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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Texas education: Social studies on the gallows today

May 18, 2010

Social studies curricula climb the scaffold to the gallows set by the “conservative” majority of the Texas State Board of Education today.  If they get their way — and signs are they will — they will hobble social studies education for at least a half generation.

As The Dallas Morning News explains this morning, lame-duck board members fully intend to change Texas and American culture with their rewriting of history, de-emphasis of traditional history education, and insertion of what they consider pro-patriotic ideas in social studies.

AUSTIN – When social conservatives on the State Board of Education put the final touches on social studies curriculum standards this week, it will be a significant victory in their years-long push to imprint their beliefs upon what Texas students learn.

We in the part-time blogosphere can’t cover the meeting as it deserves — nor have we been able to mobilize pro-education forces to do what was needed to stop the board — yet.

McLeroy will make the most of his remaining time on the panel. He proposed several additions to the social studies standards for the board to consider this week. One would require students to “contrast” the legal doctrine of separation of church and state with the actual wording in the Bill of Rights that bars a state-established religion.

McLeroy has resurrected the old Cleon Skousen/David Barton/White Supremecist argument that “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, disregarding what the document and its amendments actually say.  Jefferson warned that such discussions poison children’s education, coming prematurely as this one would be as McLeroy wants it.

Watch that space.  Tony Whitson at Curricublog will cover it well, and probably timely — read his stuff.  Steve Shafersman’s work will be informative.  The Texas Tribune offered great coverage in the past.  Stay tuned.  And the Texas Freedom Network carries the flag and works hard to recruit the troops and keep up morale.

People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have already chimed in.

It is discouraging.  Under current history standards, Texas kids should know the phrase “shot heard ’round the world,” but they do not get exposure to the poem from which the phrase comes, nor to the poet (Emerson), nor exposure to Paul Revere whose ride inspired Longfellow later to write a poem that children have read ever since — except in Texas.

But under the new standards, Texas children will learn who Phyllis Schlafly is.  Patriots are out; hypocrites and demagogues are in.


Historians: ‘Stop the Texas SBOE evisceration of history and social studies’

May 15, 2010

Keith Tucker, WhatNowToons.com, via Tennessee Guerrilla Women

Keith Tucker, WhatNowToons.com, via Tennessee Guerrilla Women

In a series of articles at George Mason University’s History News Network, historians from Texas and across the nation make a powerful case against the changes in social studies standards proposed by the politicians at the Texas State Board of Education.

Together, this is a powerful indictment of the actions of the SBOE, and strong repudiation of the raw political purposes and tactics employed in the War on Education by the “conservative” faction, including especially lame duck, anti-education crusader/jihadist Don McLeroy.

Texas scholars

Scholars outside of Texas

Historians can sign a petition set up for the purpose at a site that offers links to the essays, too, An Open Letter from Historians to the Texas State Board of Education.

SBOE will take up the issue again in meetings in Austin this coming week.


Sour grapes of wrath at the Texas State Board of Education

March 10, 2010

A couple of months can make a big difference.  Can.

A difference which way?

Two months ago the Texas State Board of Education suspended its revamping of social studies standards — the efforts to grind the standards into a right-wing crutch were so controversial that hearings, discussion and amending proposed standards took up more time than allotted.  SBOE delayed final votes until March 10.

Today.

Last week Texas voted in primary elections.  Several board members’ terms are up.  Two incumbents lost primary challenges, Don McLeroy, the Boss Tweed of the right wing cultural war ring, and Geraldine Miller, a long-term veteran from Dallas, whose very conservative views cast her as a moderate among SBOE members.  Both are Republicans.

How will those primary losses affect them and their work on the board?

In addition, other members of the culture war ring are retiring, including Cynthia Dunbar. Will the lame ducks be content to vote up the changes urged by history and economic professionals and professional educators, or will they do as McLeroy suggested they need to do earlier, and fight against the recommendations of experts?

How will the lame ducks walk and quack?

Stakes are high.  New York Times Magazine featured the culture wars on the cover on Valentine’s Day (you should read the article)Texas Monthly weighed in against the culture wars, too — a surprise to many Texans.

Cynicism is difficult to swim against.  I expect McLeroy to try as best he can to make social studies standards a monument to right wing bigotry and craziness.  We’ve already seen SBOE vote to delete a wonderful children’s book from even being mentioned because the text author shares a name with a guy who wrote a book on socialism earlier.

