Yesterday we explored the latest strange twist in Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy’s ongoing crusade against the National Academy of Sciences — this time in bizarre, hand-scribbled memos he wrote to social studies curriculum writers who met in Austin last week. Well, McLeroy’s curriculum advice wasn’t restricted to his well-documented problems with modern science. Oh, no. It seems the good dentist is equally suspicious of mainstream historians.
You know you are in for a wild ride when you read McLeroy’s very first admonition to the members of the “US History” curriculum writing team:
“Pay close attention to Expert Reviewers especially David Bartons [sic].”
First of all, I suppose it’s too much to ask for our state board members to know how to spell the names of their experts correctly… but never mind.
Barton’s utter lack of credentials, unabashed partisan political agenda and problems with basic historical facts have been well-documented on this blog (and elsewhere). What is interesting to note here is that Barton didn’t even bother to show up at the writing team meetings last week! All six of the board-appointed experts were invited to attend these sessions and assist the writing teams, but two of them were no-shows: Barton and Rev. Peter Marshall, the two far-right ideologues. Both men found time to come to Austin last month to grandstand and make big public speeches in front of the board and media. But when it comes to the hard work of actually writing the curriculum standards, I guess these two can’t be bothered. (This is yet another reason for appointing qualified academics who are actually invested in crafting sound curriculum standards.)
Moving along to “US History Since Reconstruction,” where McLeroy goes to bat for Joseph McCarthy, the infamous anti-communist crusader noted for his campaign in the 1950s to smear large numbers of people as communists and Soviet spies who had infiltrated the federal government and other important U.S. institutions. McLeroy tells the curriculum writers to:
“Read the latest on McCarthy — He was basically vindicated”
Before you hyperventilate about this one, consider the simple, common-sense beauty of the one-word response a member of the social studies team wrote in the margin next to McLeroy’s comment: “Really?”
There has apparently been an attempt to rehabilitate McCarthy in recent years, most notably taken up by right-wing attack dog Ann Coulter in her book Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism. Coulter’s version of McCarthy has even been rejected by serious voices on the right. But this subtle reference to Ann Coulter is in keeping with McLeroy’s taste in experts, isn’t it?
More to come tomorrow in Part 2. Stay tuned.