Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Heathen U

February 25, 2012

Rick Santorum just cannot help himself. Political pundits and strategists affiliated with his own party have been virtually screaming at him, telling him that if he wants any shot at winning in November he needs to quit the culture wars and stick to jobs, jobs, jobs. But, again, he just can’t help himself.

On Thursday, Santorum sat down with professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing radio talk show host Glenn Beck for a wide-ranging interview, during which he dropped this whopper:

I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely. The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.

The proof? For President Obama’s alleged nefarious motivations, Santorum offered none. For colleges as “indoctrination mills,” Santorum noted that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.”

62 percent? Wow, that is a big number, isn’t it? You know what’s an even bigger number? 76 percent (more on this in a bit).

We were curious, so we went looking for the source of Santorum’s information and found that the Republican presidential candidate likes his facts picked like cherries and is likely guilty of a lie of omission.

The info appears to come from this study published in 2007 in the Social Science Research Council’s journal Social Forces (hat tip to PBS for pointing us to it).

The study does say that 64 percent — not 62 percent — Yikes! It’s even worse than Santorum thought! — of students enrolled in traditional four-year colleges report a decline in attendance in religious services. But what the study also says and that Santorum neglected to mention is this:

Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.

And this:

Simply put: Higher education is not the enemy of religiosity. Instead, young people who avoid college altogether display a more precipitous drop in their religious participation.

According to the very same study cited by Santorum, colleges as secularizing machines are about as real as the mythical “war on religion” and “war on Christmas.”

In fact, the study notes there are many other reasons why young adults become less religious, but that framed diploma hanging on their walls isn’t one of them.

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Public Schools a ‘Criminal Enterprise’!

October 12, 2011

Remember when Cynthia Dunbar, then a member of the Texas State Board of Education, wrote that public schools are unconstitutional, “tyrannical” and “a subtly deceptive tool of perversion”? In the three years since then, the religious right’s campaign to undermine public education in America has become only louder. The newest tool in the right’s war on public schools is a propaganda video — “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America” — from a Texas-based director who home-schools his kids.

The video and its backers are at least honest about their goal to persuade Christian parents to withdraw their children from public schools. The video’s website includes this endorsement from far-right syndicated columnist Cal Thomas:

“Every Christian parent with a child in a government school should see this [movie] and be forced to confront their unwillingness to do what Scripture requires for the children on loan to them by God. A mass exodus from government schools is the only way to preserve the souls and minds of our children, whether it gets the attention of politicians or not…and it would.”

All parents certainly have the right to choose whether to send their children to public or private schools. But the video appears to be full of the same kind of extremist, anti-public education rhetoric Dunbar employed. Here’s a clip from the video’s trailer:

From various folks featured in the clip:

“They are stealing our children. But because they are leaving the body of the child with us, we don’t even know it’s happening.”

“If I had my way, government education would be brought to a halt.”

“Trying to fix public education is like trying to teach a pig how to dance. You get dirty; the pig gets mad.”

“Turning your children over to total strangers and having those strangers work on your child’s mind. It’s a mad idea!”

“Public schools have become a criminal enterprise.”

Dunbar’s rhetoric was, in some ways, even more objectionable. She didn’t just seek to undermine public education. Dunbar actually wanted to turn public schools into venues for promoting her own particular religious and ideological views, from creationist arguments in science classes to historical revisionism about the nation’s founders and the Constitution in social studies classrooms. And some members of the State Board of Education are still pushing the same agenda, which is why the 2012 elections — when all 15 state board seats are on the ballot — will be critical to the future of public education in Texas.

Don’t Trust the Experts!

September 15, 2011

A blogger at Religion in American History found this gem from the far-right Focus on the Family: a video crafted to persuade students that college, scholars and experts are out to corrupt them and simply can’t be trusted. Here’s a trailer from the film, The Toughest Test in College: Why Students Are Failing to Keep Their Faith on Campus.

The film apparently focuses on a particular student, Jay, who seems to have everything already figured out:

“In college you hear the words ‘experts’ and ‘facts’ thrown around all the time.”

True that. Close ’em down!

Western Politicization

April 4, 2011

Oh, for Pete’s sake!

