China’s soft power and the rape of US history textbooks

Yes, I know – that’s a very disjointed, dichotomous title, and this post is quite disjointed as well. But bear with me a moment.

I read with fascination this morning an article on China’s attempts to increase its global soft power by constitutional scholar Zhang Boshu, a former member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. I strongly recommend you read it all. This stood out for me (and apologies for a very long snip):

From the perspective of liberal constitutionalism, the continuous sixty years of one party rule by the Chinese Communist Party is a type of autocracy—an unreasonable system of government. It is extremely predictable that such a country would be criticized by democratic nations’ mass media. In saying that the international media “unfairly sees China and the Chinese people,” Mr. Zhao Qizheng is obviously intentionally trying to confuse public opinion. That is because criticizing the ruling Party is not equivalent to criticizing China; it is also not equivalent to criticizing the Chinese people. It has absolutely nothing to do with “hegemony.” I have personally been interviewed many times by the international media and feel that the vast majority of foreign journalists are friendly towards China. They have a serious attitude towards reporting; even when reporting on weaknesses within our society, they hope that China will improve quickly. On the contrary, it is actually our rulers who are accustomed to using a mindset of enmity; they see all critics as enemies with hidden intentions.

In the final analysis, it is China’s current political system that is definitely outside the global tide of democratization. It is this environment that produces government-hired scholars who play up their [theories] which are at odds with logic.

So what is the substance of this “soft power with Chinese characteristics” that is being so strongly advocated by government officials and “scholars”? There are two clear main types [of soft power with Chinese characteristics]. One type is related to “persisting in the leadership of the Communist Party.” It aims at protecting the ideological “products” of the existing regime—whether it be the increasingly individualistic and commercialized literature, art, television, movie, and animation “products”, or whether it be the increasingly rigid media and education “products.” For example, beginning in 2004, the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party and the Ministry of Education jointly organized a massive program called “Researching and Building Upon Marxist Theories.” As part of this program, at universities and colleges the “public politics class” curriculum and the humanity majors’ core curriculum was required to be revamped so as to include the “the latest findings” [in the field of] “the sinification of Marxism” or “Marxism’s adaptation to China.” As far as propaganda directed outside [of China], this kind of thing was naturally at the very core, but it was packaged more carefully as being different from the “West” and as being a form of “democratic government” with “Chinese characteristics,” or as being “harmonious” or as being part of “a great nation’s rise”—the ultimate purpose was to establish “[China’s] own ideological voice.”

The other type [of soft power with Chinese characteristics] is “traditional culture” and its interpretations which are officially approved. Confucius is no longer criticized. This is obviously a good thing. However, reflecting on the rationality of traditional culture has at the same time been suppressed. That is because the current leaders are not especially concerned about the complicated historical relationship between modern China’s transformation and pre-modern China’s cultural heritage, and are more concerned with the role that can be played today by China’s ancient heritage and ancient historical figures acting as a sort of cultural symbol. [This cultural symbol] could be used to prove the legitimacy of a culture that is different from the “West” which it seems would then indirectly prove the legitimacy of a political structure that is different from the “West.” Along these lines, today in China one can see everywhere vigorous signs of “ancient worship”—not just in a cultural context but also in an ideological context. This same logic can explain why the government so strongly supports the construction of “Confucius Institutes” in many places overseas.

Nevertheless, the ultimate goal in all this effort is to whitewash the reality of existing one party rule; to provide a defense for a backward system. This is phony soft power; even though it appears in the name of a people’s nation and even though it appears in the form of the modern heir to a great culture.

The bottom line is that I tend to agree with Zhang’s conclusions. But the main reason I’m posting this is that it reminded me of a shocking news story in today’s NY Times that at first glance seems hopelessly unrelated, namely the rewriting of American textbooks to brainwash teach American children the glories of the US capitalist system, to minimize any reference to the Enlightenment, to lionize conservative freaks like Phyllis Schlafly and right-wing propaganda machines like the Heritage Foundation, and to generally turn our textbooks into vehicles for the distribution of GOP talking points.

One of my favorite bloggers offers a blunt description of this inexcusable revisionism.

The intent is two-fold:

1. To render a public school education all but worthless by teaching blatant lies and distortions, thereby advancing the long-desired rightwing meme is, in fact, worthless and should be eliminated.

2. As long as there must be a public education system, indoctrinate children to in the lie that rightwing/christianist authoritorianism is a core American value and not, in fact, the very antithesis of the Americanism the Founders intended.

Textbook procurement protocols must be changed to eliminate the influence of these ignorant, malicious lunatics from the national discourse. Otherwise, we deserve everything that’s coming to us.

