Expertise = ‘Pre-Holocaust Germany’?

Now Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar says giving precedence to teachers and scholars when revising curriculum standards for public schools would be like what the Nazis did in Germany during the 1930s. Really? Seriously?

Of course, Dunbar, R-Richmond, long ago demonstrated that she orbits on the political fringes. So we really weren’t too surprised to see such comments, which she made in an interview posted on a conservative website. The interview focused on the recent, highly politicized revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. Dunbar was responding to a question about letting experts, instead of politicians, drive the standards revision process:

“I actually had a call from Norwegian International Radio, and I asked them why they were so interested. His response was this is very foreign to us because we have appointed experts who deal with this and they tell our students what they’re going to learn and it never becomes political. And I said well yes, when you have a representative body it can become very political and controversial because you’re giving the electorate a voice as opposed to having certain people tell the rest of the country what they’re going to believe — like in a pre-Holocaust Germany. . . . Basically what they’re talking about is an appointed oligarchy of experts where the electorate has no voice.”

“Pre-Holocaust Germany”? “An appointed oligarchy of experts”? Good grief.

The State Board of Education has an important responsibility: ensure that what students learn in Texas public schools is based on facts, the best scholarship and sound educational practices that prepare them to succeed in college and their future careers. But state board members are not curriculum or subject-area experts. The current board includes a dentist, an insurance salesman and other businesspeople, and an assortment of attorneys and political activists. Only two or three (out of 15) board members are career educators.

Even so, during the social studies revision this year, those 15 board members demanded hundreds of detailed changes to proposed standards written over the course of last year by teachers and scholars on curriculum teams. Many of the changes made to the standards were based on little more than the personal and political beliefs of board members themselves or what information they could piece together from Google and Wikipedia searches. That — and we think most parents would agree — is a crazy way to craft curriculum standards that will direct the education of an entire generation of Texas students.

Would Dunbar, an attorney, be satisfied with having people who aren’t legal scholars micromanage the development of curriculum standards for training lawyers? Would Don McLeroy, a dentist who also sits on the board, have no problem if insurance salesmen, realtors and political activists with no relevant education wrote curriculum standards for training dentists how to do what he does for a living? Of course not, but when it comes to what our kids learn in public schools, those board members are perfectly comfortable with substituting their own personal and political beliefs for the knowledge and expertise of classroom teachers, scholars and curriculum specialists. Doing otherwise, Dunbar suggests, would be a step toward totalitarianism, concentration camps and mass murder.

You can read the full interview with Dunbar here.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Dunbar has resorted to incendiary rhetoric to promote her political agenda. In her 2008 book, One Nation Under God, Dunbar called public education unconstitutional, tyrannical and “a subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” In the fall of that year, she also suggested that then-candidate Barack Obama would as president sympathize with terrorists out to destroy America.

Fortunately, Dunbar (and McLeroy) will no longer sit on the state board after this year. But it’s clearly time for the Legislature to rein in the ability of board members to politicize the education of Texas schoolchildren.

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13 Comments

  1. Posted June 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Dentist? Why not? David Barton, a high school math teacher, claims to be an historian. DUH!

  2. Posted June 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    This is the problem in a nutshell. Dunbar is doing the exact thing that she is accusing others of. History, like civil liberties, are not suppose to be subjected to the irregularities of popular elections. History is not alterable, while in the case of the SBOE it can be twisted and selectively altered. It is an ever continuous process of inquiry. New information adds to the already expanding body of knowledge. It is the SBOE that is making the issue political. They are the ones that are claiming without PROOF that Thomas Jefferson was NOT influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. I think John Locke and Thomas Hobbes would disagree. And just WHY did those who changed this curriculum not consult ANY historian. I think when I retire I will become a Dentist in my spare time.

  3. Posted June 28, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    We are also the people who have responsibility to do our homework and promote responsible history, the reason for my website, americasrealreligion.org and my book The Religion Commandments.

    I became a Southern Baptist as age 16, that is, “converted” into believing the King James Version the infallible word of God. I subsequently majored in religion and history, graduated from a Southern Baptist university, and from a Southern Baptist seminary. Subsequently, I did one year of law school on the G.I. bill and, therefore, do have some specific educational background from which to address the fundamentalist viewpoint.

