SMU Scholar: New Texas Textbooks Suggest ‘Wrong-Headed Idea That the United States Was Founded on Biblical Law’

When the State Board of Education held its first public hearing on proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools, scholars from across the state (and from outside Texas) expressed their concerns about serious problems in those texts. Kathleen Wellman, Dedman Family Distinguished Professor of History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, was particularly concerned with how the textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influences on the American founding.

That exaggeration goes so far, Wellman notes in the video clip of her September testimony above, that the textbooks essentially make Moses “the Founding Father.” The impression students will get? Wellman, with only a hint of sarcasm:

“I think they’ll believe that Moses was the first American.”

Religious-righters on the State Board of Education in Texas hoped for this kind of textbook content when they passed deeply flawed and politicized new curriculum standards for social studies classes in 2010. The new textbooks must cover those standards.

You can read more about the problems in the proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools here: tfn.org/history. While you’re there, sign the petition calling for textbooks based on honest, accurate history, not the ideological beliefs of politicians on the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education is set to vote in November on which textbooks to approve.

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 5 Comments

Religious-Right Shriekout over Marriage Equality

The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear appeals to lower court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans could very quickly lead to marriage equality in at least 30 states and possibly all states not far into the future. So religious-righters and their politician pals are in meltdown mode.

Peter LaBarbera of the despicable Americans For Truth About Homosexuality is pointing at the Bible and calling for “civil disobedience on a massive scale” in opposition to marriage equality. That echoes calls from Southern white bigots for “massive resistance” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down school segregation in 1954 — calls that didn’t stop integration but contributed to racial animosity and violence.

Bryan Fischer from the anti-gay hate group American Family Association, which Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked to organize his football stadium prayer extravaganza in 2011, compared marriage equality to slavery:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is the Dred Scott of gay marriage. Legalizes something morally indefensible.”

Closer to home, gay-obsessed Jonathan Saenz at Texas Values comforted himself by noting that the Supreme Court’s sort of non-decision on Monday doesn’t make same-sex marriage legal in the Lone Star State — yet. It appears that the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will still have a say on that (although likely not the final say). But Saenz also repeated the well-worn lies that allowing LGBT people to marry will hurt children and somehow threaten religious freedom for everybody else:

“Redefining marriage comes at a high cost: it costs kids either a mom or a dad (who are not interchangeable), and it costs people of faith their First Amendment religious freedom rights as government imposes the new definition across all aspects of society.”

We find it remarkable that someone’s religious freedom could be dependent on government discriminating against other people. But that’s the “logic” Saenz offers.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was also upset Monday, calling the court’s decision “judicial activism at its worst”:

“The Constitution entrusts state legislatures, elected by the People, to define marriage consistent with the values and mores of their citizens.  Unelected judges should not be imposing their policy preferences to subvert the considered judgments of democratically elected legislatures.”

That seems hypocritical, to say the least, considering that Cruz wants the courts to strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional even though that action would “subvert the considered judgment of democratically elected” members of Congress who passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Of course, even if he didn’t want to, Cruz has to sound militant on this issue. That’s because religious-righters are insisting that Republican politicians take a stand against equality. Iowa-based talk show host Steve Deace, who apparently thinks watching two women kiss is a threat to liberty, said the Supreme Court’s non-decision on Monday threatens the “35-year marriage between Christians and the Republican Party.”

Former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken seems to agree, calling out a supposed “lack of political courage on the issue of marriage by GOP leaders.”

We wonder how much courage it really takes for a Republican politician to kowtow to the anti-gay fanatics who dominate the GOP base, especially in Texas. It seems to us that the more courageous are those who stand up for equality, not against it. So who are those courageous politicians? Maybe we’ll finally get a chance to see — but don’t hold your breath.

Posted in LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 10 Comments

What’s in the Proposed New Texas Textbooks? Taxes Are Bad for Society

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This cartoon from Pearson Education’s Magruder’s American Government is an example of how Tea Party rhetoric shapes discussions on issues such as taxation and government regulation in proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools. The same textbook includes this passage:

“In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., taxes are ‘what we pay for civilized society.’ Society does not appear to be much more civilized today than it was when Justice Holmes made that observation in 1927. However, ‘what we pay’ has certainly gone up.”

Dr. Emile Lester, who reviewed the government textbooks publishers are proposing this year for Texas schools, explains what’s wrong with this passage in his report:

“The text neglects to mention that defenders of increased taxation for an expanded safety net would respond that programs adopted since 1927 such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act have produced such ‘civilized’ benefits as a drastic reduction of poverty and economic insecurity among the elderly, children, and the population at large, and improved and more equal access to health care.”

Right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education in Texas hoped for this kind of textbook content when they passed deeply flawed and politicized new curriculum standards for social studies classes in 2010. The new textbooks must cover those standards.

