Archive for the ‘Peter Marshall’ Category

Peter Marshall Passes Away

September 10, 2010

We just learned that the Rev. Peter Marshall, who advised the Texas State Board of Education on proposed new social studies curriculum standards last year, passed away suddenly this week. The Texas Freedom Network and Rev. Marshall had sharp differences of opinion on politics and education. Regardless, we extend our condolences to his family and his friends. May they find comfort in the love and memories Rev. Marshall surely left behind for them.


Has Peter Marshall Come Unhinged?

August 9, 2010

Reading his increasingly vitriolic commentaries, one begins to question the Rev. Peter Marshall‘s grasp of reality. Yet the State Board of Education put him in a prominent position to influence what millions of public school children in Texas will learn in their social studies classrooms. The mind still reels at the thought.

In any case, consider two recent commentaries posted on his website. Marshall’s July 22 commentary about Islam included this stunning and vicious attack on Muslim Americans:

“When it comes to the reality of Islam in America, can a good or devout Muslim be a good American? No. The answer, my friends, is a flat ‘no!’ The only Muslim that could possibly be a good American is a Muslim that is non-practicing, or one that is in the process of repudiating Islam. Why? Because Islam is completely incompatible with either Christianity or patriotic Americanism.”

Marshall then offered a bizarre rant about President Obama in his July 29 commentary:

(I)rony abounds when one realizes that our current President, who claimed in his election campaign to really be ‘one of the people,’ and that he could ‘hear’ the plights and needs of the poor, the less fortunate, etc., etc., is in fact the most elitist President in our entire history. He is the product of an elite Hawaiian prep school, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. That’s about as elitist as it gets in America. Further, he was on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School. When you listen to the velvet sounds of his mellifluous baritone you are hearing the carefully modulated expressions of one who has been groomed for his present position for a very long time. He is an elitist of the elite.


The Right’s New Hate Campaign

July 26, 2010

Of course, it’s not all that new. We’ve been watching this fester over the last decade. But the venom of the growing anti-Muslim hate campaign — and the willingness to disregard basic religious and civil liberties for American Muslims — should be a shocking development in a nation that has championed religious freedom for more than two centuries. Consider, for example, recent comments by Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey:

At a recent event in Hamilton County, Ramsey was asked by a man in the audience about the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims.” Ramsey proclaimed his support for the Constitution and the whole “Congress shall make no law” thing when it comes to religion. But he also said that Islam, arguably, is less a faith than it is a “cult.”

“Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it,” Ramsey said. “Now certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.”

This kind of religious bigotry has been growing in prominence in Texas as well. Shortly after the 2006 elections, David Barton of the far-right group WallBuilders wrote that Americans were justifiably concerned that Minnesotans had elected a Muslim, Keith Ellison, to Congress:

“After all, America and Americans are currently the target of attacks by members of the same Islamic faith that Ellison professes; and while Ellison may not hold the same specific beliefs as America’s enemies, he nevertheless holds the same religion. . . . Ellison may not have the same beliefs as the Muslims who openly decry and even attack America; nevertheless, their behavior reflects on him. It is therefore understandable that citizens outside his district are highly concerned.”


Internment Camps — Bring ‘Em On?

November 17, 2009

Here’s a new one for the “why it’s a bad idea to allow ideologues to write history standards” file — a file that is growing by the day, thanks to the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

Today’s example comes from the Rev. Peter Marshall, appointed earlier this year by far-right SBOE members Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, and Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to the “expert” panel advising the board on new social studies curriculum standards. (Read about Marshall’s appalling lack of qualifications here.) Marshall writes a weekly commentary on his “Peter Marshall Ministries” Web site, which typically consists of boiler-plate attacks on liberals, communists and moderate Republicans, all of whom supposedly pose an imminent threat to America’s very existence (in Marshall’s bizarre theology, at any rate). In this week’s commentary — entitled “Alien Invasion” —  Marshall proposes an alarming solution to the tragic shooting in Fort Hood:

Apparently, there are about 4000 Muslims in the United States Military. They should be immediately examined — all of them.

Now before you go and jump to the conclusion that Marshall is suggesting the government round up American Muslims and force them into detention camps (à la the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II), let’s hear him out.