Amen to that.

Over the years one of the most heated topics here has been US vs. Chinese education and which system is more guilty of “brainwashing” its students.

All education is going to have a propaganda element to it. I remember a high school textbook from the Cold War in which all the photos of Moscow and East Germany were taken on gray, rainy days, with people walking with their faces turned down against the wind. However, I also remember being taught to question the government, to understand the importance of checks and balances over a system that could easily be corrupted, and to remember the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow and, yes, the massacre of Native Americans.

And then I remember the descriptions in River Town of all the political slogans built into the Chinese curriculum, of the extolling of the one-party system, of the deification of Chairman Mao, etc. This is a radically different approach from the US system, and we see its manifestation in the writings of Hong XIng and Math and others who seem incapable of a nuanced discussion that doesn’t paint the US as inherently evil and China as inherently great. I’ve had no choice but to conclude that while the US educational system is deeply imperfect, it’s way lower on the brainwashing scale than China’s.

And then I read today about the aforementioned rape of US textbooks by the Texas Board of Education and I have to conclude that if they really pull this off my argument will be greatly weakened. This is nothing less than pure propaganda, complete with racism (see the part of the article on writing Latinos out of the textbooks) and an endorsement of Americans’ Manifest Destiny. And these changes were initiated by a hopelessly ignorant dentist with no background in history. Something is so wrong with America at the moment. The neanderthal beliefs of the right-wing fringe, dripping with prejudice and hate and ignorance, have become mainstream and are about to be taught to our children as Truth.

Can we criticize China when crimes like this are being committed in the US? Sure; but this certainly gives more power to those who retort with the “America does it too” meme. And maybe they have a fair point.

The Discussion: 45 Comments

My first observation is: it’s Texas. I mean. Seriously. Texas. I don’t think anything Texas does can be used to reflect broader American principles. The only time Texas matters is when we do something like elect someone from Texas as president. Otherwise, even the Texans themselves are irrationally proud and bombastic about their legacy having been their own “country” and being unique, almost to a deliberately contrarian bent, with the rest of the States.

But that’s low-hanging fruit. What about looking at the silver lining to the Texas thing? It’s a demonstration of citizens democratically electing, or opting into the brainwashing of their children. That spills into deeper questions, like “who owns children?” and I word that deliberately bluntly but the question of how much of a degree parents have over their childrens’ education is a legitimate one. Ideally – and I admit it’s not as simple as this – someone who finally gets fedup with the Texan education system can move to another state. It’s not *that* easy in reality but something in me wants to point out the difference between a top-down imposed brainwashing ala PRC schooling and a bottom-up grassroots “please brainwash us” effort as in Texas.

March 14, 2010 @ 3:18 am | Comment

Thanks for commenting, but you are totally wrong. It is NOT just Texas:

The effects will be felt far beyond Texas, because of its dominant influence over US textbook publishing. According to one estimate, 90 per cent of all American schools use the books approved by Texan officials. Social studies texts are likely, therefore, to give new prominence to Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” and the role of Christianity in US history.

Even Fox News acknowledges the effect this will have nationwide.

Texas is in the process of adopting its social studies standards, which only happens every ten years. The standards cover U.S. Government, American History, World History, and more, and they affect how students in grades K – 12 see America, its founding principles, and its heroes for the next decade.

More than that, because Texas is one of the largest consumers of textbooks in the nation, publishers use these curriculum standards for textbooks that are distributed in nearly every state in the union. Thus, what happens in Texas will impact the nation.

Where Texas textbooks go, so go the nation’s. Wake up.

March 14, 2010 @ 3:32 am | Comment

It’s a demonstration of citizens democratically electing, or opting into the brainwashing of their children.

Oh wow, my faith in democracy has been restored!

March 14, 2010 @ 3:36 am | Comment

Unfortunately, this perspective is common beyond Texas. It’s amusing to think about how surprised the dentist, Don McLeroy, would be to realize similarities between the Texas Board of Education and the Chinese Communist Party. But that would require an open-minded approach to reading.

March 14, 2010 @ 5:24 am | Comment

… the Chinese Communist Party is a type of autocracy—an unreasonable system of government.

Who is to say a system of government is reasonable or unreasonable? I believe it should be judged by it’s own people. Not foreign “journalists” or foreign governments. They (the foreigners) should mind their own business. Don’t they have a lot of their own business to mind? I think so.

A government system that delivers is a “reasonable” system, a good system. One party, two parties, … who cares? Black cat, white cat, the one that catches mice is a good cat.

