One thing you can say about Texas State Board of Education member Terri Leo: she can say the most absurd things with a straight face. In an article published by a conservative Web site, East Texas Review, Leo claims “conservatives” (as she defines them, anyway) are improving education standards that will help students do better on standardized tests. She notes, in particular, the board’s approval of new curriculum standards for English/language arts and reading in 2008:
“That’s why we have conservatives on the State Board of Education. . . . The conservatives took issue with our standards, and that’s why they changed.”
Oh please. Who does she think she’s fooling?
OK, bad question — she almost certainly thinks she’s fooling voters. But here’s what happened with the language arts standards:
Leo and her far-right allies on the board tossed aside nearly three years of work by Texas teachers and curriculum specialists to develop new language arts standards. They voted instead for a standards document cobbled together overnight by a couple of far-right board members and then slipped under hotel room doors of other members an hour before the final board meeting and vote.
Teachers were appalled, and so were board members — including conservative Republicans who often clash with the board’s far-right faction. Teachers have noted that the new standards are confusing, poorly constructed and weaken effective reading comprehension strategies. (Most news stories about the vote are no longer available online, but Tony Whitson’s blog still has a good recap of those articles here.)
Leo and the board’s other right-wingers have also pushed to attack evolution with nonscientific, creationist arguments in science classrooms. And they are currently calling for new social studies standards that distort history on topics such as the nation’s founding and the civil rights era. They even want students to learn that Joseph McCarthy was an American “hero” instead of a political smear artist in the 1950s.
Terri Leo can spew all the nonsense she wants about supposedly helping students meet higher standards for success, but the truth is clear: she is helping undermine the eduation of Texas schoolchildren by promoting ideological agendas over sound scholarship and the advice of teachers and experts who actually know what they’re talking about.