    It is to the great credit of those Americans who drafted the Constitution that “religion” was properly dealt with from the beginning of our nation’s legal existence. Led by men like Founding Fathers Washington, Franklin, Madison (all deists and not communing members of any Christian church), the Constitution was specifically worded to counter the religion zealots of their own age. Therefore, if my response, in terms of dealing with the mindset of those who continue to misrepresent the foundation upon which our nation came into existence, is too clearly specific to be misunderstood, credit the wise men who drafted the clearly stated wording of Art. 6 and the First Amendment. I simply uphold the Constitution as the supreme law of the land according to its clearly stated wording, and the word “church” is nowhere to be found. Revisionists can distort the Constitution’s words, but cannot change them. TFN’s stubborn refusal to comprehend and simply rebut the error of TSBOE members is unacceptable to me. It is the whole subject of “religion” which our government is prohibited from establishing by law. There I stand. PS: just for fun, take a look at my Space Age Calendar, found on my website. July 20 begins a new space age year.

  4. Posted June 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh ja vol. Ve are ze people vot rewrites history and burns books.

    Zig Heil, Dunbar.

  5. WOW
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank goodness this crazy woman is leaving the SBOE. She is a nasty hate mongering, ignorant bigot. Unfortunately the world my kids reside in will include the kids raised by Ms Dunbar in the discriminatory manner she lives her own life embracing ignorance and superstition.

  6. Cytocop CT(ASCP)
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    @Beverly Kurtin: You make a good point at the end. I think Albert Einstein was considered an expert but I doubt he was a Nazi.
    :-)

  7. Cytocop CT(ASCP)
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    @Doc Bill: Hey, not fair! I loved Hogan’s Heroes. (Just kidding. )

    Sorry for the typo. I meant to type ‘nuts’ not ‘nutes.’ It’s been a long day. (At least ‘nutes’ rhymes with ‘fruits.’)

  8. Doc Bill
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Cynthia Dunbar is what you get when you let a religious fanatic watch Hogan’s Heroes.

    I blame poor parenting and the media.

  9. Cytocop CT(ASCP)
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    When she says “pre-holocaust” Germany, that could refer to many Germanys. Does she mean Germany after the election of Adolf Hitler to the chancellory but before the holocaust? Is she referring to the Weimar Republic? Bismarck’s Germany? Or maybe the Germany of the three kaisers: Wilhelm, Frederick, or Wilhelm II? Or maybe the Germany of the Teutonic tribes during Roman times? Any of these – and many more – could be referring to “pre-holocaust” Germany.

    Again, we see the fruitcakes increasing the amount of fruits and nutes in their batter.

  10. Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Currently, I am reading a book, “Liberating the Gospels” by a Rev. Spong. He points out that the entire bible was written by Jews!

    The fundies among us believe that every word in the bible is real, accurate and if you don’t believe it you’re going to their version of hell.

    There’s a problem, according to Rev. Spong and that is that the Jews who were around in Jesus’ day were still using a method of writing called midrashic. It uses all kinds of methods to write what happened but one has to first know what the “key” to understanding the books mean. For example, Paul (who started Christianity) died in 64 CE. He died two years before the final war between the Israelites and Romans started (66-70 CE). Yet in what is called the New Testament has him saying and doing things that happened AFTER Paul’s death. The fundies break every rule in the book trying to understand those passages which CANNOT be understood unless one realizes that they are reading a book that was written by Jews.

    Those folks may deserve our pity rather than our condemnation because they either lack or will not use their Gd-given minds to stop trying to read the bible literally. It simply cannot be done.

    Be that as it may, me thinks that a few months of psychiatric observation and treatment might get what’s her name to wake up, smell the coffee and realize that just because someone is an expert does not mean they’re Nazis.