In Taiwan, the major (if not the only) concern of either party is how to win the elections, how to oppose the other party in anything and everything. I do not see that is superior to the one party system in the mainland. Quite the opposite.

By the way, in my opinion, as long as there are foreign powers supporting the separatists (or whatever you call them) in Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, the Chinese people will be a lot better off having the one party system. If they are to avoid foreign invasion, occupation, and all the humiliation,… again.

(No comments on American matters. )

March 14, 2010 @ 8:34 am | Comment

Great juxtaposition, I guess the only real glaring difference is that in China those willing to distort history to support their party actually have total power to do so regardless of public challenge to whatever narrative they push, whereas the fact that there is a NY times article publicizing the Texas BOE attempts to rewrite US history actually gives people the chance to debate and challenge such an action.

This is heart of the difference between our two countries. If the US was like China and the Texas BOE were in charge, your children would already be reading lies and you wouldn’t know any better, but as it stands you have the chance to be outraged, complain, debate, and organize and opposition to such policies if you so wish (without getting your head knocked in). Does that mean that this sort of thing will stop. Of course not, there will always be people who seek to “legislate” their belief systems onto others, but at least we have the right to fight them.

Point being yes I feel no hypocrisy in criticizing China as a US citizen because I equally oppose such distortions of history at home. Your analysis is tempered to the whole “China vs. USA” nonsense (i.e. Americans do it, so they can’t complain when China does the same), when in fact both cases should be condemned equally regardless of who is doing the criticizing…

March 14, 2010 @ 9:23 am | Comment

And no, I’m sorry but whispering criticisms in the privacy of your home and in chat rooms at this point is not comparable at this point. When someone gets sentenced to more than a year in prison for simply shouting human rights slogans outside a courthouse, you simply cannot make a solid claim that China has “freedom of speech and protest” like the US. Yes, it has the laws establishing the right, but in practice they simply do not exist, and as much as people want to say that things are getting better, the last 4-5 years have proven otherwise. I hate the word apologist, but people are too forgiving in this regard and seem to always consider the current state of Chinese “rights” in comparison to Mao’s China, in which case anything would look more “free”. Perspectives need to change on this as people continually give the situation in China more praise than its due, many of the China optimists make the same mistake as the “red scare” extremists i.e. their judgments of China’s progress are still stuck in an outdated comparative framework. (This is not to say that I don’t appreciate how far things have come and how much things have the potential to change in the coming years, but when you have cases like Liu Xiaobo and Tan Zuoren to point to it is difficult to justify an argument that China has freedom of speech).

March 14, 2010 @ 10:00 am | Comment

I am an evolutionary biologist in Texas. Oh yes what a shock! The idea that it is just Texas making decisions for public schools is ridiculous if you forget what Kansas and the Dover school district did in the past.

Not everything should be democratic. We do not directly elect our Supreme Court justices. They are appointed by a guy who was elected by delegates who the people choose. Schools should be run by teachers and those in the business of education, not by mob mentality. The problem is that we have a public school system in which the government decides what will be taught and what will not be taught. The people on this board that decides may or may not have any idea how to teach a class.

Maybe it is a good thing that most students do not retain any information they receive in high school. I myself slept most of my time in school or read my own books.

March 14, 2010 @ 10:16 am | Comment

A while ago I was thinking of writing something about the parallels between Maoist principles and conservative American strategy — specifically, the notion of 农村包围城市, “The countryside surrounds the cities,” This was a strategy of mobilizing support in godawful shitholes that nobody in their right minds would want to live in, in order to choke off the power of places full of real people.

I never wrote it because it was just too depressing. As is basically anything to do with systemized education in the US.

March 14, 2010 @ 10:18 am | Comment

I Believe It’s Totally OK to Violate Freedom of Speech

Recently, Jackie Chen said in public that “I believe that we Chinese need to be controlled, we cannot be too free, otherwise the society will be too chaotic”. This statement of course received heavy critcism from any rightists and intellecutals. Their main critcism is that they think that some freedoms such as freedom of religion, speech, news, are considered “basic human right”, and cannot be violated.

This post wants to say that all freedoms, regardless of type, are correlated with resources. Generally speaking, more resources will result in more freedoms, and vice versa. Freedoms will increase as resources increase, and vice versa. This simply cannot be helped. If resources are completed depleted, then freedoms will be completely eliminated.

Let’s first talk about breathing. We all agree that “freely breathing the air on the earth” is a “non-debatable” human right. But where is this freedom based on? Well, this freedom is based on nothing but the resource of air on earth. We have so much air on earth that we do not need to ration it, and do no need to discuss how to distribute air to everyone. If air is not so abundant, then it could be a different story….