During the weekend’s budget debate in the Texas House, state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, offered an amendment that would have directed colleges and universities to spend at least 10 percent of their funds to teach courses on “Western Civilization.” As to what those courses would include, well, you be the judge:

Christian’s amendment failed.

Give Us ONE Good Reason

March 30, 2011

Why wouldn’t you want a state entity to operate more efficiently and transparently? That is a question that no one had a good answer for Tuesday evening as the House Committee on Public Education took up HB 862, legislation sponsored by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, that would place the Texas State Board of Education under periodic “Sunset review.”

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The Right’s Anti-Education Reflex

January 28, 2011

It’s troubling that far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education insist on dumbing down education in science, social studies and other public school classes. But it’s hardly surprising. The knee-jerk anti-education reflex that characterizes the far right these days surely exasperates even mainstream conservatives. Eagle Forum’s website today offers another example of that anti-education reflex: a facts-free diatribe by Phyllis Schlafly against efforts to promote college education for young Americans.

Schlafly sneeringly insists such efforts are misguided. She argues, essentially, that many American high school graduates are too dumb and unprepared and will fail to learn much during their “five-year party” in college:

“Many of these kids wind up in low-skill, low-pay jobs such as cashiers, waiters, theater ushers, and postal workers, which can easily be performed by high school graduates.”

In truth, however, a wealth of data shows that educational attainment levels are tied to employment and wages.

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Turn Texas Universities over to the SBOE?!?!

November 17, 2010

It’s bad enough that politicians on the Texas State Board of Education have decided that promoting their own personal agendas is more important than the education of millions of children in public schools. Now a member of the Texas House of Representatives wants to give oversight of the state’s college and universities to the SBOE!

State Rep. Fred Brown, R-College Station, wants to abolish the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. His plan would turn higher education over to the Texas Education Agency and the SBOE.

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Check TFN’s Voter Guide — Then VOTE!

November 1, 2010

On Tuesday voters head to the polls in important elections for state and national offices. Races for the Texas State Board of Education are especially important this year. For the past four years, a powerful faction of political and religious extremists on the state board has turned nearly every critical debate on curriculum standards and textbooks into a “culture war” battleground. Those divisive and destructive battles have put politics ahead of the education of millions of Texas schoolchildren.

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s 2010 Voter Guide will help you learn more about the candidates and their positions on critical education issues. Check our Voter Guide here — then get out and vote!

Texas and Iran?

September 12, 2010

Uh oh. The respected journal Foreign Policy has a new article listing the places where you will find the worst textbooks. Headlined “The World’s Worst Textbooks,” the article notes:

“As students around the world head back to school, many of the lessons they’re learning are not only false — they’re dangerous.”

According to the journal, here are the places with the worst textbooks: Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and … Texas.

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Fox, Schools and the Anti-Muslim Campaign

August 7, 2010

The Texas State Board of Education debate over social studies curriculum standards last spring drew unprecedented coverage from the national media, most of it reasonably balanced. The exception was coverage from Fox News, including commentator Tucker Carlson. Carlson and his Fox colleagues made so many false and misleading statements on-air about the debate that we lost count. Even the Texas Education Agency issued a press release sharply criticizing Fox’s distorted coverage. The coverage was so biased that Fox aired a photograph of Kathy Miller — Texas Freedom Network’s president — and two other critics of the state board under the heading “Textbook Troublemakers.” Fair and balanced? What a joke.

Among the most absurd charges aired on Fox was that “multicultural groups” were distorting public school curricula around the country by undermining Christianity and promoting Islam instead. Well, Carlson is at it again.

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Poll: Texans Fed Up with Education Wars

July 13, 2010

Today the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released results from a statewide survey of what Texans think about the intersection of politics and religion with public schools. We released results from two questions back in May. One showed overwhelming support for putting teachers and scholars, instead of politicians on the State Board of Education, in charge of writing curriculum and textbook requirements. Another revealed that nearly 7 in 10 Texans agree that separation of church and state is a key principle of the Constitution.

Today we released the full results of the public survey. You can read highlights of the report in the press release below and read the full report here. But this is the key point: Texans are fed up with politicians dragging our children public schools into unnecessary and divisive culture war battles that promote personal and political agendas of state board members. They want the state board and our public schools to just educate Texas students and prepare them to succeed in college and their future careers. You can help reform the state board and protect the education of Texas schoolchildren by joining our Just Educate campaign today.