You can read more about the problems in the proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools here: tfn.org/history. While you’re there, sign the petition calling for textbooks based on honest, accurate history, not the ideological beliefs of politicians on the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education is set to vote in November on which textbooks to approve.

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 2 Comments

RNC Head Lies about the Texas Anti-Abortion Law

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus thinks people will believe almost any lie. That’s the only explanation for why he would lie so baldly today when he was asked about the Texas abortion law that, as of Friday, has left open just seven clinics providing abortion care in the entire state of Texas.

Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Priebus about the law that the Texas GOP rammed through the Legislature in 2013. Here’s Talking Points Memo’s report on the exchange between Todd and Priebus:

“One of the things about the Republican party is you don’t like a lot of regulation on businesses, except if the business is a abortion clinic,” Todd said to Priebus. “80 percent of these abortion clinics in Texas are going to be basically out of business because of this new law. Too much regulation, is that fair?”

“Well, you obviously have to talk to someone in Texas” Priebus responded. “But the fact of the matter is that we believe that any woman that’s faced with an unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling, whatever it is that we can offer.”

Todd then asked Priebus how forcing women to “drive 200 or 300 miles” amounts to “compassion.”

Priebus then said the law was about taxpayers’ money.

“The issue for us is only one thing. And that’s whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion,” he said. “That’s the one issue that I think separates this conversation that we’re having.”

 

Todd is right, of course. The Texas law clearly exposes the hypocrisy of anti-government, anti-regulation zealots on the right, especially because it’s so clear that the purpose of the law was simply to close clinics and limit the availability of safe, legal abortion care for women who seek it. And the argument that making it harder for women to get that care is somehow compassionate is galling.

But just as galling is the suggestion by Priebus that the new law has anything to do with keeping taxpayers from funding abortions. Taxpayers didn’t fund abortions at these clinics before passage of the law. In fact, the law’s defenders in Texas haven’t even used that as a justification. Priebus is simply lying in a pathetic effort to defend making it harder — or even impossible — for women in Texas to seek legal reproductive health care.

Are you ready to #FightBackTX? Then it’s time to take action and tell politicians like Priebus, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick to stop their war on women’s health care.

Posted in abortion, TFN | 2 Comments

Colorado Politician Shows Ignorance Isn’t Limited to Texas Education Board

Ignorance and political nonsense clearly aren’t problems just on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). A Colorado Board of Education member this week echoed the ridiculous complaints of her right-wing counterparts in Texas about the new framework for the popular AP U.S. History course for high school students. Critics have charged that the new framework is unpatriotic and worse. Here’s how Colorado board member Pam Mazanec argued on her Facebook page that students should learn about American “exceptionalism” instead of “negative viewpoints” about our nation’s history:

“As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH (AP U.S. History) framework support or denigrate that position?”

For the record, well over 1 million Union and Confederate troops were killed, wounded or died of disease in the very bloody Civil War that led to the supposedly “voluntary” end of slavery in this country. Recent scholarship (bad word for right-wingers, we know) suggests that the number of military deaths was about 750,000. And we won’t bother asking how Mazanec wants history classes to handle the legacy of that war, including the horrors of poverty, racist violence and segregation.

How did ignorant politicians like Mazanec get in the position of censoring and rewriting fact-based history in our schoolchildren’s classrooms? The simple answer is too many people who know better either didn’t vote or weren’t paying attention when they did. Elections matter.

Posted in AP U.S. History, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Backlash Grows as Right-Wing Censors Push Political Attacks on AP U.S. History Course

The far right’s war on public education has a new target: Advanced Placement U.S. History, of all things. And now efforts to censor what students learn in those courses has sparked a growing backlash from students, parents, teachers and advocacy groups that are worried about efforts to politicize the popular course taken by nearly a half-million high schoolers across the country.

The manufactured controversy over AP U.S. History has roots, as this informative summary points out, at the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). That should be no surprise to anyone who knows just how politicized the SBOE is and how influential its far-right bloc has been over the past decade.

Texas SBOE member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, began flogging the issue earlier this year, insisting (misleadingly and inaccurately) that the College Board’s revamped framework for the course undermined patriotism and promoted America-bashing. Joined by variety of Tea Party and other right-wing activists, Mercer has claimed that the framework leaves out key patriotic figures and emphasizes negative aspects of American history. Activists supporting his efforts call the course anti-American, argue that it is tied to Common Core curriculum standards (which they see as practically satanic), and criticize examples of what they darkly call  “progressive education” throughout the framework.

