It appears that Texas State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna, is hoping religious bigotry will help him win re-election. The 12-year incumbent is circulating a flier that suggests his Democratic opponent, Laura Ewing of Friendswood, wants to — pass the smelling salts, please — teach social studies students about Islam. The flier explains that Ewing joined other social studies educators on a trip to Africa and India and asks: “Do you know what the Democrat for State Board of Education supports?” The flier implies that Ewing — that evildoer — was using the trip to help develop a curriculum that includes the study of Islamic history and culture. Actually, she was. The state’s curriculum standards for social studies — passed by the state board shortly after Bradley joined it in 1997 — require that students learn about the world’s major religions and cultures. And the trip, as Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg explains today, was made possible through the support of the state’s Republican governor, Rick Perry. Falkenberg writes:
It’s easy to dismiss Bradley’s campaign handout as dirty campaigning with an unusually bigoted bent. . . . But the campaign piece represents more than politics of fear. It’s a poignant example of the kind of logic, or illogic, that Bradley, the board’s vice chairman, applies to crucial decisions involving curriculum and textbook selection affecting every public schoolchild in this state.
Bradley, the board’s vice chairman and a key member of the panel’s far-right faction of textbook censors, has made a career out of bullying folks he opposes. He bragged, for example, about “spanking” teachers who dared come before the board to express their concerns about a new language arts curriuclum this past spring. We also learned recently that a former board member — a fellow Republican — says she felt so threatened by Bradley that her husband demanded armed security at board meetings.
What a swell guy. Falkenberg continues:
I asked Bradley what bothered him so much about Ewing’s trip.
“I think Islamic curriculum is about the furthest thing that we need to be introducing into Texas classrooms,” he said, adding a bit later, “I think people are real sensitive about Islamic studies, given recent events in the United States.”
Some, like Ewing, believe that sensitivity should be best addressed with more education, not more ignorance.
But Bradley’s view of what our schools should offer is limited.
“I think we need to spend a whole lot more of our time and energy on reading, writing and arithmetic,” he told me. “And, you know, if there’s time to spare, the students might be able to spend a little time on some electives. But we’re doing a very poor job on reading, writing and arithmetic to be spending time, money and effort on other curriculums.”
And there you have it.
In 2008, the vice president of the board that decides what our children learn and what textbooks will teach it to them believes that science and social studies are unnecessary.
And traveling outside the country to learn about another culture is fodder for a political attack ad.
You can read all of Falkenberg’s insightful column here.