Schoolhouse Crock

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A lower court ruling that upheld the Texas School Board of Education's rejection of an environmental textbook it found too "anti-Christian and anti-free enterprise" could have damaging implication for free speech in schools, according to the Student Press Law Center, an outfit that assists student newspapers. The SPLC, which has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an appeal to the 5th Curcuit, warned that the district court set a dangerous precedent by ruling that "a different standard should apply to school-sponsored speech." From the brief:

The decision potentially throws open the doors to widespread censorship and intimidation of student speech and press whenever school officials disagree with the opinions of students expressed therein. This sweeping elimination of the viewpoint neutrality doctrine will allow school officials to exclude any student expression that varies from "approved" viewpoints on such issues as the environment, government policy, business, the economy and politics.

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  1. Can’t we just force Texas to suceed? They seem to be nothing but dead weight on our country, and as a plus, W would be forced out of office as he’d be a foreigner! 🙂

  2. No sale.
    Sorry, but as partial as I am to heaping derision on Texas rednecks (and blaming them for much of the violence in the world), I don’t buy it. Why is it less offensive for a court to inflict it’s capricious edicts on curriculum by overruling the decision of the school-board? The assertion that this will stifle student speech is unsupported. Failing to sponsor speech they don’t approve of, is hardly equivalent to censoring it.

    This case is actually a poignant example of why government (a.k.a. ‘public’) education is incompatible with free speech, and other freedoms.

  3. If the Board of Ed rejected a book for being “too anti-Christian,” doesn’t that imply that textbooks must be “pro-Christian?” I thought religious matters were the responsibility of parents, not public schools.

  4. “could have damaging implication for free speech in schools”

    What a crock of bullshit. There is no such thing as free speech in public schools so puleeeeze spare us the crocodile tears over the rejection of a textbook that the state decided not to foist upon the inmates of the public school system in Texas.

    Environmental textbooks are by definition bogus and the gent who authored the book is lying when he says it contains no factual errors because every environmental textbook contains errors depending upon whether one sides with Ron Bailey or Jermey Rifkin.

  5. Warren, Jennifer –

    Agreed on both counts. School boards are the tightest little oligarchies on earth and ought to be abolished one way or another. The Reps, rather than railing about activist judges, ought to look into activist school boards.

  6. I don’t think “too anti-Christian” necessarily equals “pro-Christian”. Does disagreeing with Mein Kampf necessarily make you “pro-Jewish”?

    For that matter, if we were talking about a biology/genetics textbook that was substantially accurate, but contained anti-Jewish, or anti-Black, or anti-Gay commentary, would we be looking at the issue the same way?

  7. Isn’t this just a continuation of Boy Scouts v. Dale and that recend 3d Circuit decision about the Solomon Amendments, i.e., schools have an “institutional voice,” and as such, get to choose a particular point of view?

  8. You know, Anti-Christian like saying ‘the grand canyon is more than 5000 years old’, etc.

    Heathens!

  9. could somebody help out with the connection between christian and free enterprise?

    sure, code words aside, but doesn’t it strike anybody else who is a free-marketeer/libertarian that the right has coopted the “freedom words”? and organized religion certainly is NOT free market/ pro individual liberty.

    still, make ’em read “heather has two mommies” (they may skip to the sweaty pillow fight scene), and then they will understand…

  10. Incidentally, today is my 43rd birthday, so I am assuming the birthday priviledge of plugging my funnier-than-hell first book: “The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Bachelor’s Survival Guide and Cookbook,” available from my website, from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Borders.com, or through your local bookseller.

    I invite my friends and adversaries on H&R to download a sample chapter, and buy one or several for yourselves and for gifts. It would make me and my publisher very happy.

  11. On the assumption that none of us have actually seen or read the textbook, we don’t know what we are posting about.

    Students don’t generally select textbooks, so I find it hard to believe anyones free speech is violated. It sounds more like the authors expected profit margin is being viloated.

  12. Mark –

    Agreed. Text book decisions are made all the time – and in every case some text books will be denied because others have to be chosen.

    How exactly is this a free speech argument?

    It seems the only complaint is the reasoning to get rid of the book from the cirriculum, not the fact it happened, because it happens all the time.

