Far-Right Opponents of Ethnic Studies Courses in Texas Turn to Race-Baiting

VE_MAS

Far-right activists are furious that the State Board of Education on Wednesday moved to make it easier for Texas public schools to offer elective courses in ethnic studies. Now some of those extremists have launched a racially divisive and deeply offensive campaign to stop the board from implementing that plan.

This image from the Facebook page of Voices Empower, a political consulting firm aligned with tea partyers, calls on board members to vote against a preliminary agreement they struck on Wednesday. If the board votes for final approval of that agreement on Friday, the state will ask publishers to submit instructional materials next year for local courses in Mexican-American, African-American, Native American and Asian-American studies. Schools that choose to offer those courses would do so under the state’s Special Topics in Social Studies curriculum standards.

That doesn’t sit well with the extremists at Voices Empower. (Run by Alice Linahan, Voices Empower helped push last year’s anti-CSCOPE witch hunt that portrayed a popular curriculum tool used in hundreds of Texas schools as Marxist, anti-Christian and pro-Muslim. That campaign fizzled when a review sponsored by the State Board of Education found no evidence for those absurd charges.)

“This is AMERICA,” scream’s the firm’s illustration attacking what it calls “Cultural Studies.” An arrow points toward a white soldier above a call for state board members to “Vote for This Man.” Below are the words, “Do Not Vote for This Man,” with an arrow pointing toward a Hispanic activist. The message is hardly subtle: The white soldier is a real American. Brown folks? Not so much.

On the same Facebook page, Voices Empower insists that ethnic studies courses would be divisive, “emphasizing ethnic/racial differences among students.” But advocates have pointed out repeatedly that such courses would simply give students a fuller accounting of  Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and others in our nation’s history and culture.

In fact, it’s Voices Empower’s shameful race-baiting campaign that is divisive.

Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans and Asian-Americans are just as American as the white soldier in the firm’s illustration. Many people of color have served their country — America — in uniform, just like him. Many have died doing so. But the contributions they and others like them have made to this country often receive little attention in public school classrooms.

In fact, four years ago state board members debated whether American heroes like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Thurgood Marshall should even be included in the state’s social studies curriculum standards. Political activists appointed by the board as “expert advisers” argued that Chavez and Marshall either were poor role models for students or weren’t important enough to include in the standards. They remained in the standards, but the board voted to remove Huerta from a third-grade course.

Now the board is taking an important step toward making it easier for public schools to teach courses on how these Americans and others like them have helped shape our state and nation. Right-wing extremists like those at Voices Empower find that threatening. Shame on them.

Posted in Alice Linahan, Mexican-American studies, TFNEF, Voices Empower | 3 Comments

Texas Ed Board Takes Step Forward on Ethnic Studies Courses

The State Board of Education today took a step toward ensuring that public school students learn the full story of our nation’s history and all of the people who have contributed to it.

The board decided not to create a special stand-alone course in Mexican-American Studies for Texas public schools, but board members did vote to ask publishers to submit instructional materials for locally developed courses in Mexican-American Studies, African-American Studies, Native American Studies, and Asian-American Studies next year. Schools could then use  those instructional materials to teach ethnic studies courses under the Special Topics in Social Studies curriculum standards.

The board voted 11-3 in favor of this approach. Republicans David Bradley of Beaumont Buna, Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas voted against the proposal. The board must confirm today’s preliminary vote at its official meeting on Friday.

Schools have long used Special Topics in Social Studies curriculum standards to create local courses that are not part of the state curriculum. But they must design those courses and find instructional materials on their own, which many schools lack the time and resources to do. Under today’s agreement, schools that choose to teach one or more ethnic studies courses could have access to instructional materials that publishers and other vendors submit to the state. Moreover, the public will have the opportunity to examine any proposed instructional materials to ensure that they are accurate and substantive.

It’s disappointing, of course, that board members didn’t agree to the need for a specific Mexican-American and other ethnic studies course as a part of the state curriculum. But today’s vote does represent an important step forward.

Posted in Mexican-American studies, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Texas Ed Board Begins Debate over Proposed Mexican-American Studies Course

The State Board of Education on Tuesday heard from several dozen supporters of a new elective course on Mexican-American Studies for Texas public schools. The board will begin a formal discussion of the proposal, as well as other possible new courses, today. A final vote on the issue is scheduled for Friday. The Texas Freedom Network sent out the following press release Tuesday afternoon.

MEXICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES COURSE WOULD BE AN IMPORTANT STEP TOWARD TEACHING THE FULL HISTORY OF AMERICA

TFN President Calls on SBOE to Add MAS Course to State Curriculum

An elective Mexican-American Studies course would be an important step toward teaching public school students the full history of our nation, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today.

