9:43 – The Texas State Board of Education is set today to take a final vote on proposed new social studies curriculum standards for public schools. The board first has to finish its debate over proposed amendments to the standards. We expect that debate will resume later this morning. We expect one of the key debates today will be over what students learn about separation of church and state. Stay tuned.
11:10 – The board has resumed debate on the standards, taking up the high school world history standards first.
11:11 – Pat Hardy wants to change a world history standard dealing with the period 1450-1750, added in March, that would have students study “pro-free market factors that contributed to Europe’s Commercial Revolution.” Hardy wants to the standard simply to say “new economic factors,” with some board members noting that the concept of free markets was very different at that period. The proposal passes. The board’s far-right members don’t like it.
11:14 – Hardy wants to change “explain the benefits of free enterprise in the Industrial Revolution.” She wants the standard simply to say “effects of free enterprise,” noting that there were good and bad effects. Her goal, she says, is to remove “value-laden language” so that students can understand different sides of issues. The proposal passes. Far-right board members oppose.
11:35 – A string of largely non-controversial amendments — mostly tedious arguments about the relative merits of name after name after name…
11:38 – Here’s an interesting footnote for the history books — Don McLeroy just made a passionate argument for the addition of Alan Turing to the world history standards. One wonders if McLeroy realizes that just last fall the British Government offered a posthumous apology to Alan Turing for prosecuting him as a homosexual. No matter. McLeroy’s surprising attempt to “advance the gay agenda” is stymied when the amendment fails. (h/t Abby Rapoport)
11:52 – Take a moment to check out the video post we just put up with Cynthia Dunbar’s divisive prayer that started today’s board meeting.
12:08 – In a rambling debate over whether the world history standards should reference the “benefits” or “effects” of the free enterprise system, far-right members make the absurd argument that textbooks have historically ignored the benefits of the free enterprise system — or even more strangely, that using the word “effects” somehow paints communism is an beneficial light! “Benefits” wins the day, unsurprisingly.
12:22 – Rene Nunez moves to reinstate Oscar Romero to the world history standards. The board voted to disappear the martyred Salvadoran bishop in March when far right members stated on the record they simply did not know who Romero was.
12:26 — Romero unanimously added back. Far-right members offer no apologies for their earlier ignorance.
12:28 – Dunbar asks for a brand new world history standard to recognize William Wilberforce, a prominent British abolitionist. Amendment passes.
12:31 – Here we go. Bob Craig makes a motion to add “impact of Enlightenment ideas” back into a standard altered in March to remove references to the Enlightenment and Thomas Jefferson. Craig also asks to strike the Protestant theologian John Calvin (added in March) and restoring Thomas Jefferson. Far-right board members pounce.
12:36 – Dunbar rides to the defense of John Calvin, trying desperately to recast him as a political theorist on the order of others mentioned in the standards.
12:39 – Miller defends the absolute necessity of keeping Jefferson, reading comments from SMU history professor Ed Countryman. Board members are taken aback at sudden injection of informed opinion into their debate.
12:42 – It appears the far right is set to wave the white flag and allow Jefferson back into this standard. But they are dead set on having Aquinas and Calvin alongside him in this standard.
12:44 – Here is Dunbar’s tortured logic — the definition of Enlightenment necessarily rules out divine, received knowledge in favor of rational knowledge. Ergo, you can’t put political philosophers like Montesquieu and Blackstone in a standard mentioning Enlightenment thinking because they believed knowledge was received from God.
12:50 – Motion fails on a 7-8 vote. Pat Hardy added the eighth vote to the far-right bloc.
12:52 – Mercer immediately follows with a motion to add Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to the same standard. Pat Hardy makes an amendment to strike Madison and keep Jefferson in Mercer’s amendment.
1:04 – Hardy’s amendment to strike Madison passes 8-7. They now return to original motion as amended. It passes without objection. Welcome back, Tommy!
1:07 – Craig taking another run at reworking the troublesome standard. He proposes changing the wording to “Explain the political philosophy of individuals such as…” followed by same long list of names including Jefferson, Calvin, Aquinas, et al. Heated debate follows.
