It’s not a secret that pseudo-historian David Barton has no use for the academy. Barton clearly prefers to play like he’s a historian and self-publish his amateur (and heavily politicized) opinions in tract form rather than bother with the whole peer-review process typical in real scholarship. But Barton’s scorn is not limited to college professors — occasionally he slips up and lets his contempt for classroom teachers show.
On Wallbuilders’ Live Internet radio show last Tuesday (April 13), Barton closed his program with a vicious attack on the teachers who participated on the teams that developed draft revisions of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The Texas State Board of Education essentially shredded those drafts in January and March, making scores of changes without input from classroom teachers or even scholars in the social sciences. You can listen to the full clip here, but here’s a taste of what Barton had to say:
“It was classroom teachers who said let’s take out the Liberty Bell.
It was classroom teachers who said let’s teach global citizenship.
It was classroom teachers who said, oh, let’s don’t do Douglas McArthur and General Patton, Nathan Hale.
It was classroom teachers. Now if you think, ah, well it’s just wacky New York City teachers that are liberal left and San Francisco. No, we’re talking about Texas, from a very conservative state. And if you think your kids are not getting indoctrinated in the classroom, just look to a conservative state like Texas and look what we had to fight out of our classroom teachers…
Even a conservative teacher doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a right view of history. I mean these are the teachers that wanted, they went through and removed free market out of every mention in the standards. They didn’t want free market in there…
I’m just telling you folks, you just can’t assume that what your teachers are is not indoctrinating your kids.”
This is pure distortion and right-wing paranoia. In Barton’s bizarre, confused rendering, a cabal of radical classroom teachers conspired to corrupt American history, forcing the state board to step in and restore accuracy.
His whole diatribe wasn’t just an insulting attack on teachers. It was also a carefully calibrated lie designed to discredit the entire curriuclum process and excuse efforts by far-right members of the State Board of Education to twist the curriculum standards into a tool for promoting their own political agendas.
And how distorted was Barton’s attack? He didn’t tell his listeners, for example, that curriculum writers moved a reference to Nathan Hale from first grade to fifth grade, where they thought discussions about Hale’s heroic deeds and his subsequent execution by hanging might be more age-appropriate. Curriculum writers also included requirements that students learn about important customs, patriotic symbols, and celebrations in America, but they didn’t include a laundry list of every possible example. So Barton absurdly suggested to his listeners that teachers were trying to “censor” such examples. And while curriculum writers did include a benign reference to “citizenship in a global society” (as in: we all share the same, interconnected world), references to American citizenship — and the rights and responsibilities of that citizenship – remained through the standards. Yet Barton bizarrely suggests that Texas teachers want to undermine the loyalty of their students to their own nation.
Barton’s guest on Tuesday’s program, state board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, is also suspicious of the state’s supposedly devious classroom teachers. Mercer, contributing to the conspiratorial suggestions that classroom teachers are trying to “indoctrinate” students with leftist ideology, told listeners that the curriculum teams didn’t include a sufficient diversity of people from different walks of life and professional backgrounds:
“I get a list of experts throughout my district, and I have 12 counties, 1.5 million people, but I found out the list did not go to any Chambers of Commerce, did not go to any PTA groups. And the reason why that’s important because in Texas it’s supposed to be our committees are made up of one-third average moms and dads, one third business leaders and one third educators. Well the groups were all educators – not that that’s bad. But on my committee, I had conservative educators come forward tell me they were shut out of the process because they are conservatives – conservative historians in Texas schools, which is pretty shocking.”
What conservatives said they were shut out of the process, Mr. Mercer? Is the Texas Education Agency investigating? Do you have names, or are you just making up an absurd story with vague allegations? (Of course, we already know that at least one board member was trying to weed out potential curriculum writers who were insufficiently conservative.)
In any case, Mercer didn’t bother to tell listeners that Republican board members appointed two-thirds of the curriculum writers. He also didn’t mention that he wasn’t one of those Republicans — Mercer failed to submit the name of even one appointee. He simply couldn’t be bothered to make the effort, but now he wants to smear the reputations of the teachers who did get placed on the curriculum teams. Mercer did, however, appoint Barton to a panel of so-called “experts” to help guide the revision:
“But that’s where we began, so basically, I decided, well, instead of having that I want to appoint a state-wide expert, someone from Texas I knew who was respected throughout the nation, and you know, I appointed David Barton. And that was a huge homerun.”
But Barton has no formal training in the social sciences. His bachelor’s degree is in religious education from Oral Roberts University. That’s it. Truth is, Barton is absurdly unqualified to serve as an “expert” on a panel helping revise curriculum standards for social studies. Indeed, we have repeatedly pointed out Barton’s problems with historical facts (including here, here and here).
So no, Barton is not “respected throughout the nation” as an expert at anything other than political propaganda. And one assumes classroom teachers wouldn’t think too highly of him either after his diatribe last week.