Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hope not

To hear 'em tell it over at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, the "Reagan test" goes sort of like this: Open textbook to part about Reagan. Does it say Reagan won the Cold War? If not -- fail.

Such, at least, is the happy result you get when you have a limited pool of Usual Suspects for your sources and the pride of the lot is, um, Larry Schweikart:

Schweikart says the majority of books he’s examined credit former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev with ending the Cold War, and not Reagan. That's “a joke,” Schweikart says. “I lived through the Reagan years, I remember.”

So did I, pal. And so do more than a few of us.

Schweikart says the textbooks' authors bring an inherently liberal viewpoint to their work.

“They all tend to come from New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia,” giving them a “drastically” different viewpoint from the rest of America, he says.

Ah, the relentless logic of the people we trust our ... wait, what?

Anyway, we could make fun of Larry Schweikart as long as the fish food, the barrels and the explosives hold out, but there's a larger point at play. The Fox cousins are pumping a lot of air, both "news" and editorial, into the Texas "textbook wars":

Again, that’s part of why the liberals attack. They don’t like the concept of American exceptionalism, both by those who were born here and by the other great high-skilled men and women who are so attracted to the United States that they moved here from other countries.

Thankfully, the conservatives on the SBOE once again held the line. Edison and Einstein are back in World History. An attack to remove “B.C.” and “A.D.” -- denoting historical time periods before and after the birth of Christ – also lost, and, so far, the attempt to remove the statement about the religious basis of the founding of the country has failed.

OK, fine. I think it's a big story too. Fox has the heroes and the villains distinctly backward (not much of a surprise), but when it stumbles on a real story rather than a manufactured one, I'm all for a bit of agenda-setting. The question is why no one else -- the NYT being a fairly diligent exception -- seems to think there's a story here.

I don't expect the local fishwrap to start carrying national news again; that's more or less a lost cause. And "national" news at places that still make an occasional stab at it tends to look like -- what do you say, Foremost Newspaper of the Carolinas?

Panera Bread customers around the country soon will be able to tally calories for their smokehouse turkey panini and broccoli cheddar soup with just a glance at the menu board.

Well, stop the press.

National news doesn't (and shouldn't) always have a direct value. It works indirectly; it helps you figure out how the rest of the country works, whether the sorts of goings-on it describes end up on your doorstep or not. And when the Talibs are running the school board, it's worth sitting up and taking notice. In this case, as Fox quite correctly points out, faraway decisions can have a big local impact.

If you haven't seen a nice, heavy takeout on the Texas textbook spat, perhaps it's worth calling the AP and politely asking it to get its nose out of the menu and pay attention to the news.

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