“Right now there are more than 200 elective courses in the state curriculum, including classes on topics like floral design and web gaming,” Miller said. “In a state where the majority of public school students are Hispanic, surely there is room for an elective course that teaches students how Mexican-Americans have helped shape our nation’s history. And this is especially important just a few years after this state board actually debated whether Texas students should learn about revered Hispanic Americans like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Sonia Sotomayor.”

During the debate over new social studies curriculum standards in 2009-10, the board voted to strike Huerta from the standards for third grade social studies. An adviser appointed by the board also argued that Chavez wasn’t an appropriate role model for public school students.

More than 2,300 Texans have already signed on to a petition calling on the State Board of Education add an elective course on Mexican-American studies to the state curriculum.

The adoption of a Mexican-American Studies course would also open the door to discussion of similar courses, such as African-American Studies and Women’s Studies, Miller said.

Teaching about Hispanic-Americans, other ethnic minorities and women was a big part of the debate over new social studies textbooks in 2002 as well as the social studies curriculum standards in 2010. It will almost certainly be a big part of the debate over new social studies textbooks that the state board will consider for adoption this year.

“What has been clear through all of these debates is that the contributions Mexican-Americans as well as African-Americans, women and others have made to the history of our state and nation still get far too little attention in our classrooms,” Miller said. “Now Texas can be a model for recognizing and embracing our nation’s diversity.”

A growing number of organizations – such as LULAC, the Mexican-American School Board Members Association, and the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies – as well as school districts – including Houston ISD and Ysleta ISD – have called for approval of a Mexican-American Studies course for Texas students. ( A full list of organizations is below.)

In addition, 39 members of the Texas House of Representatives and 11 state Senators have signed on to letters calling on the state board to approve a Mexican-American Studies course.

Research, including a 2012 study from the University of Arizona, has shown that courses in Mexican-American Studies can help improve students’ academic performance and make it more likely that they will graduate.

Organizations Supporting a Mexican-American Studies Course in Texas

· Texas Latino Education Coalition
· Texas NAACP
· Librotraficante
· LULAC
· Mexican-American School Board Members Association
· National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies
· Texas State Teachers Association
· Houston Independent School District
· Ysleta Independent School District
· 39 members of the Texas House of Representatives have signed a letter calling on the State Board of Education to add Mexican-American Studies to the state curriculum.
· 11 members of the Texas Senate have signed a letter calling on the State Board of Education to add Mexican-American Studies to the state curriculum.

Posted in Mexican-American studies, TFNEF | Leave a comment

A Teachable Moment for the Texas State Board of Education

Four American presidents are coming to Austin this week for the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus. The event, which lasts from Tuesday to Thursday, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This anniversary year is, as educators say, a teachable moment. Students will have an opportunity to learn more about how African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, women and others have worked long and hard to win the same rights and privileges as white men in this country. This might also be a teachable moment for the Texas State Board of Education, which this year will consider the adoption of proposed new social studies textbooks for public schools.

The struggles for civil and equal rights in America were a big part of the debate over new curriculum standards for social studies classes in 2009-10. That debate exposed the incredible ignorance among some board members about how those movements succeeded. So let’s look back at what one board member at the time, Don McLeroy, wanted students to learn about civil rights:

Here’s what we had to say at the time:

So the countless civil rights workers who put their lives on the line and women who marched and lobbied for voting and equal rights – all of those generations of Americans who demanded that our country live up to its promise of justice and equality for all — have ”the majority” to thank for finally granting them the rights they should have always had?

Look, Don McLeroy is a very nice man, and he is not a bigot. But he’s not a historian either. Yet he and too many of his equally clueless colleagues on the State Board of Education think they are. And they are putting their bizarre and politically distorted beliefs about history ahead of the expertise of true historians in deciding what millions of Texas children will learn in their public school classrooms.

McLeroy lost his bid for re-election to the state board in 2010. But what students learn about the movements for civil and equal rights in America will almost certainly be a big part of the debate over the adoption of new social studies textbooks this year.

Posted in Don McLeroy, social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 1 Comment

The Week in Quotes (March 30 – April 5)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | 3 Comments

Hobby Lobby Hypocrisy and the War on Birth Control

When Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration over the requirement that it provide coverage for birth control in its employees’ health insurance plans, the company and religious-right groups billed the lawsuit as a defense of religious freedom. But there are some big problems with that claim — not the least of which is the attempt to redefine religious freedom to mean allowing employers to impose their religious beliefs on the personal decisions their workers make. Let’s look at some of the other problems.

First, opponents of the requirement say they shouldn’t be forced to pay for abortion drugs like Plan B and Ella. But as we have pointed out before, those emergency contraceptives don’t cause abortions, despite how loudly religious-righters repeat the falsehood that they do.

