Archive for the ‘social studies’ Category

Irony, Thy Name Is McLeroy

February 18, 2011

Even as a conservative education think tank was putting the finishing touches on a report excoriating the Texas State Board of Education for wrecking social studies standards, former board chair Don McLeroy was speaking to a far-right Education Policy Conference in St. Louis (headlined by Ann Coulter) saying:

We have bequeathed a precious legacy to Texas public education. Strong academic standards are now in place that will improve academic achievement, prepare our children for the future and help develop well-informed citizens.

Let’s just say the scholars at the (right-leaning) Fordham Institute disagree:

A popular Lone Star State slogan proclaims ‘Texas: It’s like a whole other country’ — but Texas’s standards are a disservice both to its own teachers and students and to the larger national history of which it remains a part.

But while their conclusions about the rigor and accuracy of the new standards are miles apart, ironically, McLeroy and the reviewers at the Fordham Institute actually agree about quite a few things — principally that the fight over education standards in Texas is a lot more about politics than education. The difference is that while Fordham decries this fact, McLeroy celebrates it:

This battle is ideological; it’s between “the left” and religious conservatives… To get education right, you have to leave “the left” behind; to adopt sound education policy one must overcome the irrational opposition of the left.


The Right Throws a Temper Tantrum

February 16, 2011

It didn’t take long for right-wingers to erupt in fury over the Fordham Institute’s new report about the disastrously bad social studies curriculum standards in Texas. Fordham’s report demolishes the State Board of Education‘s politicized new standards. The far right’s unhinged temper tantrum and lashing out that we’re seeing in reaction is revealing.


Conservative Think Tank Slams TX Standards

February 16, 2011

We’ll have more on this later, but we just sent out this press release. This is big news.


Conservative Think Tank’s Report Savages State Board of Education for Politicizing New Curriculum Standards

February 16, 2011

A conservative think tank’s analysis confirms what the Texas Freedom Network has been saying for months: new social studies standards adopted by the State Board of Education last year are a disaster for Texas schools and students, TFN President Kathy Miller said today.

“This analysis adds to a growing chorus of criticism aimed at state board members who deliberately and arrogantly substituted their own political biases for facts and scholarship throughout the standards,” Miller said. “It’s hard to imagine a more damning indictment of the way the board has politicized and manipulated the education of Texas kids over the past several years. Political agendas – from the left or the right – simply have no place in our kids’ classrooms.”

The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute released its analysis today. “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011” analyzes U.S. history curriculum standards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report gives Texas a grade of “D” for its standards.

Among Fordham’s criticisms is that Texas State Board of Education members engaged in “ideological manipulation” by basing many of the new standards on their own personal and political biases. The analysis goes so far as to compare the heavily politicized approach in part of the standards to Soviet indoctrination in schools of the old USSR.


How Fox News Helped Hijack TX Curriculum

January 3, 2011

The Austin  American-Statesman has published a list of PolitiFact Texas articles that drew the most reader interest in 2010. Number Five on the list is a piece early in the year about Fox News co-anchor Gretchen Carlson telling viewers that the Texas State Board of Education was considering the removal of Christmas and the Constitution from social studies textbooks. PolitiFact rated that claim as a Pants on Fire lie. And it was.

TFN Insider reported about the grossly inaccurate and biased coverage Fox News gave to the state board’s debate over new social studies curriculum standards. In fact, Fox’s coverage was so riddled with mistruths that the Texas Education Agency — headed by an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Perry — issued a sharply worded press release criticizing the network’s “reporting.” The so-called “fair and balanced” network even aired a graphic labeling Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller a “textbook troublemaker.”


Maybe He Wants to Be on the Texas SBOE

December 20, 2010

Remember the revisionist history that members of the Texas State Board of Education were pushing in the debate over new social studies curriculum standards? This was especially evident in efforts by some board members to whitewash American history when it came to race and civil rights issues. At one point board member Don McLeroy even suggested that women and minorities should thank men and white people for securing their civil and equal rights — as if the decades of struggle to win those rights were just a footnote in history.

