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.”

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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?

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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.

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Campaign 2012: Texas State Board of Education, those who do not know history . . .

March 15, 2012

Texas Freedom Network SBOE play on Santayana

I get e-mail from people who work for good schools, the Texas Freedom Network:

Texas Freedom Network

TFN Launches SBOE 2012 Campaign

Ideologues on the State Board of Education are doing everything they can to keep our children in the dark (ages). They:

  • censor American history, including what students learn about separation of church and state
  • reject established science and dumb-down instruction on evolution
  • ignore the recommendations of teachers and scholars who know what Texas kids need to learn to be successful today

Ignorance is not a Texas value. Texas needs a new SBOE.

So what can you do?

Every 10 years all 15 seats on the SBOE are up for election at once. This is that year.

Throughout this election year, our campaign will help you:

  • Get informed about SBOE elections
  • Get involved in your community
  • VOTE for candidates that restore sanity to the SBOE

Take the first step: sign the pledge and join the SBOE 2012 campaign at tfn.org/educate.

Regards,
The Texas Freedom Network
tfn.org

P.S. Take another step toward fulfilling part of your pledge by clicking here to send this message to a friend.

P.P.S. For even more campaign updates, like TFN on Facebook and follow #SBOE2012 on Twitter.

Good idea.

For years, when people asked me about my opinions “in the really important races” I’d first ask them which school district they lived in, usually pointing out that I don’t know their district.  Local school board races are probably the most important most people will vote in (or fail to vote) in their lifetimes.  Since coming to Texas and fighting the Texas State Board of Education, I wonder sometimes if the state board races aren’t even more important than your local school board.  Santayana’s Ghost agrees with the sentiments on the TFN logo above.

If you don’t already use the site, you ought to at least check out the TFN Insider, TFN’s blog which covers the Texas  SBOE better than most media in Texas.


Whiskey and Cigar Day, 2010: Mark Twain and Winston Churchill

November 30, 2010

Mark Twain, afloat

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

Twain had a comment on the Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

– Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow; Twain did not win a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win, in 1953.

Both men were aficionados of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.

churchill-time-cover-man-of-the-year-1941.jpg

Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Each possessed a great facility with words, and wit, and frequently said or wrote things that people like to remember and repeat again.

Both of them rank near the top of the list of people to whom almost any quote will be attributed if the quote is witty and the speaker can’t remember, or doesn’t know, who actually said it.

Both men are worth study.  And wouldn’t you really love to have had them over to dinner?

Twain, on prisons versus education:

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, in The World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49.

Image of Twain aboard ship – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):

Yeah, mostly this is an encore post from past years.


White men gave civil rights to women, blacks and Hispanics?

July 16, 2010

It’s maybe an apocryphal story. Republicans in Texas hope so.

It was at a very large, mostly African-American church in Dallas. The social action committee, or whatever it’s name is, was meeting. The only white guy in the room was there to try to get them interested in the elections for the members of the Texas State Board of Education. Normally these races are sleepers, down ballot, and off the radars of almost all interest groups. The social action committee was just as tough an audience as any other group with limited resources and limited time to try to get good political action.

Besides, a good chunk of Dallas is represented by Mavis Knight, an African American who is a pillar of common sense on the Texas education board, and Ms. Knight’s seat isn’t being contested in 2010. Why should Dallas voters be interested in any of these races?

“Before we start talking,” the lone white guy said, “I’d like to show you some of what has been going on in the Texas State Board of Education over the last year, in their work to change social studies standards.”

And he showed the video below. The entire committee grew quiet, silent; and then they started to shout at the television image. “What’s that?” “Is he crazy?” “He said white men gave us civil rights?”  “HE SAID WHAT?”

A 58-second video clip that could greatly animate electoral politics in Texas. The comments came fast and loud.

“That was part of the debate?  What, are they crazy down there?  Don’t they know history?  Don’t they know the truth?  They aren’t going to tell our children that Martin Luther King didn’t work to get civil rights, are they?  They aren’t going to say Martin Luther King died, but some white man gave rights to African Americans — are they?”

It’s a video clip that every Republican candidate in Texas hopes will be hidden away.  The Democratic tide that has swept Dallas County in two consecutive elections threatens to stop the Republican stranglehold on statewide offices in November, if those who voted in such great numbers in 2008 turn out again.

There are other stakes, too — the Republican stranglehold allowed the state education board to gut science standards, to eliminate Hispanic literature from language arts standards, and to try to change history, to blot out Thurgood Marshall and as much of the civil rights movement as they could hide.  So Texas children get a second-rate, incorrect set of standards in social studies, in English, and in science.

Republicans have declared war on good education, war on the children who benefit most from good education.

So, according to Don McLeroy, who lost the primary election to keep his seat, this little piece of history, below, is inaccurate. Tough for McLeroy — the Schoolhouse Rock video sits in too many Texas school libraries. Sometimes, the facts sneak through, defying the best efforts of the Texas State Soviet of Education to snuff out the truth.

But don’t you wonder what every woman, African American, and Hispanic in Texas will think about the importance of the 2010 elections, when they see what Gov. Rick Perry’s appointee to chair the SBOE, thinks about how civil rights were achieved in the U.S.?

Over at Republican headquarters, they hope that story is apocryphal.

Video of the Texas State Board of Education from the Texas Freedom Network.

Here, you can make sure other voters see this video that Don McLeroy hopes you will not see:

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Which party encourages education in Texas?

June 28, 2010

You have the tools to compare the party platforms and determine for yourself which part supports education in Texas — I mean, really supports education, as opposed to using Doublespeak to profess support while angling to get a shiv in the back of education.

You can look at the 2010 Texas Republican Party Platform here.  There are brief mentions of education in other sections, but you’ll find education starting on page 12.  Texas Democrats put education up front, on page 2 (unofficial version, but the emphasis won’t change).

Education sections of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform appear immediately previous to this post, in eleven sections.

Which party is more favorable to educating our children well?


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