The state of Texas is considering striking the name of Neil Armstrong from the social studies standard. I hate to be the voice of restraint here, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds. The reasoning given is completely bogus (because Armstrong wasn’t a scientist? Give me a break), but the action is not unreasonable. The state should not be in the position of dictating the niggling details of instruction — they should be laying down the law on the broad picture of what is taught, but not how it was taught.
So what the curriculum should do is say that the social studies classes for that grade level should do is discuss the space program, its goals and its effects on American society. It shouldn’t be saying that the teacher has to do this by asking students to memorize the names of famous astronauts — that’s a pedagogical decision that should be made by the teacher. I would hope that most teachers would see that talking about the people in the space program is a great way to humanize the topic, but I wouldn’t want the BOE to be meddling to that degree in the classroom.
Similarly, I think it is fair for a state curriculum to insist that biology classes cover the principles of evolution…but it would be inappropriate to demand that it be done by teaching about Darwin. You can do a fine job of discussing evolution without mentioning ol’ Charles even once.