Peter Marshall’s History: FAIL

November 13, 2009

We have already told you about David Barton and Peter Marshall, the two absurdly unqualified “experts” placed on a  social studies curriculum panel by far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education. Now other bloggers have been looking at Marshall’s claims downplaying the influence of Enlightenment thinkers — and promoting the Bible’s influence — on the Founders’ writing of the Constitution.

Ed Brayton, whose Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog has kept an eye on the curriuclum battles in Texas, reports about Marshall’s nonsense here. He provides links to some interesting background on Marshall’s claims. Some bloggers are reporting that Marshall has distorted the work of a University of Houston scholar in an effort to promote those claims. Check it out.

Rehabilitating Joseph McCarthy?

October 29, 2009

To the abundant evidence showing that ideologues and non-historians shouldn’t be deciding what students learn in their history classrooms, add another exhibit: far-right efforts to use our kids’ classrooms to rehabilitate the image of  Joseph McCarthy and turn him into an American hero. Sadly, that’s what some members of the Texas State Board of Education and people they have appointed to help revise public school social studies curriculum standards are now trying to do.

McCarthy used his position in the Senate in the 1950s to publicly smear countless people with false charges that they were communists or sympathizers. He even accused entire organizations — such as the Democratic Party — of promoting treason. McCarthy’s witch hunts were so outrageous and shameful that even Republicans eventually turned on him. In 1954 the Senate voted to censure McCarthy. He then sank into relative obscurity and died a few years later at the age of 48.

But now right-wingers are once again promoting the nonsense that McCarthy was a truth-telling, anti-communist hero and patriot. And if they get their way, that’s what Texas history students will soon be learning in their public school classrooms.


Why Is Gail Lowe Attacking Teachers?

October 15, 2009

Sometimes politicians find it easier to point fingers at everybody else for the problems they helped create themselves. That certainly seems true for Gail Lowe, the Republican from Lampasas who chairs the Texas State Board of Education.

The state board has been bombarded with thousands of e-mails and letters from people concerned about the ongoing revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. We obtained through a Texas Public Information Act request copies of those e-mails as well as replies from board members. In her replies Ms. Lowe tries to shift blame for problems to teachers and the news media, and her words are as insulting as they are disingenuous.


Grading the Social Studies Experts: ‘Fail’

October 9, 2009

They call these guys social studies “experts”? Please. If the Texas State Board of Education were to fine David Barton and Peter Marshall for each of the factual errors in their reviews of proposed (first drafts) social studies curriculum standards — as the board fines publishers for errors in textbooks — it would add up to a big chunk 0′ change. In fact, a partial analysis of the curriculum reviews from these two supposed social studies “experts” reveals a number of problems with basic historical facts, including distortions and misstatements as well as the simple misspelling of names.

We are not historians either, of course, but we haven’t been appointed to an “expert” panel helping guide what a generation of Texas students will learn in their social studies classrooms. In any case, for every correction noted below, we have linked to our sources — which include primary source documents — and welcome any corrections to the information we provide. Read on.


The War on Neil Armstrong

September 30, 2009

Once again, the Texas affiliate of the far-right group Focus on the Family is having trouble getting its facts straight. This week the group is criticizing “the media and Austin liberals” for “distorting” the debate over the State Board of Education’s revision of social studies curriculum standards for public schools. The group is urging that the state board keep the names of “many notable figures in Texas and American History” in the new social studies standards, including Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon.

Well, we don’t know any “Austin liberals” who want Armstrong removed from the standards. And TFN doesn’t want him out either. So perhaps it would be better for far-right pressure groups to direct their criticism toward their own ranks — and there’s a good reason for that.


Important Progress

September 17, 2009

Today’s State Board of Education hearing on proposed new social studies standards for Texas public schools was long and often exhausting. (Scroll down to find our blog posts from the hearing.) But we noted some important progress for ensuring that our schoolchildren get an honest and sound education.

In particular, David Barton and Peter Marshall were in full retreat from their calls over the summer to remove Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall from the social studies standards. When questioned today by state board members, the two claimed they had never really wanted to blacklist the two famous civil rights leaders. Oh no, they simply thought that Chavez and Marshall had been misplaced in the standards. By suggesting that discussion of Chavez be moved elsewhere, for example, Barton even claimed he was trying to make room for more minorities. Marshall protested that he had only wanted to make sure that the two were discussed in their proper context.

All of that was misleading, of course. This is what Barton had said about Chavez last June:

“(Chavez’s) open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is a praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone ‘who modeled active participation in the democratic process.’”

