- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010

All eyes and ears should be trained this spring on Texas, where the clash of culture ideals is playing itself out. The stakes in this pitched battle are high because many school districts follow Texas’ lead when it comes to curriculum and because timing is crucial.

The gnashing of teeth has begun, and let’s hope our children don’t end up on the losing end.

As Texas education officials thrash out a new social studies curriculum, the Common Core State Standards Initiative releases a draft proposal for national standards, the Obama administration continues pushing its way into the schoolhouse with one-size-fits-all approaches, and states become slaves to Obama dollars.

The winners will dominate for years to come.

What’s going on in Texas is being labeled by the media as a controversy over textbooks, but the media are putting the cart before the horse. The real controversy is centered on curriculum - and that’s always worth fighting for.

It’s a question of mentioning the social studies relevance of Phyllis Schlafly but not Betty Friedan. It’s a matter of evaluating America’s World War II leadership by way of Omar Bradley but not Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

Omitting historical facts and figures in a textbook comes dangerously close to titling a book revisionist history.

For example, a look at proposed changes to Chapter 113 of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies states that students are to “understand the domestic and international impact of U.S. participation in World War II.” The section then goes on to list the names of World War II “leaders” Bradley, Eisenhower, Nimitz, Marshall and Patton. The names of Davis, who led the Tuskegee Airmen, and Oveta Culp Hobby, who directed the Women’s Army Corps (MacArthur called them “my best soldiers”), are deleted - leaving an incomplete picture of the domestic impact of U.S. participation in World War II.

And then there’s this: “Describe the causes, key organizations, and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Rifle Association and describe significant societal issues of this time period.”

The omission of Friedan, who was viewed as Mrs. Schlafly’s nemesis, is disappointing. If students are to “describe significant societal issues” of the ‘80s and ‘90s, they can’t do it without studying Friedan and the feminist movement (regardless of whether you stand to the left or the right).

The Texas curriculum debate heats up as the Common Core State Standards Initiative - a project led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers - releases its draft math and English proposal.

Defenders argue that states’ standards are not uniform. That’s true, but there is no cogent argument that says they should be.

The problem with national standards is where the rubber meets the road - in the classroom. Nobody gets to go to the head of the class.

Texans understand that.

Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia and two of the six U.S. territories signed on to the national curriculum project. Texas and Alaska, wisely, said thanks but no thanks.

Texans don’t want their sovereignty and their children’s education in a noose knotted by Washington bureaucrats. (Besides, they have too much fun battling out curriculum.)

The purpose of the Common Core State Standards Initiative is to develop a single framework to educate youths and prepare them for college and the work force.

But, here again, expecting all children to learn in lock step simply doesn’t make sense. As Jughead would say, “Duh.”

The folks working on the initiative want your input. Become a Texan: Visit corestandards.org, speak now or forever hold your opinion.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.