Archive for the ‘live blog’ Category

Live-Blogging the Final Science Materials Vote

July 22, 2011

We’re back in the hearing room for the final vote, which is beginning now.

9:24 – The board jumps right in to a discussion of the disputed Holt McDougal product. A TEA spokesperson clarifies that they could find NO documentation to substantiate that multiple review panel members signed-off on the alleged “error” list presented yesterday. It appears that a single member of this panel is responsible for these charges, and it does not reflect a consensus opinion of the panel.

9:27 – Important note: TFN has obtained a copy of letter addressed to the state board signed by five members of the official biology review panels. The letter challenges the alleged “errors” identified in the report presented to the board late yesterday, concluding:

“Holt McDougal’s supplement, as well as the publisher’s response to the reviewers, accurately describes the current state of the science, satisfies the TEKS, and matches the other supplements already approved by the board on Thursday.”

9:28 – Board member Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, moves to strike the disputed “error” list in the Holt McDougal product. Heated discussion ensues.

9:31 – Here is a summary of what is going on: the alleged “errors” identified in the Holt McDougal product appear to originate from a single member of the review panel, apparently David Shormann (a self-identified young earth creationist). TEA staff confirms that other members of that panel did NOT sign off on the alleged “errors.” That means the board yesterday voted to force Holt to make changes based on the objections of a single person. Dr. Soto’s motion would undo that vote and allow Holt McDougal to proceed with their proposed submission without making these disputed changes (which would insert junk science into the submission).

9:40 – Board members are reacting with alarm to this revelation. A number of board members make the point that to force these disputed changes might actually create errors in these materials. Precisely.

9:45 – David Bradley, R-Buna, has some nerve. He’s lecturing the board about how substantive changes shouldn’t be made on the final Friday of the meeting. Wow. We would remind Mr. Bradley that he personally participated in massive revisions to social studies standards (2010), science standards (2009) and English-Language Arts standards (2008).

9:50 – Soto speaks to his motion. He makes the reasonable point that the board should not be adjudicating technical matters biology, since they are not experts in this area. But when they find an undisputed mistake in the process like this, they must take corrective action. The board should not force changes on a publisher that do not represent a consensus opinion of the review committees.

9:56 – The board votes to take a 15 minute recess. Stay tuned.

10:19 – We’re back. David Bradley is reading a statement from Holt McDougal, saying they will respect the decisions of the board. No surprises there.

10:21 – Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, suggests that Dr. Soto withdraw his motion, and allow the board to approve the Holt McDougal submission contingent upon changes approved by the Education Commissioner. This would appear to be a compromise to allow the publisher to make reasonable, accurate changes — not the political changes suggested by Shormann. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, speaks against. He wants the publisher to make the changes Shormann advocates. The board is discussing.

10:25 – Soto calls for a vote on his motion to strike all the disputed “errors” identified by Shormann. Mercer moves to amend  Soto’s motion by exempting the materials pertinent to TEKS 7A (animation “Similarities in Microbiology” on pages 4-5 of the disputed “error” report) — this is one of Shormann’s bogus errors. Mercer wants this particular change to be forced on Holt McDougal.

10:30 – Chairwoman Cargill announces that they are separating these into two separate motions. Soto decides to withdraw his motion, so they can take up Craig’s compromise.

10:32 – Craig immediately moves to accept the Holt McDougal submission contingent upon rewording the disputed sections to the satisfaction of the Education Commissioner. Bradley speaks against.

10:33 – Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, speaks in favor. Commissioner Scott clarifies that he will look at these disputed issues very carefully and ensure the changes are accurate and conform to the curriculum standards. We understand that the commissioner intends to seek out the advice from legitimate science scholars and teachers in vetting these changes. Terri Leo, R-Spring, doesn’t like this because it prevents the board from monkeying around with the product to insert bogus creationist arguments. Mercer has the same objection.

10:41 – Call for a record vote. Craig’s amendment passes unanimously. The far-right bloc complained, but they didn’t have the courage of their convictions.

10:44 — Craig moves on a procedural vote to reject the “intelligent design” submission by International Databases. His motion is approved unanimously. These two votes represent a definitive victory for science and the students of Texas — and a complete defeat of the far-right’s two-year campaign to dumb-down instruction on evolution in Texas schools. We’ll have a press statement shortly.


Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Debate I

July 21, 2011

4:30 – With the end of the public hearing on proposed new science instructional materials, the State Board of Education is now starting debate over whether to adopt the materials recommended by the Texas education commissioner. In past adoptions, the state board has taken a preliminary vote at the end of this initial debate. The final, formal vote on which materials to put on the official adoption list is scheduled for Friday.

We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe. For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting is being live-streamed here. For a primer on what’s at stake today and tomorrow, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

4:37 – The board will consider the proposed instructional materials by grade level, beginning with Grade 5. Under consideration are science materials for Grades 5-8 and materials for Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Integrated Physics and Chemistry at the high school level.

4:41 – The board is considering a motion that would require publishers to make corrections to errors identified by the Texas Education Agency’s instructional review teams in June. This motion would apply to all materials, for Grades 5-8 and high school. This is not particularly alarming. If the review teams identified real errors, they should be corrected.

4:47 – The board is now voting on approval of the commissioner’s recommendations by grade level, subject to publishers making required changes to errors.

4:48 – Chairwoman Barbara Cargill moves Biology to the end of the list. That’s when we’ll find out if board members have concerns about proposed materials from certain publishers.

5:03 – So far the board has given preliminary approval to the commissioner’s list for Grades 5-8 (subject to publishers correcting any errors review teams identified). (Final approval is required tomorrow.)

5:08 – We should note that the “errors” that publishers must correct include grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes. It’s not unusual for publishers to correct numerous such errors after initial submission for adoption. Alarm bells will go off if some state board members start identifying “errors” that are really personal or political objections to content.

5:21 – Board members are raising concerns that they might be adopting instructional materials without knowing how publishers will make corrections to identified errors. Of course, TFN has noted in the past that this adoption process is greatly abbreviated (compared to past adoptions of instructional materials), leaving little time for board members — not to mention concerns folks outside the board — to review the materials and publishers’ corrections to errors. Board members are only recognizing this flaw in their process now?

5:33 – Board member Gail Lowe is proposing a mechanism for publishers to report their error corrections to the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education.

5:37 – Lowe’s suggestion approved. Chemistry products cleared for now. On to Physics materials.

5:38 – Materials for Physics and then Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) get preliminary approval. On to Biology.

5:50 – And now we run into precisely the kind of problem we thought might occur because of the lack of transparency in this adoption process. Apparently, one of the publishers — Holt McDougal — has refused to change what a review panel identified as “errors.” Indeed, the publisher is insisting that its materials are based on sound science. This is the first time TFN and state board members themselves have even seen this list of “errors.” It’s unclear whether the “errors” are based on the objections of one or more review panel members. But this is key: the review panel included David Shormann, a youth-earth creationist. The board is now deciding what to do.

5:56 – We’re still studying the objections to the Holt McDougal materials, but they appear to be designed to question certain processes linked to evolution.

6:00 – Board members are debating whether to allow a representative of the publisher to explain the reason for refusing to make the changes. Thomas Ratliff raises concerns that the review panel’s objections might be the product of just one panel member and that board members have no way to know at this point.

6:02 – One of the objections to the Holt material deals with a student lab activity on comparing hominid skulls. Excerpt: “The similarities in human skulls with other hominids may be convergent evolution, but it is erroneous to pretend that common ancestry is the cause.”

6:05 – The board refuses to allow Holt McDougal to address the board on the issue. We’re working to get a copy of the objections in PDF form that we can upload.

6:10 – The board has voted to give preliminary approval to the Holt McDougal materials subject to the publisher making the changes noted in the disputed objections. This just pushes the debate into tomorrow.

6:21 – Other publisher’s materials for Biology are also gaining preliminary approval. But the Holt materials are going to be an issue tomorrow.

6:33 – Motion made by Craig to reject International Databases submission. It passes unanimously.

6:34 – Board adjourns. Tomorrow will be a nail-biter. Stay tuned.

Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Hearing II

July 21, 2011

TFN has taken up its usual post in the board hearing room at the State Board of Education, where we are bringing you up-to-the-minute action from today’s one and only hearing on proposed new science instructional materials. (We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe.) For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting is being live-streamed here.

For a primer on what’s at stake today and tomorrow, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

1:00 p.m. – The SBOE is back from lunch, and the public hearing on proposed science instructional materials is about to begin.

1:10 – The board plans to limit testimony today to four hours, with each speaker permitted two minutes for his or her statement. In the past we’ve seen time for a speaker extended if board members have questions.