For example, if one day we moved to Mars, and the air on Mars is too thin to be breathed. So there are factories built on Mars to produce breathable air, and the resultant air is distributed in bottles. Under this situation, air becomes a product, and there’ll be companies competing to produce air. Some air is high quality that only rich people can afford to buy. The low quality air will cause great damage to people’s health and will shorten people’s lives by 20 years, but they are cheap, so the poor people can only buy those air to breathe. Under this scenario, “breathing air freely” is no longer a “sacred” human right. It comes an economic question of “air distribution”

Now let’s talk about the resources behind a type freedom most rightists are excited about: freedom of speech. Let me first divide freedom of speech into two parts: 1) Producing sound with one’s vocal cord 2) Writing things down on paper.

Let’s first talk about producing sounds: if you are living in a mountain alone, then you can produce as much sound for as long as you want, because in the mountain the sound will not travel far enough to affect others. But if you are in a movie theater, then the sounds you produce will definitely affect others. Why? That’s because sound waves interfere with eath other in the air. In other words, the space of the medium (in this case, air) determines the abundance of your resource. The space inside a theater is devoted to transmitting the sound from the movie, and is shared by everyone in the theater. If you speak loudly, then you are disrupting that shared space, and therefore it’s equal to damaging public property. Therefore, this is also a case of “resource distribution”. Same scenario applies to living in a dorm with many roommates, it limits your “freedom to make any sound you want”.

Now, what about press freedom? Well, press freedom is even more dependent on resources, it depends on money, on the staff you can hire, on your broadcasting equipment, on your news room, on your buildings, on the quality of your microphone, etc etc etc.

Now, you may ask, “Ok, but what about freedom of ideas? Freedom of mind? Don’t tell me freedom of ideas and mind is also dependent on resources!” Well, I’m sorry to dissapoint you, but freedom of ideas very much depends on resources. You use your brain to come up with ideas, right? Are brain cells not a type of resource? Brain is just a type of computer for yourself. If you use your brain to think about this thing, then you won’t have time to think about that thing. If you are forced to think about what to wear tomorrow, you will not have time to solve the math problem for tomorrow, and vice versa. So of course freedom of ideas is also a “resource distribution” problem.

If a social group has enough power to bombard a type of idea/product to the society, and it forces people to think about that ideas/product all the time, it’ll basically occupy the brain resource of the people, and cause great misuse of the brain of the people. This can be called Propaganda. Propaganda is just a way to occupy the brain resouces of others and cause them to misuse it. There are many famous examples of propaganda in the world, such as CNN, Voice of America, BBC, Microsoft, etc.

Now, we come to freedom of religion. That of course depends on resources as well. No one is born to have a certain faith. And there are those who have no faith for their entire lives. And those who switch faith 50 times during their lives. It takes time to accept a type of faith. It’s impossible for you to believe in Communism after only talking to a Communist for 2 minutes. It takes a certain amount of information for someone to accept a certain faith. When someone is young, it takes approximately 500Mb of information feeding from a certain faith for him to accept it. So basically whichever faith group has more money to send massive information to people will have a higher chance of getting believers. So the reason Christianity is so powerful today is simply because Christianity has enough money to bombard others with information and occupy and interfere with their brain resources.

Now, some people believe that “freedom of faith is a basic human right”. But this sentence is very illogical. If there’s freedom of fatih, the can my faith be “No freedom to believe in any religion”. That is, it is against my faith believe in any religion. Should you respect that? If faith is such a sacred thing, then if there’s a country that is based on the faith of “no religion”, then can that country attack a Christian-based country to defend the faith of “no religion”? Is the faith of “no religion” equally sacred as the faith of “Christianity”, under the principles of freedom of faith? That illogicity has never been answered by people.

The above basically says that all types of freedom are correlated with the abundance of resources. Resouces can also be called wealth. So, freedom is positively correlated with wealth. All human activities attempt to increase wealth, because increased wealth leads to increased freedom. But people’s reproductive abilities are very high, this causes the society to become very crowded, and that leads to a reduction in resources, which in turn leads to a reduction in freedom. This simply cannot be helped. In other words, the more crowded a society is, the more likely people will interfere with each other when they practice their freedoms. And as a result, such crowded societies need the support of public services and public policy making. For example, roads: a non-crowded society does not need road management, and does not need red-green lights. But a crowded society needs road management, traffic police, etc etc.

Is freedom important? Well yes it is. But if all we do is propagandizing about the benefits of freedom without researching the correlated question of “resource distribution”, then this type of propaganda is very unhealthy to society.

