The List of Shame in Texas

So how badly has the State Board of Education botched the job of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools? It would be hard to overstate the disaster that has unfolded in Austin. And this won’t affect just Texas schoolchildren. Unlike Vegas, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas when it comes to textbooks. Texas buys so many textbooks that publishers write their books to meet this state’s standards and then sell those same books to schools across the country.

(See Why We Fight.)

So what happened? Over just a few days in January and this month, the state board shredded nearly a year’s worth of detailed work by teachers, scholars and other curriculum writers. In vote after vote, board members made numerous and outrageously foolish, intolerant and ignorant changes based on little more than their own (limited) knowledge and personal beliefs.

The problem isn’t simply that many changes were wrong factually.  Teachers will surely despair as they read through the numerous names, dates and events board members added willy-nilly to the standards with little consideration of how in the world to cram all of those facts into the limited instructional time available for classes.

In addition to that, poor scholarship — if scholarship is a word that can be used to describe any “research” done by this board — was particularly evident during the debate. On more than one occasion, board members simply resorted to Internet searches from laptops at their desks. They invited no historians, economists, sociologists or even classroom teachers to guide them as they rewrote history (and standards for government, economics, sociology and other social studies courses) with scores of ill-considered, politically motivated amendments. In fact, board members had explicitly rejected a proposal in November that they invite such experts to be on hand during the debate. They simply didn’t want to be bothered with facts and real scholarship as they moved to transform a curriculum document into a political manifesto.

The board will have one more opportunity to consider (and amend) the standards in May. Then teachers and students will be saddled with these standards for the next decade.

The following List of Shame is a summary of some of the worst examples from what is truly a debacle for public education:

  • Religious conservatives on the board killed a proposed standard that would have required high school government students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” That means the board rejected teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America. (3/11/10)
  • Even as board members continued to demand that students learn about “American exceptionalism,” they stripped Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. In Jefferson’s place, the board’s religious conservatives inserted Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. They also removed the reference to “Enlightenment ideas” from the standard, requiring that students simply learn about the “writings” of various thinkers (including Calvin and Aquinas). (3/11/10)
  • Board conservatives succeeded in censoring the word “capitalism” in the standards, requiring that the term for that economic system be called “free enterprise” throughout all social studies courses. Board members such as Terri Leo and Ken Mercer charged that “capitalism” is a negative term used by “liberal professors in academia.” (3/11/10)
  • The board removed the concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3. (The proposal to remove “equality” failed.) (1/14/10)

