“Students in Texas deserve an education free of ideology.” That’s the concluding sentence in a New York Times op-ed yesterday.
But, is it an ideology-free education possible? The Republicans on the Texas State Board of Education say they were removing ideology from the curriculum—the liberal ideology that had dominated Texas education since the last time standards were set. Democrats say the Republicans were inserting conservative ideology into the curriculum.
Who’s right? Part of the answer rests in the hands of experts—trained historians, for example, would have a greater command of the historical facts than typical members of a board of education. But that wouldn’t remove ideology. Every trained historian has an ideological stance, implicit or explicit. Even when historians agree on the facts, they can disagree on what the facts mean.
The other part of the answer, then, is this: We have to accept that an ideology-free education is not possible. The history we study is a selection of facts and interpretations. And ideological filters will be used, inevitably and unavoidably, in the selection process. After all, this isn’t math. All Republicans and Democrats would agree (I hope) that 2 + 2 = 4. But history and social studies do not have that kind of precision.
The best we can do is to establish and follow a fair process of reviewing and revising standards. This process would involve the hard work of trained educators and experts who labor, deliberate, and recommend standards. Then, the board of education should accept their recommendations. Will this result in an ideology-free education? No. But it would be closer.
The Texas shootout is about results and process. Some people like the results, some don’t. But it’s clear that the board abandoned the fair process they had used and gave into the temptation to use their political power, producing an ideology-laden education for years to come.
What do you think? Do you agree with my analysis?
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(Originally posted in www.OurValues.org)