Head of Texas Education Board Committee Wants to Teach ‘Roles of Men and Women in a Traditional Way’

HealthPic_95Apparently, it’s one step forward, then two steps back when it comes to the Texas State Board of Education.

Last month we were encouraged when the chairman of the state board committee that will review the social studies materials in the CSCOPE curriculum management system said he wanted that review process to be fully transparent. A transparent process would help prevent Tea party and other far-right activists — who have repeatedly and absurdly attacked CSCOPE as Marxist and pro-Muslim — from hijacking the committee’s review. Now, however, the committee’s chairman, Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, has demonstrated how the committee itself could muck up the review — in a big way.

According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Rowley told a Midland County Republican Women audience on Wednesday that he and other critics are concerned about the allegedly “leftist bent” of CSCOPE’s lessons.”Leftist bent”? Does anyone honestly believe that the current and retired Texas teachers who have been writing CSCOPE lessons are leftists? Or that more than 800 public school districts in the state, plus the schools of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin as well as other Christian schools, would buy such materials? (In fact, they have bought CSCOPE.) Moreover, critics have repeatedly distorted CSCOPE lessons — see here, here and here, for example. Rowley’s comment will simply further politicize this review.

Another comment Rowley made at the Midland meeting reminds us of the same culture war battles that have raged at the State Board of Education for at least the last two decades:

“We have some specific criteria that we’re looking at (regarding the CSCOPE lessons). We’re going to look at whether or not they treat the roles of men and women in a traditional way. That’s part of the operating rules and things that we’re looking at. We’re going to look at whether or not they treat American exceptionalism in a particular way and whether they enforce the belief that America is an exceptional nation.”

Good grief. In the year 2013, are we about to return to debates over whether women who work outside the home are proper role models for children? The image above, taken from a newspaper report in 1995, refers to the controversy over a photograph in a health textbook the Texas state board considered for adoption in 1994. Social conservatives at the time insisted that the publisher replace that photograph of a business professional carrying a briefcase with one showing a woman in a more traditional gender role, such as baking a cake. Social conservatives on and off the board also criticized the health textbooks that year for including information on birth control, line drawings of self-exams for breast cancer and other content they found morally objectionable. They demanded that publishers make hundreds of changes to their textbooks. Things got so bad that one major publisher simply withdrew its textbook from consideration rather than make all of the controversial changes state board members wanted.

After that and previous battles over textbook content at the state board, the Texas Legislature clearly decided that enough was enough. In 1995 they stripped the state board of the authority to edit and censor textbooks. From that point forward, the state board has legally been limited simply to determining whether textbooks cover the required curriculum standards and are free of factual errors. (Of course, state board members have worked during subsequent textbook adoptions — with varying degrees of success — to get around the restraints in that law.)

Now it seems Rowley and some of his board colleagues are looking to force their own personal and political opinions into CSCOPE. They want to decide whether CSCOPE lessons teach students “traditional” gender roles for women. They want their subjective opinions about “American exceptionalism” to govern content in CSCOPE lessons. According to information released by the state board last month, they will also ask reviewers to make subjective judgments about whether CSCOPE lessons promote patriotism, “unbiased” illustrations and “accepted standards of behavior/lifestyles.”

Perhaps Rowley was simply playing politics and saying what he thought the Midland County Republican Women wanted to hear. We can only hope. Because if he really intends for the review committee to do what he said, then anyone whose eyes are open can see where this CSCOPE review is heading: back to the days when state board members were unrestrained in their efforts to turn our schoolchildren’s textbooks into tools for promoting their own personal and political agendas.

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22 Comments

  1. Woody Wood
    Posted May 13, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Track where these ignoramuses get their ideas and I’ll bet most lead back to the nut-cases in the pulpits every Sunday. Fear-based religion by the hell-believers is well in Texas, 24/7.

  2. William Swanback
    Posted May 11, 2013 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    This is the achilles’ heel that Gov. Perry ignored in his promotional ad in the newspapers when he was bragging about what a fine place Texas was for businesses to relocate. We have an SBOE and a fair number of Texas legislators who would take us back to the dark ages when it comes to education as well as women’s reproductive rights.

