Darwin, Schmarwin. My Kid Ain't Learnin' That!

How about we just call it, "counter-indoctrination?"

Darwin, Schmarwin. My Kid Ain't Learnin' That!

My hometown of Houston is generally perceived as a fairly liberal town. Colleges, diverse population and a history of Democratic mayors. It has a thriving arts community that is the grandest in the state. It is home to sports teams that after years of joyless mediocrity, have become contenders in the 4th largest city in the US.

It is also home to the 8th largest school district in the nation. And one that has been taken over by the state of Texas. Oh, HISD had some poor performers among it's 271 schools, 21 of them, in fact. It's overall rating from the Texas Education agency was a "B." The Dallas Independent School district also had a "B" but wasn't taken over. One wonders why? I hope it wasn't because of this incident during the Covid pandemic...

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas House agreed to institute a mask mandate effective fall 2021 despite Governor of Texas Greg Abbott banning school districts from having mask mandates. Additionally the HISD board of education voted to approve the mask mandate. The vote was eight in favor and none voting against.
In 2023 the Texas Education Agency announced that it will remove the superintendent and the board of trustees, and therefore begin to directly control HISD.  The Houston Independent School District takeover  formally began on June 1, 2023 with the appointment of a new superintendent and board of managers. Millard House II was replaced as HISD superintendent by Mike Miles (school superintendent) as part of the planned takeover.

And one of the first moves by Mr. Miles, get rid of those pesky libraries. From the publication Education Week...

Houston Superintendent Mike Miles, who was appointed in June by the Texas Education Agency as part of a state takeover of the district, authorized the repurposing of former school libraries into “team centers,” where students who misbehave will be sent to watch lessons virtually. That means 28 schools, most of them serving student populations that are either majority-Black, majority-Hispanic/Latino or economically disadvantaged, will not have school libraries in the coming school year.
This decision stands in direct contrast to efforts by the previous superintendent, Millard House II, who actively pushed to get school librarians into every school 

And those librarians are now looking for work, no doubt in more enlightened climes. Let's call it what it is. Detention Hall will now take place where you used to check out books that interested you, beyond the ones required by the school. I don't know about you, but I loved the library and indulged my penchant for history there. You also got to read points of view not covered in the standard curriculum.

Which brings us to another sad development near the Bayou City. The Cyprus-Fairbanks Independent School District is just northwest of Houston. It includes the city of Cypress and several unincorporated little whistle stops in the county and is generally ranked highly for quality by the state.

But for a very conservative school board, that wasn't enough. There was just too much learnin' going on there that didn't fit the political orthodoxy of some board members. One of them is a former teacher and principal named Natalie Blasingame whose platform when she ran for the board was openly aimed at "putting God back into schools"

Natalie Blasingame at an October forum for Cy-Fair ISD school board candidates.

Embarrassingly, Blasingame publicly admitted that she learned only recently that the Constitution does not explicitly provide for a “separation of church and state.” As a board member, she hopes to encourage teachers to discuss their faith more freely in the classroom. 

Now, I consider myself a pretty religious guy, though church-going has been lately more honored in the breach than the observance. But, it was never part of my K-12 education, unless it was world history involving Crusades, Inquisitions, Ottomans and such. But if Natalie stopped there, it would be one thing. She has now swerved out of her lane and collided with science and history.

The former "teacher" has led a vote by the board to remove 13 chapters from textbooks involving...

  • Biology
  • Environmental science
  • Earth systems
  • Principles of education and training
  • Health science theory clinicals

This overrules teachers who are expert in these fields and who approved the books. At one hearing, Blasingame read from one book...

“‘Global warming will affect precipitation and snow melt; cause extreme weather; alter biodiversity; melt arctic sea ice and glaciers; add to the acidification of the oceans; and cause sea level rise,’” Blasingame read from the textbook June 13. “Is that true? Where’s the data? Where was the reference?”

Trustee Todd LeCompte objected to a chapter on vaccines since some nitwit on the internet claimed they cause autism. For the record, in case you have seen that particular nitwit, they do not.

Blasingame's objections included Darwin being quoted, the United Nations being mentioned, too much on climate, discussing careers in renewable energy, discussion of vaccines and masks during Covid, a discussion of the Big Bang Theory, and in a health book, diagrams of the male and female reproductive organs.

For pity's sake, Natalie, we saw VD films in junior high school in the 60's.

And of course, librarians, you know with training and all, will not be given the latitude to choose books not approved by the board first. I mentioned in an earlier piece, the sanitized, John Wayne version of Texas history that certifiable pinheads like Dan Patrick want to make the standard in our schools.

History for Grownups, Not Politicians | Texas Outlaw Writers
We all know that wonderful line in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” that “when the facts meet the legend, print the legend.” And legends are what these politicos want to promote, no matter how slanted and incomplete that history is.

But that is where we are headed if school boards like Cy-Fair have their way. Any mention of slavery and the founding fathers, or in Texas, independence is somehow "Critical Race theory," a concept that none of these dunderheads can define. Sort of like Basil Fawlty's admonition not to mention the war.

But that leads me to a man who, as a broadcaster for over 5 decades, I can say is the absolute worst talk show host in the business, Dennis Prager. Droning on incessantly, and pompously in the bargain, on all aspects of society every afternoon in radio markets unlucky enough to not have the usual collection of Rush clones, he uses his Bachelor's degree in anthropology to pontificate on all things political, sociological and historical.

If you're having trouble sleeping, listen to this guy for a few minutes.

I was going to put up a link to a bit of his show, but I kept falling headfirst into my keyboard.

Prager a few years ago, got together with a Hollywood producer named Allen Estrin to start something called the Prager University Foundation, or more colloquially, PragerU.

Want to finish your degree in engineering or political science? Well, this isn't the place. Despite the delusional title, it isn't a school of any sort. They are producing "educational" videos for kids in schools, and sadly, many schools have taken the bait.

PragerU's animated videos contain misleading or factually incorrect information promoting climate change denial for example.  Historians and political scientists have also criticized PragerU's videos for containing misleading or inaccurate claims about topics such as slavery and racism in the United States, immigration, and the history of fascism.

To verify this, a writer for the Daily Beast watched more PragerU videos than is allowed by the Geneva Convention. His observations...

There’s the one with Christopher Columbus selling slavery as “better than being killed,” the one with Frederick Douglass empathizing with our slave owning founding fathers because he understood that ending slavery was on their “to do” list, just not quite at the top, and the one where former slave Booker T. Washington inaccurately claims that “America was one of the first places on Earth to outlaw slavery.”
"Yeah, they were going to get around to it. No rush."

For instance, a video depicts Christopher Columbus speaking with two children from the 21st century. Defending the practice of slavery, he says “slavery is as old as time” and asks: “How can you come here to the 15th century and judge me by your standards? … You must ask yourself, ‘What did the culture and society at the time treat as no big deal?’”

And of course, a Japanese character tells the narrator that he wasn't bothered that the US sent his parents to a concentration camp in WWII, or Booker T. Washington observing that at least he was a slave in America rather than some other awful place.

Who would buy these things? Well, the states of New Hampshire, Florida (natch), Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Montana. One state board member here in Texas wants them used here as well. And PragerU makes roughly $56-million a year on this propaganda.

So, like the political candidate who wears more makeup than Norma Desmond, you can spread the gospel and make some considerable scratch as well. And make no mistake, spend or waste your money as you please, but education money belongs to all of us.

And if this tripe is adopted, don't be surprised if little Johnnie and Janie are woefully unprepared when these topics come up for serious discussion in college.

Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.