1:14 – Clare Wuellner of Austin kicks off testimony by calling on state board members to adopt instructional materials based on sound science.

1:16 – Testifier Tom Davis asks of anti-evolution board members: “Whose story of creation are you going to use?”

1:18 – Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna asks whether Davis can identify anywhere in the proposed instructional materials and curriculum standards where creationism is mentioned. Board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, offers a $500 reward to anyone who can identify where creationism, Jesus or religion is mentioned. Both are being terribly disingenuous. The arguments both have made against evolution come from religion-based “intelligent design”/creationism. And that’s true whether the words “intelligent design”/creationism even show up in the text.

1:25 – And how disingenuous are Bradley and Mercer being, by the way? Here’s a passage from science instructional materials submitted by New Mexico-based International Databases for adoption by the state board:

“Since such materialistic, self organization scenarios now have a history of scientific insufficiency for explaining the Origin of Life on Earth, the Null hypothesis (default) stands. This allows for the testing of the legitimate scientific hypothesis……Life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes.”

You can make out your check to “Texas Freedom Network,” Mr. Mercer.


Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Hearing I

July 21, 2011

TFN has taken up its usual post in the board hearing room at the State Board of Education, where we will be bringing you up-to-the-minute action from today’s one and only hearing on proposed new science instructional materials. (We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe.) For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting will be live-streamed here. The board is scheduled to convene at 10:00, and public testimony on science is #4 on the agenda.

For a primer on what’s at stake today, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

10:08 – New board chairwoman Cargill gavels the meeting to order and makes a personal privilege speech promising to lead the board with fairness and integrity. The chair already has some fences to mend with her fellow board members after she was captured on video two weeks ago telling the Texas Eagle Forum that there are only six “true conservative Christians” on the board, comments that offended some on the board.

10:10 – Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott makes some comments to the board about how decisions made in the just-finished legislative session will affect the board and the agency. There seems to be some change in the works regarding the board’s roll in overseeing the state’s massive Permanent School Fund (the board has been criticized in the past for problems in this area).

10:20  – Board members are quizzing the commissioner about how the new rules governing the purchase of instructional materials — changes codified in Senate Bill 6, passed during the legislative session and signed by the governor earlier this week — will play out in school districts. Commissioner Scott rightly notes that the law represents a sea-change in the way the schools purchase materials. Note: TFN is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive analysis of this new law and its likely effects on the state board’s role in vetting and approving classroom materials. We plan to publish that analysis in the coming weeks. TFN communications director Dan Quinn previewed our conclusions in a story in today’s USA Today: “It has the great potential to diminish the influence of the State Board of Education.”

10:42 – Board now onto discussion of new technology TEKS. Only a few people are signed up to testify, so this should go pretty quickly. Science materials are up next.

10:48 – Our friend Steven Schafersman from Texas Citizens for Science is also live blogging the science hearing at his Texas Observer blog. Open up a new browser tab and follow Steve’s commentary as well.

11:00 – TFN just completed a press conference in the lobby — a big crowd of television, radio and print reporters crowded around to hear remarks from a decorated university scientist, a successful entrepreneur, a representative from our friends at the National Center for Science Education and, of course, TFN President Kathy Miller. The group all told the board to follow the recommendations from the science review panels and adopt materials that do not water down instruction on evolution. (Thanks to Steve Schafersman for the photo below.)

11:20 – Interesting news out of the SBOE Committee on Instruction meeting earlier this morning. That five-member committee has long been dominated by far-right members, but there are signs that a change is coming. The committee’s first order of business today was to elect a new chair, after Barbara Cargill announced she was stepping down. In a move that seemed to surprise Cargill, George Clayton, R-Dallas, nominated new board member Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, as chair. Clayton and Farney, though conservative, have been ostracized by Cargill and the far-right faction. Cargill immediately nominated fellow far-right conservative Terri Leo, R-Spring, and the vote was deadlocked at two votes for each candidate. Democratic board member Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, is absent from today’s meetings, so the committee moved to postpone the election of chair until the September meeting when Berlanga will be present. Since there is no love lost between Berlanga and the far-right bloc, it seems likely that she will vote for Farney at the September meeting. Could this be a coup, signaling a return to common sense on this critical committee?

11:45 – After voting to pass the new Technology TEKS, the board has decided to break for lunch before starting the science testimony. They will reconvene at 12:50. Stay tuned.

