Blacklisting César Chavez

It didn’t take long for the absurdly unqualified ideologues appointed to a social studies curriculum panel by the Texas State Board of Education to start playing politics with our kids’ education. Two far-right members of the so-called “expert” panel guiding the curriculum revision are demanding that César Chavez — the renowned community and labor organizer and civil rights leader — be stricken from the standards because they say he’s not the right kind of role model for students.

That’s only one of the problems with the “expert” reviews of the current social studies standards provided to the Texas Education Agency last week by the panelists. The panel is made up of six members, including a trio of mainstream academics from Texas universities. The others include political activist David Barton of Texas and evangelical minister Peter Marshall of Massachusetts, who used their reviews to criticize the inclusion of Chavez and other historical figures they consider inappropriate. In addition, they and fellow panelist Daniel Dreisbach of American University make lengthy arguments that the Founders intended to create a distinctly Christian American nation based on biblical principles. That contention conflicts with multiple rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and sharply differs with the research of most scholars. In fact, mainstream scholars point out that  the Founders sought to protect the religious freedom of citizens by keeping the affairs of government and religious institutions separate.

But let’s consider  first what we fear might become a growing “blacklist” of historical figures, especially Chavez, social conservatives find objectionable.

Barton — a historical revisionist, founder of the Christian-nation advocacy organization WallBuilders, and former vice chair of the Texas Republican Pary whose bachelor’s degree is in religious education — notes Chavez’s ties to a prominent guru of community organizing and democratic participation, Saul Alinsky (also a frequent target of attacks by conservatives). Barton writes:

“(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.'”

Marshall, who heads Peter Marshall Ministries and also has no graduate academic work in the social sciences, agrees:

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

Really? That might come as a surprise to the parents of children attending the (at least) 44 schools across this country named after Chavez (including eight schools in Texas). Or to people in communities who have named numerous parks, libraries, major thoroughfares and other places after Chavez, who died in 1993. (Click here to read about the relationship that Chavez developed with Robert F. Kennedy. Of course, we imagine Barton and Marshall don’t think much of Kennedy, either.)

Barton and Marshall don’t stop there. They also object to the inclusion of Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), whose beliefs regarding equality and rights for women were rather progressive for her time. Hutchinson also challenged the prevailing religious doctrine of Puritan clergy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her Bible meetings for women included her own religious and biblical interpretations — something that offended Puritan clergy and leaders of the colony. Those clergy and colonial officials put Hutchinson on trial and then exiled her.

Barton and Marshall argue that Hutchinson was simply too unimportant a historical figure. But Marshall’s argument is particularly revealing:

“She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn’t accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble.”

What a fascinating — and hypocritical — statement. Hutchinson’s persecution because of her beliefs is a prime example of why church-state separation is so important to protecting religious freedom. Yet Marshall argues that Hutchinson was little more than a troublemaker.

Marshall also goes after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, saying Justice Marshall is not “a strong enough example” of a historical figure of influence. In fact, Marshall argued the groundbreaking Brown v Topeka Supreme Court case that banned racial segregation in public schools. He later became the first African American to serve on the high court.

Barton and Marshall make other peculiar arguments that are really attempts to use the standards to promote political agendas. Marshall, for example, argues that Roe v Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion, has had more impact on “American life than any other Supreme Court decision in the twentieth century.” Really? It certainly was an important and influential case, but more than Brown v Topeka? We imagine historians can point to a number of other important and influential court decisions in the 1900s. But it should be no surprise that Marshall — who is obsessed with ending abortion — sees Roe as more important than anything else.

Barton, Marshall and Dreisbach also spend considerable time and space arguing that religion was the primary motivation for colonization and the creation of the American form of government.

Says Marshall:

“(T)he discovery, settling, and founding of the colonies happened because of the Biblical worldviews of those involved. Only when this is taken into account can America’s founding be properly understood.”

Religion was certainly a motivation for some, even many, colonists. But the exaggerated political dogma apparent in Marshall’s statement is common throughout the reviews of the three right-wingers on the panel. (In fact, their reviews are so similar in places that it seems as though they coordinated their work.) To emphasize their arguments about religious motivations, they specifically downplay, for example, economic motivations for colonization (and call for the standards to de-emphasize the role of economics in American history).

There is much more — you can read all of the reviews here.

The state board wants curriculum writing teams — also seeded (to a lesser extent, fortunately) with ideologues — to use the “expert” reviews to guide the standards revision. Those teams, which are made up of educators and community members, will continue their work at the end of this month. The board will discuss progress on the standards at meetings this summer and fall and is set to hold public hearings this winter. A final vote is expected in March.

