To ‘Hussein’ or Not to ‘Hussein’: Textbook Battle in Texas

Does it really make much of a difference if the kids can’t read anyway?

Will history books refer to the 44th American president as Barack Obama, Barack H. Obama or Barack Hussein Obama?

Late into the night, the Texas Board of Education considered these and other questions for the state’s social studies curriculum. The debate has set off a culture war, pitting conservatives against democrats in a battle that attracted 40,000 e mails from parents, teachers and academics from around the nation.

The curriculum covers grades kindergarten through high school, and yet after 12 hours of debate the board had only just begun talking about its biggest challenge – high school standards – at 9 p.m. Thursday.

All day long the board dropped, added and swapped the names of historical figures and events into and out of the standards. It began with 1st graders. John Smith was dropped, as was Nathan Hale, not because he wasn’t important, but because, according to one teacher, ‘the kids couldn’t get past the hanging.’

Despite deep political differences, the debate remained polite until the topic focused on President Obama. Then it got personal. Lawrence Allen, a black former high school principal from Houston offered a motion to enter President Barack Obama’s name in a section of the curriculum that recognized significant dates in U.S. History.

I’d advise them to put Obama’s election under the “important dates” next to the story of Clinton’s impeachment, but the latter isn’t included for the same reason Nathan Hale isn’t: The kids couldn’t get past the hanging.

In any case, the Texas Board of Education continues to debate this topic as we speak:

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