  • Social conservatives on the board removed Santa Barraza from a Grade 7 Texas history standard on Texans who have made contributions to the arts because they objected to one of her (many) paintings — one including a depiction of a woman’s exposed breasts. Yet some of Barraza’s works had been displayed in the Texas Governor’s Mansion during the gubernatorial administration of George W. Bush in the 1990s. (3/11/10)
  • The board stripped Dolores Huerta, cofounder of United Farm Workers of America, from a Grade 3 list of “historical and contemporary figures who have exemplified good citizenship.” Conservative board members said Huerta is not a good role model for third-graders because she’s a socialist. But they did not remove Hellen Keller from the same standard even though Keller was a staunch socialist. Don McLeroy, a conservative board member who voted to remove Huerta, had earlier added W.E.B. DuBois so the Grade 2 standards. McLeroy apparently didn’t know that DuBois had joined the Communist Party in the year before he died. (1/14/10)
  • In an absurd attempt to excuse Joseph McCarthy’s outrageous witchhunts in the 1950s, far-right board members succeeded in adding a requirement that students learn about “communist infiltration in U.S. government” during the Cold War. (Board member Don McLeroy has even claimed outright that Joseph McCarthy has been “vindicated,” a contention not supported by mainstream scholarship.) (1/15/10)
  • The board voted in January to remove children’s book author Bill Martin Jr. from a Grade 3 standard about significant writers and artists because members confused the author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with another Bill Martin who had written a book about Marxism. An embarrassed board reinserted Martin into the Grade 3 standards in March. (3/11/10)
  • Board members added Friedrich von Hayek to a standard in the high school economics course even though some board members acknowledged that they had no idea who the Austrian-born economist even was. (3/11/10)
  • The board added a requirement that American history students learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. The board included no similar standard requiring students to learn about individuals and organizations simply because they are liberal. (1/15/10)
  • Board conservatives passed a standard for the eighth-grade U.S. history class requiring students to learn about the ideas in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. (1/14/10)
  • In a high school government standard about “the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic,” the board added a requirement that students learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s bloc of social conservatives tried to water down instruction on the history of the civil rights movement. One board amendment, for example, would have required students to learn that the civil rights movement created “unreasonable expectations for equal outcomes.” That failed to pass. Other amendments passed in January minimized the decades of struggle by women and ethnic minorities to gain equal and civil rights. (Board member Don McLeroy even claimed that women and minorities owed thanks to men and “the majority” for their rights. Earlier in the revision process, a conservative appointed by McLeroy to a curriculum team had complained about an “over-representation of minorities” in the standards.) Under pressure from civil rights groups, the board partially reversed those earlier amendments. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed references to “democratic” (or “representative democracy”) when discussing the U.S. form of government. The board’s majority Republicans changed those references to “constitutional republic.” Board member Cynthia Dunbar also won approval for changing references to “democratic societies” to “societies with representative government.” (3/11/10)
  • Religious conservatives stripped from the high school sociology course a standard having students “differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how gender and socialization interact.” Board member Barbara Cargill argued that the standard would lead students to learn about “transexuals, transvestites and who knows what else.” She told board members she had conducted a “Google search” to support her argument. Board member Ken Mercer complained that the amendment was about “sex.” The board consulted no sociologists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • Board member Barbara Cargill proposed a standard to the high school economics course requiring students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System since 1913.” After debate, the board passed a revised standard that requires students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.” References to 1913 and the Federal Reserve System were dropped. The board consulted no economists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • The board approved a standard requiring students to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX. (3/11/10)
  • In a high school U.S. history standard on musical genres that have been popular over time, the board’s bloc of social conservatives removed “hip hop,” equating this broad genre with “gangsta rap.” (3/11/10)
  • The board voted to use “BC” and “AD” rather than “BCE” and “CE” in references to dates in the history classes. That means students going off to college won’t be familiar with what has become an increasingly common standard for dates. (3/10/10)
  • The board removed Oscar Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 (as he was celebrating Mass) by rightists in El Salvador, from a world history standard about leaders who led resistance to political oppression. Romero, they argued, wasn’t of the same stature as others listed in the standards: Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi. One board member argued that “he didn’t have his own movie like the others.” He quickly reversed himself — the film Romero, based on the archbishop’s life, was released in 1989 and starred actor Raul Julia in the title role. (3/10/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed a reference to propaganda as a factor in U.S. entry into World War I. (The role of propaganda on behalf of both the Allies and Central Powers in swaying public opinion in the United States is well-documented. Republican Pat Hardy noted that her fellow board members were “rewriting history” with that and similar changes.) (1/15/10)
  • The board changed a “imperialism” to “expansionism” in a U.S. history course standard about American acquisition of overseas territories in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Board conservatives argued that what the United States did at the time was not the same as European imperialism. (1/15/10)

This article was posted in these categories: social studies, State Board of Education. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a Comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


-->

97 Comments

  1. Posted September 1, 2010 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I think a middle ground needs to be accomplished… Some this is the un Rewriting of history that was accomplished by liberals.

    For instance, “removed references to “democratic” (or “representative democracy”) when discussing the U.S. form of government. The board’s majority Republicans changed those references to “constitutional republic.”

    WE ARE A Constitutional Republic. That is the correct term…

    I think changing Capitalism to something else because Liberals have made it a dirty word is dumb. Capitalism while is Free Enterprise, it is CAPITALISM. Deal with it.

    Discussing the reasons for the cause of the war of Northern Agression is a good thing. If you don’t learn from history then you doomed to repeat it… catchy thought? You think it would in a history book someplace wouldn’t ya?

    And speaking of learning from History…
    With the opening of the Russian Archieves after the end of the cold war we see that Joe McCarthy was right there were traitors in our midst. Just because you see a commie behind every tree does not mean there are not commies in the woods.
    Ted Kennedy, Senator John Tunney and other socialists opened up relations with the Russians and worked in the background to undermine our efforts in the Cold War. Dozens of Spies like the Walker Family and others sent valuable intelligence to the Communists. Scientists in the Nuclear program gave information to the Russians allowing them to catch up with us. Countless intel was gained by listening to self important members of congress who in some cases got people in the field killed when they spouted out classified information. Several Democratic Presidents declassified valuable technology so that now China has more CRAY computers than the US. There Missile program was given a jump start because of US Tech the was released under and over the table. It has been said that we will sell the rope that they will hang us with. We need to learn from our past before it is too late.

  2. Posted May 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    As a Christian Sociologist, historical fact is of vital importance to the practice of my craft and faith. Witch hunts, whether in the colonial era or the mid-50′s, must be learned as a series of unvarnished “facts,” not as “interpretation” of facts. The best thing a Social Studies teacher can do for his/her students is present the most critically-discerned “facts” available and then let students make up their own mind as to the interpretation of those facts.

