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.
Archive for the ‘Peter Marshall’ Category
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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 MoveOn.org, 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.
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.
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.