The Texas State Board Of Education On Activism

From Dara Lind:

Here’s a requirement from the eighth-grade curriculum, under “Citizenship”:

The student is expected to…analyze reasons for and the impact of selected examples of civil disobedience in U.S. history such as the Boston Tea Party and Henry David Thoreau’s refusal to pay a tax.

Yes, it’s hilarious that the curriculum glosses over the fact that Thoreau wasn’t objecting to taxation in general, but to the use of his tax money to pay for an unnecessary war. (I doubt the Texas BoE shares Thoreau’s conviction that the Mexican War was a petty, imperialistic victory for slavery, of course.)

if they think civil disobedience was so important in the mid-nineteenth century, they’ll surely return to the theme when talking about the mid-twentieth century, right?

Wrong. Here’s the high-school curriculum:

Students are expected to…analyze the effectiveness of the approach taken by some civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers versus the philosophically persuasive tone of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.”

Those are your options. No Montgomery bus boycott. No sit-ins. Just the Black Panthers — who weren’t even founded until 1966 and didn’t have a significant national presence until ‘68 — or King, who gets credit for his pretty words but no mention of how he ended up writing a letter from a jail cell in Birmingham to begin with. The implication is clear: the civil rights movement was effective because of the “persuasive tone” of its more conciliatory orators, not because thousands of people rode busesand boycotted buses and got blasted with fire hoses.

The message the Texas BoE is sending is clear: direct action is a civic duty when white people do it, but nonwhite activists need to sit tight and let their leaders do the talking.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://infinitegest.wordpress.com Erik

    Ugh. I’ve been elbow deep in Black Lit and civil rights struggle for the past 4 or so months. So this thing reads even more hypocritically now. It’s flat out infuriating to see them gloss over the sociological circumstances that created and arguably even necessitated groups like the Black Panthers, instead just going for the “Well…they scared white people” end result of it all.

  • Stevemino

    It’s the old “people on my side are freedom fighters; those that oppose me are terrorists” argument. All it does is show how stupid YOU are for invoking it in the first place!

  • http://summer-research-program-for-teachers-m.blog Bey

    What traditions have been passed down in your family?


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