    Education, done rightly, should make a student walk away without ever once knowing the personal beliefs of the teacher. I would like to believe that my child would never know whether their teacher was a Republican or a Democrat, but rather would know that what they were learning was devoid of emotional baggage. Teachers who want to share personal beliefs, which is essentially what the SBOE did in taking a butcher’s knife to the curriculum guidelines, are protected by the Constitution to share those beliefs and lobby for their cause OUTSIDE of the classroom, not in. Otherwise, all we are doing is pitching the pendulum this way and that, allowing our educational endeavors to be blown by the whim of whichever majority happens to hold the gavel.

  3. trog69
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Well then, Kathi Evans, why don’t you let the folks whose children you teach, know about your nonchalance when the SS curriculum is religious right-approved? I’m sure many parents would be interested in knowing what an ideologue they have educating their kids.

  4. Kathi Evans
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I am a Social Studies teacher I think the new Social Studies curriculum in Teaxs is a great idea.

  5. W Rubink
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Judgement day–the final social studies vote by the Texas Board–was posted for the world to view:

    http://www.tfn.org/site/R?i=WvxzzOCyWkVjh2zroEruLw..

    This video of the detailed discussion and of the actual decision making moment is a prime example of the erudition and eloquence of the majority, led by the most scholarly Don McLeroy, of the TBOE. Don’t laugh.

  6. trog69
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Pearl, I’d say that what the far-right is doing with the historical facts isn’t so much “correcting” history, at least, not to make it more _accurate_. They’re revising the history so students won’t learn facts that contradict right-wing ideology. They can’t keep them out of gay bars and shooting up heroin if they learn liberal ideas like the ‘wall of separation’.

    Works great for keeping the gals virgin as well, if you squint so hard your eyes are shut when the stats disagree.

  7. W Rubink
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Steve Pearl, you’ve got it right. The board needs “reasoned, disciplined scholarship.” Unfortunately that’s not the kind of people the average Texan votes for. I’ve concluded that Texas is a lost cause. Sorry, kids.

  8. Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    As someone who is self-aligned as a born-again, Christian believer, what is going on with the Texas board is an atrocity. My faith was shaped by knowing the evils of our past, seeing them in light of what Jesus WOULD want us to do, and behaving in a far different manner. I did not come to this faith by having myself spoon-fed propaganda. I came to this faith with eyes wide open, knowing that at times hideous things were done in the name of Christianity.

    Such is the case with the way the Republican majority on the board has mangled and defiled historical fact. My right to speak my faith, live my faith, and reach out with my faith is grounded in Jefferson’s stubborn insistence that church and state be separate. For Texas’ board to behave as if they are someone “correcting” history, when in fact their rights are FOUNDED on Jeffersonian ideals, is insane.

    Jefferson was, to be true, a bit of a nut job. And from a theological perspective he adds little to my world.

    But the nut job did something right and we must give the man his due. This union has survived hundreds of years based largely on principles he penned and the people who went along with his principles willingly.

    I’m not in favor of TFN’s view that every conservative Christian is a head-burying dolt. At the same time, we are on the same side in this fight. This board must be cleansed and reasoned, disciplined scholarship must be allowed its proper place in the process.

  9. trog69
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Shorter Gordon Fowkes: I don’t have anything useful to contribute, but I can point at both sides and sneer.

  10. Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    The public school system needs a really big enema to purge PC(Politcal Correctness) from it’s innerds. Rather than produce educated citizens to value negativity, contention, and disorder, students should be able to contribure to the economy, raise healthy families, and contribute to the public safety.

    It is easier to condemn, criticize, denounce, and protest than it is toe build something that works in the shifting sands of changing technology, consuption patterns, and competition.

    From a propaganda standpoint, however, both Left and Right play a serious game of Karpman’s Drama Triangle by switching roles between victim, rescuer, and proscutor. This requires the creation of villains to drive the triangle, to be able to play all three roles in any sequence. And that is all about “payoffs” like the old trading stamps, and which come in Depression Blue, Murderous Red, Righteous White, and Dumped on Brown.

    http://soulselfhelp.on.ca/karpmandramatriangle.pdf

    http://www.therapyideas.net/triangles.htm

  11. Alan Bounville
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    PEOPLE IN TEXAS SHOULD BE SHUTTING DOWN THESE BOARD MEETINGS TO BRING MORE ATTENTION TO THE ATROCITIES THEY ARE COMMITTING!!!