Most of us watching from outside of Austin (somebody has to stay back and grade the papers and teach to the test . . .) expect embarrassments.  On English and science standards before, the culture war ring tactics were to make a flurry of last-minute, unprinted and undiscussed, unannounced amendments apparently conspired to gut the standards of accuracy (which would not make the right wing political statements they want) and, too often, rigor.  Moderates on the board have not had the support mechanisms to combat these tactics successfully — secret e-mail and telephone-available friends standing by to lend advice and language on amendments.  In at least two votes opponents of the culture war voted with the ring, not knowing that innocent-sounding amendments came loaded.

In a test of the No True Scotsman argument, religious people will be praying for Texas kids and Texas education.  Meanwhile, culture warriors at SBOE will work to frustrate those prayers.

Oy.

Thomas Jefferson toyed with the idea of amendment the U.S. Constitution to provide a formal role for the federal government in guaranteeing education, which he regarded as the cornerstone of freedom and a free, democratic-style republic.  Instead, American primary and secondary education are governed by more than 15,000 locally-elected school boards with no guidance from the national government on what should be taught.  Alone among the industrial and free nations of  the world, the U.S. has no mechanism for rigorous national standards on what should be taught.

For well over a century a combined commitment to educating kids better than their parents helped keep standards high and achievement rising.  Public education got the nation through two world wars, and created a workforce that could perform without peer on Earth in producing a vibrant and strong economy.

That shared commitment to quality education now appears lost.  Instead we have culture warriors hammering teachers and administrators, insisting that inaccurate views of Jefferson and history be taught to children, perhaps to prevent them from ever understanding what the drive for education meant to freedom, but surely to end Jeffersonian-style influences in the future.

Texas’s SBOE may make the case today that states cannot be trusted with our children’s future, and that we need a national body to create academic rigor to preserve our freedom.  Or they will do the right thing.

Voters last week expressed their views that SBOE can’t be trusted to do the right thing.  We’re only waiting to see how hard McLeroy is willing to work to put his thumb in the eye of Big Tex.

More:


Hope in Texas: McLeroy voted off of state school board

March 3, 2010

Two earthquakes ravage American nations, tsunamis, freakishly large snowstorms, still trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran in turmoil and ruled by some sort of crazy, North Koreans still starve so the nation can make a nuclear sabre to rattle.

Good news?

Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy lost a primary election challenge to attorney Tom Ratliff, representing the area around Beaumont, Texas. The news is that McLeroy is out — notice that the Texas Tribune doesn’t name the winner until the seventh paragraph.

Another prominent, but much more reasonable Republican member of the SBOE also lost:  Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, in Dallas.  Miller was so expected to win that race that almost no one was watching, and little is in public about the winner of the race.

Election results from Tuesday’s primary election in Texas mean that the State Board of Education will change dramatically.  It would be almost impossible for any of the changes to be bad ones.  McLeroy led the anti-evolution force on the board.  McLeroy was the ringleader to gut and racialize English standards earlier, and he’s been the point man in the attempt to gut and de-secularize social studies standards.

Board member Cynthia Dunbar, another “social conservative,” did not run for re-election.

In the governor’s race, anti-education, anti-science Gov. Rick Perry won big over the state’s popular Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Hutchison. Third place in that race went to the Teabagger candidate.

No Teabagger won any race in Texas.

It’s not that Texas has suddenly gained reason.  The dissension on the SBOE, demonstrated by the Texas Senate’s rejection of McLeroy’s renomination to be chairman of the body, just got to be too much.  Texans like their crazies to be sane enough to get things done, and not so noisily crazy as to attract attention to the state’s shared insanity.

Sunlight cast on the actions of the board, especially by groups like the Texas Freedom Network, informed Texans.  And now the people of Texas have spoken.

More:

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Schafersman’s testimony on social studies standards, to Texas SBOE

January 13, 2010

Dr. Steve Schafersman will testify on proposed new standards for social studies in Texas public schools, at a hearing before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) scheduled for today, January 13, 2009.

Schafersman is president of Texas Citizens for Science and its driving force.  He’ll also live blog much of the hearing at his blog, Evo-Sphere.  You should probably watch TFN Insider, the blog of the Texas Freedom Network, too.

Schafersman’s testimony was released in advance, and reprinted below.

Public Testimony of
Steven D. Schafersman

Texas State Board of Education Public Hearing
Austin
, Texas; Wednesday, 2009 January 13

I am grateful for the opportunity to address you about Social Studies standards for which I am testifying as a private citizen. Tomorrow you will begin your work to adopt the new Social Studies TEKS. I closely read and evaluated the proposed Grade 8 Social Studies, High School U. S. History, U. S. Government, World History, and World Geography standards and found them to be quite satisfactory. The standards were extremely comprehensive, balanced, fair-minded, and honest. The members of the panels who wrote them did an outstanding job and I was very impressed by their knowledge and professionalism. I urge that you adopt these Social Studies standards without change.

