Who Does Terri Leo Think She’s Fooling?

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.

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6 Comments

  1. Cytocop
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Cathy D, that’s the same strategy Goebbels advocated: repeat a lie often enough until it becomes accepted as fact. And make it a BIG lie.

    Steve, Texas will never appoint actual qualified people because Texas is a crimson state too much in the control of whack-nuts and religious fanatics. I know because I live in Texas.

  2. Dennis
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    “Why doesn’t Texas begin appointing actual qualified people to these boards, instead of continuing to allow grossly unqualified people to be elected to them?”

    Well, right now conservatives control the Legislature and the governor’s office, so a change in the process is unlikely, to say the least. The larger question is why do voters choose such obviously unqualified people for these positions? The answer is that right wing radicals understand and count on straight ticket Republican voters, people who are oblivious to the identites,qualifications or ideologies of down-ballot candidates. That strategy has worked very well in Texas and elsewhere for many years. An uninformed voter is a reliable GOP voter.

  3. Bill Rubink
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Why oh why oh why do we consider doing “better on standardized tests” the goal of education?

    a) Students like to study for tests.
    b) Teaching to the test is an excellent way to nurture creative problem solving.
    c) Standardized test instruction is easily incorporated into a a daily lesson plan.
    d) Life is a multiple choice test.
    e) All students can learn to pass a multiple guess test.

  4. Charles
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Steve. That’s easy. It’s because a lot of really stupid people in Texas believe that Jesus is just as stupid as they are. Of course, he’s not. He’s been trying to get his message out to them for 2000 years but (A) they don’t have enough bandwidth to absorb it and (B) the message is fundamentally offensive to them. For example, the gospel clashes with most of the cultural things they hold sacred—retribution instead of justice—like in this song:

  5. Posted November 5, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Frankly, I’m a bit tired of all the childish bickering. Why doesn’t Texas begin appointing actual qualified people to these boards, instead of continuing to allow grossly unqualified people to be elected to them?

  6. Cathy D
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Their strategy is if you keep saying it enough times then it becomes the truth.

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