Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Texas public school history books under fire thanks to Texas beauty queen

Originally written in January 2010.

Social studies textbooks in Texas public schools are under scrutiny. Evidently, parents, teachers and some activists got all balled up about how our children are taught history and now everything’s being examined, re-examined and re-re-examined. When I first read the story in the news, I panicked. I thought they were going to take Texas history completely out of the curriculum. Not so, I’m happy to say. But there is a fly in the (beauty) ointment.

The hubbub is not about references to Christmas, Cesar Chavez or even the religious views of our nation’s founders as much as there’s a bit of a stink about Texas cosmetic queen being mentioned in school textbooks more often than Christopher Columbus. Now y’all…this is where I get a bit agitated.

I’m not knocking Columbus or his 15 minutes of fame when he set foot on The Bahamas some five hundred years ago. But y’all, he never came to Texas. Mary Kay Ash, however, changed the faces and fortunes of Texas women, and the world. So let’s get our priorities straight here.

Ash worked in the traditional workplace for half her life and after getting passed over for a promotion that was rightfully hers, she quit. She didn’t get mad, either, but she did get even. In 1963, Ash launched her own cosmetics business in Dallas. The difference in the way she did business and the business practices of her previous employers is that she used incentive programs rather than sales territories to motivate her employees. And she operated under the basic tenet of treating others well. In five years, Mary Kay Inc. went public.

Ash was a Dallas blonde, too. So that right there tells you the lady was motivated as well as successful.

Columbus, bless his heart, has been a controversial figure in history classes. Whether he was the first European to find the Americas or he trailed the Vikings in discovering what the indigenous people of the Americas found thousands of years earlier, his place in history is pretty solid if a bit questionable. He takes a lot of heat for what his arrival meant to those who were already here. One could say (and it has been said) that Columbus might have been a rather shady character, too.

Not so with Mary Kay Ash.

Ash wasn’t just the Texas cosmetics queen; she wrote several books about marketing. She was considered someone worth taking seriously in American business. And, pink Cadillacs aside, the lady made money in just about everything she did and she showed others how to do it too.

Now that’s making your mark in the world.

All kidding aside, I do realize the importance of European exploration and what it meant in the five centuries post-Renaissance. But I just have to chuckle that we’re all goony over how many times Mary Kay Ash appears in history books over Columbus. I mean, honestly; so what?

For the record, Ash is mentioned twice; Columbus only once in the books in question. If all our teachers relied on were schoolbooks, I’d worry. But the fact is, most Texas schoolteachers do an excellent job in using other teaching tools to educate. Our teachers have a greater impact on our children than textbooks. They educate, motivate and persevere in the toughest environments and against the greatest odds. The times that Texas teachers positively touch the lives of our children are worth counting more than the times an historical figure gets a mention in a textbook.

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