  3. Charles
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    There is also a guilt factor in this Baby Boomer generation. If parents were intercessors in Heaven, the prayer might go like this:

    “Dear heavenly mom and dad. Please tell Jesus that I am sorry for attending the human rights sit-in at Berkeley in 1966. Please let him know that I recant marching with all those ugly black creatures in Selma. You warned me what they were really like, but we didn’t listen to you. One of them is in the White House now forcing us to sell our BMW so a sick child can have access to medical care. Please tell Jesus that we finally figured out how important money really is—just like you told us in 1955 mom. Tell him that we learned it is more important than our brothers and sisters on this Earth and more important than life itself. Tell daddy that we now understand why he stayed at work until 10:00 p.m. every night and ignored us as if we didn’t exist while we were growing up. We realize now that daddy was doing the right thing to go for the money.” Amen.

    That prayer was for you and everything you stand for Marty Rowley.

  4. Charles
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Wrong. It is really the old conservative elements of the Baby Boomer generation—those elements that never owned bell bottom jeans and Carnaby Street hats hoping to restore their mythological view of the 1950s as model cultural reality. Every last one of them will be dead in about 20 years, and all of their beliefs and prejudices will die with them. This is nothing new. Every generation hopes that its creations and ideas will be the standard for all time throughout the future. IT NEVER WORKS OUT THAT WAY. NEVER!!!!!

  5. Penny Duff
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Well, I have been saying for months that these ultra-right-wing conservatives want to take the vote away from women. People have poo-pooed me. This is yet another move toward trying to enforce “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen”. These men are scared of women and want to put us back into roles that never truly existed on a large scale.

  6. Posted May 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Well stated, Albert and Rodney. History records the progressive liberation of humans from authoritarians and reactionaries who have political or religious power over others. In Texas it’s just taking a long time.

  7. Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Discouraging, indeed. Fortunately people who think like this are on the wrong side of history though they manage to generate lots of misery in the meantime. Human rights advance in the face of obstacles much greater than religious reactionaries with limited imaginations who are in positions of authority. Not that people of good will should sit still while the authoritarians impose their religious views on the rest of us, but the inevitable advance of knowledge ultimately, though slowly, triumphs over ignorance and bigotry.

  8. Conservofascism
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    This guy sounds like a fascist who wants to create a corps of “Reaganjugend” to spread the glory of unregulated markets and Jesus for the Fatherland.

  9. Posted May 10, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I’m going to buy a briefcase now.

  10. Ben
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Steven, excellent post.

  11. Marsisi
    Posted May 10, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Steven Schafersman! Excellent post. How on earth do we get the voters to understand whom they are voting for? I’ve tried for years to speak with people about looking at the candidates and their proposals, as well as comparing the Democratic and GOP platforms. They don’t want to do a little research before they vote. They won’t listen. They just say, “I don’t discuss politics.” They seem to want to remain ignorant.

  12. Posted May 10, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Just think, 100 years ago women could not vote and 100 years before that they could not own property and 100 years before that they were burned at the stake for being witches and before that stoned to death for not being a virgin. Thank goodness religions hold on culture continues to evolve but at a painfully slow rate. Abrahamic religions are not the friend of females. Read the fine print if you don’t believe me.

  13. Posted May 10, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Meagan Brown

  14. Posted May 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I was Marty Rowley’s Democratic opponent in the election for State Board of Education in West Texas last November. Needless to say, I didn’t win. But I did point out in our debates and appearances together that Marty was supported by the Texas Tea Party Republicans and that his views matched theirs on all the issues. He opposed evolution and the occurrence of climate change, wanted prayer in school, wanted to keep students ignorant about gays in society, was for abstinence only sex education and opposed teaching students birth control information, and so forth. When I challenged him on all these topics, he promised to evaluate items before the Board fairly and without bias before reaching conclusions. I knew not to believe him but he sounded sincere so the conservative citizens in West Texas overwhelmingly voted for him.

    Now we know that Marty’s brain is full of biases and he has essentially made up his mind before he’s even begun to evaluate CSCOPE. You might think that the Midland County Republican Women are a pretty conservative group. In fact, they are extreme reactionaries, not conservative at all. They don’t believe in climate change and evolution, protecting the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard or the Lesser Prairie-Chicken, regulating assault rifles or requiring background checks, in separation of religion and government, in federal government programs that help to take care of children and old retired people who are poor or in ill health, in creating a path for illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens, in giving gays the same rights heterosexual citizens enjoy, in giving women control of their own bodies and fertility, and many more ideas that educated and rational people would find perfectly normal. Discrimination, intolerance, bigotry, resentment, fear, privilege, self-righteous superiority, and the desire to use the power of government to force your extreme values on others are the usual emotions Midland’s Republican women possess.

    So Marty was speaking to his kind of people and telling them what they wanted to hear. Some CSCOPE lessons have a “definite leftist bent”? As Dilbert would say, that’s crazy talk. I don’t think Marty knows what a leftist is. I have been able to examine all the controversial CSCOPE lessons publicized so far, and they are certainly not leftist–they only try to teach students critical thinking. Of course, the reactionary 2012 Republic Party platform stated that they were against teaching critical thinking, so they really might think a high-quality education that obliges students to research facts, question authorities and assumptions, and come to solid conclusions on their own really is “leftist.” Does anyone believe that typical Texas educators are leftist? Liberal, perhaps, like me–wanting students’ minds to be liberated from ignorance and lack of education, wanting the liberty to pursue one’s dreams and desires without oppression from reactionaries and bigots, wanting liberation from unjust authorities, from reactionary and venal plutocrats, from industrialists who pursue material wealth without concern about the survival of endangered species or even working class people. Liberal means liberty, liberation, and liberated. I want to be liberated from the status quo in Texas–that’s what liberal means.

    Marty will be looking to see if CSCOPE treats the “roles of men and women in a traditional way.” Does that mean marriage, sexual relations, and entitlement to employment benefits traditionally held by straight people? Or does it mean really traditional roles: women in the kitchen cooking and raising children and men out in the world earning a living and fighting in our country’s unending wars? It can’t possibly be the latter, can it?

    Finally, Marty has already made up his mind that CSCOPE better promote American Exceptionalism. The curriculum should promote the belief that America is an “exceptional nation,” but what does that mean? Unfortunately for accountability, it has different meanings depending on your apriori political agenda. Certainly the country has exceptional resources, an origin history by Founders of exceptional political and philosophical genius, an exceptional history of technological invention and scientific advancement, and the most exceptional thing of all is the nation’s creation of a unique American ideology based on democracy, liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and free enterprise that it then spread throughout the world by both example and encouragement. No one can doubt that the United States is a legitimately exceptional nation in these senses.

    But is this the sense that Marty means when he says, “We’re going to look at whether or not they treat American exceptionalism in a particular way . . .” Unfortunately, no. Agenda-driven Tea Party radicals such as Marty and his supporters believe American Exceptionalism means American superiority: that the United States is qualitatively and quantitatively better than all other countries on the planet; that it has a superior culture, superior military, superior economic system, and superior values. That it is God’s country, with a mission to bring liberty and democracy to the world–whether other countries want it or not.

    This theme of American superiority accepted by American reactionaries, when they say “American Exceptionalism,” is obviously presumptuous, perverse, and profoundly pernicious. It is simply untrue. With its lax financial laws and oversight, unmitigated greed, militarism, imperialism, willingness to torture prisoners and incarcerate them without trial, unconcern for global environmental destruction, vast social and financial inequality, class warfare, ineffective and irresponsible Congress, and many other faults, the U. S. today is the poster child of dysfunctional countries, not a superior country. Almost all educated people living in other countries see America this way. The Texas social studies curriculum has traditionally promoted historical ignorance, confusion, and misunderstanding among students, and Marty aims to keep it this way with his stated goal of pushing a very misguided and false version of American Exceptionalism. But that’s what Republican State Board of Education members do.

    • Bobbye Eachus
      Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      To Steve Schafersman:
      I appreciate your response so much I re-published it in my news feed on FaceBook. FYI and Thank you.

  15. Posted May 9, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    stop it already – the craziness is not funny anymore. Please step into the 21st century.

    • Bobbye Eachus
      Posted May 10, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I appreciate your response so much I re-published it in my news feed on FaceBook. FYI and Thank you.

  16. Tom Brucia
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Maybe we need some traditional Texas women: roping, riding, running ranches, feeding, watering, herding, grazing,and castrating. Also assisting in calf deliveries. Traditional work…. Then all the namby-pambies on the SBOE can stand around and watch.

  17. Posted May 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if I’m in some dream. Often I don’t know if it’s a comedy or nightmare or both!

  18. Posted May 9, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Texas is well down that road already. I hope we can turn around before the cliff.

  19. Posted May 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    AHHHHHHHH!

  20. Coragyps
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Do you think Rowley will ask any Apaches about any of that “exceptional nation” stuff? I wonder, too, if his daughter is interested in a “traditional way” of being female? Do you think he’s asked her?

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