    GET OFF YOUR COMPUTERS AND INTO THE STREETS!!!

  12. Matt
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Christ, this **** really hit the fan with our pathetic education system. With this and Berkley, Cali high schools wanting to take out electoral science classes because of some “race issue” or some other nonsense, we might as well just abandon our schools. I mean really? If I have a kid in a few years, and he goes to school one day, is this the bologna he/she is gonna read? I thought things were bad when I was in high school and there were people who thought Pearl Harbor was just a movie. Now… now it’s just one s*** snowball.

  13. James
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    What seriously worries me is that if this passes, they may very well succeed in making children in that state believe the things being taught. Sure, the internet is a great tool, and definitely would help set the record straight, except that these are students being taught these things. To many adults this seems outrageous because we remember what we were taught and how the standards being passed here differ, but for students who take no particular interest in the subject besides it being required, I don’t see them ever receiving the correct version of history. When I was in elementary, middle and high school I know I certainly never tried doing my own history research via other sources, except when facing an assignment that required it, I assumed the history textbooks were accurate and unbiased. I’m pretty sure as well that if I had been subjected to some kind of alternative version of history like kids in Texas are about to, my lack of knowledge about the subjects would have made it almost impossible to tell which parts of a textbook were incorrect or lacking.

  14. GM
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    who controls the past controls the future. who controls the present controls the past.

    welcome to 1984, people. These fascists are re-writing history. It’s time parents became more aware of what their kids are learning so they’re able to correct this right from the start. religious freedom is not important? burn in hell texan scum.

  15. Posted May 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Pardon my grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. As a Virginian, I admit that, as they say, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but as an American, I most definitely do. “Sic semper tyrannis!”

  16. Posted May 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    My closest friend is a direct descendent of Jose Torribio Lasoya, who died in the defense of the Alamo. By the way, the most recent book I have seen published on the Alamo offers strong evidence that most of the defenders were killed trying to escape from the fort. Maybe there weren’t many Tejano defenders of the Alamo, but evidently there were few Texian defenders left there either when the Mexicans started coming over the walls. In addition, the Texiansin the Alamo badly overestimated their own fighting abilities as well as seriously understimating the Mexican soldiers’ courage and skill. Also, as a Virginian, I resent Thomas Jefferson being demoted and replaced by John Calvin as a “great political thinker.” Mr. Jefferson may have fooled around with Sally Hemmings, but he never burned anybody at the stake like John Calvin did to Michael Servetus! Calvin was a religious tyrrant. Jefferson was a sworn enemy of all tyrannts. “Sic semper tyrannis!”

  17. Michael Boswell
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Ok, maybe I am greatful that the religious right cannot influence the section of school textbook in my Australian state. However, I admire Texas because it has a democratic way of selection curriculum and the textbooks…but I would be a a firm surporter of TFN.

    As for the use of capitalism v. free enterprise – silly. Why not call socialism communial control? I think Calvin and Aquanas are important but neither are enlightment figures. If they wish to be critical of the enlightment, start with the philosophical works like Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virture”. But they would then have to include the other bone of the Rightous Right – post-modernity.

  18. W Rubink
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    MCP2012: I really like your content and delivery; however, you are preaching to the choir. The SBOE intelligence level will not permit most of them from reading of understanding your diatribe. I do not agree with identifying their ilk with any kind of intellectuality, even the “pseudo” variety. I would prefer “mentally and culturally crippled.” I’m sure none of them has more than superficially perused Calvin or Aquinas, or for that matter Jefferson….. I agree: shameful, appalling, embarrassing, disgraceful, abominable…. POOR Texas children!

  19. MCP2012
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Removing Thomas Jefferson is, in and of itself, absolutely APPALLING. But throwing in John Calvin (a French-Swiss religious wacko) is adding insult to injury. (Tommy Aquinas isn’t quite so bad, but if one is going to include Acquinas, one might as well include a fairly detailed study of ARISTOTLE—but don’t hold your breath on THAT one, boys & girls, not with these nitwits at the helm of the TX Bd of Ed. The inclusion of Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek is actually pretty good. Ludwig von Mises would’ve been another good choice. But, for balance, one should also include a reasonably detailed study of Marx, Keynes, and, interestingly enough, Louis Kelso and his ideas. But do we see the latter?! Hell, no! And THERE’S the problem! And while I don’t have too much objection to the inclusion, as an alternative, of the term “free market system” (or, indeed, say, “market price system”), we should nonetheless ALSO RETAIN the term “capitalism”. And while I might give ya both Alaska (which was bought not unlike the Louisiana Purchase) and Hawaii as not necessarily being examples so much of “imperialism” as “territorial expansion” (and there is arguably a difference), clearly the territorial acquisitions resulting from the (so-called) Spanish-American War–Puerto Rico, Guam & some of the Marianas, the Philippines–*were* quasi-imperialistic. And to turn even so much as a section of a chapter–much less an entire chapter–into little more than hagiographic idealizing of Ronald Reagan and his years as President is, well, OUTRAGEOUS!