Now Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is trying to revise the racist history of White Citizens Councils in the South during the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. Here’s Barbour talking about his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss.:


They Really Must Think Christians Are Stupid

November 21, 2010

Or maybe the lawyers at Liberty Institute — the Plano-based Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family — think Christians are just remarkably gullible. During the revision of social studies standards this year, for example, the group portrayed Texas teachers on the curriculum teams as anti-Christmas zealots who want to erase the holiday from their classrooms. It didn’t matter that the teachers, themselves Christians, made clear that they had no such intention at all. Liberty Institute apparently figured enough Christians would believe such an absurd lie that it would help fundraising.

Now the group is outrageously charging that officials in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, are attacking God and a local Christian church. A Liberty Institute e-mail to activists Friday screams: “Don’t let them kick God out of Gettysburg!” Noting that Gettysburg was the scene of a pivotal Civil War battle and of one of President Lincoln’s most famous speeches, the e-mail absurdly claims that “the City of Gettysburg is trying to kick God out of Gettysburg by closing the only reconstructed Civil War chapel in America.” “We don’t know why the city of Gettysburg is discriminating against our client,” the group whines in its shamelessly manipulative e-mail. (Yes, Liberty Institute is now providing legal representation for the chapel. The group shops for clients all over the country. During 2008 its lawyers even traveled to Alaska to help Sarah Palin — the newly chosen Republican nominee for vice president — try to block a legislative investigation into whether she had abused her power as the state’s governor by pushing for the firing of a public employee who was once married to her sister. The group lost that fight.)

This newest e-mail is — as with so many others from Liberty Institute — promoting a lie calculated to anger Christians who happen not to be familiar with the facts. But the Gettysburg Times offers some facts.


Barton: God Drew the Borders

August 15, 2010

David Barton, recently given a national forum by Fox News host Glenn Beck to promote his revisionist version of American history, has donned his “biblical scholar” hat yet again. This time Barton has declared that “it’s God, not man, who establishes the borders of nations,” a writer for Religion Dispatches reports. Barton’s statement came on his July 26 radio program about illegal immigration, during which he referred to Scripture and said:

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he’s the one who set up boundaries for the nations. National boundaries are set by God; he is the one who drew up the lines for the nations. If you have open borders you say, ‘God you goofed it all up.'”


Proposed Resolution Hits Texas Ed Board

August 4, 2010

The hits keep coming. Last Friday Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, filed a U.S. House resolution criticizing the Texas State Board of Education‘s recklessly political revision of social studies curriculum standards for public schools. The resolution has four other sponsors, all members of Congress from Texas: Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso and Gene Green, D-Houston.


Will Students Be Required to Learn This, Too?

July 29, 2010

One of the many controversial changes the Texas State Board of Education made to proposed social studies curriculum standards this year was requiring that students learn about Phyllis Schlafly’s role in a “conservative resurgence” in the 1980s and 1990s. Schlafly, the head of the far-right group Eagle Forum, rose to political prominence by attacking the women’s rights movement and opposing the Equal Rights Amendment. But will Texas students learn the truth about Schlafly’s extremism and hatefulness or, instead, a whitewashed version of her work and positions?

We wondered about that today when we read what Schlafly had to say about unmarried women at a Republican fundraiser in Michigan last weekend:

“Do you know what the second-biggest demographic group that voted for Obama — obviously the blacks were the biggest demographic group. But do you all know what was the second-biggest? Unmarried women, 70% of unmarried women, voted for Obama, and this is because when you kick your husband out, you’ve got to have big brother government to be your provider.”

Progress Michigan recorded Schlafly’s remarks:


Coming Soon to Texas Classrooms?

July 1, 2010

We continue to marvel at the nostalgia some — such as certain members of the Texas State Board of Education — seem to have for the Confederacy of the American Civil War. This is 2010, after all. Isn’t it about time to let go of the misguided notion of the  “Lost Cause”? This nostalgia, after all, is the product of a political perspective that sees southern history in some glorified way that grossly distorts reality.

For example, in new social studies curriculum standards adopted in May, the Texas state board deliberately downplayed the central role that slavery played in causing the Civil War. The new standards also require students to study the ideas in Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address. That address is full of excuses for southern secession but includes not one word about slavery despite the abundance of historical evidence showing that the bitter divide over slavery led to secession and war. State board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, even won approval for a standard requiring that Texas history students learn about the state’s Confederate war heroes and Civil War battles.