Live Blogging the Final Social Studies Vote

May 21, 2010

9:43 – The Texas State Board of Education is set today to take a final vote on proposed new social studies curriculum standards for public schools. The board first has to finish its debate over proposed amendments to the standards. We expect that debate will resume later this morning. We expect one of the key debates today will be over what students learn about separation of church and state. Stay tuned.

11:10 – The board has resumed debate on the standards, taking up the high school world history standards first.

11:11 – Pat Hardy wants to change a world history standard dealing with the period 1450-1750, added in March, that would have students study “pro-free market factors that contributed to Europe’s Commercial Revolution.” Hardy wants to the standard simply to say “new economic factors,” with some board members noting that the concept of free markets was very different at that period. The proposal passes. The board’s far-right members don’t like it.

11:14 – Hardy wants to change “explain the benefits of free enterprise in the Industrial Revolution.” She wants the standard simply to say “effects of free enterprise,” noting that there were good and bad effects. Her goal, she says, is to remove “value-laden language” so that students can understand different sides of issues. The proposal passes. Far-right board members oppose.


Blogging the Social Studies Debate III

May 20, 2010

9:14 – The board is back and continuing with eighth-grade American history.

9:24 – The board has just voted preliminary approval for the K-8 standards. The board will take a final vote on those standards tomorrow. Board members will now take up the high school standards.

9:27 – Don McLeroy is offering amendments to the high school American history standards. He wants to add a standard to a discussion of reform and third-party movements of the early 20th century. This is different from the proposed standard that he released publicly last Friday. His new revision would require students to “describe the optimism of the many immigrants who were thankful to find a better life in America.” He argues that this standard balances a more optimistic view of America with other discussions in the broader standard (Progressive Era reforms, muckrakers, etc.). Other board members persuade him to move his amendment elsewhere, to a discussion in the standards about political, economic, and social changes in the late 1800s.


Blogging the Social Studies Debate II

May 20, 2010

A live video webcast of the Texas State Board of Education debate over proposed new social studies curriculum standards is available here.

1:20 – We’re still here, but the board is debating relatively minor points. We haven’t even gotten to the most controversial items likely to come up today.

1:21 – Board member David Bradley wants third-grade students to study the impact of taxes and government regulations on consumer prices. In third grade? It passes.

1:32 – The board is taking an hour break for lunch. We’ll be back then.

2:50 – The board has resumed debate after the lunch break.

3:07 – Conservative board members earlier today refused to restore Dolores Huerta to a third-grade standard in large part because they say she’s a socialist and, thus, an inappropriate role model for students. In addition, board member David Bradley argued that Huerta is still alive and historical figures, he says, should be dead. Well. The board just added Wallace Jefferson, the Republican chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, to a standard in the fourth-grade class on Texas history. None of the board members, including Bradley, objected. Perhaps Republicans are exempt from Bradley’s “should be dead” rule for inclusion in history standards.


Live-Blogging the May Social Studies Debate

May 20, 2010

A live video webcast of the Texas State Board of Education debate over proposed new social studies curriculum standards is available here.

9:30 – The State Board of Education is about to begin debate on the proposed social studies curriculum standards. Education Commissioner Robert Scott, an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, just launched into an attack on the board’s critics. He encouraged the board to dismiss critics and push ahead with the standards. The commissioner also suggested that the board should be careful about delaying final approve of the social studies standards. But why? The board on Tuesday delayed indefinitely a decision to adopt new science textbooks, something originally scheduled for next year. That pushes the adoption of social studies textbooks — which will be based on the new standards — out even further. There’s plenty of time for the board to let teachers and scholars review the scores of changes board members made to the standards in January and March (in addition to those changes that they will make today). These standards will be in place for the next decade. Isn’t it more important to get this right than insist on meeting what is now an unnecessary deadline of final approval tomorrow?

9:49 – The board is working through technical corrections to the standards and revisions from January and March.

10: 40 – The board has finally started the amendment process — beginning with Kindergarten and marching up through each grade level.

10:54 – Board member Pat Hardy has decided to resume tilting windmills, begging her fellow board members to remove just a few of the long list of names the board added to the standards over the last two hearings. She requests that Nathan Hale be removed from the first grade standards after hearing from elementary teachers that Hale’s death-by-hanging is not appropriate for six-year olds. (Hale remains in the fifth grade standards.) Board conservatives — led by Teri Leo — play the patriot card and insist waiting until fifth grade is outrageous. Amendment passes 8-7 with all the social conservatives voting against.