March 14, 2010 @ 11:01 am | Comment

@t.c. lim

the Chinese people will be a lot better off having the one party system. If they are to avoid foreign invasion, occupation, and all the humiliation,… again.

China used to have one empress dowager running the country. But it did not save the country from foreign invasion, occupation and humiliation. It’s a myth manufactured by the ruling class that autocracy has anything gotta do with national defense.

March 14, 2010 @ 11:56 am | Comment

@t.c. lim

Who is to say a system of government is reasonable or unreasonable? I believe it should be judged by it’s own people.

Without freedom of expression, how is it possible for the Chinese people to express what they think about this system they have now without fear?

They (the foreigners) should mind their own business. Don’t they have a lot of their own business to mind?

China obviously do think so if foreign involvement works in its favor. Look at the arms they are supplying to Sudan. Shouldn’t they mind their own business and leave the Sudanese people alone if they should be taken to task at their own words?

March 14, 2010 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

I’m so done with paleo-conservatives or whatever you want to call them — fundamentalist wing-nuts — having the cultural influence they have. They are not a majority. Our system is in part based on protecting the rights of minorities but it isn’t about propagating their irrational belief systems.

About 25% of this country is insane.

March 14, 2010 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

One of the top selling history books on Amazon (if not the top selling history book at the moment) is a “Patriotic History of the United States,” a supposed corrective to Howard Zinn and others who seek a more inclusive and critical look at US history. In this version, for one example, the Spanish destruction of Aztec culture could be seen as a blessing because the Aztec kings were brutal overlords who persecuted other local tribes and carried out human sacrifice. Thus many people living in the area saw Cortes as a liberator not a conqueror.

(Now where have I seen that argument used recently? Wait, it’ll come to me…)

In any case, the Texas case is positively chilling but unsurprising. As Orwell famously wrote, “those who control the present control the past, those who control the past can control the future.”

System legitimization is a strong motivation for those in power to mess with education, and history education in particular.

I am glad however that this ludicrous case is getting media attention and drawing the heated criticism it so richly deserves. People may recall that it was just such a debate over the issue of history textbooks (notably an article by historian Yuan Weishi) that resulted in the “reorganization” of the journal Freezing Point and led to the ouster of editor Li Datong.

Thanks for writing this post.

March 14, 2010 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

“Something is so wrong with America at the moment. The neanderthal beliefs of the right-wing fringe, dripping with prejudice and hate and ignorance, have become mainstream and are about to be taught to our children as Truth.”

Take a chill pill, Richard. Like you, I’m disgusted by this news – just as I was disgusted a few years ago when proponents of intelligent design in Pennsylvania seemed on the brink of doing away with Darwin in science classrooms in their state. Disgusted, that is, until a federal court judge ruled against them. (The judge in question not only ruled against the Pennsylvania school board, he did so with extreme prejudice, describing their position as “breathtaking inanity.” Nice, huh?)

“Can we criticize China when crimes like this are being committed in the US? Sure; but this certainly gives more power to those who retort with the ‘America does it too’ meme. And maybe they have a fair point.”

Nonsense. So a few fanatics on the Texas School Board have chosen to honor Phyllis Schlafly. The sky is not falling. Kids in America are bombarded by so many different messages from so many different places that the damage, if any, will be minimal. The U.S. is hardly hitting bottom. After all, while the Russian government has chosen to rehabilitate Stalin and the Chinese continue to put Mao on all their money (and half their television dramas), all the Texas School Board has done is to mildly revise a social studies textbook that was already less than perfect. Indeed, I’m less concerned about American teenagers learning about Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation that I am about them continuing to learn the 60-year old yarn about how the United States’ decision to drop two atomic weapons on Japan was, in fact, an act of mercy that saved a million lives. Next to that whopping, self-valorizing narrative, any mention of Phyllis Schlafly is less than inconsequential. Likewise, flawed American textbooks do not prevent Americans from purchasing any number of excellent and highly nuanced books on U.S. politics and history from their local bookstore or Amazon. Similarly, I don’t recall having to use a VPN while in the U.S. just to read something on Wikipedia. As you well know, such is not the case in China.

The level of public outcry over the Texas Board of Education’s recent efforts is encouraging. Similar public outcry is virtually unheard of here in China, where the patriotic rewriting of textbooks takes place uncontested. Don’t believe me? The next time you’re in China, stop by a major bookstore and purchase a copy of a middle- or high-school world history textbook. Such textbooks are an embarrassment. (Pay particular attention to much of what these textbooks say about the U.S.) And Chinese history textbooks are no better. (Cultural Revolution? What Cultural Revolution?) They offer little more than a thin veneer of truth and lots of grotesque myth-making. Anyone (e.g., Hong Xing, Math, and putz_ster) who attempts to draw an equivalence between the lame efforts of a few ignorant right wing nuts in Texas and those of the CCP is looney tunes. It’s true that neither China nor the U.S. is perfect. Even so, the U.S. is much, much better.

