The High Five
11:07 am
Tue January 29, 2013

The Culture War Behind Texas' Textbooks

Five stories that have North Texas talking: The Revisionaries premieres, Jeff Whittington in a van with his band and more.

Few other game-changers in public education have been debated like Texas' public school textbooks. The curriculum chosen for 4.7 million students in Texas at the turn of this decade has had a huge effect. Consider a rule made in 2009 by the Texas State Board of Education requiring books to challenge evolution by noting gaps in the fossil record and the complexity of the human cell.

A year later, the board put out a mandate for the words "constitutional republic" and "free-market enterprise" to replace "democracy" and "capitalism." SBOE member Mary Helen Berlanda pushed a pile of history books from her desk to the floor as she mourned the change. The Revisionaries, a film debuting on KERA Channel 13 tonight at 10 p.m., looks at how the decisions made in Austin affected public education nationwide.

In 2011, Senate Bill 6 drained the board of its power and gave control to local school systems. But the impact the 15 members had on this nation's culture war is unmistakable. Observe:

Watch Witness a Texas Showdown Over Teaching Standards on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

  • Governor Rick Perry delivers his seventh State of the State speech today before the 83rd Legislature in Austin. He's expected to propose a huge chunk -- "several billion" dollars -- from the Rainy Day fund go toward a one-time investment water and infrastructure projects. He's not expected to side with those who'd use the fund for continuing projects. [UPDATE 1:15 p.m. : We'll have video of the speech once it's rendered -- the Texas Tribune streamed it live at 11 a.m.] Retrace Perry's steps through his governorship via the Trib's coverage of the first six speeches.
  • Urban designer Patrick Kennedy thinks we should just get rid of Dallas' endangered IH-345. Completely. He uses the ideas of city-life visionary Jane Jacobs to back that up: Large infrastructure can interfere with day-to-day life. "For downtown to take off, we have to light a fire, not fill a bucket," he writes. [D Magazine]

Credit BJ Austin / KERA News

  •   Developer Craig Hall, who intends to build a residential high rise in the Arts District, wanted to share an exhibit by a sculptor-friend from Iceland before it has a home inside the building. That's what's going on with the 26 standing and sitting figures drawing looks from passersby on the Flora Street side of the Arts District parking garage.
  • In November 1995, KERA's Jeff Whittington was in a van with his bandmates. He was listening to NPR. International news broke that gave him pause. For a moment, he thought, "Hey, if this music thing doesn't pan out, I might want to work for public radio." We know him now as senior producer of Think and host of Anything You Ever Wanted To Know. Find out which news story caught his ear in this spot produced by KERA intern Janine Khammash. [AGREE WITH JEFF]