Below is the press release we sent out today.

A new statewide survey shows Texans overwhelmingly support reforming the way the state sets requirements for curriculum and textbooks in public schools and reject key “culture war” positions the right has taken regarding public education.

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Blacklisting Texas Textbooks

March 17, 2010

And so it begins.

It was only a matter of time before concerned citizens in other states began launching efforts to stop their public schools from buying textbooks written by publishers to meet the increasingly politicized curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education in Texas.

Jim Broadway, publisher of the State School News Service in Illinois, puts it this way:

“If Texas influences textbook publishers so profoundly, how can we prevent such reactionary teachings from polluting the classrooms of Illinois?”

Ouch.

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It’s Time to Act: The ‘Just Educate’ Campaign

March 16, 2010

Have you had enough? Last week’s Texas State Board of Education meeting was yet another debacle for honest and sound education. Last year the board’s creationist faction worked to water down instruction on evolution in science classrooms. The year before that they tried (but failed) to force politically approved reading lists into language arts and literature classrooms. Now the board’s extremists — who cynically attack anyone who opposes them, even other Republicans and people of faith, as “radical leftists” who hate Christians — are targeting our children’s social studies classrooms.

And the board’s corruption of social studies with ideological nonsense won’t affect just what Texas schoolchildren learn. Because Texas is such a large purchaser of textbooks, publishers will write their new books to meet this state’s standards and then sell them to schools in other states as well. That means bad history in Texas will find its way into classrooms across the country.

And how bad is it? Just check out some of the headlines we’ve all been reading:

“Texas Textbook Massacre” (Huffington Post)

“It’s Like They Are Proud of Being Ignorant” (The Atlantic)

“Social studies curriculum…puts a conservative stamp on history” (New York Times)

The Texas Freedom Network is issuing a call to action for all who care about whether schoolchildren get a quality education that prepares them to succeed in the world of the 21st century.

So what can you do?

First, sign on to Just Educate, our new campaign to reform the State Board of Education and keep politics out of our children’s public school classrooms. Our campaign will unite parents, business leaders and other concerned citizens behind a common-sense principle: the State Board of Education and our public schools should just educate our schoolchildren, not promote ideological agendas that are undermine their ability to compete and succeed in a 21st century economy.

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Oklahoma Senate Says: ‘Sue Our Schools!’

March 5, 2010

Well, that’s not really what the Oklahoma Senate said, but it might as well have. On Thursday the chamber passed a bill that would allow elective courses about the Bible in the state’s public schools. But Oklahoma senators did something really, really foolish: the bill mandates that course materials come from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

We know a lot about that curriculum — and it’s not good.

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Dunbar Strikes Again

December 4, 2008

Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, made news last month when she charged that President-elect Barack Obama “truly sympathizes” with enemies out to destroy America. Now guess what Dunbar has to say about the public education system she helps govern.

From a Texas Freedom Network press release today:

In her book, One Nation Under God (Onward, 2008), Dunbar (on p. 100) calls public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” She charges that the establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even “tyrannical” because it threatens the authority of families, granted by God through Scripture, to direct the instruction of their children (p. 103) Dunbar, who has home-schooled her children and sent them to private schools, bases that charge on her belief that “the underlying authority for our constitutional form of government stems directly from biblical precedents.” (p. xv)

“Even if you question the accuracy of my constitutional interpretation as proof of the inappropriateness of a state-created, tax-payer supported school system, still the Scriptures bear witness to such an institution’s lack of proper authority in the life of the Christian family,” Dunbar writes (p. 102).

TFN President Kathy Miller questioned why Dunbar didn’t tell voters what she really thought about public schools when she ran for the state board in 2006:

“A fire chief wouldn’t knowingly hire an arsonist in the department. It’s just as hard to imagine many voters knowingly supporting for the State Board of Education an extremist who despises the public schools nearly everybody’s kids except her own attend.”

The press release offers only a taste of the outrageous blather found in Dunbar’s book. In coming days we will post Dunbar’s thoughts on religious freedom, separation of church and state and how America compares to Nazi Germany. (Really.)

Note, by the way, that Dunbar rejected the public school system for her own kids, choosing to home-school and send them to private school instead. So we wonder: Why is an extremist who loathes the public education system serving on a board that manages it?