By Anonymous on June 15, 2010

In the good-and-good-for-you department, food scientists are now touting the health benefits of enjoying a handful of nuts every day.

I, for one, am glad, because I love nuts—pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, you-name-em. But my favorite nuts, by far, are the homegrown natives that have taken root in one particularly fertile area of my state: the Texas Board of Education. You just can’t get any nuttier than this bunch!

This board, little known even to us Texans, has lately risen to national notoriety, making our state’s educational system a punch line for comedians everywhere. That’s because a handful of ultra-rightwing nutcases have taken over this elected overseer of Texas educational policy, and they’re hell-bent on supplanting classroom education with their own brand of ideological indoctrination.

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Their way of achieving this political goal is to rewrite the state standards that textbook publishers must follow to get the lucrative contracts for providing teaching materials for every student in the state, from first grade through high school. Their latest exercise in ideological correctness comes at the expense of the social studies curriculum. They’ve gone through guidelines for history, government, economics, and sociology textbooks, purging references that offend their doctrinaire sensibilities and substituting their own nutty biases and ignorance.

How nutty?

Take Thomas Jefferson. They did! They literally did take Jefferson off a list of revolutionary political thinkers from the Enlightenment period, replacing him with a favorite of Christian fundamentalists, John Calvin. Thus, the prime author of our Declaration of Independence—poof—disappeared! Jefferson’s unpardonable transgression? He coined the phrase “separation between church and state.”

Any concepts that might spur progressive thoughts in young minds were also expunged.

“Justice,” for example, was stripped from a list of virtues meant to teach grade-schoolers the characteristics of good citizenship. So, too, “responsibility for the common good.” And they insisted that the “positives” of Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunt for commies and of Jefferson Davis’s secessionist government be taught.

Likewise, the full-tilt rightists dismissed Dolores Huerta, the much-admired farmworker leader, from a list of “good citizenship” models, as a socialist. On the other hand, they mandated that Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation, and Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America be taught as icons of a “conservative resurgence” in America.

One especially delicious moment came when the board considered a listing of world leaders who fought political repression. On the list was Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was killed in 1980 by the country’s rightwing death squads for speaking out against inequality and oppression. The board cut Romero from the list, declaring that he lacked the stature of such other repression fighters as Gandhi. After all, one board member explained, unlike Gandhi, Romero had not had a movie made about his life, so how important could he have been? But—oops!—there was a popular 1989 feature film called Romero about the archbishop’s exemplary life. The board was embarrassed, but axed him anyway.

Words were banned, too. The word “democratic,” for example, was replaced by the cumbersome “constitutional republic.” “Capitalism” was replaced by “free enterprise.” In addition, all references to Enlightenment ideas were dropped, because . . . well, because these full-fledged political purists don’t want any concept based on reason getting into the heads of our schoolkids.

If you liked this article, check out Hightower's critique of the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision." It's called "Judicial Fabricators," and it's on the money, literally. Hightower, by the way, writes every month for The Progressive.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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