Sunday, March 14, 2010

This Just In: Texas Rewrites U.S. History

According to The New York Times, the Texas Board of Education voted last week to radically revise future U.S. History and Economics textbooks. While supporters see the revisions as "correcting a liberal bias" that has pervaded contemporary education, detractors see the changes as nothing short of a "re-write of history." What everyone agrees is that the changes spin major issues in U.S. History in a decidedly right-wing direction, putting a "conservative stamp" on issues ranging from the nation's founding to contemporary issues such as civil rights. Since Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks nationwide, the revisions can have a substantial ripple effect across the nation.

Some of the most surprising changes are these:
  • The elimination of the word "capitalism" in favor of "free-enterprise system" because of the latter's more positive connotations.
  • A plank on the internment of Italians and Germans during the war (however small their comparative numbers) "to dispel the notion that the internment of Japanese-Americans was motivated by racism."
  • The elimination of Thomas Jefferson from a section on "thinkers who inspired 18th and 19th Century revolutions" -- in favor of St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin -- mostly because of Jefferson's phrase "separation of church and state," which members of the religious right have long opposed.
  • An amendment saying students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation.
  • Insistence that students study evidence confirming suspicion of communist infiltration into the U.S. in order to tamp down on criticism of the McCarthy Era excesses.
  • The insistence on adding information on the Black Panther party to "highlight violent civil rights leaders" in addition to the non-violent Dr. King.
  • The refusal to add any new biographical information on significant Latino contributions to U.S. History.
Do any of these surprise you? What do you make of this latest reconstruction to the on-going battle of the narrative of U.S. History?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Citizen Kane

To contribute to the Citizen Kane VoiceThread, please click HERE.

Citizen Kane: Viewing Questions
  1. What social classes can you see in the film? Name them and identify the markers of these classes and the characters who typify these classes.
  2. The film sort of follows our "Death of Mr. Bolos" activity from the beginning of the year. Name three sources of information the reporter, Jerry Thompson, uses to infer the character of Charles Foster Kane. Evaluate each—its advantages, its flaws.
  3. How effective is the organization of the movie—this elliptical, looping structure—versus a more straight-forward chronological narrative the director, Orson Welles could have employed?
  4. Identify five parallels or contrasts between this film and The Great Gatsby, and explain each briefly.
  5. Kane says, "If I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man." To what extent is this true? To what extent was Kane a great man?
  6. This film routinely tops lists of the greatest film of all time (AFI, Sight and Sound), and critics have regularly called it a singularly American movie. What makes the movie such an enduring emblem of America?