For Texans concerned by the State Board of Education‘s efforts to politicize public school classrooms over the past four years, 2011 has begun with encouraging signs. Four of six far-right candidates, including incumbent Don McLeroy, R-College Station, lost their election races last year. That alone will affect the balance of power between the board’s once-dominant political ideologues on one side and resurgent moderates on the other. Then this week the Dallas Morning News editorial board — traditionally one of the more conservative in the state — called on new state board members to revise the deeply flawed social studies curriculum standards adopted last year:
“If the 15 members of the panel would just as soon start the year fresh and ignore this problem, they need to recall that a long line of Texans stood up to oppose these standards. They included Rod Paige, the former Houston superintendent who went on to become former President George W. Bush’s first education secretary. He asked the panel last spring to delay its vote.
The new panel needs to take up where he and others left off. Revising these standards would ensure that Texas students get a balanced approach in studying history, government, economics and other parts of the social studies curriculum.”
The Dallas Morning News has also published a letter to the editor from George Clayton, a newly elected Republican state board member from Richardson (just outside Dallas). Clayton writes that he is open to revisiting the curriculum standards the state board has adopted. Just as refreshing, he writes that board members should stop putting personal and political agendas ahead of education:
“Personal political agendas are out of place when curriculum issues are before the board. Political slants within current curriculum should be investigated and corrected. Partial truths should be eliminated. For all educators, including me, it is essential that the truth be the guiding force within our teaching curriculum and our textbooks.”
We couldn’t agree more. But far-right pressure groups are already howling, insisting that voters didn’t really change anything in the elections last year and that the new board will (and should) be just as radical as the last. That kind of rhetoric can hardly be reassuring to most parents who simply want their children to get a sound education, not political indoctrination from any side in the nation’s raging culture wars.
In any case, we are likely to learn more about the new state board’s direction soon. The board’s first meeting in 2011 is next week (January 19-21). As over the past 16 years, the Texas Freedom Network will be there. Keep an eye on TFN Insider for updates. And you can support TFN’s efforts to reform the State Board of Education by joining our Just Educate campaign here.