UPDATE: Vince at Capitol Annex is calling out the factual errors in these “expert” reviews. We’ll post links as they become available. Here’s one. Vince digs deeper into Barton’s review here.

34 thoughts on “Blacklisting César Chavez

  1. I find it interesting that the two non educators are the ones most critical about the TEKS. Them also seem very intent on adding a strong Judeo-Christian influence I don’t believe is warranted.

  2. Well, Cesar Chaves does have the same last name as Hugo Chavez, right? That must make him at least unAmerican and prolly even Socialist! And he was Hispanic besides, maybe even Mexican! I’ll bet Barton would tell you, along about that sixth Margarita, that Real Americans (TM) all have names like Washington, Adams, ans Reagan. Well, and Barton. And they aren’t girls, except maybe Ms. Palin.

  3. So, their complaint is that the curriculum isn’t racist enough, not sexist enough, not anti-Semitic enough, and doesn’t require kids to join the Baptist church or C.O.G.I.C. — is that a fair summary so far?

  4. “In addition, they and fellow panelist Daniel Dreisbach of American University make lengthy arguments that the Founders intended to create a distinctly Christian American nation based on biblical principles.”

    I would like to see the three to come up with three “biblical principles” that they claim the United States was founded upon that were not borrowed from someone else like the Romans or Greeks.

  5. I have a comment and need some advice.

    I just went to Barnes and Nobles and saw in their science section they had “The Darwin Myth”in that section. I complained to a worker there and they said they don’t have any control over this issue. Should I complain to higher management (corporate)? Should I drop it? I’m sure if they had the “God Delusion” in the Bible section, there would be complaints? any help?

  6. “In addition, they and fellow panelist Daniel Dreisbach of American University make lengthy arguments that the Founders intended to create a distinctly Christian American nation based on biblical principles.”

    I would like to see these three historical geniuses list three “biblical principles” they think the US was founded upon that haven’t been borrowed from someone else like the Romans or Greeks.

  7. Well, slavery was an institutional principle accepted in the Bible so, therefore, it was appropriate for the United States too, wasn’t it?

  8. Oh, I get it. The right wingers on the SBOE want a public school social studies curriculum that only addresses famous old white Anglo-Saxon, protestant, white guys with names like Roberts, Smith, Brown, Williams, or Jones.

    Ya hear that Drew Pinsky? The Texas SBOE says you ain’t a real American!!!

    Ya hear that Rev. John I. Jenkins (President of Notre Dame University). The Texas SBOE says you ain’t a real American!!!

    Ya hear that Commodore Vanderbilt in your grave. The Texas SBOE says you ain’t a real American.

    Ya hear that Al Einstein in your grave? The Texas SBOE says you ain’t a real American.

    Ya hear that Crazy Horse in your grave? The Texas SBOE says you ain’t a real American (even though your people were here first).

    You want a strategy. There’s your strategy.

  9. “Marshall also goes after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, saying Justice Marshall is not “a strong enough example” of a historical figure of influence. In fact, Marshall argued the groundbreaking Brown v Topeka Supreme Court case that banned racial segregation in public schools. He later became the first African American to serve on the high court.”

    There you have it. I have a favorite college football team—major university. On more than one occasion, my wife’s uncle (a solid Southern Baptist) has walked into the room while the Big Game was on TV, nudged me with his elbow, and whispered into my ear, “We might win some games for once if we could find a way to get all them damned _iggers off the team.”

    Speaks volumes doesn’t it!!!!

  10. So César Chavez is not the right kind of role model? Are they kidding? Why?

    César Chavez was

    -Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    -On December 6, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted César Chávez into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts.

    -Posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a decoration bestowed by the President of the United States and is, along with the equivalent Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of Congress, the highest civilian award in the United States. It is designed to recognize individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

    They are out of their minds for excluding him.

  11. “On October 9, 2007 The University of Texas at Austin unveiled their César Chávez Statue[23] on campus.”

    Why don’t you invite the SBOE out of their offices and across the street to the UT Austin campus and show them the status. They can’t be more that 1/4 mile from it. They can probably walk to it in 4 minutes.

  12. jdg, definitely complain, in writing. That’s my opinion. I’d ask for the name of the regional manager, not just the store’s general manager. Maybe copy the letter to both of them.

  13. So let me get this straight.

    Tyranical and religiously oppressive Britain established and financed 13 British colonies under British law and traded with them and taxed them so that Britians could escape British tyranny and have religious freedom.