Stop watching Fox. You’ll feel better.

March 14, 2010 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

If this were limited to just Texas I would think little of it. Texas influences all US textbooks. For the teachers, the sky really is falling. The level of outcry coming from the reality-based community is nothing compared to the roar of approval from the right. If we don’t respond with alarm then our textbooks will be an extension of Fox News. They are well on the way. I know the state of textbooks in China. That’s why we should be alarmed. It can happen. The fact that Fox News has the audience and the power it does means we should be alarmed. To say that the students can get other information elsewhere thanks to Wikipedia offers little comfort, because most students won’t bother looking, especially if the indoctrination starts early. All the truth is out there on the Internet (along with plentiful nonsense), and yet we put George W. Bush into office twice. The fact that he stole the first election is further proof of just how powerful the far right is. The same information is out there for the Chinese, yet most still believe much of what they are taught in their textbooks. Ever talk to a native Chinese about Taiwan or Tibet, even the well educated? Ignore this development and laugh it off at your own peril. There is a reason teachers are hysterical. For them, the sky is indeed falling. Maybe it will be stopped, but not if we’re complacent and take the attitude that it’s fine because kids can still find the answers on the Internets.

March 15, 2010 @ 2:42 am | Comment

And now we see that the wife of a Supreme Court justice has just launched her own Tea Party group. The infection of mainstream politics with right-wing ideology that years ago would have been dismissed as loony Bircherism is a matter of fact.

March 15, 2010 @ 3:25 am | Comment

Excellent post, Richard. And excellent response to Gan Lu.

March 15, 2010 @ 6:55 am | Comment

I recall reading about the fundies warping of history in Texas
The comments are rather illuminating and reassuring 😉

Something regarding US-China and soft power/diplomacy…
“It has mistaken the soft diplomacy of Barack Obama for weakness, mistaken the US credit crisis for decline, and mistaken its own mercantilist bubble for ascendancy”
This is, of course, an opinion piece and so must be read as such. History will tell us if he’s right or wrong (depending, of course, how history will be written)

March 15, 2010 @ 8:47 am | Comment

And tea parties…

Sad thing about the internet and all this information – makes the whole world a fucked up place to be!

March 15, 2010 @ 8:53 am | Comment

For those Americans who are whining about being the victims of mental rape by their education system in their school age, you should consider yourselves very lucky not to have been raped by the Chinese educational system, which is brutal and explicit.

Unscrupulous countries like China, N. Korea and Iran are obligated to brainwash their people for obvious reasons. They want their people to be prepared, such as, “armed with the spiritual atomic bomb” (once it was called Chairman Mao’s ideology), to resist the invasion by Western culture and ideology. The U.S. needs to counteract, in one way or another, its ideological enemies, who preach that Google is bad, democracy causes chaos, the Internet is subversive, etc. Brainwashing to certain degree with the right stuff is nothing wrong, considering that other countries do it masterly and excessively and brainwash their poor people with ridiculous doctrines.

March 15, 2010 @ 9:15 am | Comment

just because China’s or North Korea’s systems are worse doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “whine” when our own system follows their cues. If you think glorifying Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation in some way “counteracts…its ideological enemies, who preach that Google is bad, democracy causes chaos, the Internet is subversive, etc.” then you are delusional.

March 15, 2010 @ 9:30 am | Comment

I bet El Chino AIP is a Mainlander. Why? Look at the violence of his language. He adopts the same rhetorical style and mentality as a Mainland Fenqing: vicious attacks, hypoerbolic language, lack of evidence and rational reasoning, and as he has just shown in his latest post, the typical “they are worse, so it’s ok for us to do it” logic. Unfortunately, the current “Chinese democratic movement” is full of people like him – hardly an improvement over the CCP. Just imagine when they get into power, what makes you think they’ll be less authoritarian and vicious?

They are the victims of CCP’s education, even when they are attacking the CCP.


March 15, 2010 @ 10:57 am | Comment

Hi! Liu, probably you are a new comer (welcome on board) and apparently you don’t know that I never support the democracy in China and I am never a democratic activist, because I believe the people in China don’t deserve democracy and freedom and they don’t have the character and EQ (emotional quotient) to handle things like democracy. Anyway, I am flattered to know you assume I am one of them (thanks). Those democratic activists are not successful in their cause, because they have over-estimated the people in China and try to make they do what they are unable to do

March 15, 2010 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

Yes, I think we all get the point that the Texas BOE, in a sense, does have an inordinate degree of influence (although indirectly) over the content of the textbooks that publishers end up printing. But if people in other states are upset about their textbooks used in their schools, what the Texas BOE does or doesn’t do is beside the point.