Second, as Mother Jones points out in a new article, Hobby Lobby’s employee insurance actually included coverage for Plan B and Ella until sometime in 2012 — when the company decided to sue the administration over the birth control requirement. Did the company and its owners not have moral objections to those drugs before then?

Finally, as Mother Jones reports in the same article, Hobby Lobby’s employee retirement plan invests $73 million in companies that produce emergency contraception products. So the company has a moral objection to including coverage for those products in its employees’ health insurance but not to investing in companies that make them?

Here is what’s really going on. Hobby Lobby’s case isn’t about religious freedom. It’s about discriminating against women who don’t share their boss’s religious beliefs. It’s about making it harder for women to get access to birth control. It’s about interfering with the right of women to make their own decisions about whether and when to have children. This is nothing new — even some Texas legislators have declared a “war on birth control.”

Hobby Lobby and the right-wing pressure groups that back the company’s lawsuit aren’t really interested in religious freedom as much as they’re interested in control — controlling the personal decisions individuals make about their own lives in accordance with their own deeply held personal beliefs.

Posted in birth control, TFNEF | 7 Comments

How Extreme Is Greg Abbott? Now His Education Plan Cites a White Nationalist with Controversial Views on Gender

Just how extreme is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor this year? This week Abbott called pre-K education — which predominantly helps low-income and minority kids — a “waste” while citing in his education plan a man the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “white nationalist.” From Burnt Orange Report:

Universal pre-K will most directly benefit low income and disadvantaged students to better prepare them for K-12 education. The policy has been shown to improve graduation rates, and produce persistent gains on achievement test scores. The benefits are long-term: students who go to pre-K find higher paying jobs and are less likely to end up in jail.

Currently, Latino children do not attend pre-school at the same rates as their white counterparts. Universal pre-K is not merely sensible, but arguably critical for the future success of the Texas economy. In refusing to support a policy that will best prepare our population to learn and succeed, Abbott demonstrates that he’s not ready to govern the state of Texas.

Now, Abbott has followed up on his implication that preparing poor and minority kids for success is a “waste” by citing a white supremacist, Charles Murray, in his education policy paper.

The Southern Poverty Law Center states that Charles Murray has a history of using “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics” to suggest that minorities, women, and the poor are genetically inferior to wealthy white men and that their inherent deficiencies cannot be remedied through education.

The Dallas Morning News last night noted some of what Murray has said about women:

In September 2005, after Harvard University president Larry Summers was forced out for suggesting women were under-represented in fields of science because of a lower aptitude, Murray wrote an essay defending Summers’ statement.

In it he wrote, “no woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions.”

He also said “Women have produced a smaller number of important visual artists, and none that is clearly in the first rank. No female composer is even close to the first rank.”

He credits that theory to women and men are cognitively different — and women wanting to have babies, which pulls them out work during key times.

“I have omitted perhaps the most obvious reason why men and women differ at the highest levels of accomplishment: men take more risks, are more competitive, and are more aggressive than women,” he also stated.

This isn’t the first time Abbott has aligned himself with extremists. Last year he accepted an award from a Houston group whose leader says President Obama is an “enemy” of Christianity, calls Houston’s mayor a “sodomite,” attacks the faith of clergy who accept the science of evolution and prays for God to destroy supporters of marriage equality for LGBT families.

Later in the year Abbott bragged about helping gut a valuable curriculum tool — used in hundreds of Texas public schools — that fringe political activists falsely claimed was promoting Marxism and radical Islam. This year he campaigned with Ted Nugent, an aging rocker who has called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and has bragged about bedding underage girls.

And later this week Abbott will share the stage at an Austin event featuring a number of controversial figures, including the head of what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “hate group” with a history of vicious anti-gay, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

So just how extreme is Greg Abbott? That’s an increasingly scary question to contemplate.

Posted in Greg Abbott, TFN | 10 Comments

Texas RR Group Says ‘Homosexual Advocates’ Are ‘Persecuting Christians’

As LGBT families gain marriage equality in state after state, the opposition is becoming increasingly desperate and vicious. Today, for example, a Texas religious-right group launched a new hate-filled and almost unhinged attack on supporters of marriage equality.

In a fundraising email to far-right activists, Texas Values, the lobby arm of Plano-based Liberty Institute, claims that anti-gay Christians are suffering from discrimination:

“Christians in Texas and across the country are being persecuted, intimated [sic], and punished for simply expressing the biblical view of marriage.”

