Today far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education made it clear that they no longer want input from teachers, academic experts and other community members who have been helping revise the state’s social studies curriculum standards. Republicans Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and Bob Craig of Lubbock (neither of whom are liberals) as well as Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas all insisted that continued input from teachers and academics could only help the board approve solid standards. But their proposals to reconvene the curriculum writing teams either this month or in January to continue fine-tuning their draft standards were met with solid resistance from the board’s far-right faction. The faction also opposed inviting the curriuclum writers and the board’s appointed panel of social studies “experts” to participate in discussions and a public hearing in January and March.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since the beginning of this process, far-right board members and their allies have harshly and unfairly criticized the work of the curriculum teams — especially the teachers on those teams. They have charged that the teams are made up of radical “educrats” (teachers) who were using the standards to promote “multiculturalism” and “anti-free market” views. They claim that the teams are promoting a “war on Christmas” and undermining Christian values. Then yesterday far-right activists complained to the board that the curriculum teams had crafted standards that have a “leftist bias” and that portray America in a negative light. (Steven Schafersman has a helpful summary of yesterday’s testimony before the board in a comment to an earlier post here.)
The complaints are worse than absurd — they have also been deeply insulting to the hard-working volunteers on the writing teams. And they reveal the contempt far-right extremists on and off the board have for anybody who doesn’t share their narrow political views. These extremists have been particularly savage in their attacks on teachers and respected teacher organizations such as the Texas Council for the Social Studies.
So what’s the significance of today’s reckless decisions by the board to move on without the help of their own curriculum panels? Read on.
We have reviewed the curriuclum teams’ newest drafts of the standards from October. For the most part, the teams resisted efforts by far-right pressure groups and board members to politicize those drafts. Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez, for example, are still in the standards despite calls from far-right activists to censor them. The teams have also rejected far-right efforts to portray Joseph McCarthy as an American hero despite his reckless political smear campaign in the 1950s. There are numerous other examples in which the writing teams have relied on sound scholarship and facts rather than bending to political pressure to rewrite history.
So far-right board members now want them out of the way. Remember that the state board ultimately threw out the work of teachers and education specialists during the adoption of language arts curriculum standards in 2008. Then earlier this year they mangled proposed new science standards, adding creationist-inspired attacks on evolution, removing scientific estimates of the age of the universe and ignoring the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change.
Now they want no more input from teachers and academic experts on what the next generation of Texas students will learn in their social studies classrooms. Just as with language arts and science, we almost certainly will see a flurry of amendments in January that replace sound standards with personal opinions and ideological biases.
“They’re our TEKS,” board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, insisted today, talking about the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards. “And I think we can fix them at the board level.”
Really? Like you did with the language arts and science standards? Gee, that’s just swell.
“If I were assured that they were going to do what we directed them to do, I would (reconvene the writing teams),” Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, told fellow board members.
Oh, sure. Teachers and academic experts should simply do as they’re told by politicians who are more interested in pushing ideology than education. Right?
Our kids deserve better.
The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed standards in January. Expect a large turnout by far-right activists from around the state. It’s important that mainstream Texans — Republicans and Democrats alike — speak out at the hearings as well. Decisions about our children’s education are far too important to leave to political extremists. When information about testifying at the January public hearing is available, TFN Insider will post it. And then it will be time for the voices of mainstream Texans to be heard loud and clear at the State Board of Education.