The head of the class

Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle pretty effectively sums up the feeling a lot of us have about the politicization of education in Texas.

The dunce is sitting at the head of the class

This week Texas’ standard came under criticism from a conservative group who refused to endorse states imposing conservative views of history on student after spending years criticizing a liberal versions [The report on Texas in pdf format]:

While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points.

Texas is also faulted for providing no real structure.

The TEKS create no usable framework for teachers: How can such selective, fragmentary, and historically vapid checklists help instructors to design a course? A popular Lone Star State slogan proclaims “Texas: It’s like a whole other country”—but Texas’s standards are a disservice both to its own teachers and students and to the larger national history of which it remains a part.

Using the power of government to impose a view of history that supports the current regime should not be the norm in American politics. It is time to give history back to historians and educators and let the politicians focus on other things. In their rush to serve political goals the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has forgotten the need to provide a coherent structure. The Board had made a habit of embarrassing education in the state and the value of Texas diplomas goes down every time they get caught politicizing our curriculum.


My how we’ve grown…

The Census Bureau released is population estimates for Texas today. They reported that the state has grown to 25,245,561 residents.  That’s up almost 21% from 2000.

You can look at the state’s growth county-by-county through the Census Bureau’s neat interactive map. For example, you can see that Harris County has grown to 4,092,459 residents while Loving County has 82. You can also see that the state’s Hispanic population has grown by almost 42%.

Texas Population Growth by county

These numbers will go into computers all over the state as we begin the process of redistricting. Texas will gain four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and everyone is going to be watching to see who controls those seats.

Burka on the Budget

Paul Burka has some interesting analysis (Spending binge contributed to the structural deficit) that concludes that the state’s ongoing budget problems are “the result of a triple whammy of the unprecedented drop of sales tax redeipts, the use of stimulus funds that were a short-term blessing but a long-term curse,  and $5.3 billion in education spending, a lot of which was throwing money at schools.” It’s definitely work a look.

Tom Vandergriff (1926-2010), Texas Legend

Tom Vandergriff rates as a Texas legend. The Star-Telegraph eulogized him with front page story (“Visionary leader Tom Vandergriff put Arlington on map“) area noted his passing. Vandergriff helped bring the Texas Rangers, Six Flags Over Texas, and General Motors to Arlington. As the world focuses it attention on the Super Bowl, Texans can look to his leadership as an example of how communities can be transformed.

Perspectives on “revolutions”

Republican gains in the Texas House and the US House were impressive. The new Congress was sworn in and a new Speaker took the gavel in the US House. A new Texas House was sworn in, although they kept their old speaker. One question is: what can we expect from these sweeping political changes? The answers, I think, will disappoint many people.

A little patience might be in orderChange is hard in the American political system. It can be even harder under the cumbersome rules of the Texas Constitution. Our political systems were designed to move slowly to prevent what Alexander Hamilton (in Federalist #71) called “an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse.”

What amazes me most about political coverage is how poor the perspective of most analysis can be. They may be able to name every member of Congress and every bill being debated. However, most reporters and commentators have forgotten the basic system of checks and balances and how stubborn James Madison’s design can be.

One place to look for lessons is to the “Class of ’94.” The Republican members brought in by the Republicans landslide victory in 1994 came to office offering profound change. However, as Linda Killian writes in Politics Daily (“Advice for the House Class of 2011 From Their Revolutionary Predecessors in ’95“), they met with mixed results.

The bottom line is that by some measures the new Texas Legislature will be judged a failure because they did not do more. Some will fuss that too many principles were compromised and that legislation was “watered down.” However, we always need to remember that representative democracy was designed to simultaneously empower and restrict the majority. Also, some of the advocates of dramatic change may need to realize that conservatives have been running Texas government for decades and that some of the policies we have may actually be there for a reason.