I hope you are participating in a grassroots movement in your state to bring pressure on your own BOE to stop buying those Texas-approved textbooks, and to tell the publishers what type of books your state’s school system will and will not pay for. The publishers just want to make money, so if they risk a loss of profits in your state, I’m sure they will be quite happy to print whatever your state wants them to print.

Also, the same World and U.S. History textbooks that McGraw-Hill and other big publishers sell in Texas are sold in other states in other versions. So, you will see the Maine version, the Wisconsin version, etc. Does your state buy state-specific versions? If not, why not?

If people in other states are angry at Texas because of the textbooks, it sounds a lot like Europeans who are angry at American because of American fast food and Hollywood movies in their country. Their cinemas would not run those movies and their countrymen would not open American fast-food franchises if the people in that country were not making it profitable to do so. It’s that simple.

They may be idiots, but those Texas BOE members are elected in free and open elections at regular intervals, and people can picket and protest all they want.

Regardless of your feelings toward Texas, it is quite a stretch to make direct comparisons with policy in China, where there are no such elections, no such means of protest, and people have no real means of bringing pressure on policymakers at either the local or the national level.

March 15, 2010 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

I make a comparison with China, but not a direct comparison. I point out how different the US educational system is. But reading the excerpt on China’s soft power and then reading about the Texas BOE’s decision i couldn’t help but see a connection. Does that make America China? Of course not. It just has the potential to take us further down a path in which reason and critical thinking are replaced by GOP talking points, a process we’ve been watching for a number of years. Luckily Americans have a choice and they can reject this path. It is disturbing, however, to see how many Americans are attracted to Teabaggers, Sarah Palin, Rush and Fox News and Glenn Beck and other purveyors of idiocy and fear. It is shocking to see the nation’s textbooks threatened like this.

The publishers just want to make money, so if they risk a loss of profits in your state, I’m sure they will be quite happy to print whatever your state wants them to print.

Please go back to this comment for some reference. Texas sets the stage for 90 percent on America’s textbooks. And I worked for two years in the textbook industry when I first got out of college. It would take years for states to create their own state-specific history textbooks; it’s simply not how it’s done.

March 15, 2010 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

“..Texas sets the stage for 90 percent on America’s textbooks…”

Yes, I have been following this issue for 20 years, and I understand quite clearly the market forces that are involved here.

My point is that the market works this way NOT because “Texas” controls what publishers print, but because other states (for whatever reason) are content to go along with buying the books whose content is influenced by the Texas BOE. Is that plain enough? Blame the other 49 state BOEs that are buying the books, or pressure your state’s BOE to change their procurement policies.

I am a 5th generation Texan, and I agree that those Texas BOE members are total idiots. But if Texas BOE is controlling the textbook content for 90% of U.S. students, then it is only because the other states are ALLOWING them to do that.

I’d love to see large-scale boycotts all across the nation of those books. I think the publishers would figure out real quick that they would need to listen to each state’s BOE in order to maintain their profits. But there does need to be a grassroots movement to put real pressure on policymakers at the state and local level.

Bitching about Texas ain’t gonna help a whole lot.

March 15, 2010 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

Fuck Texas

March 15, 2010 @ 8:28 pm | Comment

This post isn’t “bitching about Texas.” It’s expressing my opinion about a dangerous trend in America, namely the mainstreaming of far-right ideology. If that’s “bitching” then nearly every blog post criticizing the government or political trends – or any trends – can be described that way. Any letter to the editor can be described as “bitching.” This is what blogs are for, to express our thoughts on topical issues. I take objection to that phrase, as it has all sorts of connotations of laziness and pettiness.

It’s easy to say other states can change it, and maybe they will. But that takes time. And the fact that they may have to do so is truly scary. It is a great leap backwards. If you think it’s no big deal, fine.

March 15, 2010 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

This is why communities, not state or national governments, should decide what’s taught in schools. Education isn’t something that can be centralized like a corporate product and distributed via franchise to consumers (which is probably why there’s only one Harvard, Yale, Oxford, etc). It’s is complicated, which means it’s best kept as local as possible.

Neocons may be at the core of this textbook insanity, but it was well-meaning progressives that gave them the tools to project their views across the entire state and country.

March 15, 2010 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

Neocons may be at the core of this textbook insanity, but it was well-meaning progressives that gave them the tools to project their views across the entire state and country.