    For me, the most telling and appalling clue to how utterly ridiculous–indeed, preposterous–these changes are is the systematic and deliberate removal of any mention–much less discussion–of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, who was not only the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, but also, as mentor of James Madison, instrumental (albeit in a “behind the scenes” sort of way) in the formulation of our current Constitution, is simply much, much too fundamental a member of the Founding generation(s) to be so shabbily discarded by these dim-witted, obviously cognitively-crippled, pseudo-intellectual hayseeds! I am not merely embarrassed for Texas, I am ashamed and appalled.

  20. Posted April 24, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Checked for babies? Hey, you might be on to something there, ’cause it sure smells like some of them need changing.

    Whew, what have you been feeding’em?

  21. Posted April 24, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    As a retired Texas school superintendent, I believe we need to have the members of the State Board of Education checked for rabies.

  22. prof
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    To June: “Liberal” when it comes to the concept of a liberal arts education has nothing to do with politics. “The arts that free” were viewed in antiquity and the early Renaissance to be those subjects which expanded the mind and taught one to think; in many ways they were a reaction against the “quibbling” nature of the Scholastic focus on logic, but they were also in many ways a major tsep back — trying to recreate classical antiquity to the point that Renaissance Latin scholars tried to remove all words developed after the age of Cicero. However, I greatly agree with the need to return to teaching grammar; students who come in from public schools generally do not know even the basic parts of speech.

  23. prof
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    There are obviously a number of issues with the SBOE’s requirements, but as a historian who teaches at the university level, I would just like to point out that history is always being re-written as scholars approach texts and other pieces of evidence with new questions, paradigms, and lenses. Oft times these changes have resulted in expansion of views, at other times restriction. Cultural history, women’s history, history of the under-served — all of these resulted in revision. Also, when it comes to scholarly views, there is rarely a uniform approach to anything, when you get down to the details.

    This is not by any means an attempt to endorse or downplay the specific angles promoted by the SBE, but just an attempt to add some clarification to the discussion. Using “revisionism” as a dirty word threatens the very real effort on the part of historians and other academics to constantly evaluate current understandings; sometimes this does result in a backward swing of the pendulum, which is sometimes warranted and others not. In my opinion, the focus should not be on “re-writing” history, as for the most part they are technically not doing so but rather choosing which historical foci fits their agendas; they may not be the leading histories, but they are still histories with at least some adherence even by accredited scholars. Should appropriate scholars be consulted? absolutely. Are many of the changes ridiculous or at least unnecessary? undeniably. But the more acuracy and specificity with which these subjects are addressed, the more fruitful the discussions can be.

  24. Posted April 16, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Shirley:

    It goes without saying that any education geared towards creating in students’ brains a “clear, cold logic engine” would, ipso facto, be devoid of religion as a subject except, as you suggest, when taught objectively as an exercise in comparative literature. The devil is in the “objectively” detail, however. If presented in a truly comprehensive way, the very course material itself would by necessity lead to conclusions that many would call deliberate threats to their personal faith — defined by Mark Twain as belief in what one knows to be untrue. The two major Western religions (with which I am intimately familiar) largely survive as they do because their proponents have consistently done selective examinations of the underlying textual sources. If these were explored at greater length and depth, Fundamentalists of all stripes would rise up in righteous indignation and demand their elimination from curricula.

  25. tctheunbeliever
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Many of the comments here remind me of one of the worst effects of the current right-wing government here in Texas–ignorant people around the country assume that we’re ALL anti-scientific, theocratic morons.

  26. Shirley Rickett
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    As an educator in public schools, universities, community colleges, private schools, and now, as a volunteer, I feel qualified to comment. I read only a few blogs but here are two opinions to join the crowd: The only religion that should be ‘taught” in “schools” is Comparative Religion Studies, in a light stage for high school, and required for college and university courses. One course that should also be required in higher ed is “The Bible as Literature” because that is what it is. This issue is one of separation of church and state after one scrapes off all the rest of the rhetoric. I agree with the provisions for change set out by TFN but would have liked to have seen the words, “separation of church and state.” Keep pounding that phrase the same way the Right pounds its talking points on every issue. Liberals and other believers need to take a lesson from the teabaggers, conservatives, or whatever it is they are calling themselves this hour. The core of the extremists is still the Religious Right, those who would impose their religious beliefs on all of us.