1:34 – Craig’s amendment passed a few moments ago.
2:05 – Board takes up amendments to geography standards.
2:15 – And at long last, we come to the US government standards. Let the fireworks commence.
2:16 – Bob Craig offers extensive and lengthy rewrite of the contentious church-state amendment. It is an attempt at compromise, but contains the phrase “compare and contrast” language of First Amendment with “separation of church and state.” Needless to say, we don’t see this as a compromise — implying that the First Amendment is somehow antithetical to the separation of church and state is just what the far right wants.
2:18 – Mavis Knight immediately offers an amendment striking “compare and contrast” and adding back in the language that failed in March about government being barred from promoting or disfavoring one faith over others. Her amendment fails 10-5 on a straight party line vote.
2:24 – Craig’s original amendment passes 11-3. So the standard now says “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed it free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase ‘separation of church and state’.”
2:27 – Craig offers another amendment deleting the term “constitutional republic” and inserting “democratic society” throughout the government standards. Motion fails on a show of hands.
Good luck to Texas students who will first encounter the idea of American democracy when they get to their first college class.
2:32 – Mary Helen Berlanga makes a motion to add American GI Forum to a list of political interest groups in the government standards — and to add the phrase “established due to discrimination of Hispanics” after LULAC in the same standard. Amendment fails 7-8 with Hardy providing the eighth vote to the far-right bloc.
2:41 – We’re on to sociology, so things should settle down now, right? Wrong. An amendment on sexuality and gender right out of the box.
Mavis Knight proposes restoring a standard deleted by the board in March about differentiating between sex and gender. (Knight’s amendment changes the wording slightly from the original.) Cargill repeats her paranoia that teachers will have to talk about “transvestites, transsexuals, etc., etc.” (Gasp!) Board conservatives apparently made up their minds to kill this one when they heard the word “sex.” Knight and Allen pushing for the necessity of this standard.
2:53 – Amendment fails, but provides a little preview of the health curriculum debate in a couple of years.
3:03 – In one last swipe at ethnic minorities, Cargill offers an amendment watering down the sociology standards presentation of racism. The existing standard said: “Explain how institutional racism is evident in American society.” After amendment adopted 9-5 on a party-line vote, the standard now reads “discuss instances of institutional racism in American society.” (new language based on board discussion — we will confirm when we see copy of actual amendment)
3:15 – Board working on some minor clean-up items in early grades (though even this can’t be done without lengthy bickering).
3:53 – The board is about to vote on final standards for social studies courses except economics, which will be considered separately (because of the way they are listed in official rules).
3:55 – Board members are offering their final comments on the standards. First up is Mary Helen Berlanga. Berlanga believes that the standards cover up too much of the problems the nation has faced, especially the challenges faced by minorities. When Texas kids get to college, she says, they will finally get a chance to learn real history. She announces her opposition to the proposed standards.
4:02 – Mavis also opposes adoption of the new standards. She criticizes the length and politicization of the standards. Knight also decries the rush to approve the documents rather than making sure the standards are appropriate. “I am ashamed of what we have done to the teachers and the children of this state. I will not vote for this version or any other version of this travesty.”
4:06 – Rick Agosto criticizes how the board has “perverted” the process by rewriting the detailed work of curriculum teams. “I don’t know what this thing [the standards document] is. This thing belongs in the trash!” Frankly, we wish we had seen more of this side of Agosto over the past four years. Over the past year, it’s become clear that even he has become disgusted by the way the board has turned the revision of curriculum standards into opportunities to promote personal and political agendas.
4:13 – Lawrence Allen joins in opposition to the standards and begins by apologizing to Chairwoman Gail Lowe that he isn’t qualified to set curriculum standards. “Sometimes I think I must be the dumb one at the table. Other folks here seem to think they know everything.” “I don’t think we should sit here and think we have the capability to write standards.” There’s a difference, he says, between writing standards and approving standards. Other board members have good intentions, he says: “I just think they don’t know what they’re doing.” He calls on the standards to be vetted by experts and those who will implement those standards in the schools: “If the standards are off course, then the instruction will be off course.”
