Meet Senator Brecheen, Part II - Books on the Bonfire
I’ve been sharing some thoughts on Senator Brecheen lately as background to understanding his recent attack on Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) courses in Oklahoma.
There are perfectly valid debates to be had over the specifics of APUSH here and elsewhere, and I myself am a big fan of challenging and questioning our assumptions and uses of ANY given terminology, program, assessment, etc.
But that’s not what I’m seeing from the Senator so far.
I don’t yet have access to written or videotaped comments by the Senator on this specific bill, but thanks to his love of YouTube I do have a trove on something similar. As you may know, the Senator was vehemently anti-Common Core – not because of its pedagogy, the unclear means of assessment, poor implementation, or even its perceived exacerbation of equity and access issues.
No, his main gripe was that it (a) came with lots of federal money, and (b) required our socialist children to rape one another for the glory of the devil in order to graduate.
I may have the exact phrasing a bit off on that second one – I’ve been watching too much political discussion lately and clear, accurate language is not the norm.
He addresses the first point in this rather laborious interview with Glenn Beck:
Several things jump out at me from this. The first is that Brecheen was afraid the feds were going to take away staples of Oklahoma education like the A-F Report Cards, the new TLE system, our own high-stakes testing, etc. It’s important to remember that he thinks these are the GOOD parts of what we’re currently doing.
The second is that Brecheen finds it silly to make an issue of a few zillion dollars of educational funding. Apparently Oklahoma spends five ooglecrillion dollars every DAY on those edu-whiners, so no one’s gonna notice one way or the other if we add or subtract a few billion here or there.
That was the part that most made me want to smack everyone involved. It’s especially odd that very similar dollar amounts are apparently absolutely ESSENTIAL to the SURVIVAL of core industries in the state when it’s time to cut taxes on the wealthiest slivers of our population yet again.
Then again, they’re “job-creators”, as opposed to whatever it is we do in ‘public school’.
Finally, Brecheen and what’s-his-name smile and nod in agreement with Beck when he claims that states who accept federal money with rules attached are whores. I’m curious as to whether Beck, Brecheen, and what’s-his-name believe this is only true in reference to education dollars, or if it applies equally to funding for highways and other infrastructure, health care, military bases or related industries, etc.
I'm not looking to wage the Common Core war again. I AM suggesting that, as a history teacher, I tend to look to the past to illuminate the present. Brecheen is pushing legislation to save us from another boogeyman. Knowing whether he's lying, insane, or just making it all up as he goes can better prepare us to respond this time around.
Besides, one area of heated criticism in recent months is the connection between Common Core and College Board, the organization behind AP and the SAT. Google “David Coleman” if you’d like a fun read or two (thousand) along those lines. Good times!
So, let’s continue with the Senator’s concerns over Common Core implementation:
OK - I gotta confess that IS a little scary. Prentice Hall and "Pearsons" running everything does terrify me a bit. And we can add ‘edu-company’ names to the list of things the Senator appropriates for his own purposes without actually getting them right - along with scripture, how baseball works, and Common Core materials.
The "suggested reading" to which he refers is from Appendix B to the ELA Standards of Common Core. He highlights Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, which is on Page 152 of the document.
Page 2, on the other hand - and note this is the FIRST PAGE OF THE DOCUMENT after the fancy title and cover art - BEGINS this way:
If he thinks they're up to something, fine - but let's not call it the "Suggested Reading List" if that's explicitly what it claims NOT to be. I understand that facts and details can be inconvenient, but this renders them no less relevant, Senator.
Flip ahead 150 pages or so and you’ll find the entry causing him such concern:
Clearly these aren’t the dirty parts. So here’s a fascinating question…
How many of these pages and pages of titles did the Senator and his staff have to locate and peruse and – god forbid – READ in order to come up with an explicit scene like this? How tickled must they have been to have finally found those vaginas and genitals! Reminds me of the early days of internet searching when you’d finally –
Actually, never mind. That’s not my point. My point is that when facts and irritating details don't fit his predetermined narrative, Senator Brecheen is happy to go to any lengths necessary to make them fit, or at least pretend they do.
My point is that his convictions aren't shaped by reality; his reality is shaped by his conviction.
I don't really have anything for that clip - it just cracks me up. Reminds me of Steve Allen reading rock'n'roll lyrics in the 1950's:
Personally, I’m opposed to dirty books – especially in school. I’m a firm believer that we should avoid anything in history or literature that might make students with complicated lives feel at all connected to what they’re reading or who they’re studying.
First off, they shouldn’t have dysfunctional lives in the first place. I know it’s not technically their fault if they do, but they should have the courtesy to suppress and deny it like we did for hundreds of years and it worked JUST FINE. Second, just because their lives have unpleasant or painful elements doesn’t mean I should have to understand anything about what that must be like, or expect my ‘good’ students to stretch themselves with that sort of insight or empathy.
Since when is school about challenging pre-existing experiences and beliefs about ourselves and our worlds? How is THAT going to help them on the state tests?
I’d personally prefer we stick to nice safe happy books of how things should be and how everyone should feel. That way we have elusive, unreachable ideals to which all students can aspire. Since they'll never reach a point where their lives or efforts can even begin to live up to the fictions we perpetuate, they're far more likely to allow those who sound like they've made it to tell them what to do, or - if we're lucky - to give up altogether.
I just can't see a down side.
But that’s irrelevant in the current APUSH argument. Unless, of course, you replace ‘nice safe happy books’ with ‘over-deified white guys no one can possibly relate to and flashy sanitized fireworks versions of complex events’.
Then, I guess, it’s the same damn thing for the exact same reasons. Fear, entrenched power, venom…
Way to bring it all home, there, Senator! The conflation of Joshua and Elijah followed by the reminder that the 10th Amendment protects "conservative Christian values." In a way, it's the perfect conclusion - once you have the course laid for your crusade, don't worry about what stuff actually says or does or means. Just GO for it, knowing that those who question you need not be answered - they need merely be damned.
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