The Politics of History

by Robert Pondiscio
July 31st, 2008

Lawmakers in California have had a busy summer deciding what students in the Golden State should be taught in school.  A bill requiring that a 1946 court ruling on desegregation be added to the curriculum won strong support, as did a measure that adds the contribution of Filipino-American soldiers.  Legislation requiring lessons on the contributions of Italian Americans, Native Americans and the deportation of Mexican citizens during the Depression are pending. 

An editorial in one local paper makes sport of the whole miasma:

OK, boys and girls, please turn to page 151 of your state history book and skip down to the section on the contributions of Filipino-American soldiers in World War II. We were going to talk about the contributions of the Chinese, but seeing as how that isn’t mandatory, we’re going to take a pass.

Please be prepared immediately after recess to discuss Myanmar’s failure to adopt U.S. concepts of Democracy.  Yes, Jimmy, I know you’re only in fourth grade, but a bipartisan state Senate majority felt California students were getting way behind in their comparative political theory. And we wouldn’t want to argue with bipartisan state Senate majorities, now would we?

Fortunately, we will have time to go over our spelling words a couple of more times this week because the governor vetoed Senate Bill 908, which would have encouraged each California grade level to include a section on global warming.

“They all have merit,” concludes an editorial in the Contra Costa Times, “but it is not the job of individual legislators to alter the public school curriculum on a piecemeal basis. This is the purview of the state Board of Education.”


  1. Lawmakers in the Golden State also have a $75 billion deficit to deal with it. I’m glad to see they’re using their time so wisely.

    Comment by Dave Teacher — July 31, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  2. This is what worries me about when I try to envision national standards… Would law makers ever have the discipline to say “no” to anything??

    It’s bad enough in CA having the governor convincing the state board of education that Algebra I — which wasn’t a state graduation requirement 10 years ago — should now be required in 8th grade. But then to have the legislature piling things on topic by topic… I suppose it keeps the demand up for new textbook editions.

    Comment by Rachel — July 31, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

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