  13. With typical Randian/Falwell-like fervor the predictable libertarian obsession with hatred of all things religious trumps rational thought and jumps to the forefront.

    Interesting that only drf even mentions the anti-free enterprise aspect of the rejection and only as a vehicle to dismiss its validity.

    Did it ever occur to anybody here that the book might suck? That the author and publisher might have a profit motive? They just might want the state of Texas to buy the frikkin’ book because they’re going to make a bucket of cash on the deal. Cash, which is bad if Exxon makes it but good if an ecology fascist with an axe to grind makes it.

    Mark: Good Point

    Batch: I’m going to look right now because this seems a heck of a lot more interesting than that project I’ve got to wrap up before the mail comes. –VBG

    Hippo Birdees Two Ewes, BTW

  14. What exactly is everyone’s problem with Texas again?

    We’re too violent – I’m guessing DC residents, Memphians, New Yorkers, and citizens of Chicago would argue with this fact.

    We’re all rednecks – Dallas is as sophisticated a city as you will find in the country. Austin, in addition to being one of the more liberal cities in the country, is also one of the richest and most beautiful.

    Dallas, Houston, and Austin are some of the most vital commercial cities in the country, not to mention the world.

    Certainly, some citizens of this state are less sophisticated than others, but I suspect this is true for any constituency of more than 50 people.

    Everyone needs to get off of their high horse when it comes to bashing the South, Texas, Canada, and just about anywhere that isn’t France. 🙂

    Sorry about the rant, but those comments really piss me off.

  15. Batch, I know this was just published but I swear it seems familiar to me. Not that I’ve read it mind you, but there is an ephemeral familiarity about the whole thing that just seems a bit out of reach. Oh well. 🙂 Maybe its Dejavu all over again.

  16. And the one thing you fogot Mr. Patriot is that Virginia Postrel, the former editor of Reason MAgazine is a resident of Dallas as well.

    In the words of Jerry Jeff Walker:

    DALLAS, TEXAS, USA

  17. drf,

    Communism was both anti-Christian and anti-free-enterprise.

  18. sure – i was thinking along the lines of shit kicking hardcore law and order types who also use the words of liberty and invididualism.

    communism, which wasn’t even brought up, is, in the immportal words of tim curry, “a red herring”.

  19. I have some experience with selecting textbooks for college history courses. (a) All textbooks as a rule suck. (b) The process of selection sucks.

    TWC & Patriot,

    When you stop banning dildo sales I’ll stop mocking Texas. 🙂

    TWC,

    I proudly wear the label “anti-religious.” 🙂

  20. TWC,

    BTW, that’s “d?j? vu.” 🙂

  21. The state board of education is directly elected by the people of Texas. Even though I voted against my local rep, she, and every other member of the board is ultimately accountable to the people of Texas in which books are approved.

    Is it really hard to imagine that an Environmental Science textbook could be over the top with anti-capitalism rhetoric?

    With regard to dildoes (doesn’t everything?), I live in the county that most recently prosecuted an unfortunate woman. I find this stunning, because this county hosts a number of lingerie and novelty shops. If you venture across the border into Harris County (Houston) all manner of dildoes await.

  22. Even given that gov’t. schools shouldn’t exist, in a govt. near-monopoly situation one man’s “selection” is another’s “censorship.” Does it surprise anyone that an eco-textbook might seem to be anti-Christian and anti-Free Enterprise? If the textbook selectors bounced the book because it wasn’t pro- on those issues, yeah, they suck. The proper perspective ought to be one of neutrality, especially if there is only one book as required reading.

    I’ve certainly run across eco-screeds that blame traditional western religion for environmental crimes, along the lines of “Christians think the world is going to end sometime soon, so they don’t care if we use up the world’s resources quickly.” There’s also that old testament stuff like “be fruitful and multiply” and the idea that Jehovah put the world at Man’s disposal, even if we are supposed to be good husbands of the earth. Many greenies can’t stand that.

    On the other hand, there are quite a few eco-kooks who are practically pantheists, not to mention the fringe Gaia worshippers. A book pushing that junk would be as bad as one based on Genesis.