  27. Posted April 16, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I have been reminding people for many years that there are colleges of Liberal Arts within universities and degrees in Liberal Arts, but no corresponding “Conservative Arts.” This is no accident, for the very term is an oxymoron of the first water, the antithesis of everything understood to constitute a liberal education. As good a source as any for grasping the gist of that concept is an 1868 essay by Thomas Huxley entitled “A Liberal Education and Where to Find It.” The person, he writes, “has had a liberal education . . . whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam engine, to be turned to any kind of work and spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws of her operation; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love beauty, whether of Nature or of Art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself.”

    Apparently the SBOE of Texas is attempting the impossible: to create a curriculum of “Conservative Arts.” Every sane American should rise up in opposition to this effort. Surely it is bad enough that what Huxley observed of children in the Nineteenth Century is still true today — that they learn to “read, write and cipher,” but “not so well as to take pleasure in reading or to be able to write the commonest letter properly.” The instruction of traditional grammar has so declined that every single newscaster, commentator and politician never opens his or her mouth anymore without committing basic errors, whether of objective-case pronouns or subject-verb relationships, and high-school students are often given A’s on essays that display no ability whatsoever to take a premise to its logical conclusion. Small wonder our politicians often make no sense at all on the very face of their assertions. I have long maintained that a course in logic should be required of all high-school students as a requirement for graduation.

    As a former teacher on both secondary and university levels, I can only feel intense relief that I am no longer in the fray. Even forty years ago, I was at constant loggerheads with administrations over such issues as my providing paperback copies of THE PAWNBROKER for high-school seniors to read on their own time. I would not now go quietly into that good night of abysmal ignorance to which a frightening proportion of our citizenry would condemn us.

  28. Scott Carr
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The right wing extremists on the SBOE are aping the methods of Stalinists. Their orwellian manipulation of history to suit their personal political and theological beliefs makes a sad sad joke of public education in Texas and is the first step in converting our schools into somthing similar to the maddrassas of the middle east and asia.

  29. Posted March 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    To everyone who has posted:

    We must do what we can to stop these backward-thinking, reactionary board members from tinkering with young people’s education. The Texas State Board of Education will be making the proposed changes public starting in mid-April. Please visit their website (www.tea.state.tx.us) and flood them with your comments. Our young people need to know EVERYTHING about history, not just what the Religious Right wants them to learn. Our state already ranks last in education. Let’s not allow the right to make it even worse. Also, spread the word among your friends, colleagues, and relatives, especially those who are educators and have kids in school. Let’s really stand up for knowledge!

  30. Tom
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Do the individual districts, schools and teachers get to choose NOT to use these revised textbooks? Are they free to pick and buy their own books with State money without consulting the SBOE?
    Home and private schooling FTW.

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Tom,
      School districts must purchase from the SBOE’s approved list of textbooks if they want to use state money. If they use local money, they can pretty much anything they want. But the latter is not a realistic option for school districts — those local dollars are already allocated for other costs.

  31. trog69
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Charles. What O.O’C is doing is playing the “Gish Gallup”. Just throw so many points out there that no one could possibly debate them all within their lifetime.

  32. Ben
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    “dislike for someone else’s cultural worldview”

    It’s not the worldview we have a problem with. It’s the lying. Yeah, the lying and the other forms of dishonesty. Oh, also the racism and the blatant rejection of science. Let’s see. What else? Can’t forget the hypocrisy and the judgmental attitude toward other Christians, not to mention those godless liberal atheists.

    I know I’m forgetting something. Probably a dozen somethings. Anyone else care to chime in?

  33. Bill Rubink
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    http://www.npr.org/v2/?i=124923487&m=124923478&t=audio” height=”386″ wmode=”opaque” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”400″ base=”http://www.npr.org” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”

    This is a nice spoof on Texas SBOE from Chicago NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t tell me!

  34. Charles
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    O.O’C:

    Once upon a time, I heard another person deliver an argument along the same lines as yours, with the same approach, the same tone, and the same feigned reasonableness. He lived in Louisiana and his name was David Duke, Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. See you at the next meeting, and don’t forget the secret handshake.

  35. O. O'C.
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    At the risk of invoking the horror and outrage of many reading this, may I please point out the danger of conflating: a) dislike for someone else’s cultural worldview, and b) dislike for over-politicised power, guided by sloppy, intellectual laziness?

