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.

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