Teaching Tolerance to the Texas Textbook Committee

Joel Kirschbaum

The Texas State Textbook Committee’s conservative recommendations for textbooks for use in Texas schools influence the nation. (Due to printing cos ts, students across the United States usually get the textbooks that pass muster in the Lone Star State.) The Textbook Committee recently voted to partially rewrite public-school curriculum standards from a biblical-fundamentalist viewpoint. It de-emphasized the role Thomas Jefferson played in founding the nation, most likely because of his support for the “separation of church from state.” Evolution was specially targeted, as were objective, evidence-based scientific statements that the universe apparently was formed in one “big bang” about 13.4 billion years ago. One stated goal was to “balance” the pages devoted to Abraham Lincoln by saying more about the Confederate leader Jefferson Davis.

Mainstream Texas educators and scientists have been ineffectual in persuading legislators, much less the Textbook Committee’s majority, to desist from “kidnapping” real history and science. Here, I add ridicule to try inducing objectivity. Below are my satiric speculations on further possible curriculum changes:

Art. To graduate, a student must be able to design a branding iron incorporating his or her initials.

Astronomy. Basic tenets to be taught are: this year the universe is 6017 years old (2013 + 4004, the year of creation). The fate of an individual depends on his or her astrological sign of birth, without any constellation correction for the newfangled fact that the Earth precesses on its axis.

Biology. To graduate high school, students must be able to describe and identify all fish, game, and trespassers that are legal prey. Teachers trying to test the strength of tenure protection might mention the word evolution.

Chemistry. The emphasis will be on metabolism; i.e., explaining why there is a sudden surge in energy after slurping soda containing sugar or fructose, thus enabling extra exertion so Texas teams can beat their opponents every time.

Economics. All discussions of savings and investments for retirement are unnecessary due to the imminent Second Coming.

English. Readings are restricted to excerpts from the Bible, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and the Texas Driver’s Handbook.

Ethics. Jesus said, “Let he who hath not a sword sell his cloak to buy one.” Explain how this admonition justifies the Second Amendment “right to bear arms.”

Geology. Students must be able to name all formations bearing oil or natural gas, from the surface of the earth down to the outer edge of hell.

Mathematics. All math problems must be practical. Example: If a fifty-cartridge box of 9mm bullets costs twenty dollars and a ten-bullet box costs ten dollars, what is the most boxes of cartridges that can be bought for ninety dollars? With ninety dollars, how many seventeen-round clips can be fully filled? How many one-hundred-round clips can be filled?

Also, the biblical value of pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the radius (r) is 3. (Prohibited is use of the pagan value of 3.141592+.)

Example problem: The area of a circle is 2 πr. If a lake is 100 feet in diameter, how many sticks of dynamite are needed if one stick can effectively stun all fish in a 10-foot radius?

Health Education. How many gallons of sweetened Concord grape Manischewitz kosher wine (alcohol content of 11 percent) are needed to dilute a forty-two-gallon drum of 94 percent alcohol, “White Lightning,” to 20 percent alcohol?

Language. Required from classes K to 12: courses in “speaking in tongues.”

Meteorology. The entire course can be encapsulated by memorizing the sentence: “Tornadoes in Texas are caused by cold air sweeping south from the Rocky Mountains colliding with warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf.” Remaining class time is to be spent stopping storms by beseeching on bended knees that these accursed mountains sink back into the plains of the flat Earth.

Music. Students should sing uplifting pre–Civil War spirituals praising the “Massa.” All forms of music, including sonatas, fugues, rounds, and rondos should be taught using the collected discography of Lawrence Welk. The AP music course must include playing the Texas two-step.

Physics. To graduate, high-school students must be able to describe the theory and uses of all types of tools and machinery found in a typical pickup truck, such as the use of the tire iron as a lever to tilt a beer barrel to drain the dregs.

Psychology. The unified theory of the cause of all mental diseases is brain confusion created by big numbers, such as the speed of light and the grand total of the hundreds of billions of stars in each of the hundreds of billions of galaxies.

Sex Education. The syllabus consists of teaching abstinence and the everyday application of an amendment to Einstein’s theory of spacetime: i.e., teenagers’ torsos are to be two feet apart at all times.

World History. The Committee is proud to acknowledge that Texas was a member of the Confederacy, and it wants all students to learn that slaves were fortunate to plant cotton in U.S. soil under a sunny blue sky rather than to have to labor underground in the dark, dangerous foreign Congo mines of King Leopold of Belgium.

 

In conclusion, the twisted and distorted facts emanating from the Texas Textbook Committee are simultaneously a source of consternation to truth-telling teachers and an inspiration to satirists. Perhaps the Textbook Committee will perceive that perverting the proven produces parodies of their positions.

 

Joel Kirschbaum

Joel Kirschbaum is a retired chemist who has had more than one hundred articles published in reviewed journals.


Mainstream Texas educators and scientists have been ineffectual in persuading legislators, much less the Textbook Committee’s majority, to desist from “kidnapping” real history and science. Here, I add ridicule to try inducing objectivity.

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