Warning: Take This Latest Texas Education News With a Salt Shaker

Only days after Chris Comer, the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) head of science curriculum, was forced to resign because of forwarding an email believed to be biased against intelligent design, a new bombshell has splintered the beleaguered agency.  The agency’s chief of mathematics curriculum, Numb R. Cruncher, was fired today because of a dispute about mathematical calculations contained in a third-grade arithmetic book, Let’s! Make! Math! Fun! 4! U!

In an effort to make math “more relevant to today’s third-graders — the future of our great country,” the recently adopted textbook questions the “old wives’ tale” that 2 + 2 = 4.

“Many families are uncomfortable with such rigid, formulaic thinking,” said the book’s publisher, Tatiana Rococo, CEO, COO and Secretary/Treasurer of Hot Off the Press, an Ardmore, Oklahoma-based textbook consortium that vows it “wants to keep its mind open when it comes to math and out of the gutter when it comes to everything else.”

“People like to say 2 + 2 = 4 — like it was a proven fact,” said Ms. Rococo, an Ardmore native who says she dabbles in mathematical pursuits such as astrology, bingo and paint-by-numbers works of art that decorate her sunken living room in her suburban home.  “But that’s so not true!  Not every mathematician agrees.  In fact, there’s lots of controversy about that so-called ‘fact.’

“Many, many very eminent mathematicians argue about it.  Lots of them think 2 + 2 = 5.  I even heard about one of them — I think he was at Harvard — who very firmly and passionately believes it may even be 6.”

Ms. Rococo, the mother of two sets of twins, added laughingly that, “Believe me — 2 + 2 can equal a lot more than four!  I feel like I’ve got 10 kids some days!”

More than anything, Ms. Rococo said, she strongly believes that school districts are taking decisions about education away from children’s parents — and placing them squarely with the state and federal government.  “Do we want to be like Red China?” she says.  “Everybody over there agrees that 2 + 2 = 4.  I think we need to stick to good, old-fashioned American individuality and ingenuity.  That’s what made this country great!”

This reporter’s conversation with Ms. Rococo was interrupted when the publisher insisted she “didn’t have any time to argue.  I’ve gotta go get a manicure right now — and you can quote me on that.  I’m gettin’ fills for all 11 of my fingernails today.”

Back in Austin, where TEA staffers were reportedly disconsolate about the recent firings of two of their co-workers, an agency spokeswoman agreed to speak only on background.

“I’m sure you reporters and big-time liberals are making a big deal out of this,” she said.  “But our agency is here to take Texas schoolchildren into the future.  It’s 2007, and we have to move forward.  Texas is going to be the leading state in this country in the 20th century.  Just wait and see, y’all.”

(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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