Guess well meaning progressives have to take a second look at what they have created. Some people just do not have the responsibility to wield these tools- a line should be drawn when pure insanity starts to override the truth and logic.

March 15, 2010 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

Neocons may be at the core of this textbook insanity, but it was well-meaning progressives that gave them the tools to project their views across the entire state and country.

I don’t know, and am curious: at what point did progressives do this? About keeping it all local, I also don’t know. That would mean a complete dismantling of the system; maybe that would be good – obviously what we’re seeing now is awful. But if the local school boards fall into the hands of fanatics… And that is the strategy of the far-right; take over the school boards by stealth. Stupid they aren’t. Ignorant maybe, but not stupid.

My bottom line: put the curriculum and the materials in the hands of educators and not elected school boards who have no experience in what they are dictating, and who have blatant ideological agendas.

March 16, 2010 @ 12:06 am | Comment

Hey, I’m all for more bitching on blogs like this.

But I think you are pretending not to see my point. And that’s fine, this is your blog. My apologies for trying to participate in the discussion.

I am not objecting to protests and complaints about the problems in the textbook situation that you brought up. In fact, I share those objections.

My point was that protests and complaints about the situation are pointless unless they are directed at the real source of the problem. In this case, “why is my state buying those textbooks?” would be a far more pertinent question than “why are the Texas BOE members such idiots?”

March 16, 2010 @ 12:50 am | Comment

I don’t disagree with that at all. And I never asked why the BOE members in Texas are idiots – I already know.

But I also see it as a larger issue. The textbooks are just a symptom of a nationwide phenomenon. Ideas that hitherto would have been deemed unworthy of discussion have now become mainstream, such as accusing the president of being a terrorist sympathizer or a closet Marxist or an illegal alien from Kenya. This is one piece of a larger mosaic.

March 16, 2010 @ 12:57 am | Comment

For an extraordinary look at how the Texas BOE does business, go check out this post live-blogging the debate of what should/shouldn’t be included in its Social Studies curriculum. Some of the highlights:

9:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.


12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”

12:35 – Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans vote no, Democrats vote yes.

12:38 – Let the word go out here: The Texas State Board of Education today refused to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others. They voted to lie to students by omission.

Your tax dollars at work, Texas.

March 16, 2010 @ 7:15 am | Comment

My bottom line: put the curriculum and the materials in the hands of educators and not elected school boards who have no experience in what they are dictating, and who have blatant ideological agendas.

That would mean less democracy and more centralised control which will sooner or later the curriculum ends up in the hands of the “other side”.

March 16, 2010 @ 9:10 am | Comment

Sorry, that should be:

more centralised control which will sooner or later end up in the hands of the “other side”.

Educators are not necessarily neutral, in fact educators is exactly what blatant ideologues see themselves as.

March 16, 2010 @ 9:12 am | Comment

True, but who is neutral? A tough call.

March 16, 2010 @ 9:17 am | Comment

The people who aren’t blatantly writing important facts out of history of course

March 16, 2010 @ 11:12 pm | Comment

Nobody is neutral, but it doesn’t matter if they are only setting the curriculum at a local level. Let a hundred schools compete.

March 17, 2010 @ 9:07 am | Comment

I’ll say it one more: Texas curriculum affects the nation’s. That’s why this has become a national story. There was no such stress when it looked like Kansas was going to purge their curriculum of evolution. Go back up the thread and read why.

March 17, 2010 @ 9:19 am | Comment


I don’t see this so much as right-wing ideology going mainstream, but rather it is a typical reaction of a party not in power. Extreme views are more present as I think the “right” is in a bit of confusion right now, so only the most annoying and extreme views get heard since the moderates either crossed party lines or are simply staying quiet.

March 18, 2010 @ 8:21 am | Comment

Chip, they have been working on this for years and years. I was sounding alarms about it back in 2000 as I saw the Evangelicals stealthily taking over school boards. It got started under Reagan, but they never developed the clout to do this sort of thing until the Bush years, when Focus on the Family and other sham religious organizations staged a full-frontal assault on the educational system. It blossomed under Bush, and here we see its culmination.

March 18, 2010 @ 8:40 am | Comment

[…] Math of course rails against America, its inferior food and women and government, and lavishes praise on everything China, including the Great Leap Forward and, needless to say, the TSM. He rejects the creativity of the West in favor of the “discipline” of the East. He lauds Mao’s genius in adding brillinat new phrases to the English vocabulary (!), and he lambastes the US for its freedom of speech. […]

September 2, 2010 @ 8:50 am | Pingback

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