Education watch: Oklahoma Legislature votes to dumb down its kids

Oklahoma's legislature injects right-wing ideology into its schools

As the TV show "Jackass" taught us, when adults do stupid things they're usually only hurting themselves. But what about when their ignorance threatens to harm their own children? 

Say hello to the state Legislature of Oklahoma, where the House education committee voted Monday to bar advanced placement U.S. history courses from state high schools. The 11-4 vote was on strict party lines, Republicans in the majority. This action represents the sort of ideological interference in education that can only end in making the state's students less informed and less prepared to function in the 21st century marketplace.

Education mavens will recognize the vote as an outgrowth of a campaign against the AP U.S. history course launched last summer by the Republican National Committee, which decided that the College Board's newly-issued outline, or "framework," for the AP course was infused with a radical progressive bias and insufficiently laudatory about American "exceptionalism." 

Right-wing ideologues promptly picked up the RNC's ball and ran with it. When you learn that the Oklahoma measure was introduced by Rep. Dan Fisher, an ordained minister and member of a group called the Black Robe Regiment, you'll get the picture. The organization's mission is to advance "our biblical responsibility to stand up for our Lord and Savior and to protect the freedoms and liberties granted to a moral people in the divinely inspired US Constitution," according to its website.

As reports, legislatures in such red states as South Carolina and Georgia have considered taking action against the AP course, which is aimed at students heading for college. An effort in Colorado to require teachers to depict American history "in a positive light" provoked a walk-out by students. Now that Oklahoma's effort has emerged from committee, it appears to have reached further than the others, so far.

This is an entirely manufactured controversy. We reported last August that it was started by one Larry Krieger, a retired history teacher from New Jersey whose classroom approach underscored what he calls America's "mission to spread democracy."

Krieger linked up with the Christian conservative group Concerned Women for America, and a campaign was born. Krieger addressed the Oklahoma committee by conference call before its vote, reported the Tulsa World. 

The authors of the AP outline struck back against what they accurately labeled "uninformed criticisms" of their work. "Many of the comments we have heard about the framework," they wrote last summer, "reflect either a misunderstanding of U.S. history or a very limited faith in history teachers' command of their subject matter." 

It's worse than that. For the right wing, historical truth matters for naught; what's important is the ideological narrative, and if it fails to match their vision of an America shining the light of freedom and plenty on the world, it must be "biased." Politicians who insist on inculcating such narrow-mindedness into their educational system are damaging their own students, but doing a real favor for the rest of us: our kids won't have to worry so much about competing in the real world with their kids.

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