Peter Marshall had said much the same:

“Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”

He had also argued in June that Thurgood Marshall wasn’t “a strong enough example” of an important historical figure to be included in the standards.

So what happened? After TFN exposed those absurd comments this summer, newspapers, elected officials, educators, civil rights groups and parents were vocal and loud in opposing efforts to censor instruction about Chavez and Marshall. Barton and Peter Marshall obviously felt the heat and backed down. In fact, Barton today ended up offering an extensive list of minorities he thought should be included in the standards (even though he has argued in the past that “multicultural” standards too often crowd out instruction on important American heroes and historical figures from the past).

But while we made some progress today on one front in the far-right’s curriculum “culture war,” the board’s far-right faction continued to pressure curriculum teams to rewrite the history of the relationship between religion and government in the United States. They insisted that the teams include standards suggesting that our nation and government were founded on conservative Christian biblical principles. Those efforts to distort history — and undermine important protections for religious freedom in our country — are likely to continue until the final vote on new curriculum standards in March.

Help Review the Social Studies ‘Experts’

September 10, 2009

The so-called “expert” reviewers appointed by the Texas State Board of Education have turned over their written reviews of the first drafts of the new social studies curriculum standards. While we work through these reviews, let us know what you think about them, too. The reviews are here. The first drafts are here.

Among the things we have already noticed in the review from Peter Marshall, a right-wing evangelical minister from Massachusetts, are a variety of absurd suggestions and glaring historical inaccuracies:

  • As you will recall, Marshall and David Barton have argued that the current social studies standards include too many minorities that, they say, really didn’t accomplish much. For example, they said Cesar Chavez was a poor role model for students who wasn’t historically significant. Marshall has now backed off his opposition to including Chavez. But who else does he suggest students should learn about? Pedro Flores, considered by many to be the first yo-yo maker in the United States. (Marshall inaccurately describes Flores as the “inventor of the yo-yo.”)
  • Marshall sees no problem with requiring students to learn about “conservative organizations and individuals like Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority. In fact, he suggests adding James Dobson (of Focus on the Family), Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association. Marshall also suggests “liberals organizations” like, the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood — “provided,” he writes, “the students are made aware of Planned Parenthood’s funding of abortion clinics.”
  • Marshall keeps up his efforts to blacklist Anne Hutchison, calling her “a favorite of modern feminists” but “not sufficiently ‘significant.'” In fact, Hutchison was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because she believed women deserved more rights and that individuals had the right to interpret the Bible as they saw fit (something Puritan clergy didn’t like).
  • He continues to insist that students learn religion was a leading influence in colonization and the desire for independence from Britain. We suppose that whole “taxation without representation” thing was just a passing fad, right?
  • Marshall says U.S. conquests and annexations of large swaths of Mexico and Hawaii and our control over the Philippines, Puerto Rico and other territories represented “expansion,” not “imperialism.” “Imperialism,” he writes, is a “pejorative” term that better described what the Europeans did.
  • He says the United States returned to Mexico “more than half” of the terrirory taken during the Mexican-American War, “drawing the border only where we had claimed it to be before the war — the Rio Grande River.” Actually, no. The United States annexed a huge swath of Mexican terrority from the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean. That area includes the entire southwestern United States today.

We should note, by the way, that the issue here isn’t whether American expansion was right or wrong. The issue is why someone who is wrong on basic historical facts is sitting on a panel of so-called “experts.”

We will post more about the other reviews as we work through them. But please post what you find as you read the reviews as well.


September 4, 2009

Anything here sound familiar?

A prominent religious leader is now attacking the study of social sciences, saying it “promotes doubts and uncertainty” and “secularism.”

A new development in the growing debate over social studies curriculum standards in Texas public schools? Well, not exactly. The religious leader noted above is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the “supreme leader” of Iran’s theocratic government. According to a story in the New York Times, Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are suggesting “that the study of secular topics and ideas has made universities incubators for the political unrest unleashed after the disputed presidential election in June.”

“Many of the humanities and liberal arts are based on philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief in godly and Islamic teachings,” Ayatollah Khamenei said at a gathering of university students and professors on Sunday, according to IRNA, the state news agency. Teaching those “sciences leads to the loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge.”

All of this comes as far-right ideologues helping guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools are insisting that students learn the United States is a Christian nation and that the Founders intended our society and laws to be based on the Bible.