    It would also not be surprising if the book pushed dirigiste economic policies. There’s a reason the term “watermelon” was invented.

    Kevin

  23. WASPB,

    Fire your editor; Sperm whales don’t eat shrimp.

  24. Gary, I understand, I’m not a big fan of religion either. In fact, I probably dislike religion more than most people do. I don’t like public school much either, but I had to put my kids in public school anyway because the private secular school they went to ended at 2nd grade and there is no way in heck I’m putting my kids in a religious school of any kind regardless of the academic quality. It just interests me that so many libertarians and objectivists are immediately Pavlovian with regard to religion. Wanna see a libertarian froth at the mouth like a rabid dog? Say “Catholic” or “Baptist” or “Born Again” or “Fundamentalist” and watch the fun.

    BTW, yer pretty good with that spelling and all those fancy symbols to make it (Dejavu) look right. Me? I’m on the Yogi Berra end of the spectrum when it comes to that stuff.

    I’m not from Texas but I bet Texans can buy sex toys online. BTW, are orbital sanders illegal in Tx?

  25. I suspect that even the ACLU wouldn’t object today if the Texas Board were to reject George William Hunter’s “Civic Biology” (the textbook that John Scopes taught out of) on grounds that it was offensively racist and eugenicist (see http://www.nationalreview.com/weekend/television/television-wiker021602.shtml). So if it’s OK for the state to decide it doesn’t want to be in the position of endorsing the view that Caucasians are “the highest type of all,” why shouldn’t it be free to distance itself for Christian-bashing. Or does the state not have the right to choose what message it wants to convey?

  26. TWC,

    It just interests me that so many libertarians and objectivists are immediately Pavlovian with regard to religion.

    I’m not Pavlovian regarding religion; I’ve readily admitted in the past that religion has some benefits; but I am still anti-religious because I believe those benefits are outweighed by religion’s negatives. As to Randroids, well, the reason for their anti-religious stance should be apparent; they view the religious as irrational and the Peikoff wing views them as, well, evil.

    BTW, yer pretty good with that spelling and all those fancy symbols to make it (Dejavu) look right.

    I’m an auto-didact. 🙂

    I’m not from Texas but I bet Texans can buy sex toys online.

    If that’s the case then why can’t Texans buy them at the local store?

  27. Well, GG, if they buy the sex toys online that circumvents the Texass (sorry) law, which is more to the exact point I guess. Not that I don’t agree with you entirely, they ought to be able to buy them in the local stores (except then they KNOW what you look like and what your prefeences are–VBG) along with Mac-10’s, Asian Brides, and dope.

    As for religion’s benefits, that’d be a pretty short list.

  28. Seamus, see that’s the thing. The state shouldn’t have a right to pick a particular point of view. But, since they own education, then they get to make those kinds of decisions.

    Ironically (to me anyway) it’s the same damn government that’s been doing the picking right along. What has changed is the people with the political muscle that shape the prevailing viewpoint.

  29. Seamus,
    Of course, that’s assuming it actually is anti-Christian. With people saying that taking the 10 Commandments down from public places is anti-Christian (and why isn’t it anti-Jewsih?), until I read the exact quote, I wouldn’t assume that it is. For all you know it could say that man evolved from apes and the universe started during the Big Bang.

  30. If it truely is anti-Christian, or any other religion for that matter, then yes, it would be ok to exclude it based on this. My point is that often, non-Christian = anti-Christian.

  31. “There is no such thing as free speech in public schools”

    TWC, by this do you mean that schools have no requirement to preserve free speech, or that school policy creates a situation where true free speech can’t exist? I’m honestly curious.

  32. Definition: Christian-Basher: (noun) Anyone winning an argument with a theocrat.

  33. Jim Walsh,

    Good one. 🙂

  34. A school board should have broad discretion in deciding what materials are used in their schools’ curricula. I’m do not think that a board can reasonably function without it. On that ground, the textbook author and the students suit should have been rejected out of hand. I’m not sure why the SPLC believes the court’s opinion is a threat to student speech, but, giving them the benefit of the doubt that it actually is, it suggests that the court’s opinion is very poorly written and far too broad in application.

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