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Sept. 2, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

What's the Matter With Texas?

Collins effectively makes the case that while No Child Left Behind may have been something of a success on the state level, it was not designed for the national stage. She correctly points out that some of its early champions have abandoned it, although many of those who have are conservatives who would not agree with Collins about why it has failed. 

Collins also notes that, despite some examples of success in Texas education, notably the charter school movement, the state continues to struggle with educational disparity and graduation rates.

In addition to education, Collins discusses Texas' laws on guns, energy, zoning (or lack there of) and social policy. Collins argues that Texas inflates its successes, from the "victory" at the Alamo to its standardized test scores. These exaggerated claims, in turn, explain how Texas policies are revealed as colossal failures on the national level. 

But "As Texas Goes ..." is not really a book of policy analysis.

Her book is infused with humor, from her Perry quips (asked whether abstinence education works, Perry cites "my own personal life" as an example of success) to her constant questions and criticisms of what really happened at the Alamo. 

Before she even gets started, really, Collins cites Perry quoting Sam Houston, as saying "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression" and proclaims that Houston "was definitely attempting to break away from the country to which Texas was then attached."

On the contrary, Houston was a staunch advocate of the Union and destroyed his political career by opposing secession, the only Southern governor to do so.

Collins makes up for her dubious skills as a historian by putting her reporting skills to good use. The book is filled with dialogue and colorful narratives, moving the reader along through vignettes on policy and history, and tying both together with timely and relevant links to the current political discussion, including the 2012 campaign.   

Liberal and conservative readers who share an affinity for Lone Star State politics can enjoy this book, particularly as Collins takes the reader through some of Texas' more colorful characters and recent events. (Remember the time the Democrats absconded to Oklahoma on a bus to avoid redistricting? Or the collapse of Enron?)  

But loyal Texans will also find plenty to take issue with in Collins' depiction of their beloved home. Nowhere is this more evident than in her derisive analysis of the Texas creation myth.

Collins traces Texans' outsized pride back to the Alamo and the decision to die defending it rather than retreat to support Houston and his troops in a more significant battle. 

Her analysis of the military situation is not unique, but one wonders whether she feels the same about other disastrous/inspirational defeats such as Pearl Harbor or Masada.

When I summarized Collins' conclusion for another Texan, he was aghast at such criticism of the fallen heroes of the Alamo, martyrs who gave the Lone Star Republic the will to continue fighting and win its independence. 

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