A ‘War for the Soul of America’

July 16, 2009

So says Peter Marshall, a supposed social studies “expert” helping revise curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The far-right evangelical minister from Massachusetts, appointed to an “expert” panel by social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal in a story this week about the ongoing curriculum revision:

“We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.”

Of course, the enemy in that war is anyone — even fellow Christians — who don’t share Marshall’s personal religious and political beliefs. Marshall has made that very clear.

The mix of intolerance and violent imagery employed by Marshall and others of the religious right is as extreme today as when the movement’s shock troops declared a “culture war” in America nearly two decades ago. That kind of hyperbolic nonsense is something Texans will hear more and more over the coming months. That’s because the state board also put another far-right political activist, David Barton, on the “expert” social studies panel.

Never mind that Marshall and Barton are absurdly unqualified to be considered experts by any objective standards. Barton, who founded an organization that opposes separation of church and state, has a bachelor’s degree in religious education. Marshall also has no advanced degree in the social sciences. In truth, their “expertise” is  in promoting political agendas, not social studies education.

But don’t bother suggesting that state board members choose only “experts” who actually have relevant academic qualifications that make them experts. Too many of those board members think real scholarship is suspect — another example of the anti-intellectualism rampant among the religious right.

Don McLeroy, ousted from his post as board chair by the state Senate in May, tells the Austin American-Statesman that he likes things the way things are now — the only requirement for being an “expert” is that two board members say so:

“If two (board) members think they’re qualified, they’re qualified.”

Golly, such high standards for Texas. But hey, we’re in a “war for the soul of America,” right?

McLeroy Defends Unqualified ‘Experts’

July 9, 2009

Don McLeroy — the College Station Republican whose nomination as chairman of the State Board of Education the Texas Senate rejected in May — is defending unqualified, board-appointed “experts” who want important historical figures like César Chavez and Thurgood Marshall removed from social studies curriculum standards for public schools.

McLeroy is quoted in a Dallas Morning News story about reviews of the current standards by David Barton of WallBuilders and conservative evangelical minister Peter Marshall. Barton has earned only a bachelor’s degree in religious education. Marshall also has no graduate work in the social sciences. But both are prominent political activists among far-right evangelicals.

Despite their absurdly weak credentials, McLeroy told the Dallas Morning News he thinks Barton and Marshall are “very qualified” to sit on an “expert” panel guiding the revision of the social studies standards:

“There is no doubt they have the experience and expertise to advise the writing teams and the board on the standards,” he said, noting he has not yet read the experts’ recommendations.

Really? McLeroy should check out a comparison of the credentials of the six people the state board has appointed to the so-called “expert” panel. Barton and Marshall aren’t on the panel because they have the academic qualifications to know what they’re talking about when it comes to social studies education. They’re on the panel to politicize the education of Texas schoolchildren. And Don McLeroy and his far-right buddies on the state board couldn’t be happier.

Anyone not concerned about where this revision process is heading simply isn’t paying attention. The warning signs are flashing bright red.

A Look at the Texas Social Studies ‘Experts’

June 9, 2009

We reported in April that the creationist faction on the Texas State Board of Education was moving to pack a key “expert” review panel for the social studies curriculum revision with like-minded ideologues. (See here and here.) We now have the names of all the “expert” panelists. As with the science “expert” panel, it appears that the social studies panel will be evenly split between mainstream academics and ideologues aligned with the creationist faction.

The three mainstream academics on the panel are Jesus Francisco de la Teja of Texas State University (appointed by SBOE members Rene Nunez, D-El Paso, and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi), Jim Kracht of Texas A&M (appointed by Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, and Bob Craig, R-Lubbock), and Lybeth Hodges (appointed by Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, and Lawrence Allen, D-Houston).

The three ideologues aligned with the board’s creationist faction are David Barton (appointed by Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, and Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio), the Rev. Peter Marshall (appointed by Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, and Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond), and Daniel Dreisbach (appointed by Terri Leo, R-Spring, and David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna).

SBOE members Don McLeroy, R-College Station; Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas; and Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, were unable to come to agreement on appointing a seventh panelist.

Even a casual look at the vita for each of these “experts” makes clear grossly unequal qualifications. That examination also reveals the agenda of the board’s creationist faction: use the social studies curriculum to promote a political argument against separation of church and state.

So let’s look at each of the so-called “experts” who will guide the revision of social studies standards for an entire generation of children in Texas public schools.