My experience with this Board leads me to suspect that some of you don’t want to adopt these excellent standards–written by social studies curriculum experts and teachers–without change. After all, these standards were written by experts and some of you feel obliged to stand up to the experts. Some of you may want to change some of the standards to correspond to your own political and religious beliefs, such as the mistaken notions that the United States is a Christian nation, that we do not have a secular government, or that separation of church and state is a myth. Some of you may want to add more unnecessary information about Christian documents or Christian history in America. If some of you do wish to make such changes, I request that you restrain yourselves. Please resist the temptation to engage in the same behavior some of you exhibited last year when you perverted the Science standards and embarrassed the citizens of Texas by engaging in pseudoscientific anti-intellectual behavior. While the Texas State Board of Education has a long and proud history of anti-intellectualism, the economic conditions today demand that we stop that practice and return to professionalism and respect for academic achievement so that our children have a future in which they will use their minds to make a living in intellectual pursuits and not their limbs in a service economy.

During the adoption of the science standards, some Board members amended the Biology and Earth and Space Science standards by engaging in fast talking, omitting pertinent information about what was being changed, offering bogus “compromises” that were not really fair compromises, and referring to “experts” who were in fact pseudoscientists and not real experts at all. I hope to not witness the same behavior tomorrow but I am pessimistic. Two pseudo-historians, David Barton and Peter Marshall, were appointed as “experts” and there is plenty of evidence available that demonstrates that these two gentlemen are preachers and polemicists for their radical agendas, not legitimate history experts.

I urge the rational and conservative Board members–whom I hope still make up a majority of this Board–to resist proposed radical amendments that attempt to insert bogus histories of American exceptionalism, America’s presumed Christian heritage as the source of our liberties and Constitutional principles, and other historical myths perpetrated by the American Religious Right. I urge you to vote No to such radical amendments, not Abstain or your radical opponents will gain the same advantage that they enjoyed during the amendment process for the Science standards, where they were delighted when some of you abstained or did not vote since that made it easier for them to obtain majorities which allowed them to win several amendments that made changes detrimental to science education. Unlike last year, when you were prevented from consulting your legitimate Science experts during debate, please consult your genuine Social Studies experts, Texas Professors Kracht, Hodges, and de la Teja. Please try to avoid the same mistakes with the Social Studies adoption process that occurred with the Science standards adoption, so no one will be able to accuse you of being anti-intellectual.


Perry to Texas Education: “Drop dead, but not as fast as before”

July 10, 2009

Texas Gov. Rick Perry named Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, to chair the State Board of Education.

Texas senators rejected Perry’s earlier nomination of Don McLeroy, R-Beaumont, due to McLeroy’s divisive tactics on board issues.  The chair must come from one of the board’s 15 elected members.

Perry was thought to favor a radical conservative to push the anti-education wishes of hard-core Republicans in Texas, whose vote Perry hopes to have in a tough fight for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010.  U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will try to oust Perry for the party’s nomination.  Some feared Perry would nominate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, who is even more radical than McLeroy.

In contrast, Lowe has been a relatively reliable vote against Texas teachers and science curricula, but she is not known to be as polarizing as McLeroy.  She has compromised on some issues, voting with educators and students.

Perry’s turning to Lowe indicates his disregard of education as an issue, and his writing off of the vote of Texas teachers and parents of students.  Perry could have named an experienced administrator and peace maker who could push the board to do its legally-mandated work on time, by nominating Bob Craig, R-Lubbock.  Perry’s turning to Lowe instead indicates that a working board is not among his priorities.

Lowe’s appointment to the chair probably is not so bad as a Dunbar appointment would have been.  But unless Ms. Lowe makes serious efforts to push for journeyman policy-making from board members, avoiding intentional controversies and simply resolving controversial issues that cannot be avoided, the SBOE will contined to be little more than political theatre in Austin, except when it actually rules on curricula and textbook issues.

Few expect the board to be a fountain of wisdom, or an example of education excellence over the next two years.

Perry’s action becomes not so bad as the potential slap in the face to Texas education that he might have delivered.  It’s the slap without a windup.  Texas students deserved a kiss instead.

Lowe will serve at least until the State Senate can act to approve or disapprove the nomination; the legislature will meet next in January 2011.  Lowe can serve for 17 months before the legislature meets.

Information:

Pre-nomination information:

Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


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