11:06 – David Bradley asks that all amendments be presented in writing. We agree with Mr. Bradley. This would be a great rule for the board to adopt. Would he also support a rule requiring members to present amendments in advance so board members and the public have time to vet them carefully?

12:10 – Consideration of amendments proceeds apace — mostly minor, uncontroversial changes to elementary TEKS.

12:13 – Mary Helen Berlanga offers an amendment returning Delores Huerta — cofounder of United Farm Workers of America — to a list of good citizens in the third grade standards. (Huerta was originally included in the standards here, but the board removed her name in January when social conservatives alleged that she was a socialist and therefore not an appropriate role model for students.)

Berlanga and her colleagues are mounting a passionate defense of Huerta’s historical significance and worthiness to be included in this standard on citizenship. Ken Mercer’s reply — she’s still a socialist.

12:29 – Amendment fails on a 6-9 vote. So Dolores Huerta still does not qualify as a good citizen according to the Texas SBOE’s standards.

Live-Blogging the Social Studies Hearing III

May 19, 2010

2:00 – The state board resumed testimony about a half-hour ago. Various state legislators are currently speaking to the board, calling for a delay in final adoption of the standards until teachers and academics experts are able to conduct a formal review of changes made over the last three months.

2:25 – State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, just schooled the state board on its responsibilities under the law. He calls on the board to delay final approval of the standards until Texans are assured those standards are sound.

2:34 – State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, is speaking to the board now. Rep. Turner peeled the paint off the barn in his speech at the Don’t White-Out Our History rally earlier this afternoon outside the Texas Education Agency building.

3:15 – The board is back on the list of those who signed up to testify.

3:56 – We’ve heard from little more than 10 percent of the more than 200 people signed up to testify today. No word yet on whether the board will cut off testimony at a certain time.

4:04 – A University of Texas student is schooling board members about issues like the struggle for equal and civil rights for men and women.


Live-Blogging the Social Studies Hearing II

May 19, 2010

11:23 – Kelly Shackelford, head of the Liberty Institute/Free Market Foundation, the Texas affiliate of the far-right Focus on the Family, is up. Shackelford argues that the words “separation of church and state” aren’t in the Constitution. Neither, we might say, is “fair trial,” “separation of powers” “checks and balances” and other basic constitutional principles. Shackelford thinks “separation of church” is being used to “abuse” the freedom of students. He wants students to contrast the intent of the Founders (or what he believes was the intent of the Founders) who wrote the Constitution with the phrase “separation of church and state.”

11:32 – Board member David Bradley calls separation of church and state a “myth.” He notes that the Ten Commandments adorn federal buildings like the Supreme Court.

11:34 – Shackelford: There are people who want to engage in a “religious cleansing” in this country. He argues that students are being punished for expressing their faith in public schools.

11:37 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar: “tremendous confusion” about how the First Amendment should be implemented in relation to religious freedom. It’s hard to disagree — people like Dunbar and Shackelford have worked hard make it confusing.

11:39 – Board member Barbara Cargill: students used to be taught correctly about the First Amendment’s protection for religious freedom (meaning that they weren’t taught about separation of church and state).

11:46 – Rick Green, a motivational speaker for David Barton’s WallBuilders who lost a bid for the Republican nomination for a state Supreme Court seat this spring, was supposed to be next. A speaker named Jason Moore is up instead. Moore is arguing about the importance of promoting “American exceptionalism.” He claims that university professors earlier this year were testifying before the board in favor of socialism as the preferred “form of government” for America. Ummm… Jason, who? He offers no names, of course. We certainly remember no university professors making such statements.

11:57 – Regarding separation of church and state and religious freedom, we think these words from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s opinion in a 2005 church-state case are appropriate: “Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?” One recalls that Justice O’Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan.

12:22 – Board members were permitted to invite one speaker each to address the board early in the hearing. Invited testifiers are now done. Nearly 200 other speakers are on the list of testifiers. We find it hard to imagine that the board will hear from them all before breaking tonight. The board is about to break for a short lunch.

12:28 – Just broke for lunch. Now we’re off to the “Don’t White-Out Our History” rally!

Live-Blogging the May Social Studies Hearing

May 19, 2010

A live video webcast of today’s hearing is available through the Texas Education Agency website.

9:10 – Public testimony on the proposed new social studies curriculum standards just began. First speaker: the Rev. Stephen Broden, who’s arguing that social studies students must learn the Judeo-Christian heritage of the nation. His testimony is right out of the WallBuilders playbook.

