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B MOSER PURPLE STATE Beyond the Shining City HE GUMMINT OF THIS FAIR STATE MIGHT BE SMALLISH AND HUMBLE relative to our size, but you have to admit: Our elected officials sure do have a bigger-than-life knack for making headlines and brightening non-Texans’ days. Among the global gusts of laugh ter and derision the Texas State Board of Education provoked during its three-day “Roll Your Own Curriculum” circus in May, nothing could have amused the smug and superior folks in Amsterdam coffeehouses, Upper West Side cafesor, for that matter, Mississippi Waffle Housesmore than the right-wing board members’ insistence that they were simply trying to “balance” the “liberal bias” accrued through decades of radical left-wing domination of the Texas schools. “Lee-bruls in Texas!” mesdames and monsieurs the world over were no doubt exclaiming as they tut-tutted and tittered at news of the Texas Textbook Massacre. Understandly enough, the notion of liberalism in Texas strikes most humans as an oxymoron. It’s one of the reasons the magazine you’re reading developed a cult following on the American left in the ’60s and ’70s. It seemed quite the novelty to find a Texas magazine exposing corruption, ridiculing right-wingers and kicking up a fuss for civil rights. Sort of like coming across a publication devoted to abolishing cheerfulness in Disneyland. Here in the 21st century, the days of good ol’ reliably ass-backward Texas are numbered. Progressives are licking their chops over the political and cultural changes wrought by urbanization and demographic diversity. Right-wingers, meanwhile, keep cranking up their efforts to turn back the clock before it’s too late and They take over. The era of Anglo Protestants’ dominance is drawing to an end in Texas and America. So is their control of history. The state board took one last determined poke at it. The members subjected Texas educators’ recommended social-studies standards to a dizzying array of color-coded, Google-searched cuts and pastesmore than 100 amendments passed, in all. But the galvanizing idea behind the changes boiled down to one simple and impossible wish: Protect our children from the perils of questioning the greatness of Christian America. Take us back to the faith-based history that Southerners used to study, back in the pre-’60s when critical history was a commie plot, the Lost Cause was still lamented, and every civics text could have been printed under the same title: A Shining City on a Hill. “I think that it’s important to understand whyAmerica is such a wonderful place,” said Don McLeroy, the Bryan dentist and former board chair who’s been the outspoken leader of the Shining City faction. Which meant that “American exceptionalism” had to be written back inand “U.S. imperialism” changed to the much more positive-sounding “U.S. expansionism.” More broadly, it meant a frontal challenge, as McLeroy wrote in USA Today, to “the powerful ideology of the left.” No board member has been more emphatic about those intentions than Cynthia Dunbar, the lameduck Republican from Richmond who believes public schools are, as the fundamentalists say, “of the devil.” In her book on the subject, One Nation Under God: How the Left Is Trying to Erase What Made Us Great, Dunbar called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” The whole system, she argued, is unconstitutional and “tyrannical”the state robbing parents of the authority God gave them to educate Of the millions of barbs, insults and thoughtful critiques aimed at the efforts of McLeroy, Dunbar and Co., U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan cut to the nub better than anyone: “We do a disservice to children when we shield them from the truth, just because some people think it is painful or doesn’t fit with their particular views.” What we saw and heard from the state board’s right wing was the same thing we see and hear at tea parties: the desperate, last-ditch stamping and fuming of people frightened by an inchoate future in which their versions of patriotism and morality may be swept aside. These are not people to be feared; they are fearful people. “It’s imperative that our children be taught the original direction of our country,” McLeroy told ABC News as the Massacre commenced. But the essential genius of that original direction was the way it broke, sharply and decisively, with the religious and political dogmas of the past. The American direction is ever forward, by fits and starts and lurches, into the great and glorious unknown. That’s where Texas is headed. And no school board, thank God, can turn it back. ICI The galvanizing idea behind the social studies revisions boiled down to one simple and impossible wish: Protect our children from the perils of questioning the greatness of Christian America. READ live blogs and analysis of the Texas State Board of Education’s social-studies debates at 28 j THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG