The Texas State Board of Education decides what every student in Texas public schools will learn from kindergarten through high school. The board does so by adopting curriculum standards and textbooks for public schools in the state.

For decades, politicians on the State Board of Education and their activist allies have taken advantage of this flawed system to dismiss the advice of experts and scholars. They have instead worked to inject their personal views into textbooks on everything from evolution and climate change to the history of slavery, civil rights and separation of church and state.

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The Latest on Textbook Censorship

It appears that Texas State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna, is hoping religious bigotry will help him win re-election. The 12-year incumbent is circulating a flier that suggests his Democratic opponent, Laura Ewing of Friendswood, wants to — pass the smelling salts, please — teach social studies students about Islam. The flier explains that Ewing joined other social studies educators on a trip to Africa and India and asks: “Do you know what the Democrat for State Board of Education supports?” The flier implies that Ewing — that evildoer — was using the trip to help develop a curriculum that includes the study of Islamic history and culture. Actually, she was. The state’s curriculum standards for social studies — passed by the state board shortly after Bradley joined it in 1997 — require that students learn about the world’s major religions and cultures. And the trip, as Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg explains today, was made possible through the support of the state’s Republican governor, Rick Perry. Falkenberg writes:

It’s easy to dismiss Bradley’s campaign handout as dirty campaigning with an unusually bigoted bent. . . . But the campaign piece… Read More

This year the far-right faction that controls the Texas State Board of Education has been even more contemptuous of teachers and the law than in the past. Now it appears that in addition to bullying teachers, David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, may have a history of threatening at least one fellow board member.

Some of the board’s right-wingers — especially Bradley — have bullied teachers who dare come before them with suggestions and concerns about what our public schools should be teaching Texas children. This week the Examiner, a Southeast Texas newspaper, revealed that Cynthia Thornton, a former board member — and a fellow Republican — claims Bradley bullied and threatened her when she served on the board. As a result, Thornton says, the Texas Education Agency had to post armed security at board meetings.

“To make a long story short, every year it got worse and worse between Bradley and I, and everybody in Austin was watching the show. And I decided I’m not going to put up with this stuff and I flat told him off. The first time he grabbed me was when I made it plain that what he… Read More

Gail Lowe, a member of the far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education, has demonstrated once again her true agenda for public schools.

The State Board of Education is responsible for developing curriculum standards and approving textbooks that help our kids succeed in school and prepare them for college and the jobs of the 21st century. Lowe, R-Lampasas, appears to see the state board as simply another avenue for promoting her own personal and political agendas. As reported by the Graham Leader:

[All emphasis here is ours.]

Gail Lowe, Republican candidate for the Texas State Board of Education, told the Young County Republican Women she will continue to fight for conservative values Monday.

How about fighting for a good education for Texas kids instead of a political agenda for ideologues?

Lowe said her core values are to fight for strong curriculum standards, insure a thorough textbook adoption process, exercise prudent financial management and represent traditional values in education.

Traditional values? Like censoring textbooks? No thanks.

On the topic of certain books, Lowe said she is opposed to those exposing children to alternative lifestyles such as Heather Has Two Mommies in schools.… Read More

Oh, Kansas. Why must you share our suffering so?

As Texans with our own dysfunctional and often wacky State Board of Education, it’s easy for us to sympathize with Kansans, who are facing elections to their own tenuously sane state board this year.

Unfortunately, Kansans won’t have many of the moderates currently leading the board to re-elect, as they are stepping down — and far-right politicians and interest groups are ravenous to regain control by picking up the moderates’ seats.

Out of the five seats up for election this year (the board is composed of ten members total), two races have candidates who are explicitly far to the right of the mainstream: Republicans Dennis Hedke, Alan Detrich and Robert Meissner (who’s a dentist; what’s with dentists on state boards of education?). Hedke is involved with the conservative Americans for Prosperity’s tour touting “global warming alarmism.” Meissner is . . . well, let’s just let him speak for himself:

“As stated in the past, if the science community can come to a consensus as to the scientific credibility of alternative theories as to origin, then I would… Read More

The Institute for Creation Research is launching a public relations campaign to win state approval for a master’s of science education degree from the Dallas-based group. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously rejected the group’s application last month. On Sunday the Austin American-Statesman published a full-page ad from the Institute. You can see a long version of the ad here and a TFN press release here. The group’s leaders have implied that they will also turn to the courts in their efforts to promote creationism as science in Texas.

Texas clearly has become Ground Zero in the religious right’s efforts to undermine instruction on the theory of evolution and to promote biblical creationism in its place. The State Board of Education will soon begin revising science curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The board’s creationist chairman and his supporters have already made it clear that they will insist that the standards, as well as biology textbooks that publishers submit for their approval in 2011, call into question the theory of evolution. Never mind, of course, that a sound scientific understanding of evolution is the foundation for the biological sciences.

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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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