Mercer proposed an SBOE resolution condemning the course, but the board last month adopted a watered-down version that was somewhat less critical. Even so, right-wingers have celebrated the passage of that resolution as well as a new SBOE rule requiring all AP courses in Texas to cover the state’s required curriculum standards. (Yes, the same deeply flawed curriculum standards that even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has criticized as a “politicized distortion of history” after the SBOE’s far-right bloc rammed through their approval in 2010.)

Meanwhile, the controversy has spread outside of Texas, aided by writers at the conservative National Review as well as other bloggers and political activists. In August the Republican National Committee passed a resolution condemning the AP course framework’s for its alleged “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” Tea Party heartthrob Ben Carson has claimed that the course will lead students “to go sign up for ISIS,” the radical and murderous Islamist group in Iraq and Syria. And activists have promoted the anti-AP campaign in various states and local communities across the country, including South Carolina and Colorado.

The College Board has repeatedly explained that the attacks are fueled by misinformation about the course. See an open letter from the College Board about the controversy here and the College Board’s Frequently Asked Questions guide about the new framework here.

And now supporters of the AP U.S. History course are fighting back. Colorado’s state education board refused to consider a resolution from right-wing members attacking the course. After right-wingers on the Denver-area school board in Jefferson County, Colorado, proposed a curriculum committee to “monitor” the course for supposedly objectionable content, students began boycotting classes. Colorado parents are also organizing in an effort to stop the Jefferson County board from implementing its censorship panel. (One of the parents has contacted TFN for advice on building an effective grassroots campaign.)

And today the American Civil Liberties Union and seven other groups sent a letter to the Jefferson County school board criticizing the attacks on the A.P. U.S. History course. The letter says in part:

“The board’s attempt to monitor school curricula to promote certain viewpoints means privileging the beliefs of some individuals over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by government that our constitutional system is designed to prevent.”

Back in Texas, SBOE member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has expressed his disgust with the political attacks on the AP U.S. History course from some of his board colleagues. He abstained on the resolution vote and has pointed out (as does the resolution itself) that the course saved $16 million in tuition costs last year for students who earned college credit by doing well in the course. That means this new political witch hunt launched by Tea Party activists could cost Texas families millions of dollars if it ends up killing the AP program in the Lone Star State.

Ratliff also sent his fellow SBOE members an internal memo, with the subject line “Self-Inflicted Wounds,” explaining that the anti-AP resolution was yet another example of a fringe political controversy that discredits the board in the eyes of the Legislature:

“The legislature takes authority from us because we do things like we did last week. We spent HOURS listening to public testimony and debating amendments to a non-binding, unenforceable, politically motivated resolution.  In fact, we spent more time on this issue than any other issue before us last week, including the adoption of Social Studies, Math and Fine Arts instructional materials, adopting a payout rate from the $30 billion Permanent School Fund to pay for those materials, and the GPA requirements for teacher certification programs.  I don’t know about you, but I would think those issues would justify more time and deliberation than a non-binding resolution. If we ever hope to regain some of our previous jurisdiction, we need to put politics aside and put our focus back on real issues facing the classroom.”

Apparently, one of Ratliff’s colleagues responded by leaking that internal memo to a right-wing fanatic with an email list. That fanatic then forwarded the memo to her list along with a nasty message in which she attacked Ratliff and called for his impeachment. We wouldn’t be surprised if Ratliff comes to the conclusion that a number of his board colleagues really don’t give a damn about educating Texas kids. They’re more interested in censoring textbooks and using public schools to promote their own political beliefs. And they’ll do that even if it means stabbing a colleague in the back or destroying a popular and well-respected AP course.

Posted in AP U.S. History, TFNEF | 3 Comments

TFN Endorses Wendy and Leticia for Texas!

gov-and-ltg-endorsement

We’re proud to announce the Texas Freedom Network’s endorsements for governor and lieutenant governor for the 2014 election. Our full slate of endorsements will be released before early voting, but TFN members will have advance access to that list. So become a member today at tfn.org/membershipdrive.

(Political advertisement paid for by the Texas Freedom Network)

Posted in 2014 Elections, TFN | 1 Comment

New Texas State Senator Equates American Government with Nazi Germany

It’s hard to be shocked anymore with it comes to the hyperbolic rhetoric we often hear from the right in Texas. But when elected officials — people in places of responsibility — employ that kind of heated, extremist rhetoric, you really worry about what’s coming.

That happened yesterday when former state Rep. Charles Perry was sworn in as the new state senator from West Texas. Perry’s victory in a special election for that seat last month sent waves of celebration through the ranks of Tea Partyers and religious-righters in Texas. He replaces longtime state Sen. Robert Duncan, who was appointed as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

At his swearing in Tuesday in Lubbock, Perry actually equated the American government today with Nazi Germany and its murderous crimes. From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

God has a place in the government, Perry explained in his inaugural speech as he vividly recalled a recent trip to a former concentration camp in Berlin.