The sneering email even suggests that same-sex couples don’t seek to marry because they love each other and want to protect their family. No, the email says, the fight for marriage equality is about using “government to elevate the homosexual lifestyle” (emphasis in original):

Here’s the dirty little secret––“gay marriage” isn’t about marriage at all. It’s not about couples exchanging rings or wedding vows. As marriage touches every part of our society, this destructive effort is actually a strategy to use the government to elevate the homosexual lifestyle to a status in law above the free exercise of religion. It’s true, homosexual advocates want their sexual lifestyle to trump religious liberty. And they’ll use this power to shut up those with traditional values and directly attack our last refuge––the church.

“Gay marriage” is their way to accomplish this––by forcing homosexuality into every legal matter involving matrimony. There’s no way to save religious liberty without first safeguarding marriage.

Of course, the email fails to explain how “religious liberty” came to mean allowing some to impose their personal religious beliefs on people who don’t share them. And it ignores the many clergy and other people of faith who support marriage equality for LGBT families.

Posted in LGBT issues, Liberty Institute, marriage, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Texas Eagle Forum’s Anti-Common Core Hysteria

Let’s get this out of the way up front: the Texas Freedom Network neither supports nor opposes the Common Core standards. But it’s increasingly clear that some opponents are incapable of having a rational debate about these educational standards for mathematics and English/language arts.

A consortium of states and independent organizations developed the standards, which 44 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity have voluntarily adopted. The project is sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. You can read about the project on the Common Core website.

Support and opposition to the standards is bipartisan, with both conservatives and liberals split over them. But the most virulent, hair-on-fire opposition appears to come from the far right — the commies-and-gays-and-Muslims-and-United Nations-are-coming-to-enslave-us right.

Now, not all conservatives oppose Common Core. Republican Bob Riley, former governor of Alabama, has written a piece in National Review supporting the project, for example. But the tea party, wack-a-doodle right is convinced that Common Core is part of a grand conspiracy to destroy America. And that conspiracy, those opponents claim, involves other projects that have nothing to do with Common Core.

Texas Eagle Forum, the Lone Star State branch of Phyllis Schlafly’s national organization, is among the most extreme opponents. Eagle Forum fears a lot of conspiracies, of course — one-worldism, Muslim takeovers, environmental extremism, etc. But Texas Eagle Forum’s March 2014 Torch newsletter offers a real tour de force in the far right’s war on Common Core.

The article, “CSCOPE and Common Core ‘Are One in the Same,’” first ties Common Core to the state-developed CSCOPE curriculum management system used in hundreds of Texas public schools. The two programs have nothing to do with each other, but that doesn’t make for a very good conspiracy. Anyway, right-wing critics have charged that CSCOPE promotes Marxism, radical Islam and other ills while at the same time undermining patriotism and Christianity. That witch hunt caused a lot of damage before a State Board of Education-sponsored review of CSCOPE found scant evidence for those absurd claims.

The extremists over at Texas Eagle Forum apparently have ignored the findings of that SBOE review. (No surprise.) Moreover, CSCOPE remains — as they see it — part of the Common Core conspiracy, along with the unrelated Next Generation Science Standards and Future of Sex Education (the latter a project of groups like Advocates for Youth, Answer and SIECUS). So check out the crazy that vomits forth in the Torch newsletter article about Common Core:

Sexual corruption is already happening in our schools with the introduction of anti-bullying programs (loaded with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) agenda); obscene, anti-Christian leftist literature; social justice; and, in the higher grades, activist opportunities. Sexual subjects already fit into Common Core through the English Language Arts (ELA) standards via obscene novels; social justice in the social studies; and data collection by asking students their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sex ed is one thing, but literature is something we think would be okay.

Dr. Michael Coffman spoke about “Common Core’s Agenda 21 and Globalism vs. Private Property and Individual Liberty.” The new Science Standards also include the “science of meditation.” It includes a step-by-step lesson on an Eastern spiritual religious practice, all billed as “focusing awareness.” The weather and climate standards include lessons that are all based on “models.” While models are very useful, the lessons present that they prove global warming is factual. The environment is peppered throughout the Science Standards. They do not test knowledge of facts, but assess where the student is on their continuum.

The bottom line is that Common Core is a top-down push for a one-size-fits-all curriculum for all students. As Bill Whittle emphasized, the concept of the individual is obliterated in Common Core. It is the concept of the individual that has made America the greatest nation on earth. Our education system used to teach children how to think. Today, Common Core tells students what to think and then measures their progress through unending assessments to see how the child is conforming to be the ideal child of the state. The elitists believe they know what is best for our children and us.

Sexual corruption, the LGBT agenda, social justice, Agenda 21, globalism, meditation, global warming, the “state,” elitists. These folks sure are frightened by a lot of things. How do they sleep at night?

Posted in Common Core, Texas Eagle Forum, TFNEF | 4 Comments

The Week in Quotes (March 23 – 29)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment