Texas Education Agency looking for social studies books reviewers (and math and fine arts)

December 2, 2013

Last time the SBOE approved social studies books in 2010, the process was contentious.  This photo, from The Christian Science Monitor, shows protests on the books; photo by Larry Kolvoord/Austin American-Statesman

Last time the SBOE approved social studies books in 2010, the process was contentious. This photo, from The Christian Science Monitor, shows protests on the books; photo by Larry Kolvoord, Austin American-Statesman

Good news a few days ago was that the Texas State Board of Education approved science books that teach real science, for use in Texas schools.

But the Road Goes On Forever, and the Tea Party Never Ends:  Social studies books are up for review, now.

TEA is looking for nominations for reviewers for books in social studies, math and fine arts.  Here’s the notice I got in e-mail:

The Texas Education Agency is now accepting nominations to the state review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for adoption under Proclamation 2015.

To nominate yourself or someone else to serve on a state review panel, please complete the form posted at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258 and submit it to the TEA on or before Friday, January 24, 2014.

Proclamation 2015 calls for instructional materials in the following areas:

♦   Social Studies, grades K-12

♦   Social Studies (Spanish), grades K-5

♦   Mathematics, grades 9-12

♦   Fine Arts, grades K-12

State review panels are scheduled to convene in Austin for one week during the summer of 2014 to review materials submitted under Proclamation 2015. The TEA will reserve hotel lodging and reimburse panel members for all travel expenses, as allowable by law.

  • Panel members should plan to remain on-site for five days to conduct the evaluation.
  • Panel members will be asked to complete an initial review of instructional materials prior to the in-person review.
  • Panel members will receive orientation and training both prior to the initial review and at the beginning of the in-person review.
  • Panel members might be asked to review additional content following the in-person review.
  • Because many of the samples will be delivered electronically, panel members should be comfortable reviewing materials on-screen rather than in print.
  • Panel members should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

Upon initial contact by a representative of the TEA, state review panel nominees begin a “no-contact” period in which they may not have either direct or indirect contact with any publisher or other person having an interest in the content of instructional materials under evaluation by the panel. The “no contact” period begins with the initial communication from the Texas Education Agency and ends after the State Board of Education (SBOE) adopts the instructional materials. The SBOE is scheduled to adopt Proclamation 2015 materials at its November 2014 meeting.

Nominations are due on or before Friday, January 24, 2014.  The nomination form is posted on the TEA website at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258.

If you have any questions, please contact review.adoption@tea.state.tx.us.

***********************************************************

Thank you for your commitment to serving Texas students.

Social Studies Staff, Division of Curriculum, (512) 463-9581

Social Studies in Texas include history, geography, economics, government (civics), and (oddly) psychology and sociology, and “special topics.”

Please pass word along to the teachers you know in social studies, fine arts and math.

We recall that old Bette Davis line, playing Margot Channing in “All About Eve”:  “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

More:


Texas, the eyes of Darwin are upon you

September 20, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Colin Purrington Tweeted, “Thanks, @ncse for helping keep Darwin in Texas science textbooks. #Whac-A-Mole #creationism #StandUp4Science pic.twitter.com/8dNYbqFELV.”

More:


Banned Books Week is coming, September 22-28, 2013

September 18, 2013

Got a stack of banned books ready?

Banned Books Week is September 22-28 for 2013.

Banner for Banned Books Week 2013

So THAT’s what Lady Liberty holds in her left hand. (Reading the Declaration of Indpendence can still get you into trouble in a few places — mostly not in the U.S., but even in the U.S.)

We still have banned books?  Is that bad?

Consider, first, that on September 17, 2013, the Texas State Board of Education opened hearings on science textbooks to be “adopted” for Texas schoolsRadical elements of the SBOE furiously organized to stack rating panels with people who want to censor science, to stop the teaching of Darwin’s work on evolution.  (No, I’m not kidding.)

This comes in the middle of a rancorous fight in Texas over CSCOPE, a cooperative lesson-plan exchange set up by 800 Texas school districts to help teachers meet new Texas education standards adopted years ago (without new books!).  Critics labeled reading lists and any reading on religions other than Christianity “socialist” or “Marxist,” and complained that Texas social studies books do not slander Islam.

Then there is the flap over Persepolis, in Chicago.  With all the other trouble Chicago’s schools have several bluenoses worked to get this graphic “novel” banned (it’s not really a novel; it’s a memoir).  They complained about graphic violence in what is a comic book.  Persepolis tells the story of a young woman growing up in Iran during the Iranian Revolution.

The autobiographical graphic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was pulled from Chicago classrooms this past May by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett due to “inappropriate” graphic language and images, specifically, scenes of torture and rebellion. Parents, teachers, and First Amendment advocates protested the ban, and as a result — while still pulled from 7th grade — Persepolis is currently under review for use in grades 8-10. (For details, see CBLDF Rises to Defense of Persepolis.)

Persepolis is an important classroom tool for a number of reasons. First, it is a primary source detailing life in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War . Readers of all ages get a glimpse of what life is like under repressive regimes and relive this period in history from a different perspective. It also begs detailed discussion of the separation of church and state. Furthermore, this is a poignant coming-of-age story that all teens will be able to relate to and serves as a testament to the power of family, education, and sacrifice.

In America, textbooks get attacked for telling the truth about Islam and not claiming it is a violence-based faith; and supplemental reading gets attacked when it presents the violence the critics complain was left out of the texts.

We need to think this through.

What banned books have you read lately?

More:

Cover of "Persepolis"

Persepolis has been made into a movie.


They’re coming for the science textbooks, again; join me in speaking up

July 23, 2013

I get e-mail, sometimes from the Texas Freedom Network. In this case, I’m happy to share. You need to know this.

Would you sign the petition?

Stand Up for Science

SUFS-Tex and T-Rex

Click Here to Sign the Petition

Dear Ed,

I’m worried about my kids’ future because of six words.

The Texas State Board of Education.

The state board has already begun working on its once-a-decade adoption of science textbooks for Texas classrooms. And for years, an anti-science faction of that board has done all it can to undermine the science of evolution and climate change by giving equal weight to nonscientific beliefs like climate change denial and the idea that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.

We’ve got news for those folks: Big Tex and T-Rex didn’t ride the range together.

It’s time to Stand Up for Science.

Click here to sign our petition and help us reach our goal of 5,000 signatures of Texans demanding that the State Board of Education approve science textbooks that are based on sound, peer-reviewed scholarship.

This fight is personal for me because from an early age, both my kids have loved science. In fact, my oldest son is enrolled in the “tech academy” at his middle school, where he’s learning about cool high-tech careers and honing computer skills that already put me to shame.

But whether you have school-aged kids or not, this fight is too important to the future of Texas and the nation to ignore. With over 5 million students, Texas is one of the country’s biggest buyers of textbooks. And that has an impact on other states because book publishers often follow our lead so that they don’t have to create different versions of the same science books.

I want my kids and every child to have classroom materials based on modern, mainstream science that gets them ready for college and prepares them for those high-tech jobs my son is learning about. Anything less handicaps their future and sets them up to fail.

For our children’s future, let’s win this.

Sign our petition to Stand Up for Science.

Regards,
Ryan Valentine
Deputy Director, Texas Freedom Network

They’re coming for Texas science textbooks, again; please stand up and speak out for science, for accuracy, for good education.

More:


One more time: Recognizing bogus history

May 14, 2012

2012 is an election year, a time when we make history together as a nation.  Potential turning points in history often get tarred with false interpretations of history to sway an election, or worse, a completely false recounting of history.  Especially in campaigns, we need to beware false claims of history, lest we be like the ignorants George Santayana warned about, doomed to repeat errors of history they do not know or understand.  How to tell that a purported piece of history is bogus?  This is mostly a repeat of a post that first appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub six years ago.

Recognizing bogus history, 1

Robert Park provides a short e-mail newsletter every Friday, covering news in the world of physics. It’s called “What’s New.” Park makes an art of smoking out bogus science and frauds people try to perpetrate in the name of science, or for money. He wrote an opinion column for the Chronicle of Higher Education [now from Quack Watch; CHE put it behind a paywall] published January 31, 2003, in which he listed the “7 warning signs of bogus science.”

Please go read Park’s entire essay, it’s good.

And it got me thinking about whether there are similar warning signs for bogus history? Are there clues that a biography of Howard Hughes is false that should pop out at any disinterested observer? Are there clues that the claimed quote from James Madison saying the U.S. government is founded on the Ten Commandments is pure buncombe? Should Oliver Stone have been able to to more readily separate fact from fantasy about the Kennedy assassination (assuming he wasn’t just going for the dramatic elements)? Can we generalize for such hoaxes, to inoculate ourselves and our history texts against error?

Bogus science section of Thinkquest logo

Perhaps some of the detection methods Park suggests would work for history. He wrote his opinion piece after the Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in which the Court laid out some rules lower courts should use to smoke out and eliminate false science. As Park described it, “The case involved Bendectin, the only morning-sickness medication ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It had been used by millions of women, and more than 30 published studies had found no evidence that it caused birth defects. Yet eight so-called experts were willing to testify, in exchange for a fee from the Daubert family, that Bendectin might indeed cause birth defects.” The Court said lower courts must act as gatekeepers against science buncombe — a difficult task for some judges who, in their training as attorneys, often spent little time studying science.

Some of the Daubert reasoning surfaced in another case recently, the opinion in Pennsylvania district federal court in which Federal District Judge John Jones struck down a school board’s order that intelligent design be introduced to high school biology students, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Can we generalize to history, too? I’m going to try, below the fold.

Here are Park’s seven warning signs, boiled down:

Park wrote:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer encouraged trial judges to appoint independent experts to help them. He noted that courts can turn to scientific organizations, like the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to identify neutral experts who could preview questionable scientific testimony and advise a judge on whether a jury should be exposed to it. Judges are still concerned about meeting their responsibilities under the Daubert decision, and a group of them asked me how to recognize questionable scientific claims. What are the warning signs?

I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs — even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate. [I have cut out the explanations. — E.D.]

  1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
  3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
  5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
  6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
  7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Voodoo history

Here, with thanks to Robert Park, is what I propose for the warning signs for bogus history, for voodoo history:

  1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, sometimes for pay.
  2. The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.  Bogus history relies more on invective than investigation; anyone with an opposing view is an “idiot,” or evil.
  3. The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure, or unavailable; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.
  4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.
  5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.
  6. The author has worked in isolation, and fails to incorporate or explain other, mainstream versions of the history of the incident, and especially the author fails to explain why they are in error.
  7. The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation.

Any history account that shows one or more of those warning signs should be viewed skeptically.

In another post, I’ll flesh out the reasoning behind why they are warning signs.


Still no fireworks at Texas SBOE . . . yet

July 21, 2011

July 21, Austin — The board reconvened at 5:35.  An amendment to the approval of Tech System’s chemistry supplement was quickly passed.  Without any discussion, physics and IPC (“integrated physics and chemistry” — science for kids who will not be interested in science, and for teachers who can’t make them interested — but I digress), approved on raise-of-hand, quick votes — both in under three minutes total.

Biology! Staff notes there are some noted errors contested by publishers; the board again discusses what constitutes an error.  Craig begs for delay to tomorrow, since no one on TEA staff appears to have any biology expertise to rule on whether an error is an error.

Publisher in question is Holt McDougall — the #1 biology textbook publisher, for textbooks in high schools and junior colleges.  Holt asked for a hearing on the errors.  If I understand the discussion, the board is saying they’ll stick with the panel recommendations, since they are doing that for all other publishers. In short, the process is unclear to those who invented the process and those who are ruling on the product.  This would be a good essay from Richard Feynman, wouldn’t it?

Dollars to doughnuts, those members who now claim not to be able to figure out whether errors of biology are errors of biology, will be saying soon that they are competent to rule on key theories of science (evolution).

[Remember to see the immediately previous post, for links to Texas Freedom Network and Texas Observer blogs also covering this process live.]

Oy.  Twenty minutes of discussion on whether to ask a representative from Holt to explain why Holt thinks designated errors are not errors.  Board doesn’t know their own process — are errors noted by a vote of the review panel, or by a simple designation from any panelist without discussion.

Motion to hear from the publisher.  Mavis Knight wants to know why a motion is required, if the SBOE rules say the board can call a publisher any time.  (“And, Texas doesn’t execute innocent people, either.”) Garza discusses issue before the vote.  Debatable motion?  Yes.  “I don’t think we’re going to learn anything new from the publisher.”  (Who said that?)

Knight speaks in favor of hearing, to learn how the publisher got to their conclusion that the designated error is not an error.  Soto agrees.  Ratliff favors the motion, too — “to make sure that what we’re about to approve for the next decade is the best possible material” — and because the board doesn’t know whether the question from the panel represents a consensus or a wild hare.  Clayton — “is [the publisher] also a biologist, and can he address the issue?”  “I wonder if we’re wasting our time listening to a publisher instead of a biologist.”

[Lost some text -- sorry]

6:06, motion to listen to publisher fails, 7-7.

Update, after adjournment:  Board voted to approve Holt-McDougall’s supplement on the condition that the publisher change things identified as errors by the review panel.  Board, by voting not to hear the publisher, failed to note that the “errors” are contested.  View of  biologists present is that the board is ordering Holt-McDougall to introduce errors.  Before final approval, can we get the board to come down on accurate science’s side?  This is the quiet erosion of good science I feared.

Board then pulled out three products for discussion, approving the others (biology, remember) on a hand vote.  Products pulled out are Adaptive Curriculum, Learning.com’s Adaptive Curriculum on their platform, and Technical Laboratory Systems’ SciTEX Biology.

Gail Lowe says the objection is the addition of Haeckel’s embryo drawings.  This is an old issue with Texas creationists.  They jumped on the Discovery Institute’s claim that Haeckel’s drawings show evolution, but where evolution doesn’t occur.  (Haeckel fudged drawings, biologists have known for years — but his fudged drawings haven’t been used to make his erroneous point in 50 years . . .).

Publisher steps up and shows photographs that they have agreed to substitute.

Somehow, the creationists fail to notice that what has happened is they are insisting on photographs that show evolution in stead of a drawing.  (Turns out the drawings are not Haeckel’s after all — just line drawings of embryoes).  Creationist Gail Lowe excitedly makes the motion to accept the product with photos instead of line drawings.  (Somewhere a Discovery Institute wizard is having a heart attack.)

Board proceeds to make similar motion for Learning.com’s version of Adaptive Curriculum’s stuff.

6:25 p.m.

Lowe complains of spelling, punctuation and subject-verb agreement issues on the slides for SciTEX Biology.  Motion to insist they be corrected before they make it to classroom.  Discussion . . . (discussion?  discussion?)

The science is right, but the spelling is wrong.  [To this old copy editor, this strikes me as bizarre.]  “In the future we need to appoint at least one member to each panel who is an expert in the English language.”  (missed which guy said that)

Motion to approve, with errors to be fixed, passes.

Item 8, biology supplements, as amended, is approved.

No fight.

Counsel says there must be a formal motion to reject the materials from the ID/Creationist guys.  Motion passes.

I’m a fireworks fan, but missing fireworks in this room is a good deal.

Board adjourned for the evening.  Votes on other issues, and final approval, tomorrow.


War on science, war on education: Evolution under fire at Texas education board

July 21, 2011

Ryan at the Texas Freedom Network laid out the stakes:

Just a reminder about what new chairwoman Barbara Cargill — and her five “conservative Christian” allies on the State Board of Education — have in mind for the meeting this week:

I am a little bit concerned in looking at some of these science online supplementary materials. I looked at one of the links and there was a picture of a — a graphic of a human fetus next to a gorilla fetus talking about how they only differ by one amino acid. Therefore, universal common decent. So that is of some concern. And I am not quite sure if we are going to have the votes to overturn that. We will work diligently to rectify and correct some of that. But remember we lost a conservative seat, so we’re down to six.

In this unguarded moment, Cargill drops the double-speak and is honest about her plan for the first meeting over which she will preside as chair  — pressure publishers to censor scientific information from their materials and to insert bogus information questioning evolution. And she knows exactly what her task is: to get the extra votes necessary to accomplish this.

Stay tuned to TFN Insider on Thursday and Friday as we give you a front-row seat at the contentious hearing and board vote.

Live blogging the meeting starting at about 10:00 a.m today at TFN Insider at at Steve Schafersman’s blog, from the Texas Citizens for Science.

More, resources:


Friends of science and evolution: Testify next week in the Texas textbook process?

July 14, 2011

I get important e-mail from the Texas Freedom Network; they’re asking for help next week to fight creationism and other forms of buncombe popular in Texas:

Science and the SBOE: One Week to Go

Next week, the Texas State Board of Education will take a critical vote on science in our public schools. We need people like you to make sure the vote is in favor of sound, well-established science.

Up for board consideration are science instructional materials submitted by a number of publishers and vendors who want their product used in Texas classrooms. Even before the board meets, far-right groups have been hard at work trying to ensure materials approved by the board attack and diminish evolutionary science and include the junk science of “intelligent design”/creationism.

The attacks include one from a little-know firm out of New Mexico, International Databases, which submitted instructional materials rife with creationist propaganda.

It gets worse. Far-right SBOE members last month appointed creationists with questionable scientific credentials to teams tasked with reviewing the materials and making recommendations to the board.

And new board chair Barbara Cargill upped the stakes when in a speech just last week she framed the debate over science as a “spiritual battle.”

The board will hold just ONE public hearing on the science materials. Your participation is crucial.

It is critical that you act now by clicking here to express your interest in testifying before the board on July 21.

Please note: The deadline to sign up to testify is 5 p.m. Monday.

We must insist that the SBOE keep junk science – including “intelligent design”/creationism – out of our children’s classrooms. The board must approve only instructional materials that are accurate, that are in line with sound and well-established science, and that will prepare Texas children to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century.

Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right. www.tfn.org | www.tfninsider.org | General: tfn@tfn.org
Tell a friend to subscribe to TFN News Clips, Alerts or Rapid Response Teams. Subscribers may choose the issue areas that interest them. To change your TFN subscription preferences – or to unsubscribe – click here.
Copyright 2010, Texas Freedom Network

Trying to carve out time here.  Can you help?

Hearings will be most interesting.  Support for the Texas State Board of Education actually comes, often, from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  TEA this week laid off just under 200 workers, to deal with the 36% budget chopping done to the agency by the Texas Lege.  Word comes this week that curriculum directors at TEA were let go, including the director of science curriculum.

It’s rather like the first 20 weeks of World War II in the Pacific, with the aggressors advancing on almost all fronts against science.  When is our Battle of Midway?

Information, resources: 


How to tell the textbook approval process is broken: Virginia’s voodoo history

October 25, 2010

4th graders in Virginia could learn from their history texts that thousands of African Americans formed battalions in the Confederate Army and fought to save the South, during the Civil War — entire battalions under Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

That’s what the book claims, anyway.  It’s fiction.  The author fell victim to a hoax.

Kevin Sieff exposed the book in The Washington Post last week.  Virginia education officials quickly moved to discourage teachers from teaching the erroneous passages.  Some education authorities pulled the books.  The incident exposes problems in the textbook approval processes popular in southern states.

If you had hoped textbook craziness was confined to Texas, you know better now.

More:


Petition to Congress: Tell Texas Board of Education to fly right correctly

August 11, 2010

E-mail from the Texas Freedom Network:
Alert Header

Tell Your Congress Member to Support Education over Politics

The Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Faith Network this week joined nearly two dozen national organizations in support of a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the State Board of Education to stop playing politics with the education of Texas schoolchildren. We have signed on to a letter to U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, supporting House Resolution 1593. Congresswoman Johnson introduced the resolution in the U.S. House on July 30. The resolution, which has four other co-sponsors from Texas, calls out the state board for disregarding nearly a year’s worth of work by teachers and scholars who wrote initial drafts of new social studies curriculum standards. It also notes that more than 1,200 history scholars have warned that the heavily revised standards, which the board adopted in May, “would undermine the study of the social sciences in public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of United States society.”

The House resolution is available here. The letter from TFN and other organizations supporting that resolution is available here.

Take Action

Ask your U.S. House representative today to support House Resolution 1593 by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. You can find out who your U.S. House member is here. When you call, tell him or her:

  • Teachers and scholars should write curriculum standards and textbook requirements, not politicians.
  • Texas schools should give our schoolchildren an education based on sound scholarship that prepares them to succeed in college and their future careers. Decisions about curriculum and textbooks shouldn’t be based on the personal and political agendas of state board members.
  • Because of the size of Texas, publishers often write their textbooks to meet curriculum standards in this state and then sell them to schools across the country. Texas should be a model for good curriculum and textbooks, not a national laughingstock.

You can do three other things to stop radical members of the State Board of Education from promoting their political and personal agendas in our kids’ classrooms:

Join the Just Educate campaign, which is working to reform the State Board of Education.

Stay informed by signing up for TFN News Clips and reading our blog, TFN Insider.

Support the Texas Freedom Network by making a special gift today.

Take Action Now

Reform the State Board of Education

In the race to the future, politicians are holding our children back. Find out what you can do about it!

Tell politicians to stop promoting ideological agendas in our public schools. JUST educate the children of Texas!

Sign the petition »

Sounds good to me. Unlikely, and rare for the national Congress to urge state action — but appropriate in this case.


California legislator would bar Texas social studies changes

May 18, 2010

California may be down, but it’s not dumb.  According to AP in the San Jose Mercury-News (Silicon Valley edition):

Legislation by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, seeks to protect the nation’s largest public school population from the revised social studies curriculum approved in March by the Texas Board of Education. Critics say if the changes are incorporated into textbooks, they will be historically inaccurate and dismissive of the contributions of minorities.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Under Yee’s bill, SB1451, the California Board of Education would be required to look out for any of the Texas content as part of its standard practice of reviewing public school textbooks. The board must then report any findings to both the Legislature and the secretary of education.

The bill describes the Texas curriculum changes as “a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings” and “a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.”

“While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes,” Yee said. “The alterations and fallacies made by these extremist conservatives are offensive to our communities and inaccurate of our nation’s diverse history.”

Bully for California and Rep. Leland Yee.

Tip of the old scrub brush to HeyMash.


Texas social studies standards: Crisis is now

January 6, 2010

How bad is it?  Washington Monthly features a solid, long story on what is going on in Austin this week and next in Texas social studies standards.  I wish that outstanding publication had a much greater circulation.

Even in Minnesota, P. Z. Myers is concerned:  “Be afraid” he warns his readers.  In comments there, a guy named BlackWolf puts it bluntly:

Once, a guy in a schoolbook storage room was the killer.

Now, the books themselves are becoming dangerous.

You can help.  You can testify next week.  You can send comments.  The Texas Freedom Network can help you be heard.

Please let the State Board of Education know that Texas, and the nation, needs good social studies standards.  As we noted last month, it’s time to stand up for education and social studies:

Make Your Voice Heard at January Public Hearing

The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.

The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)

But as with science and language arts, far-right SBOE members are already plotting to undo the work of the writing teams of social studies.

Take Action

The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.

If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please click here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.

This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.

___________________________________________________

Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date

Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:

  • Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
  • Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
  • Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible

Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.

We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.

Click here to let TFN know you are willing to testify at the state board.


Stand up for good history in Texas

December 17, 2009

Here’s an education and Texas issue I’ve not done justice to:  The Texas State Board of Education is working to gut social studies curricula in Texas, with a special vent on history, which they appear to think is not fundamentalist Christian enough, and economics, where they think “capitalism” is, somehow, a dirty word.

Do I exaggerate?   Very little, if at all.  Really.

There’s a lot to say.  I may have another post on it this week.  In the meantime, the indefatigable Texas Freedom Network works to organize for the hearing on the issue in January.  SBOE hopes it will be a quiet, non-confrontational meeting, and they will do whatever they can to prevent Texans from telling them to have good history standards that make great students.  So it’s important that you speak up — especially if you’re a Texan.  Here’s what TFN said in an e-mail alert:

Make Your Voice Heard at January Public Hearing

The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.

The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)

But as with science and language arts, far-right SBOE members are already plotting to undo the work of the writing teams of social studies.

Take Action

The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.

If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please click here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.

This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.

___________________________________________________

Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date

Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:

  • Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
  • Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
  • Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible

Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.

We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.

Click here to let TFN know you are willing to testify at the state board.

Spread the word even farther — help save history, in Texas:

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McLeroy nomination – still dead?

May 26, 2009

Molly Ivins’ untimely passing becomes acutely painful when the Texas Lege comes down to the last days of a session.  Who can make sense of it without Molly?

We thought a couple weeks ago that Gov. Rick Perry’s nomination of creationist wedge politician Don McLeroy was dead, when the Senate Nominations Committee took testimony and failed to report the nomination, to chair the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

Then last week, in one of those surprise moves that even the Texas legislators responsible often cannot explain, the nomination rose from the dead and stumbled, zombie-like, to the Senate floor for a vote this week — maybe as soon as today, Tuesday, May 26.

The Houston Chronicle reports that all 12 Senate Democrats will vote against the nomination, dooming it (according to The Lonesome Mongoose, via Pharyngula).

The Bryan dentist has presided over a contentious 15-member State Board of Education that fought over curriculum standards for science earlier this year and English language arts and reading last year. Critics faulted McLeroy for applying his strong religious beliefs in shaping new science standards. McLeroy believes in creationism and that the Earth is about 6,000 years old.