    - There was no blanket protection of religious freedom at state government level by the founding fathers – only at federal level, surely? Up until the 14th Amendment essentially nationalised federal rights, was there not a variance amongst states regarding these things? Isn’t to suggest otherwise an anachronism?
    - it’s not clear what the context of “American Exceptionalism” requirement is, or whether that required a specifically positive evaluation; could that not be a subject of critical analysis, and a useful framework for understanding what many people have essentially believed and acted upon?
    - Not necessary to think McCarthy was vindicated, but was there not some seed of truth which he exploited, in that there were actually agents of Soviet influence within American government? Isn’t this at least worthy of debate rather than outright dismissal?
    - Don’t see why Hayek should be considered verboten – that some board members didn’t know him or that he was born in Austria is hardly relevant; he wrote an intelligent and accessible critique of command economies, and since this was one of the central ideological arguments of the 20th century, surely he is relevant – as is Marx and Keynes – to understanding what people were arguing about then and even today. And he won a Noble Prize.
    - Likewise, I don’t see why examining the effects of decoupling the dollar from the gold standard, or the unintended consequences of federal action, should be regarded as “shameful”; it is not as though each of these things can objectively be said to be only an unvarnished blessing; examining arguments should not presume doing so uncritically.
    - The war between the Union and the Confederacy can hardly be understood in its entirety if we don’t actually examine the motivations and ideals of each side (any more than the Cold War could be); why shouldn’t Jefferson Davis’s declared motives be examined as well as Lincoln’s? Should we try to understand the Soviet Union only by reading what its critics said?
    - Insisting on “the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic,” is arguably highlighting one of the rights and amendments within the Bill of Rights at the expense of the others; I know this is contentious, but then why not encourage examination of the broader argument? The Second Amendment may be uniquely American rather than exemplary of all “democratic republics”, but then so is the First in it’s form and scope.
    - I appreciate and respect why individuals may choose to use BCE instead of BC for personal religious or philosophical reasons. But deliberately trying to universalize it in the name of neutrality just strikes me as phony and patronising; we are still referring to the exact same dating system of the same broad civilisation, which is at root focused on the same founder of the same world religion – how is this neutral? One does not need to be either religious or conservative to reject that neologism as intellectually suspect. And no offense, but in an age where even school boards can use (so to speak…) Google, if these kids are ill-prepared for college as a result of not using “BCE,” then we have bigger problems than we realise.

    As regards consulting economists, sociologists, leaving it to experts etc.: there are Republican, Democrat, libertarian, liberal, left-wing, neocon, paleocon flavours of all these too of course. One cannot simply presume that so consulting or delegating will mean that they will arrive at a nice cosy consensus reflecting the worldview of most of the people commenting here.

    This is why it’s important not to confuse our own cultural prejudices, just because they are shared by many others we like, with some sort of technocratic neutrality – everybody has an opinion.

    The case against the many sloppy, lazy, head-smackingly silly arguments by this board would be strengthened considerably if an “NPR liberal” worldview were not also presented as being inherently more objective. We don’t want to make sloppy, lazy, head-smackingly silly arguments unnecessarily attractive, surely?

  36. Eddie Ramirez
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Knowledge is power……a good education with a broad view of the world, is the key.

  37. Ken Hughes
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I was in Texas the first time beginning in mid-1970 for 2-years with the US Army at Fort Hood. I was president of Sports Car Club Fort Hood (SCCFH) and we staged monthly car rallies all over central Texas. SCCFH was the 1971 4th US Army Road Rally Champions. In those days where ever I went I found people I enjoyed and food I liked. We returned to NC and reared our children, a boy and a girl who now have children of their own for a total of 7 grandchildren who are bright and budding good citizens exactly as their parents. They all live in Frisco now after moving to Texas when their mother and I moved to Wise County after returning to Texas in 2003 based on good memories from our original two-years in Fort Hood. “Wise County” turned out to be a masterful oxymoron it seems.

    After watching Texas politics for the past 7-years and especially the overt anti-progressive neocon/theocon actions taken by the so-called school board eviscerate acceptable textbook topics and subjects, I am moving back to the east coast and advising my children to get the hell out of Dodge as it were as the Texas School Board seems determined to be as un-American as possible in every way.

    I have discovered it was a mistake to move to 21-first century Texas as the jerk-knee conservative idiots in state government are desperately trying every day to drag us back to the 12th century and establish a state theocracy.

    The funny thing about Texas are its many legends, lies and cherished myths; the sad thing about Texans is they believe all of them.

