Unhinged

It appears that the Texas State Board of Education‘s social conservatives and their supporters have embarked on a new campaign of blanket smears against almost everyone involved in the revision of social studies curriculum standards. And the attacks increasingly sound almost like unhinged rants.

This week state board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, and Bill Ames, appointed to a curriculum panel by board member Don McLeroy, R-College, are both attacking “leftists” involved in the social studies revision. Their targets include teachers, Texas Education Agency professional staff, the news media and (of course) the Texas Freedom Network.

We already knew about Mercer’s contempt for classroom teachers. Now in a new Q-and-A article on the conservative blog Ramparts360, Mercer says that the battle over what Texas students will learn in their public school social studies classrooms is part of a “nationwide culture war” against “the far left.” And who makes up the “far left”?

Ken refers to what he calls “the Big Five Print Media Mafia” (Austin American Statesman, San Antonio Express News, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star Telegram). Big Five Mafia for short. “The far left attacks constantly without mercy. And within the educational system there seems to be an academic and journalistic assassination of conservative leaders in science and history, even to the point of denying their degrees or professional influence.”

Their accomplice is a group with the Orwellian moniker “Texas Freedom Network” and the Big Five Mafia is constantly quoting the group members as authorities on education. These are the indoctrinators for whom the term “religious freedom” doesn’t mean freedom OF religion as much as it means freedom FROM religion. Big difference.

In a separate Q-and-A article, Ames echoes Mercer’s charges and calls conservative teachers a “minority” in Texas. He repeatedly refers to teachers and others (including “moderate Republicans”) helping revise the standards as leftists and liberals:

“On one side [of the debate over curriculum standards] are those with a leftist mindset, with the goal of creating a negative view of America, revealing a history of oppression and exploitation of minorities, women, and labor. This group is highly organized, consisting of the Texas Council for the Social Studies, the two major teachers unions in Texas, Democrats and some “moderate” Republicans on the SBOE, and even some left-leaning staffers at the Texas Education Agency. They are all ideologically joined at the hip and many contribute money to the Texas Freedom Network, which is their selected mouthpiece to trash their opponents.”

Ames also thinks the debate in Texas is part of a bigger battle against the “severe” threat of leftists in America:

“The ascension of Obama and the overwhelming majority of leftists in government has emboldened the Texas leftist groups beyond any previous levels. The U. S. history review panel of which I was a member displayed an astounding arrogance towards both the SBOE and the conservative values of Texas citizens.”

He even calls on Texans to defund and remove their children from public schools:

“The ultimate parent’s weapon is to reduce public school funding by homeschooling or putting their kids in private school.  Many parents believe this is not affordable and/or too difficult. But they should consider the importance of their children’s education measured against overall family priorities.”

“Big Five Mafia”? “Indoctrinators”?  The “leftist mindset” of teachers? “Left-leaning” TEA staffers? Of course, we’re not terribly surprised by these tired “Red Scare” tactics. After all, some board members also think students should learn that Joseph McCarthy was a truth-telling American hero. But it’s troubling — to say the least — that these extremists have so much influence over the education of Texas schoolchildren.

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21 Comments

  1. Posted November 5, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    In respect to the whole issue of “rant and rave,” I apologize to Cytocop.
    I was really intending my tone to be friendly and somewhat humorous,
    but often the internet does not convey tone as one intends it.
    I was considering our discussion as friendly banter and I certainly
    did not intend it to be a putdown in any way whatsoever.
    You are clearly someone who is part of the solution, not
    part of the problem.
    As a candidate, I am always happy to learn from others, and I truly
    believe that defeating an extremist like Ken Mercer is important for
    our state. My daughters are grown now, but back when they were
    in the San Marcos public schools, I worked successively with
    parents with views ranging from conservative to liberal to meet the
    needs of the children and teachers and to make our schools better. In
    my opinion, there are enough persuadable moderates out there who tend
    to vote Republican but who really don’t know about what is going
    on at the State Board. It’s one thing for Ken Mercer to have defeated
    a moderate Republican in a primary by less than 5,000 votes and then
    to waltz into office with no Democratic opposition; it’s another for
    him to have to face a Democrat who will call him on his nonsense and
    work tirelessly to win over that four percent. I would still value and
    appreciate your support.

  2. Charles
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Okay. Rebecca.

    If you have not done so already, you need to think about how to deal with the religion issue—not your opponent’s religion issue—but your personal religion issue. The inevitable question is going to come to you in front of a room packed with 900 people: “Ms. Bell-Metereau. Will you please tell us at what age you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?” Just in case you need to know, the standard correct answer in all 10 southern states is, “…when I was just 6 years old.” If you say that, the whole crowd will vote for you. “Yeah boy!!! That water meter gal is one of us all right!!! We better vote for her!!!”

    But seriously. If you tell them you are an atheist, your political plane will never even get off the ground. It’s instant suicide in Texas. I have no idea what your religious persuasion might be and do not expect you to tell me that here on TFN. You just need to think LONG and HARD about it because your opposition will be thinking long and hard about “…how can we use her religious persuasion to take her down.” Now, I know that’s not fair. I know there is no formally required religious test to hold office. However, like it or not, there is an informal sociocultural religious test that one may ignore only at their peril in Texas. What think ye?

  3. Charles
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Maybe she is married to a water meter?

  4. Posted November 5, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Mercer’s extremism is designed to stir up his base, and that may be working, but it is also positioning Tuggey as a more reasonable opponent. As the only candidate for SBOE 5 who actually teaches (at Texas State University, which graduates more future teachers than any other university in the state), I know what teachers face under the micromanaged, impoverished, and distorted curriculum created by Mercer and his cohorts, like Cynthia Dunbar. Please write to mainstream newspapers and encourage them to continue reasonable dialogues and careful examination of all the candidates’ credentials and possible motives for running for SBOE. We need a board that understands education and has the interests of students, teachers, and parents as the central focus of the board.

  5. Charles
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I think Mel is taking the same position as Fox News. Whatever the radical, right wing, fruitcake perception of reality happens to be on a given day, it is automatically defined as “fair and balanced.” Joe McCarthy was an enema nozzle whose behavior on the American stage was exemplary of a two-bit Soviet bureaucrat, and American history needs to remember him that way. I think these three real Americans described him best:

    Republican President Dwight D. Eisehower:

    “As McCarthy became increasingly combative towards the Eisenhower Administration, Eisenhower faced repeated calls that he confront McCarthy directly. Eisenhower refused, saying privately “nothing would please him [McCarthy] more than to get the publicity that would be generated by a public repudiation by the President.” On several occasions Eisenhower is reported to have said of McCarthy that he did not want to “get down in the gutter with that guy.”

    Senator William Proxmire who succeeded him in office representing the state of Wisconsin, who called McCarthy “a disgrace to Wisconsin, to the Senate, and to America.”

    Edward R. Murrow (the Walter Cronkite of his day and time) said of Joe McCarthy:

    “ His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. [...]

    We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies [Soviet Union]. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully.”

  6. Cytocop
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Mel says: “I don’t care if a teacher is liberal or conservative.”
    Then Mel says: “I do hope the TFN, liberals, revisionists and teachers like Rhiannon….”
    So Mel, in fact, you DO, care if teachers are liberal or conservative.

    Why did you say you didn’t when you do??

  7. George
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    PHarvey, Ames’ official title is “Citizen Textbook Reviwer” for Texas Eagle Forum.

  8. PHarvey
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Bill Ames said “…creating a negative view of America, revealing a history of oppression and exploitation of minorities, women, and labor.”

    Mr. Ames, isn’t revealing oppression and exploitation of minorities, women, and labor a good thing? Shouldn’t we learn from history so we don’t repeat it?

    What a baffoon. As they say down in Texas, …”get a rope”.

  9. Mel
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Rhiannon why do you feel the need to be “liberal” in the classroom? Are you unable to understand that is part of the problem faced in education? The job of a teacher is to teach the facts and theories of the curriculum without the presentation of their bias. If you are unable to achieve this than you should exit the teaching role as you are failing the children of Texas!
    I don’t care if a teacher is liberal or conservative….it is not their job to present their personal political stance. After reading much of the current Social Studies Standards I was appalled at how much our children are no longer learning in school. HS seniors are required to learn less than half of what I was taught 20 years ago. I was lucky to have an excellent US History teacher and have saved my notes all these years…..I do hope the TFN, liberals, revisionists and teachers like Rhiannon are proud of their success in under-educating and misinforming our Texas youth.

    • Posted November 4, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      And yet, Mel, it’s not “TFN, liberals, revisionists and teachers” who want to teach nonscience in science classrooms, censor health information in health classes, rewrite American history to suggest that the Founders wanted a government guided by a narrow (fundamentalist) reading of the Bible, leave out or disparage important civil rights figures in history classes, teach that Joseph McCarthy was a “hero” and promote plenty of other nonsense pushed by far-right state board members and their supporters. Fact is, those board members have spent years “under-educating and misinforming Texas youth” because they are more interested in promoting personal and political agendas in our neighborhood schools.

  10. Cathy D
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Charles, please send this to Ken Mercer. Please, please central Texans get rid of this teacher hating idiot.

  11. Charles
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Kimberly is correct. By far right standards, Sam Houston was a liberal. Let’s enumerate:

    1) He was a school teacher at the first school ever built in Tennessee—and he started the school. Ooh-h-h-h-h-h-h!!!!

    2) He lived with the Cherokee Indians, was formally adopted by the tribe, and took a Cherokee wife. Put another way that members of the far right would understand: “He sold out to a minority fringe group and betrayed the white race.”

    3) He refused to swear loyalty to the Confederacy after Texas seceded from the Union.

    4) He was wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and accepted free, taxpayer-funded surgery for his wounds. When will these lazy liberals ever take personal responsibility and pay for their own medical care???!!!

    5) He opposed Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policies that led to the Trail of Tears. When will these liberals ever support America in dealing with these savage foreign powers?

    6) At age 35 he married a young girl of only 18, divorced her shortly thereafter, and took yet another Cherokee wife. When will these liberals ever accept a Biblical worldview of marriage???!!!

    7) He was a heavy drinker (read that as regular drunk) in his trading post days after 1837.

    8) He thrashed a U.S. Congressman from Ohio with his cane simply because they disagreed—felony assault and battery. Liberals have no respect for our laws!!!!!

    9) Houston was a lead participant in the Freemason conspiracy against true Christianity, which exists even to this very day. Liberals just do not repect our faith!!!!

    10) Houston said “Whatever is calculated to weaken or impair the strength of [the] Union, – whether originating at the North or the South, – whether arising from the incendiary violence of abolitionists, or from the coalition of nullifiers, will never meet with my unqualified approval.” Just like all all commie, pinko liberals, Houston was a vigorous advocate for a strong central government and a vigorous opponent of states rights.

    11) Houston was a close friend of Baylor University President Reverend George Washington Baines, maternal great-grandfather of Lyndon B. Johnson. This means Houston was an American traitor who kept company with the direct ancestors of one of the worst liberals this country has ever seen. You know what people are “really like” by the people with whom they keep company.

  12. Kimberly Griffith
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Ridiculous nonsense. This is the response of the far-right to the overwhelming public support of including women and people of color into the revised social studies TEKS. Even the so-called ‘experts’ were forced to backtrack. What the neo-cons fail to consider is that the greatest heroes of our state have a ‘liberal’ political background. It is LUDICROUS to expect that Phyllis Schlafly, the Eagle Forum and Newt Gingrich should be included in the social studies standards when Sam Rayburn, J. Frank Dobie, and hell even LBJ are left out. Return Texas and Texans’ values to Texas: they are, at the very least, liberal-leaning, and at the most, populist.

    Even that argument did not hold ground when the new TEKS were being written: we considered ONE standard . What do our kids need to know to make them successful in the 21st century? As far as politics are concerned, we left them at the door because they had NO BUSINESS in determining what is necessary to make Texas kids successful in a global environment.

  13. Rhiannon
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Having taught for 12 years, I have to consider all of my student’s perspectives, from learning styles, to personality, from cultural background, to socio-economic status. I would hope the SBOE would do the same for the population they represent.

    Many teachers HAVE to be “liberal” as to take into account so many different views, approaches, attitudes, and practices. The more “conservative” teachers seem to shut out all other views, thus disconnecting themselves from their students. And to Mercer and Ames, I will continue to teach about the ups and downs that America has had, and how far minorities and women have come, even if they aren’t in the standards.

  14. Charles
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    There is a certain sadness about the Ame’s rant. I mean. You could work hard all week and never succeeed in making up stuff like this. Fruit………………………………………………!!!!!!! Well, you know by now. It’s about that time of year again, and they appear to be coming out.

  15. rosalie
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    What is needed is for some intelligent, educated Texans to run for office on the SBOE and displace these ignorant, unschooled individuals who have so much power over the education of our children. Alternatively, Texas Legislature needs to disband the SBOE altogether, and leave education to qualified profesional educators.

  16. trog69
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Were I a teacher in Texas, I’d be pretty ticked off to hear how little is thought of their work by these liars and con artists for the far-right.

    I do like how the enemies list they present pretty much acknowledges how far from the mainstream these ideologues really are.

    “It’s just us few, proud, American Patriots, dedicated to fighting against the vast armies of moderates and the left who want us to tell kids the truth about how the US gained it’s hegemony throughout the world, nor will we allow them to describe people who fought for the common people as “heroes”, ’cause that’d make some of us on the right look bad, which is un-a-mer-i-can’t!”

  17. Joseph Nobles
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    So Bill Ames is content to let Texas parents take their children to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice their education on the altar of home-schooling? Will God provide a ram? He’s already given us Balaam’s ass.

  18. Country Tom
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Are my school district taxes in the amount of $3000.00 per year going to be cancelled if the holy rollers take their little imbeciles out of the public schools? If so I’m all for them praise Bubba!

  19. Cytocop
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Well, looks like I’m not the only one here who “rants.” At least my rants are based on FACTS.

    And the fact is that these people wouldn’t be getting away with what they’re doing and saying if they didn’t have a majority of Texans supporting them.

    The San Antonio News-Express is “leftist”? That’s a new one. Most of the columnists and letters to the editor that get printed are “righties.”

  20. PHarvey
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    It sounds to me like they are running scared, mad, and frustrated.

    Why is Bill Ames, who advocates defunding Texas public schools and removing children from them, a “professional” reviewer for social studies?

    Doesn’t this seem like a really bad choice?

    Are you listening State Legislature?

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