Archive for the ‘censorship’ Category

Gov. Perry’s Pro-Censorship Endorser

October 13, 2011

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. An extremist pastor walks into a library to destroy public property and when the stunt royally backfires on him, he recruits a member of his congregation to craft an unconstitutional city ordinance that essentially made his church members the morality police and the arbiters of what you and your children can read.

No? Never heard that one before? It happened in Wichita Falls in the late 1990s. The pastor in question is Robert Jeffress, at the time the senior pastor of First Baptist Wichita Falls.

Jeffress has since moved on to bigger things. He’s now at First Baptist Dallas and in the past week has stirred controversy by endorsing Gov. Rick Perry and going on the attack against the Mormon faith of Perry rival Mitt Romney.

Jeffress’ 1998 controversy erupted after he learned that the Wichita Falls Public Library had purchased two copies each of “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate,” both children’s books about kids with same-sex parents.

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Banned Books Week

September 30, 2011

A few weeks ago we told you about the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer’s claim that the Bible is the only book banned in the country’s public schools.

Fischer has obviously not been to Texas where a course on the Bible is offered as an elective. Wait. He actually has been to Texas. Fischer was at Reliant Stadium on Aug. 6 for a prayer event the AFA held in conjunction with Gov. Rick Perry, the man who signed the Bible elective legislation into law.

But in any case, we’re nearing the end of Banned Books Week 2011 and we would encourage TFN Insider readers to pick up a banned book and read. We’ll remind you that in some cases, the people who would call for a book ban are the same people who would support the far-right shenanigans at the Texas State Board of Education and the state Capitol that TFN works to stop.

The American Library Association has a list of the books most often challenged in the United States during the last 10 years. Spoiler alert: none of the books on the list is the Bible.

If you’re interested in Texas-specific information, the ACLU of Texas has released its annual report (PDF) on books banned in the state’s public schools. Spoiler alert #2: none of the books banned in Texas is the Bible.

Politics, Curriculum and Textbooks

December 9, 2010

The religious right doesn’t just target science and social studies when it comes to politicizing public school classrooms. The movement’s pressure groups attack education on a broad front, pushing a divisive agenda throughout the public school curriculum — including even reading and English classes. Educational Research Analysts, the old right-wing warhorse of the textbooks “culture wars” in Texas, makes that clear on its website.

ERA, founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler in East Texas, lists on its website the criteria by which it judges the quality of reading textbooks. The heavy emphasis on phonics is predictable. But so are the requirements ERA establishes for content in reading programs. Among the group’s demands:

Equal stress on Europe’s literary, religious, and cultural heritage compared to other regions

Diverse views on current controversial issues, when raised (e.g., “global warming,” feminism, evolution)

No sensational violence, offensive language or illustrations, occultism, or deviant lifestyles (e.g., homosexuality)

No politically-correct stereotypes of oppressors and/or victims by race, class, creed, or gender

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Group: ‘Textbook Approval Is Power’

October 7, 2010

We told you yesterday how the old warhorse of the right-wing censorship movement in Texas, Educational Research Analysts, works to intimidate publishers and promote a divisive ideological agenda in public school textbooks. As we reported, the group’s July newsletter called for the Texas State Board of Education to reject textbooks that are allegedly anti-Christian and pro-Muslim (even though claims of such bias are not supported by facts).

Another passage from that same newsletter makes the religious right’s obsession with political power and pushing an ideological agenda rather than educating kids even clearer:

“Many wrongly think Texas’ SBOE can reject only those textbooks that meet less than 50% of its course content standards, flunk certain manufacturing guidelines, or contain factual errors. But it can also dump those that clearly conflict with basic democratic values. For the first time ever the SBOE should invoke that power to warn publishers not to pander to Islam against Christianity … in their new high school World History submissions. Christian conservative mastery of detail in Texas’ textbook approval process is power.” [emphasis added]

This is a stunning declaration by culture warriors who are determined to put their personal political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren. Yet it is not a toothless declaration: for nearly two decades, far-right pressure groups and their wealthy supporters have slowly built a powerful faction of culture warriors on the state board. And that faction of political extremists is determined to control what our public schools teach millions of Texas kids, even if it means distorting what the law really says.

Here are just some of the fruits of their dangerous and divisive efforts:

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Behind the Textbook ‘Culture Wars’

October 6, 2010

More than a few people have wondered who really authored the inflammatory anti-Muslim resolution the Texas State Board of Education passed in September. Randy Rives, a failed state board candidate from Odessa, asked the board in July to pass the resolution. Rives has told reporters that he and his wife wrote the resolution and combed through 11-year-old textbooks to find supporting “facts” for it. A TFN analysis shows how the resolution was based on grossly misleading and outright false claims.

In any case, we have been suspicious of Rives’ claim that he authored the resolution, if for no other reason than that the textbooks on which the measure was based haven’t been used in Texas for more than seven years. In fact, the Texas Education Agency didn’t even have those old world history textbooks on file in Austin. Yet Rives claims that he managed to get hold of those textbooks in Odessa.

Well, maybe he did. But we have a much more plausible theory about where that resolution really originated: Educational Research Analysts, the old right-wing warhorse of the textbook “culture wars” in Texas.

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Wait, Wait…

August 17, 2010

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has another story about the perils of educational publishing in Texas. It seems that a play by Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s popular news quiz show Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, was being considered for inclusion in an end-of-course exam under development for high school English students in Texas. Then, the Star-Telegram explains, a three-word exclamation in the play’s dialogue got in the way:

Sagal wrote a post on his blog last week about how test maker Pearson Education wanted to include his play as part of an end-of-course English III assessment for Texas schools.

“For ten years to come, high school students taking this exam would read my play, and then have to answer questions about it. Neat,” Sagal wrote.

His excitement turned to confusion when the company told him that the phrase “for God’s sake” needed to be cut from the play because it could be deemed offensive by officials at the Texas Education Agency.

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