“This particular State Board of Education under the leadership of Dr. McLeroy has been divisive. It’s been dysfunctional, and it has been embarrassing to the point of having commentary on this in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

McLeroy’s leadership, she said, had made Texas “the laughing stock of the nation.”

It takes 11 votes to block a gubernatorial nomination. Van de Putte said all 12 Senate Democrats plan to vote against McLeroy

Don’t count your dead nominations before the silver stakes are driven.  Stay tuned.  Maybe you should call your Texas senator again on Tuesday. Pray, cross your fingers, hope, and pass the ammunition.

If the nomination fails, it is still foggy as Donora, Pennsylvania on its worst days as to who will head the group.  The chairman must come from one of the 15 elected members.  Most people who might win Rick Perry’s selection are creationists.  If Perry is wise, he’ll try to choose someone who is a capable administrator, wise chairman of hearings, and who lacks the desire to annoy key players in education, like administrators, teachers, parents, Texas college presidents and professors, and state legislators.  Alas for Texas, Winston Churchill is not a member of the SBOE, nor is Mitt Romney.

The Senate rarely blocks a governor’s appointment.

There is speculation in the Capitol and within the Texas Education Agency that Gov. Rick Perry might elevate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to lead the board. Like McLeroy, Dunbar also holds strong Christian beliefs and recently authored a book that advocates more religion in the public square.

“We believe that Texans deserve better than divisive, destructive, extreme leadership,” Shapleigh said. “If the governor chooses to appoint someone more extreme and more divisive, we’ll have to deal with that at the appropriate time.”

McLeroy’s tenure as chairman of SBOE is one of those waves we were warned about in 1983 lin the Excellence in Education Report, which warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity.”  The divisions and crude politics, heavy-handed destruction of statutory and regulatory procedures, at best distracts from the drive for better education, but more often leans toward the worst, sabatoging the work of students, teachers, parents, administrators and legislatures.

Do you pray?  Pray that Texas education be delivered safely and intact from this time of trial.  Whether you pray or not, call your Texas legislator and tell her or him to straighten out the SBOE.

Resources:


13 questions evolution can answer, intelligent design cannot

January 18, 2009

Stephen Bratteng, a biology teacher at Westwood High School  in Austin put this together.  I got the list from him when I heard him testify in favor of solid science in biology textbooks, in hearings before the Texas State Board of Education in 2003.

Here are questions that evolution can answer, but intelligent design cannot.

If intelligent design cannot offer any insight into these things, but evolution can, why should we allow intelligent design or any other flaccid “alternative” to evolution into science classes?  (Here’s the Institute for Creation Research, spending hundreds of words to fog over their inability to answer a single one of the questions!)

Why not teach our children the best we know, rather than junk we don’t know at all?

Mr. Bratteng’s 13 Questions

  1. Why does giving vitamin and mineral supplements to undernourished anemic individuals cause so many of them to die of bacterial infections?
  2. Why did Dr. Heimlich have to develop a maneuver to dislodge food particles from people’s wind pipes?

    Dr. Henry Heimlich

    Dr. Henry Heimlich

  3. Why does each of your eyes have a blind spot and strong a tendency toward retinal detachment? But a squid whose eyesight is just as sharp does not have these flaws?
  4. Why are depression and obesity at epidemic levels in the United States?
  5. When Europeans came to the Americas, why did 90 percent of the Native Americans die of European diseases but not many Europeans died of American diseases?
  6. Why do pregnant women get morning sickness?
  7. Why do people in industrialized countries have a greater tendency to get Crohn’s disease and asthma?
  8. Why does malaria still kill over a million people each year?
  9. Why are so many of the product Depends sold each year?
  10. Why do people given anti-diarrheal medication take twice as long to recover from dysentery as untreated ones?
  11. Why do people of European descent have a fairly high frequency of an allele that can make them resistant to HIV infection?
  12. Close to home: Why do older men often have urinary problems?

    Cedar tree near Austin, Texas

    Cedar tree near Austin, Texas

  13. And why do so many people in Austin get cedar fever?

Of course, I don’t have the list of all the answers!  (Can you help me out, Dear Reader?  List what you know in comments.)

Resources:

American Red Cross poster on Heimlich Maneuver, from BusinessInsider

American Red Cross poster on Heimlich Maneuver, from BusinessInsider


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