Brave New Texas

Two articles in the Christian Science Monitor started my morning cascade of thoughts.

“In Texas, Social Studies Textbooks Get a Conservative Make-over.”

“Hey, Texas, Don’t Mess with Textbooks: Public Schools Are No Place for Partisan Agendas”

When I read these two articles, I thought of my job, my politics, a woman I worked with back in the 70s, Europe, and then Gandhi.

I love my job teaching composition and basic research, but I’m well aware that most students today enter college almost completely empty of thought. Others enter rife with opinion uncontaminated by historical knowledge, context, or even facts. It looks to me like Texas wants to increase the number in the latter category. George Orwell would nod, I’m sure.

We all have our biases, but some of us believe our biases are more equal than those of others. I try to teach students how to analyze information and form strong opinions. I have great respect for well thought out, well supported opinion–even when I disagree with it. I’m proud of my dot in the lower left box on The Political Compass website, but that’s my personal position, not something I preach in class. It’s a point of pride with me that over the years I’ve had several students ask me what my politics and/or religious beliefs are. I tell them to ask me after the semester ends. My mantra is “I’m not here to tell you what to think; I’m here to teach you HOW to think.” This means I spend a lot of time dealing with ideology and teaching students how to use logic and how to weigh evidence and how to deal with their own biases.

That some of us need to discover we all have biases reminded me of a woman I once worked with. I adored Carolyn, a fine woman with a deep love of history and a passion for human equality. Even her strong ideals had its limits though. One Monday she came to work after a week of camping with her family. As she walked to her desk, I knew the weekend had not gone well. When I inquired, she ranted about Texans and how a gaggle of obnoxious Texas tourists had ruined the planned quiet weekend in the mountains. After listening for a long time, I pointed out to her that she sounded bigoted against Texans. She pondered for a moment, then said something to the effect that we should still build a fence.

That’s a fond memory. We all have our limits, our biases. And some of us are more limited and biased than others. That led me to think of how many Europeans perceive Americans. Isn’t their stereotypical American loud, ignorant, arrogant, and provincial?

Thinking of that stereotype prompted an analogy: Texas is to the United States as the United States is to Europe.

That started me thinking about Gandhi who, when asked what he thought of Western Civilization, said, “I think it would be a good idea.”

Gandhi also said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ” and “God has no religion.”

I assume Gandhi will not be featured in Texas textbooks.



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