  38. brat
    Posted March 20, 2010 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    I think too much is made of what the SBOE does. The standards they create are minimum standards. Good teachers will go way beyond the minimum. Unfortunately, really bad ones may also go beyond the minimum, but in an inappropriate way. One of the keys to saving education has nothing to do with the SBOE standards; it is to tighten up standards for becoming a teacher. This would extend to administrators, too. There is no way for the SBOE to police teachers who fail to adhere to their narrow view of the world. Good teaching trumps bad standards.

  39. Josh Seff
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    As a social studies teacher in Texas, I was shocked and angry about the revisions to the social studies curriculum standards by members of the State Board of Education. Board members made changes based on their personal beliefs and limited knowledge. Teachers, college professors and experts on the subject were not consulted by the board. Texans would not want someone who is not a dentist making decisions about dentistry. We should not have board members who do not have knowledge of social studies making important decisions about what our students read in text books!

  40. Bill Rubink
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Where are you SNL? Michael Moore: here is some fabulous documentary film material. Bill Maher: Please, we need your humor now….Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, where are you? Let’s laugh the SBOE out of existence!

  41. Bill Rubink
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Below is a summary (ex Wikipedia) of the main points of Thomas Aquinas “Summa Theologica.” Aquinas replaces Jefferson in importance in Texas Social Sciences. (Read and be appalled):

    Theology is the greatest and most certain of all the sciences, since its source is from divine knowledge, which cannot be deceived, and because of the higher worth of its subject-matter, the sublimity of which transcends human reason.
    When a man knows an effect, and knows that it has a cause, the natural desire of the intellect or mind is to understand the essence of that thing, natural because this understanding results from the perfection of the operation of the intellect or mind.
    The existence of something and its essence are separate (that is, its being and the conception of being man has or can imagine of it [for example, a mountain of solid gold would have essence, since it can be imagined, but not existence, as it is not in the world]) in all things except for God, who is simple.
    The existence of God, his total simplicity or lack of composition, his eternal nature (“eternal,” in this case, means that he is altogether outside of time; that is, time is held to be a part of God’s created universe), his knowledge, the way his will operates, and his power can all be proved by human reasoning alone.
    All statements about God are either analogical or metaphorical; one cannot say man is “good” in exactly the same sense as God, but rather that he imitates in some way the simple nature of God in being good, just or wise.
    Unbelief is the greatest (meaning largest in scope) sin in the realm of morals.
    The principles of just war and natural law.
    The greatest happiness of all, the ultimate good, consists in the beatific vision.
    Taking interest on loans is forbidden, because it is charging people twice for the same thing.
    In and of itself, selling a thing for more or less than it is worth is unlawful (the just price theory).
    The contemplative life is greater than the active life, but greater still is the contemplative life that sometimes takes actions to call others to the contemplative life and give them the fruits of contemplation. (This actually was the lifestyle of the Dominican friars, of which Aquinas was a member.)
    Being a monk is greater than being married and even greater in many ways than being a priest, but it is not as good as being a bishop. Both monks and bishops are in a state of perfection.
    Although the Jews delivered Christ to die, it was the Gentiles who killed him, foreshadowing how salvation would start with the Jews and then would spread to the Gentiles.
    After the end of the world, in which all living material will be destroyed, the world will be composed of non-living matter (such as rocks), but it will be illuminated or enhanced in beauty by the fires of the apocalypse (but a new heaven and new earth will be established).
    Martyrs, teachers of the faith (doctors), and virgins, in that order, receive special crowns in heaven for their achievements.

  42. anon
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    @Coragyps The gold standard was dropped in 71 when we went to a fiat currency. Perhaps you were thinking of the fact that it had been enmassing issues from the late 20s onward.

  43. Cytocop
    Posted March 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Sherri wrote: “Americans are religiously illiterate.” Sherri, with due respect, please speak for yourself.

    In theory, I have no problem with the teaching about religion in schools either. In fact, wasn’t it Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins (both British authors and atheists) who said that religion (or Bible) should be taught in public schools inasmuch as religion is an integral part of Western Civilization. Whichever gentleman said that, he has a point.

    Problem is that the U.S. is so hyperpolitical and hyper-religious, I trust no teacher to teach religion objectively. So many TX teachers are evangelical or fundamentalist Christians that it’s hard to imagine one teaching about religion without surrendering to the irresistible opportunity of having a young impressionable captive audience to indoctrinate. There is a difference between teaching religion and teaching about religion.

    A prepared curriculum and textbook are little help. In fact, secular reviews have found the current religion textbooks lacking in objectivity. And there’s no way to guard against non-previewed Christian-friendly supplemental materials being be distributed.

Post a Comment

TFN Insider Comments Policy

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>