9:16 – Board member Lawrence Allen asks Rev. Broden whether he thinks a focus on Judeo-Christian values in the standards would be representative of all faiths practiced in America. Rev. Broden says he does. Really? Hindus? Muslims? People of other faiths?

9:19 – Rev. Broden also argued that the standards currently under consideration — as revised in January and March by the board — appropriately cover the contributions of minorities in America. (Rev. Broden is African-American.) Board member Rick Agosto asks whether Rev. Broden has actually read the standards. Rev. Broden: in a “cursory” way. We should note, by the way, that Rev. Broden is a Republican candidate for Congress in Dallas.

9:26 – Rod Paige, former education secretary under the second President Bush, is up.

9:27 – Paige: “We have allowed ideology to drive and define the standards of our curriculum in Texas. It has swung from liberal to conservative.” (We’re waiting for evidence that the Republican-dominated board and then-Gov. Bush’s education commissioner in 1998 adopted “liberal” curriculum standards.) The swing has been too broad, Paige says.

9:29 – Paige wants the board to reconsider how the standards cover the history of slavery and the civil rights movement: “I’m of the view that the institution of slavery and the civil rights movement are dominant elements in our history and shape who we are today.”

9:30 – Paige acknowledges comments from board members that the standards should be “fair” (“balanced,” we have heard). Yet, he says, history isn’t fair; it is what it is. The standards should teach the facts, he says.


Blogging the Social Studies Debate VI

March 11, 2010

3:10 – The state board is resuming its debate on the standards and is taking up the psychology standards. It’s unclear how controversial this course might be.

3:19 – Not controversial, apparently. No amendments for psychology, so on to sociology. Cynthia Dunbar Barbara Cargill moves to add Robert Nisbet to a list of sociologists students should study. Nisbet, she says, was a political conservative. Oh, well, then. The amendment passes. Apparently, pushing a political agenda extends into the sociology standards as well. It’s hard to take this board seriously at all.

3:27 – Cargill moves to strip out a sociology standard that calls on students to “explain how institutional racism is evident in American society.” She argues that this is a “negative standard” that should be removed. It’s “negative” to have students study the effects of institutional discrimination in laws, schools and private institutions? Well, the sociological effects of institutional racism are real. Mavis Knight of Dallas calls this amendment a “whitewash” of history. She’s right. Cargill’s amendments fails. Well, there’s at least one glimmer of light in this disastrous debate.


Blogging the Social Studies Debate V

March 11, 2010

12:55 – The board just voted for an amendment by Cynthia Dunbar that students learn that “the laws of nature and nature’s God” be included in a list of political ideas in history that influenced the writing of the Constitution and other founding documents.

1:02 – Now Dunbar moves to replace “democratic republic” to “constitutional republic” in referring to U.S. government throughout all of the social studies standards.

1:30 – The board has recessed for lunch until 2:30.

SBOE Rejects Religious Freedom in Standards

March 11, 2010

Today the Texas State Board of Education voted to reject an amendment to social studies curriculum standards that would require students to learn that the nation’s Founders “protected religious freedom by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” The party-line vote — 10 Republicans against and 5 Democrats in favor of the amendment — strips away any pretense that this board respects one of the most important freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Here is the exchange that just occurred on the board:

12:28 – Board member Mavis Knight offers the following amendment: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” Knight points out that students should understand that the Founders believed religious freedom was so important that they insisted on separation of church and state.

12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”

12:35 – Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans vote no, Democrats vote yes.

12:38 – Let the word go out here: The Texas State Board of Education today refused to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others. They voted to lie to students by omission.

Here was the amendment again: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” And this board, on a vote of 10-5, said they don’t want Texas students to learn about this basic protection for the religious freedom of everyone in America.

Blogging the Social Studies Debate IV

March 11, 2010

9:20 – The State Board of Education will resume debate and amending proposed new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools this morning. Board members are getting a short lesson on parliamentary procedure right now.

9:27 – The board is taking up remaining amendments on the high school world history course.

9:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.

9:40 – We’re just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board’s far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America’s exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America’s Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.

9:45 – Here’s the amendment Dunbar changed: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Here’s Dunbar’s replacement standard, which passed: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau,  Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Not only does Dunbar’s amendment completely change the thrust of the standard. It also appalling drops one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.