Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Fable Agreed Upon

There's been a lot of talk about the Texas board of education lately. The board has revised the state's social studies curriculum due to what members of the board perceive to be a "liberal bias" in current texts. However much I may disagree with the proposed changes, I can't but be lightly amused by some of the claims that these conservatives are messing with historical reality. It's not that they aren't constructing a coherent conservative artifice. They are. But all curricula are in fact an artifice assembled to create a coherent foundation for our current mindset. The historical reality people like Noah Baron believe to exist, and which the Texas Board of Education is messing with, is but a hazy collection of imperfect records. This haziness is why the past is so difficult to reconstruct (and why convicting someone in a court of law can be very tricky). Historical truth is rather elusive and very unlike scientific experiments that can be replicated in near exactness.

Most certainly, any truth value set aside, what portion of the past and our current body of knowledge that we choose to highlight is crucial to where we are headed tomorrow. Therefore, the curriculum for social studies is inherently political in nature. Ask yourself, why is it that we spend so much time studying American history? Why do we not immerse our children with the same vigor in studying the Caliphates?

We should not treat with scorn and ridicule conservative attempts to alter curricula of public schools. It would be better to honestly and openly speak about how politics affect our curricular choices. There may indeed be a "liberal bias" in current text books. We may have chosen to shine our flashlights at things that justify our modern secularism. But perhaps that's not such a bad thing after all.

As Bonaparte's jaded adage goes: What then is, generally speaking, the truth of history ? A fable agreed upon.


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