“There were 10,000 people that were paraded into a medical office under the guise of a physical. As they stood with their back against the wall, they were executed with a bullet through the throat. Before they left, 10,000 people met their fate that way,” Perry said.

“Is it not the same than when our government continues to perpetuate laws that lead citizens away from God? The only difference is that the fraud of the Germans was more immediate and whereas the fraud of today’s government will not be exposed until the final days and will have eternal-lasting effects.”

Later on in the story:

His biggest challenge will be the “spiritual battle for the spirit of this nation and the soul of its people,” he said.

When he gets to the capital, abortion and same-sex marriage will be at the forefront of discussion, Perry said.

And then this:

A Japanese Imperial commander said he’d awakened a “sleeping giant” after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, according to Perry. Today, the new state senator wonders where that giant is.

“Has the giant died?” Perry asked after being sworn in. “Where is that giant of a nation that was founded on the eternal and never-changing values of a loving God and the desire to share that? I don’t recognize it on so many levels today.”

Elections matter. And it appears that fewer than 23,000 voters out of a population of about 800,000 people in Perry’s district have decided to send to Austin an ideologue who sees himself as on a mission to save America for God. That he also sees his own government as like the bloodthirsty criminals who ruled Nazi Germany and murdered millions of people should be warning enough that Texas is speeding down a very dangerous road.

Posted in Charles Perry, TFNEF | 4 Comments

What’s in the Proposed New Texas Textbooks? Segregation Wasn’t All That Bad

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What will students learn about segregation if the State Board of Education approves new social studies textbooks publishers have submitted this year for use in Texas public schools? Bowing to the desires of right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education, some of the textbooks give legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” causing the Civil War and the legacy of slavery after that war.

As Edward Countryman, distinguished professor of history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, points out in his report on the proposed history textbooks for the TFN Education Fund, rejects the textbook suggestions that “states’ rights” was a major cause of secession and the war that followed:

“The concept of ‘states’ rights’ in an abstract sense as a defense of secession did not appear until after the conclusion of the Civil War. Contemporaneous documents and statements by southerners make it plain that slavery was the underlying reason for their action.”

But the failure of some textbooks to teach students about the severity of the discrimination and oppression suffered by African Americans in the decades after the war is also problematic. McGraw-Hill’s United States Government textbook, for example, understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of segregated African-American schools compared to white schools during the Jim Crow era:

“Under segregation, all-white and all-African American schools sometimes had similar buildings, buses, and teachers. Sometimes, however, the buildings, buses, and teachers for the all-black schools were lower in quality. Often, African American children had to travel far to get to their school.”

Dr. Emile Lester, an associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington who reviewed the government textbooks for the TFN Education Fund, was critical of this passage:

“The case study severely understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools compared to white schools and the limitations placed on educational opportunities for blacks in general during the Jim Crow period.”

You can read more about the problems in proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools here: tfn.org/history. While you’re there, sign the petition calling for textbooks based on honest, accurate history, not the ideological beliefs of politicians on the State Board of Education. The state board is set to vote in November on which textbooks to approve.

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Posted in social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 7 Comments

Florida County Commissioners Discover That Religious Freedom Means Freedom for Everyone, Even Pagans

Religious-right activists celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year, in a 5-4 decision, that beginning governmental meetings with sectarian prayers doesn’t violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins declared: “The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square.”

Of course, citizens don’t have to “check their faith at the entrance to the public square.” Citizens have the right to practice their faith and to pray, or not, wherever they like. The issue is whether government may favor a particular religion (or religion generally) and whether offering sectarian prayers does that. The Supreme Court has now said such prayers are permissible.

Well, as you can see in the video clip above, last week an Agnostic Pagan Pantheist — David Suhor — decided to bring his particular beliefs into the regular meeting of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners in Florida. But that didn’t go over too well with some of the Christians at the meeting. One commissioner walked out, offering this explanation:

“People may not realize it, but when we invite someone a minister to pray they are praying for the county commissioners for us to make wise decisions and I’m just not going to have a pagan or satanic minister pray for me.”

He certainly had a right to leave. So did state Sen. Dan Patrick, the current Republican nominee for Texas Lieutenant Governor, when he boycotted the invocation of a Muslim cleric at the beginning of the Texas Senate’s work day in 2007. But government — certainly in the United States — shouldn’t be in the business of picking and choosing whose religious beliefs to favor or disfavor.

Back in Florida, the Escambia County School Board has so far refused to allow Suhor to offer his prayer, in addition to the board’s traditional Christian invocation, at its meetings. Suhor, who said governing bodies should offer simply a moment of silence instead of prayers at their meetings, is considering litigation against the school board.

(H/T Addicting Info)

Posted in religious freedom, TFNEF | 4 Comments