The Week in Quotes (July 26 – Aug. 1)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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The Week in Quotes (July 19 – 25)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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The Logic of the Wall Street Journal, if You Can Call It That

The Wall Street Journal put up an editorial this week praising Gov. Greg Abbott for his appointment of Donna Bahorich to chair the Texas State Board of Education.

TFN was just one voicing concern over Bahorich’s appointment, in part because she “rejected public education for her own family” and home-schooled her children.

And here’s some of the logic the Journal used to praise the Bahorich appointment:

WSJ

The Texas State Board of Education *IS* the board of public schools! The board does nothing else other than oversee the state’s public school system. If the board had authority over all education, as you seem to imply, then they would also have power to regulate home-schoolers, which, ironically, they don’t.

You can read the full WSJ opinion piece here.

Posted in Donna Bahorich, State Board of Education, TFNEF | 7 Comments

Far-right GOP Group Sets Hate Tour Dates Across Texas

Houston-based Conservative Republicans of Texas, run by the rabidly anti-gay Steven Hotze, announced today a list of events stretching from August into the fall that will target “adversaries” who support LGBT equality and abortion rights:

“Christian, it’s time for us to stand up and fight to take back our government from the godless Secular Humanists, Pro-Abortionists and Political Homosexual Movement. We will trust God! We will take action! We will fight to restore our Constitutional liberties based upon Biblical truth!”

The email includes a Bible verse warning that God “will tread down our adversaries.”

The events are set for eight cities from August 13 to October 1: Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, San Antonio, Tyler, Lubbock, Corpus Christi and Waco. The list of sponsors is a virtual “who’s who” of religious-right groups, including the equally venomous Texas Values and Texas Pastor Council as well as phony historian David Barton of WallBuilders and disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Hotze declares in his incendiary email today:

“Christians must rise up, organize, oppose and defeat those individuals and groups who are committed to bringing sexual and moral anarchy to our society. …

We have a duty to protect our children and our grandchildren from the evil tide of the homosexual political movement, the pro-abortion movement and from the godless, that is sweeping America.”

Hate is on the march.

Posted in abortion, Conservative Republicans of Texas, LGBT issues, Steven Hotze, TFNEF | 5 Comments

Texas Group Worries International Baccalaureate Program Is Turning Students into Leftists

The folks over at Texas Eagle Forum, the state chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right organization, are worried that “leftist” ideology is infiltrating the state’s public schools through the widely respected International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Seriously.

Writing in the group’s May newsletter (which is now available online), Texas Eagle Forum Vice President MerryLynn Gerstenschlager wrings her hands over students at an IB charter school in New Mexico who voted this year for a “Prom-munism” theme  at their end-of-school dance. While students explained that the event theme was intended as something of a joke, right-wingers have latched on to it as an example communism on the rise among American youth.

And Gerstenschlager fears that the International Baccalaureate program is to blame and suggests Texas schools should dump it:

“Could the IB program in an American public school classroom be at the heart of America’s continuing move to the left?

What is wrong with an American education, where our kids learn about American exceptionalism and the things that have made America a shining city on a hill? What could have possibly happened in that IB classroom that skewed such bright minds so much that they lost their way?

Maybe Texas should reconsider this push for an international education through the International Baccalaureate program.”

Yeah, maybe students would be better off with the “superior” education offered by the heavily politicized curriculum standards in Texas — standards requiring students to learn that Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution, that the roots of western government today can be found in the Old Testament and the philosophies of medieval theologians, that slavery wasn’t the cause of the American Civil War and that infamous Red-baiter Joseph McCarthy was right. Brilliant.

This isn’t the first time right-wingers in Texas have targeted the IB program, a rigorous academic program used widely around the world. A few years back conservatives on the State Board of Education worried that Texas students in the IB program were being influenced by French ideas. (Again, seriously.) Other right-wing critics have claimed the program promotes Marxism and anti-Americanism.

Sounds like the right is gearing up for a new assault on IB classes in Texas schools.

Posted in International Baccalaureate, Texas Eagle Forum, TFNEF | 10 Comments

What’s the Deal with Texas History Textbooks and the Civil War?

Since the murder of nine people at an African-American church in Charleston last month and the renewed controversy over the Confederate flag that followed, we’ve seen a slew of stories about what public school textbooks teach about the Civil War. Very early on, we got a call from the Washington Post on this question. While that reporter generally did a good job explaining the nuances of the controversy in Texas, we’ve seen quite a few stories from other media outlets that haven’t quite hit the mark. So let’s set the record straight on some key questions.

In the first place, why would anyone outside the state care what Texas textbooks say about anything?

Because of the huge size of the Texas market, publishers have typically written their textbooks to conform to curriculum standards in this state and then also sold those textbooks in other states around the country. Technology, publishing methods and other factors have somewhat lessened the influence of Texas, but that influence remains strong. That’s largely a consequence of the economics of publishing.

So what’s the problem with the Texas curriculum standards?

Publishers write their textbooks to conform to curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), that are adopted by the State Board of Education. The state board is a 15-member, highly politicized body that has been at the center of raging battles over textbook content for decades.

In 2009, for example, the state board appointed right-wing ideologues like David Barton and Peter Marshall to serve as so-called “expert” advisers in the revision of the Texas curriculum standards for social studies. One of the first things Barton and Marshall did was insist that César Chavez — the renowned community and labor organizer and civil rights leader — be stricken from the standards because they objected to his political beliefs and argued he was a poor role model for students. Fortunately, the subsequent uproar forced the board to reject that demand. But board members proceeded to politicize the standards in other ways, including distorting the history of the Civil War.

In fact, the social studies curriculum standards ultimately adopted by the state board in 2010 were so controversial that a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank, has called them a “politicized distortion of history” with “misrepresentations at every turn.” State board members sharply skewed the standards to the political right on a host of subjects, exaggerating religious influences on the American founding and the Constitution (Moses!), dismissing the separation of church and state (a myth!), trying to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy (he was right!) and, of course, distorting the history of the Civil War and its aftermath.

Fordham’s report criticized the standards for failing even to mention the Black Codes, Jim Crow, sharecropping and the Ku Klux Klan, all important post-Civil War topics. Moreover, the report pointed out that board members purposely downplayed slavery’s role in causing the Civil War. In fact, a board majority rejected efforts to ensure that students learn about the centrality of slavery to that conflict, offering the argument that slavery was just a “side issue.” Historians have soundly rejected the “states’ rights” argument as historical revisionism promoted by Confederate heroes and apologists after the war.

So how did publishers deal with the standards in their textbooks?

The good news is that publishers did a better job than the curriculum standards in their coverage of the Civil War and its causes and aftermath. But they still let politics get in the way of telling students the full truth.

The textbooks generally make clear the centrality of slavery in the lead up to secession and the war. That’s very good. Most also tell students about the Black Codes, Jim Crow, the KKK and other topics important in understanding what happened in the South in the decades after the Civil War. In both cases, the textbooks do a better job of teaching factual history than the state board did in adopting the heavily politicized curriculum standards.

On the other hand, publishers apparently felt compelled to give time to the “states’ rights” argument that the state board was demanding students learn. This revisionist history appears in various ways in the textbooks. Following are some excerpts noted in a report the TFN Education Fund released about the standards in 2010. That report included reviews of the textbooks conducted by scholars from the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Here are some examples of problematic passages in the textbooks:

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States History to 1877
The text states: “Southerners used states’ rights to justify secession. Each state, they argued, had voluntarily chosen to enter the Union. They defined the Constitution as a contract among the independent states. They believed the national government had broken the contract by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying Southern states equal rights in the territories. As a result, Southerners argued, the states had a right to leave the Union.”

Pearson Education – U.S. History: Colonization – Reconstruction
In a section titled “Causes Leading to War,” the text states: “Now a new issue emerged: whether southern states were allowed to secede under the Constitution. Most southerners believed that they had every right to secede. After all, the Declaration of Independence said that ‘it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish’ a government that denies the rights of its citizens. Lincoln, they believed, would deny white southerners the right to own African Americans as slaves.

For many southerners, secession was an issue of states’ rights and sovereignty, or independent control of an area. Many in the southern states believed that states had the sovereign right to secede. According to this view, states had the authority to make decisions without interference from the federal government, and the Constitution created a Union made up of states that could decide to leave the Union at any point. Those states also had the sovereign right to join together to form a new government, such as the Confederacy.”

Discovery Education – United States History (Prehistory-Reconstruction)
Materials include a two-minute video that argues that the states’ rights concept originated in the tariff disputes of 1828-1832. The video goes on to present the nullification controversy as strictly a matter of states’ rights and interests, and gives a sympathetic account of John C. Calhoun’s developing political position on the matter without any mention that he culminated that development in 1837 when he announced that slavery was a “positive good” for all involved, including slaves. The video closes with a song from the period endorsing the southern position.

What’s wrong with these passages?
All three of these publishers provide thorough and accurate coverage of slavery in their products. There is no attempt to hide the issue in the run up to the Civil War. However, the requirement in the curriculum standards that compels coverage of “sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery” (in that order) as causes of the war leads publishers to these sort of misleading – and even inaccurate – passages.

They are inaccurate for a simple reason: the concept of “states’ rights” in an abstract sense as a defense of secession did not appear until after the conclusion of the Civil War. Contemporaneous documents and statements by southerners make it plain that slavery was the underlying reason for their action. In their secession ordinances, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas all stated their understanding that slavery had been placed in danger by Lincoln’s election and made that their major theme. Moreover, high officials, such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, made plain the absolute centrality of protecting slavery as the reason for secession. That point is important for two reasons. One is that both Davis and Stephens revised their positions after the war was over to argue that slavery had not been the issue at all, maintaining instead that it had been about abstract constitutionalism. The other is that these passages, which appear designed to fit the TEKS requirement of considering “states’ rights” as a separate issue, does dovetail with current neo-Confederate ideology, which is deeply false to the historical record.

We hope this helps put into perspective the problems we found in history textbooks going into Texas classrooms this fall. Generations of public school students, especially in the South, have been taught that the Confederacy fought for some noble cause like “states’ rights” instead of in defense of a horrific institution that allowed the purchase and enslavement of human beings. The new textbooks help perpetuate that myth. And that’s a big reason why Americans are still arguing, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, about the place of the Confederate flag and the statues of Confederate heroes.

Posted in civil war, social studies, textbooks, TFNEF | 5 Comments

RR Groups Keep Pushing Discrimination Targeting LGBT Families

Gay-obsessed religious-righters aren’t satisfied with defending businesses that discriminate against LGBT people. They’re also demanding that government officially discriminate as well.

Yesterday, for example, Texas Values — an affiliate of James Dobson’s right-wing Focus on the Family — sent an email to supporters expressing outrage over calls for the state to recognize the same-sex parents of their children as, well, parents.

“Homosexuals Are Pressuring Texas to Remove ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ From Texas Law, All Birth Certificates,” the group screams in a breathless (and deeply disingenuous) email.

So what’s this all about?

The Dallas Morning News last weekend reported about same-sex parents calling for state forms to allow both of their names to be listed on the birth certificates of their children. The article explains the heartbreaking experience of a woman who recently gave birth to a son conceived from one of her wife’s eggs and an anonymous sperm donor. The hospital refused to list both mothers on the birth certificate, saying the form has spaces only for one mother and one father.

“No matter what kind of family you have, you’re still a family,” the birth mother told the Morning News. “I feel like you should be recognized as such.”

The newspaper explains that birth certificates, as legal instruments, can be used to help establish parental rights and to qualify a child for financial support and health benefits.

So advocates for same-sex parents want birth certificates to be changed to allow both parents to be listed. Texas wouldn’t be the first to do so, as the Morning News points out. South Carolina’s birth certificates, for example, have spaces for “mother/parent” and “father/parent.”

But hateful political groups want to deny any kind of recognition for families headed by same-sex couples, even after (in fact, especially after) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the Constitution guarantees the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. They have even denounced decisions by state agencies to extend access to job-related benefits (such as insurance) to legally married same-sex spouses of public employees and retirees. (Of course, the state already provides access to such benefits for legally married opposite-sex spouses.)

It is abundantly clear that these pro-discrimination groups will hound and harass same-sex couples in every way possible. And they will demand that government join them in making life difficult for LGBT people and their families (who, of course, pay taxes like everyone else).

This is nothing less than callous, cruel and hateful. Most Texans reject values like that. But the extremists at Texas Values and similar groups are proud of them.

Posted in LGBT issues, Texas Values, TFNEF | 2 Comments

History Repeating Itself on Marriage?

The Houston Chronicle had an interesting article a week back comparing reactions to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down bans on same-sex marriage and the high court’s 1967 ruling against bans on interracial marriage. In both cases, the article notes, opponents have used religion in criticizing the court’s decisions.

Indeed, supporters of racial segregation often used religion as a justification for their stance. The Chronicle quotes a lower court judge in Virginia who ruled in favor of that state’s interracial marriage ban in the case that later went to the Supreme Court:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The article also quotes Bob Jones, the extreme-right, segregationist evangelical preacher, from a radio broadcast in 1960:

“God Almighty did not make the human race one race. It was not His purpose at all…. God made one blood of all nations, but He also drew boundary lines between races. If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God almighty.”

The article notes that the preacher’s own Bob Jones University didn’t even permit interracial dating among its students until 2000.

Today, tragically, we hear religion used once again as a weapon to oppose equality, in this case the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. Pointing this out, as the Houston Chronicle article does, really angers religious-righters. In a blog post last week, for example, Dave Welch of the far-right Texas Pastor Council denounces the Chronicle:

“This article is an example of the propaganda being waged by the liberal media to not only continue, but even to escalate their campaign of equating unnatural, immoral, sexual behavior with race, sex and religion. Comparing laws banning interracial marriage to laws defining marriage as a union only between one man and one woman is completely ‘apples and oranges.’ Even Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges admitted the weakness in the comparison – and used it anyway just as he based the opinion on the American Psychological Association’s recently changed position that homosexuality is ‘immutable’ (unchangeable). Both of these positions are fallacious and indefensible Biblically, morally, historically, biologically and Constitutionally. The Houston Chronicle continues to serve a marketing tool of the LGBTQIA movement without any pretense at journalism.”

It’s fascinating to watch Welch attack one form of bigotry while defending another. But it’s hardly surprising. Welch’s hatred of LGBT people has consumed him. After all, he has called Houston’s openly lesbian mayor a “sodomite” who is disappointed with men, viciously attacked her marriage, warned of a “gay takeover” of Houston, insisted that transgender people are a threat to children in public restrooms, and prayed for God to destroy supporters of same-sex marriage.

Fortunately, many people of faith have supported the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples, just as many religious folk have marched and fought for racial equality. TFN is proud to stand with them.

The full Houston Chronicle article is behind a paywall, but you can find it here.

Posted in Dave Welch, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 7 Comments

TFN President Talks Texas Textbooks with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller, speaking Sunday on MSNBC’s The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, discussed how textbooks in Texas distort the history of the Civil War. Check out the interview in the short clip below.

Posted in social studies, textbooks, TFNEF | 3 Comments

The Week in Quotes (July 5 – 11)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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