    Damned shame…

  11. Posted June 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    re•li•gion (r -l j n)
    n.
    1.
    a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
    b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
    2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
    3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
    4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
    Idiom:

  12. Charles
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    And after that fine sales message from one of our excellent and most dogged sponsors, we return now to the TFN Insider Blog Show:

    I think it is Indiana, but I cannot recall for sure. One of the states has a law on the books stating that in that particular state the value of Pi (3.14 with repeating decimal places) shall be another number. This is what happens when soldout politicians and citizen fruitcakes are allowed to control academic discussions and decisions.

    The Nazi’s of which Ms. Dunbar speaks were really into burning books in huge bonfires. They were books that contained information they disliked, disgreed with, or thought would corrupt the minds of people. The recent activities of the Texas SBOE were really nothing more than institutionalized censorship based on far right wing political ideology and notions that have been milling around in the minds of Religious Right fruitcakes for years now. I ask you—straight up. If given the power and the opportunity, who here doubts that the members of the Religious Right would burn the books, papers, and other documents that contain thoughts and ideas in opposition to their own—or that they think would be harmful to people. The Christimas desserts in the Southern Baptist Convention fired and otherwise treated horribly the Christian seminary professors, pastors, and missionaries who dared to disagree with the far right extremist SBC party line, which was largely in opposition to basic Baptist principles such as separation of religion and state, which had been around for going on 400 years. It is a little hard to burn a person at the stake here in the United States without going to jail, although I expect that to change in a few years. However, in my humble opinion, the SBC really did do the next best legal thing to its own people—people who loved Jesus dearly and still do. Therefore, if they would do that to fellow Christians in their own denomination, I have to ask what like-minded people would do to outsiders all over this country? In short, basically and in essence, I believe the conservatives on the Texas SBOE have behaved (at least functionally) like book burners in their recent deliberations.

    I will close with a worn out quote. Although a quote might be worn out from being stated too often, that does not change the essential truth that lies within the quote:

    “That was mere foreplay. Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” (German: “Das war Vorspiel nur. Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.”)
    – Heinrich Heine, Almansor (1821).

    Read the article at:

    http://atheism.about.com/od/weeklyquotes/a/heine01.htm

  13. Posted June 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, TFN, after many years of existence, did not effectively influence its opponents on the TSBOE sufficiently to win the debate. The people of Texas elected the members of the TSBOE, and I am impressed the reason for the Dark Ages side winning so many seats on the TSBOE is because most of the voters of Texas are probably Republicans and “fundamentalist” Christians who have not been adequately educated in terms of what the clearly stated principles in the Constitution of the United States of America plainly command, that is, “separation between Religion and Government,” James Madison, William and Mary Quarterly 3:555.

    In other words, to accept the proposition which asserts the majority of citizens in Texas actually believe “public education unconstitutional, tyrannical, and a subtly deceptive tool of perversion” is unacceptable. I suspect a better understanding is to recognize the leadership of “separation” as being incapable of framing the public debate in understandable terms capable of winning the argument as to what the Constitution literally commands in respect to religion and government. TFN and other supporters of “separation,” in spite of the wise advice of Professor Lakoff in his book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, stubbornly insisted upon using the words “church and state,” which are not in the Constitution, and that simple mistake gave the winners of the debate all they needed to win the public and Board debate: “the words ‘separation of church and state’ are not in the Constitution.” For all practical purposes, that simple argument won the vote of the majority.

    Fortunately, some members of the educational Dark Side will no longer sit on the state board after this year. But it’s clearly time for the Legislature and the Board members to become educated, along with Texas schoolchildren, in terms of what the Constitution clearly commands: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” Art. 6., Sec. 3., and “no law respecting an establishment of religion,” First Amendment, which Amendment uses the word “religion,” not church. Further, every teacher in every English grammar class should be required to teach what the First Amendment word “thereof” means; “thereof” means “religion,” because that is the word to which “thereof” grammatically refers. The word in the Establishment Clause says “religion,” and the word “thereof” in the Free Exercise Clause refers to “religion” and cannot be grammatically distorted into meaning “church.”

    It is as simple as that, and I hope the staff of TFN will also be required to take that hopefully required grammar class. Nonetheless, those who have already graduated from grammar school and wish outside education can read the recently published book, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer, for a documented understanding:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb7SbUWw9dM .

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