Now we see the conservative magazine Human Events is promoting what it bills as a “myth-busting” book — The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. According to the magazine, the book offers “a rousing guide to the great war that shaped America — and to the spirit of the Old South that we need so much today.”


TEA Posts Final Social Studies Standards

July 1, 2010

From a TFN e-mail to supporters of our Just Educate campaign this morning:

The Texas Education Agency has finally posted on its website the new social studies curriculum standards for public schools. Click here to read the new standards approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) on May 21 for kindergarten to Grade 5, Grades 6-8 and high school.

In January, March and May, far-right SBOE members made scores of ill-considered and nakedly political changes to initial drafts of the standards written last year by teachers and scholars. For example, the new standards outrageously suggest that separation of church and state isn’t a key principle of the Constitution, downplay the role of slavery in causing the Civil War and promote right-wing paranoia about international cooperation by the United States.

These deeply flawed standards might be official now, but that doesn’t mean the fight to protect the education of Texas schoolchildren from ideological agendas is over. The Texas Freedom Network’s Just Educate campaign is focused on reforming the process for deciding what millions of students learn in their classrooms.

You can help by taking action today!


Why Does Ken Mercer Hate America?

June 26, 2010

We think that’s a fair question. After all, by his own reasoning, Texas State Board of Education member Ken Mercer must be an anti-American, anti-veteran leftist.

And what is that reasoning? Earlier this month the Houston Chronicle interviewed Mercer, a San Antonio Republican, about the state board’s revision of social studies curriculum standards for  public schools. Here’s what Mr. Mercer had to say about the teachers and scholars who spent last year working on drafts of the standards (drafts that Mercer and other board members then gutted with scores of detailed, ill-considered and politicized revisions):


Pwned! TFN Pres Smacks Down Distortions

June 10, 2010

One of the most frustrating things during the long debate over proposed new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools was watching far-right pressure groups get away with distorting the truth about what was really happening. Among the worst distortions: pressure groups like Plano-based Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, repeatedly charged that curriculum writers were trying to make leftist, anti-American and anti-Christian changes to the social studies curriculum.

Right-wing media outlets — especially Fox News — dutifully echoed the absurd claims that “leftist” teachers and scholars on the curriculum teams didn’t want students to learn about patriotic holidays (like Independence Day and Veterans Day), symbols (like the Liberty Bell) and revolutionary heroes (like Nathan Hale). Viewers also heard that curriculum writers wanted to remove astronaut Neil Armstrong and Christmas from the standards. And some groups and State Board of Education members shrieked that kindergartners would learn they were “global citizens” before they learned they were “American citizens.”

So it was gratifying when Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller had a chance to correct many of those ridiculous distortions at a forum in Austin last night. (more…)

The Whole Truth about the Confederacy

June 7, 2010

One of the more interesting — if not enlightening — debates about social studies curriculum standards at the May State Board of Education meeting in Austin focused on the avowed importance of including a study of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address alongside the first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln. Eventually the board’s far-right faction succeeded in adding the Davis address.

We count on Texas classroom teachers to provide their students with a candid and complete insight into the basic beliefs of the leaders of the Confederacy. With slavery downgraded by the board from its status as the primary cause of the Civil War (with slavery now listed behind sectionalism and states’ rights elsewhere in the new standards), this insight is particularly important. Davis’ inaugural address, after all, doesn’t even mention the word “slavery.” Excerpts from several other documents, however, go a long way in telling the real story.


Barton Plays Historian Again (Poorly)

June 4, 2010

OneNewNow (“the day’s stories from a biblical perspective”) once again features David Barton, the prominent right-wing political activist who pretends to be an accomplished historian, in a story about social studies curriculum standards in Texas public schools. You can read the whole thing for yourself, but a few passages stuck out for us.

First, Barton praises the new standards — adopted last month by the State Board of Education — for focusing on the concept of “American exceptionalism.”

“There is a reason that we’re the only nation in the world that does not average a revolution every 30 to 40 years; there’s a reason that we have four percent of the world’s population [and] 25 percent of the world’s wealth.”

Really, David? We think there are a lot of things that make America an exceptional nation, and we think students should learn about them. But is the lack of political revolutions unique to America?