A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vehement Libertarianism Prefers Summa Theologica to Thomas Jefferson

The New York Times columnist David Brooks says in yesterday's The Broken Society that the American public is gripped by a surge of "vehement libertarianism" as they find themselves at a "confluence of crises" of high unemployment and public debt while their wages continue to lag. "People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general."

I can agree with his observation wholeheartedly, but not with his answer to our problems. Brooks advocates local over national authority in education, something Susan Jacoby says in her editorial One Classroom From Sea to Shining Sea (just above the Brooks piece in the same paper) is exactly what is wrong with American edcuation today.

I agree with Jacoby's suggestion that greater standardization of curriculum by experts in the various fields has to replace the conservative movement's backdoor manipulation of widely used social studies and history texts. As I've noted before in this space, conservatives are inserting their hair-brained ideas of what is important into our kids' books through the Texas Board of Education.

"Chosen in partisan elections, the board members — most lacking any expertise in the academic subjects upon which they are passing judgment — had already watered down the teaching of evolution in science classes when they turned their attention to American and world history. Thus was Jefferson cut from a list of those whose writings inspired 18th- and 19th-century revolutions, and replaced by Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. This is certainly the first time I’ve ever heard the “Summa Theologica” described as a spur to any revolution.

"No Frenchman could conceive of a situation in which school officials in Marseille decide they don’t like France’s secular government and are going to use textbooks that ignore the Napoleonic code (and perhaps attribute the principles of French law to Aquinas). But publishers will have to comply with Texas requirements in order to sell history books to that state’s huge school system. Indeed, they will likely start producing one edition for conservative states and another for the saner precincts of American schooling."


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