multicultural populist agendas.
Just as Republicans used gerrymandering to reshape electoral boundaries according to their interests, so too were public school textbooks moulded in new directions that brought accusations of bias from the left.
“Last week was a perfect demonstration of why it’s a really bad idea for politicians to write curriculum standards that guide what public schools teach. Because then you end up with history that’s decided by a majority vote instead of by facts and historical accuracy. But that’s what we’ve got in Texas, unfortunately,” said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning advocacy group.
If we misinform students about our history we’re not arming them with information we need to make decisions as responsible citizens