With a public school enrollment of more than 5 million, Texas has an increasingly diverse public education system. Unfortunately, that public education system is also the target of politicians seeking to privatize our neighborhood public schools and push a culture-war agenda in the classroom.

To that end, the Texas Freedom Network – while continuing to fight private school voucher legislation at the Capitol – has conducted groundbreaking research into what is being taught in classrooms on subjects like sex education and religion.

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Members of the Texas State Board of Education aren’t the only politicians pushing the national campaign to turn public schools into tools for indoctrinating students with right-wing ideology. A columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looks at how that campaign is unfolding in other states.

In Florida, for example, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would require high school students to watch a film about America written by and starring conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza is the author of numerous diatribes — in columns, books and film — that essentially describe President Obama as a Marxist out to destroy America.

Even fellow conservatives have labeled these claims by D’Souza as ridiculous. But now some Florida lawmakers want to force students in their state to watch a film from the same incendiary propagandist. (D’Souza, by the way, is also a law-breaker. He was fined and sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center last September after admitting that he deliberately violated U.S. campaign finance law.)

The Sun-Sentinel columnist, Rhonda Swan, explains how those Florida lawmakers are tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That right-wing group has in other states been pushing similar legislation that would require students to learn a sanitized and distorted version of American history. Here’s how… Read More

Following months of controversy, an Oklahoma school district has announced that it will not implement a new Bible curriculum that was the subject of a scathing report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund this past June.

Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Steve Green, president of the Oklahoma City-based retailer Hobby Lobby, is publishing the curriculum — The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact. Public schools in Mustang, near Oklahoma City, had planned to teach a pilot version of the curriculum this fall. But the school district delayed implementation of the course after the release of the TFN Education Fund report by Mark Chancey. Chancey is a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a leading authority on how public schools teach about the Bible. The report revealed serious problems with the new curriculum, including factual inaccuracies as well as material that raised questions about whether its use in public schools would be constitutional.

According to Religion News Service, last week the Mustang schools superintendent, Sean McDaniel, sent an email informing the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the district has decided not to move forward with the course: “In… Read More

Of all the ways that the Texas State Board of Education twisted and distorted American history when adopting new social studies curriculum standards in 2010, one of the worst was — as the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has pointed out — the way “biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented.” The clear purpose of such exaggerations, of course, was the desire by the SBOE’s bloc of religious-righters to promote the idea that the founders intended to create a distinctly Christian nation with its laws based on a conservative Christian reading of the Bible.

Sadly, publishers caved almost completely to the political pressure to include that historical revisionism in the new textbooks they submitted for consideration in Texas last April. As we have already reported, the textbooks teach that Moses was a major influence on the writing of our nation’s founding documents. They also suggest that the roots of democratic systems of government “include elements related to Judeo-Christian philosophy, dating back thousands of years to Old Testament texts and Biblical figures such as Moses and Solomon.” Of course, no one should deny the profound influence religion has played in American history. But textbooks shouldn’t exaggerate this influence to the point of simply… Read More

This month’s public hearing at the State Board of Education (SBOE) highlighted serious problems in the proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools. Scholars working with the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund noted many of those problems in extensive reviews of the new textbooks. We released our scholars’ reports on those textbooks September 10. You can read the reports here.

We knew there would be problems in 2010, when religious-right members of the SBOE passed new curriculum standards requiring Texas schools to teach students that Moses influenced the writing of America’s founding documents. Historians and constitutional scholars have dismissed that requirement as absurd. But publishers appear to have felt compelled to include those claims in their textbooks anyway.

Perfection Learning’s Basic Principles of American Government textbook puts Moses ahead of John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu in a list of “philosophers, historians and economists” from whom the nation’s Founders got their ideas for the U.S. Constitution. The text also goes so far as to suggest that the story of Moses getting the Ten Commandments from God is historical fact:

 “Moses (born in the Second Millennium BCE in Egype) was the Hebrew leader who forced the Pharaoh to release his people from slavery. During their years of… Read More

The Texas Freedom Network has been very fortunate to work with respected professionals on a number of projects over the years. Among those professionals are scholars at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — scholars who care as much as we do that Texas students get honest textbooks based on facts and sound scholarship, not the political agendas of ideologues on the State Board of Education.

So we were pleased late last week to see SMU’s press office acknowledge the university’s scholars who have worked with TFN on issues ranging from public school Bible courses to the adoption of science and social studies textbooks. Check out the SMU press release  below (and online here):

SMU experts address controversial content proposed for Texas’ new public school textbooks

‘This is not a political issue. It is simply whether the books provide good history.’

September 19, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences faculty members Ron Wetherington, Kathleen Wellman, David Brockman and Edward Countryman are speaking out about what they see as “flawed” and “distorted” textbooks being considered for Texas classrooms.

Wetherington, Wellman and Brockman addressed the State Board of Education (SBOE) at a daylong hearing in Austin on Sept. 16.… Read More

Equality Texas

Any bill that carries the expectation that every Texan needs a birth certificate to use the restroom is an unenforceable bill. #TXLege

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