book learnin’

I found a screw on the floor today. Thing is, I don’t think anything I own that’s held together by screws is missing any of its screws. So what could this mean? Is it a clue—some sort of omen? What kind of ‘Lost’-inspired sign is this? Of course, if my life were being scripted by the people who created ‘Lost,’ the clue wouldn’t be explained for six years and then it would just be  part of a fairly heavy-handed quasi-christian allegory, and it would turn out I’ve actually been dead the entire time.

I like to believe that if there were a rip in the cosmological fabric, Alternate Me would be more successful, and be having more sex. You know, a world in which the most admired and highly-paid profession is ‘comedy writer.’ In that world, cops would come to your door to give you pot, and the Oscars would have a category for Best Barely Started Screenplay Idea. And I would fly into the Kodak Theater with my jet-pack to receive my award.

The idea of an alternate universe has always fascinated me. A place that looks like our world but because of some glitch in the time-space continuum is actually a frightening bizarro world filled with people who sort of look like us but ultimately are discovered to be aliens bent on our destruction. For example, Texas.

If I understand this, the Texas Board of Education approved changes to the social studies and history curriculae (-li? –lums? damn, I hate when I forget my Latin declensions!). Anyhoo, that means changes to textbooks in Texas, which means changes to textbooks everywhere because Texas buys a lot of textbooks.

I suppose the changes are meant to bring about a nostalgic return to an era uncluttered by voting rights, or religious rights, or civil rights. Whatever the motivation, the new curriculum will put a distinctly rightward spin on what used to be called ‘facts.’

Apparently the new guidelines require that students be taught that the Founding Fathers were actually very religious, and that the whole church and state thing was meant to be a just a trial separation. I’m guessing the people who voted for these changes also believe that fossil evidence for evolution was manufactured by the liberal media to lead the country down the path to socialized…archaeology, or something.

Although I’m a card-carrying liberal (it’s actually an NPR membership card, but it counts as ID in Arizona), I’m not all that concerned about what ninth-graders in Texas are studying. It’s not that I don’t care about what they read…it’s that I don’t believe many of them will actually remember what they read.

For example—the new textbooks will now imply that free-market economies are better for society than…whatever other kinds of economies there are. See, my point is, I don’t remember, because I learned that stuff from a textbook—meaning, the information stayed in my brain until the test was over. Then—poof! It was as if I never learned it.

I think for most people, what we learned as kids simply served as a placeholders until we learned important things, like things related to our jobs, and how to get laid. I took calculus in high school, and I don’t even remember what calculus is, let alone how to use it.

So I’m not too worried about the next generation being manipulated by their textbooks. I’ve always said that if you want kids to read Shakespeare, ban everything he wrote. Seriously, if high school kids aren’t allowed to read ‘Hamlet,’ they’ll be quoting Polonius in the hallway.

A school in Tennessee actually banned some textbooks a while back. Called them ‘anti-religious.’ And again, I don’t get the problem. You could put a whole section on Satanic rituals in ‘America: Pathways to the Present’ and if it isn’t mentioned in the chapter summary, most students will never see it!

You know, if school boards are gonna revise the curriculum, they should have the balls to go all the way. Why not make history books entirely fictional? Include chapters explaining how the South didn’t lose the Civil War, it’s just laying low and regrouping. Have kids learn that the Underground Railroad was a just another leftist public transit boondoggle. And for god’s sake, bring back home economics classes. Just for girls, of course. They need to have role models, too.

But if high school kids in Texas are required to learn this more…creative version of our history, one more change needs to be mandated. The federal government should require diplomas issued by Texas to have a big Texas-sized asterisk on them so that the rest of us know who we’re dealing with.

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even ignorance is bigger in texas

First, a disclaimer. I do not believe that all Texans are idiots. It would be unfair of me to suggest that all Texans are stupid. I do feel safe in saying that the Texas State Legislature has lost its collective mind.

Now it’s not like I subscribe to ‘Texas Legislation Monthly,’ so my information may not be current. But in 2009, they unanimously passed a law allowing Texans to carry guns and ammunition in their cars to work, as long as they leave them locked in the car, and only narrowly defeated . Now before you rip the second amendment out of the Constitution and shove it in my weak-kneed, lily-livered, pacifist face, let me just suggest that the Founding Fathers probably didn’t think that a “well-regulated militia” would necessarily include Bob in accounting, and it seems unlikely that the guy in the doing data-entry in his cubicle was meant to be our first line of defense against the forces of sedition.

Seriously, people. If anything defines ‘slippery slope,’ I think it’s this. Basically, if you have a job, you can put your gun in your car and drive to work. In an society where workplace shootings make the news every few weeks, where will this lead? Back in the day, the only people who shot their co-workers worked at the post office (which I never understood–what kind of pressure was making those guys snap? There are jobs where I can picture someone cracking under stress, but whenever I go to the Post Office, the employees move WAY too slow to be under stress) .

Now, let’s say that jerk of a boss is on your ass again to finish some project–he needs the March numbers now! I mean how many of us have thought “I am gonna kill that fucker!”. Well, now in Texas, you just go to the parking lot on your lunch break  and all of a sudden that Excel spreadsheet can wait.

And I love the reasoning espoused by State Senator Glenn Hegar. Apparently, people “like their firearms,” but are kinda ambivalent about their LAWS.

“People like their firearms in Texas, and if they want to bring them to their workplace, they are going to do it whether there is a policy or not,” Hegar said.

Now here’s what’s really cool. The whole “Take Your Gun To Work Day”  idea wasn’t the scariest thing to come out of the 2009 legislative session in Austin. This same august body also only narrowly defeated a proposition that would have required schools to teach that the theory of evolution has “strengths and weaknesses,” thus opening the door ever so slightly to creationism.

Now before you internet villagers get your torches out, let me say that I am actually that seemingly rare liberal intellectual who believes in God. And I believe it’s possible that God may have thought up the whole evolution thing, and sorta kick-started it. But please understand, my creationist friends–evolution is a fact.

Here’s how it breaks down, kids:

Strengths: it really happened, and there is an Earth-sized mountain of tangible evidence to prove it happened.

Weaknesses: Well, scientists agree that evolution cannot yet explain the lack of development in the brains of Texas state legislators.

What’s really amazing is that the Luddites were only defeated by a margin of 8-7. Vegas wouldn’t have taken those odds. I can just imagine that debate…one by one, seven people made impassioned, Bible-centered arguments showing the ‘weaknesses’ of 150 years of evolutionary research, at which point the other eight senators looked at each other and said “are you people kidding me?”

School board president Don McLeroy led the effort, threatening to not approve textbooks which don’t allow some compromise on the issue.  I worry that the Texas Board of ‘Education’ (quotation marks entirely mine) will start ‘re-examining’ other scientific theories–kids in high school will be introduced to ‘alternate theories’ about gravity (maybe it’s the actual Hand of God that’s pushing down on us–students should consider this) or the solar system (Earth might not be the center of the universe–telescopes are known for their ‘weaknesses’).  Please, Texas. You’re bringing down the curve for the rest of us.

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