Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Parents of School Children Beware!

The Texas board that determines textbook content (always trying to remove any mention of evolution) is now deciding that children may not learn about Cesar Chavez (inappropriate role model) or Thurgood Marshall (inappropriate historical figure)!  If you live in the U.S. but outside  the Lone Star State, still be alarmed. Because, for reasons that escape me, public school textbook publishers often use the Texas market to determine content for what they publish for the REST of the nation, too! So, they could be dumbing down ALL our children.  Time to make a stink about this.  Our children would not learn about the first African-American on the Supreme Court (who also argued the winning case in the Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated the schools)–somehow he’s “historically inappropriate.”  And they would be deprived of learning about Cesar Chavez, leader (along with the still struggling Dolores Huerta) of the United Farmworkers union and an apostle of nonviolent protest–an “inappropriate role model.” Do I detect a bias among Texans deciding on textbook context that favors oppressors–or are they just racist bigots?!

They are trying to disappear down the memory hole the heroes of the ’60s who changed this country for the better.  As George Orwell knew, he who controls the past, controls the future.  In an era of a rightwing court dominated by the semi-fascists Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts, remembering Thurgood Marshall is a dangerous, subversive memory. In an age of agribusiness and of workers deprived of ever more of their rights and  of increasing white fears of Mexican-Americans, remembering Cesar Chavez–who was a key figure in turning Bobby Kennedy from a Cold Warrior to a candidate for president who campaigned for the poor and for peace–is a dangerous, subversive act.  We don’t want to, I don’t know, INSPIRE new generations, now do we?

July 18, 2009 - Posted by | education, heroes, human rights., race


  1. If Alito and Roberts are right-wing extremists, what are you, a left-wing extremist? You represent the opposite side of the same coin.

    The idiocy of your rants are appalling.

    Comment by Steve | July 18, 2009

  2. No, I’m left of the current center, but I would have been considered moderate in the ’60s when we last had a decent Court.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 18, 2009

  3. If my “rants” are so idiotic, don’t show up on this blog. It is VOLUNTARY, you know. And you completely missed the point about taking American heroes like Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez out of high school history books. It’s brainwashing.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 18, 2009

  4. It’s worth noting that the offensive recommendations were made by two reviewers – one a Texan (David Barton) and the other (Peter Marshall) is the son of Catherine Marshall of Christy fame and from Massachusetts.

    I’m not convinced though that Barton or Marshall are racist though.

    Here’s Barton on Chavez:

    “Cesar Chavez may be a choice representing diversity but he certainly lacks the stature, impact, and overall contributions of so many others; and his open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is a praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone “who modeled active participation in the democratic process.”

    Here’s Marshall on Chavez:

    “113.7 Grade 5 (19) Citizenship (C). “Identify significant individuals such as Cesar Chavez and Benjamin Franklin who modeled active participation in the democratic process.” To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin is ludicrous. Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”

    Here’s Marshall on Thurgood Marshall:

    113.3 Grade 1. (4) History. The student is expected to CA) “identify contributions of historical figures such as Henrietta King and Thurgood Marshall who have influenced,” etc. These two selections are not strong enough examples in light of the multiplicity of persons who have impacted American history. Harriet Tubman and Sam Houston would be better choices, and there are hundreds of others.”

    Nothing there to convince me that either is a racist. Although, the suggestion that Chavez is “hardly the kind of role model..” is offensive. Barton and Marshall are not qualified to review these textbooks as they both are proponents of revisionist ideological history of the worst kind.

    The Board of Education in Texas is dominated by true right-wingers and that’s scary. But, I doubt Chavez gets scrubbed. There are too many public schools here in Texas named after Chavez. Thankfully, the best teachers don’t just teach straight from the book. A good history teacher will not forget to emphasize the contributions of Thurgood Marshall and Caesar Chavez. A lousy teacher who does teach straight from the book probably will never make it to either Thurgood Marshall or Caesar Chavez! I only had one teacher growing up who made it past WWII. We spent waaay too much time on the Civil War.

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | July 18, 2009

  5. Those comments may not be racist, Aaron, but they are very offensive. Almost anyone who has ever been involved in community organizing has been influenced by Saul Alinsky. Hell, we studied Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in a Sociology of Religion course at SBTS in the ’80s!

    I consider Chavez to be one of the great proponents of nonviolence of the 20th C.

    And while Sam Houston is an important figure, especially in Texas, I would rank Thurgood Marshall’s importance higher. Marshall was a brilliant jurist and attorney–certainly stronger than most of the current members of SCOTUS.

    Your point about strong teachers is well taken, but I still worry because of the way Texas influences textbooks across the nation. Usually I have to worry about the science texts omitting evolution or sex ed, but I really worry about the lack of historical knowledge. I have talked with far too many young people who have never heard of most of the great labor leaders of American history, or the great Abolitionists, peace activists, or feminist leaders. And the only two people they can name from the Civil Rights movement are Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.–and they think it happened over night, too.

    They seem to think America skipped from Eisenhower to Reagan! The only thing they know about the ’60s is long hair and drug use! I met a class of 7th graders last week who had no idea who Neil Armstrong is! And the only thing they knew about Jimmy Carter was long gas lines!

    I think this is a deliberate attempt to make the rightwing takeover that began in ’81 seem like “the way things have always been.”

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 18, 2009

  6. Michael I do not always agree with you, but I respect you and your opinions. I believe in the free exchange of ideas and information. Plus I feel that it is in our best interest to have a dialogue. I like your blog by the way. Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall should be remembered. They accomplished a lot more than a lot of their “zealot” opponents ever will.

    Comment by Paul | July 19, 2009

  7. Is it impolite to notice that you called four sitting justices semi-fascist in the course of calling other folks racist bigots for not being respectful enough?

    Comment by K Gray | July 19, 2009

  8. No, K. You’ve caught me in a hypocritical action. 🙂 Actually, I just ASKED if these “other folks” were racists since the “inappropriate role models” just happened to be an African-American hero and a Latino hero. Big Daddy Weave suggested other explanation–not racist just ridiculously stupid and an attempt to miseducate children.

    The 4 sitting SCOTUS justices are, I think, semi-fascist, but I can’t figure out a way to say that politely.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 19, 2009

  9. Well I learned something new. Prior to this, I had no idea who Henrietta King was!

    Comment by K Gray | July 19, 2009

  10. Michael exactly what is a “semi-fascist”. This reminds me of Sorites Paradox. Please elaborate. 🙂

    Comment by Paul | July 20, 2009

  11. This post prompted me to find out what happened to the Gablers (they died), and I found that textbook publishers use the Texas market because it’s so big, with there being so many people in Texas, so they don’t publish books that aren’t approved there. At least that’s supposedly their line of reasoning.

    Comment by James Pate | July 20, 2009

  12. The politics of how textbooks will be chosen and approved are chilling to me. Material is written and chosen with the sole purpose of pleasing states like Texas, instead of encouraging our students to be critical, engaged individuals. I think it is about time for teachers to get creative (I know it’s hard work)and to get past the standard textbook, and utilize libraries and primary sources much, much more. Thankfully, I am an English language teacher so this is easy for me, but, honestly, it’s time for good educators to stop relying on textbooks.

    Comment by Ryan | July 22, 2009

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