4:19 – Allen moves to delay final approval by the standards until the July board meeting. Bob Craig says he was going to make a similar motion. He notes that the curriculum writers for the high school American history course have announced their opposition to the revised standards. He wants experts to review the standards as revised by the board.
4:30 – Cargil: “I am proud to have my name on this document, and I am against postponement.”
Leo: “The entire nation has vetted this curriculum…Please consider that we have put in more minorities than ever before…I don’t see what postponing would do.”
Mercer: “It sounds rational for the cameras…” but the legislature wants us to wait until January when a new board is seated. So vote now.
Bradley: “Texas changed [politically since the last social studies adoption]! This is a political process. Absent that, go find yourself a political dictator and he can tell you what to do.”
Hardy: “I still have a number of concerns about certain aspects of this document. And I’m still considering.”
4:37 – Commissioner Scott: “Waiting until July is not an excessive administrative delay…” But he doesn’t think anything will change in 60 days.
Dunbar: “I feel we have done due diligence and there is no reason for delay.”
Knight: “At the end of the day, if it’s not a quality document, it’s my responsibility to reject it.”
Craig: “I am not fearful of having somebody review the document we worked on.”
Agosto: “We’re rewriting history. We’re rewriting it the way we think it should be.”
4:46 – The motion to postpone adoption fails 6-8, with all five Democrats joined by Craig voting to postpone. Hardy joined the board’s far-right faction to oppose postponement. Geraldine “Tincy” Miller is absent.
5:00 – Oh, cry me a river. Ken Mercer is claiming people have been attacking him for being a conservative. This is the guy who has questioned the faith of people who disagree with him.
5:02 – And now Mercer is comparing his critics to the notorious Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. Wow. Just wow.
5:06 – The board votes 9-5 to adopt the high school social studies standards. All Republicans vote yes (except Tincy Miller, who is absent), and all Democrats oppose. The board will next consider the elementary and middle school standards.
5:20 – The board rejects a proposal from Rick Agosto to strike a requirement in eighth-grade American history that students contrast the ideas in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address with the speeches of President Lincoln. Never mind that Davis’s address said nothing about slavery, the core cause of the Civil War, and focus mostly on attacking federal authority. TEA Partiers have a new historical champion, apparently: Jefferson Davis.
5:23 – On another 9-5 party-line vote, the board approves the middle school and elementary school social studies standards.
5:26 – The board is now finishing debate on high school economics, the only standards left for adoption.
5:33 – The board votes 14-0 (Tincy Miller is absent) to adopt the economics standards. Those standards have attracted far less controversy than the other social studies standards.
5:40 – Thanks for joining us for the live-blogging over the last three days. So we’ll sign off with TFN President Kathy Miller’s e-mail this evening to TFN supporters:
Moments ago the State Board of Education cast the final vote on new social studies standards, ending more than a year of political wrangling that invited derision and scorn from the entire educational world. I’m not going to take you through the litany of problems with this curriculum. You can read about those on our blog or in the hundreds of news stories that will appear in the media tomorrow. All of these issues, as serious as they are, are really symptoms of the larger problem — allowing politicians with personal agendas to write our children’s curriculum, rather than teachers and scholars.
That’s why today’s vote is not the end of this fight. It’s the beginning.
For 15 years, all of us at TFN have been committed to safeguarding our children’s education from political ideology. And we’re not about to let up now.
Our ultimate goal is nothing less than fundamental change at the State Board of Education. Parents, business leaders and concerned citizens across Texas must join together in our Just Educate campaign to send a clear message to politicians: stop dragging our children’s schools into the “culture wars.” That’s why TFN is mounting our largest grassroots mobilization effort in the history of the organization. And we are counting on you to take part.
TFN’s strategy is ambitious and aggressive — and you can be sure that far-right pressure groups will continue to shell out millions of dollars to hold on to their power. That’s why we’re asking you for the most generous gift you can make today.
Together, we can do it. Our kids deserve better. Our future depends on it.