    So there wasn’t an overall profit motive in it for Britian to recover their investment; its all just a way for the British to get away from their own repressive system of government?

    Have I got this straight now?

    What a silly interpretation of history.

  14. That such a strange recommendation would come out of any committee of any state board of education is a terrible reflection on the educational system in our country. We are forgetting our history, or only being very selective in remembering that history. The nation will continue to laugh at educational levels in Texas as long as we have such a Texas State Board of Education that nominates such “experts” to their committees.

    This is not funny! We are wasting time discussing such issues as our dropout rate continues to do daily damage to our state. We must be spending time getting our students to focus onto their own history and future so that they stay in school.

  15. PHarvey:

    What you have to understand is this. All those nominations and awards for Chavez were put forward by foreign liberal sinners and one of the worst kinds of domestic liberal sinners (Democrats), and an even worse kind of sinner (a California Republican governor who married a Democrat liberal sinner from Massachusetts, who is also a Catholic sinner. Most fundies describe the Catholic Church as an evil worldwide religious system.

    Also, with regards to British taxes and debts, real history indicates that the wealthiest of the 13 colonies (the southern plantation states like Virginia) were constantly in debt to British trading companies. It was a persistent and growing debt like our federal deficit. A lot of this debt was held by wealthy plantation owners such as Thomas Jefferson, who was of course famous for being in debt anyway. The wealthiest of our founding fathers saw the Declaration of Independence and the coming Revolutionary War as an opportunity to cancel their massive debts.

    Founding Father Biblical Sins: Premediatated theft of vast sums of debt money owed to foreign organizations. This does not sound much like Christian behavior to me.

  16. What a double standard. When it’s the science curriculum, evolution in particular, these folks fight tooth and nail to include Intelligent Design, arguing that all the angles should be taught, so that the students can decide.

    But here, in the social studies curriculum, it’s important to weed out the less favorable figures and hide them from the kids…?

  17. “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

    I believe this is the principal thing that McLeroy and the other members of the SBOE do not understand. Jesus himself would most likely rule fairly and justly. It is not him that I or most other people distrust. We distrust the assorted human pinheads who claim to follow Jesus but are unable to sort their own personal feelings, man-made beliefs, passions, sins, and whacko interpretations of the Bible from the good person of Jesus Christ that may reside within them somewhere. These admixed items are what lead to the vast spectrum of atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christianity and other religions throughout human history. What have we learned. We have learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely and that the combination of religion and absolute/controlling political power produces some on the most corrupt of the corruptions. It’s not the God factor. It is the human factor that is always the concern—and rightly so.

  18. Chris – very perceptive comment on the two-faced behavior of these fine scholars. Their noses need frequent rubbing in observations like that.

  19. There was a panel of Texas social studies teachers and experts that issued a report earlier, about March or April. Where is that report?

    Why are Texas experts ignored in this process, especially those Texans who specialize in getting our kids educated and into colleges or jobs once they graduate?

    But especially, I’d like to see the comparison. On good authority, I hear that McLeroy rejected the report prepared by Texans because they named the economic system of the U.S. “capitalism.” Can you imagine? The teachers (and college professors) proposed that we teach our kids the name of the economic system we use, using the same terminology as real economists — and the SBOE found that objectionable.

    I want to compare that report with the drivel and non-drivel in this current round.

    And, Rick Perry? You listining? I want to know why your guys have it in for capitalism. The alternatives are not pretty.

    1. Ed is right that social conservatives on the board objected to the use of the term “capitalism” in very early (and incomplete) drafts of the standards crafted by curriculum writing teams in the spring. Those board members argued that a state statute mandated instruction on the “free enterprise system” and that the term “capitalism” has a negative connotation. (Really.) The earlier report to which Ed is probably referring was the set of very preliminary, incomplete drafts from the writing teams (the drafts with “capitalism” instead of “free enterprise”). Don McLeroy turned those drafts over to a far-right group called the Texas Public Policy Foundation (founded by James Leininger, the “sugar daddy” of the religious right in Texas), which proceeded to do a hatchet job on the writing teams. TPPF claimed that the writing teams were leaving out important Americans, patriotic songs and other things from the standards. Conservatives pitched a hissy fit, but writing teams were not given an opportunity to defend themselves until much later. When members of the writing teams did finally have an opportunity to speak, they explained that the very preliminary work TPPF had seen was incomplete and should never have been shared with an outside group (especially, we might add, one with a political agenda). Moreover, the teachers and other members of the writing teams explained that they weren’t eliminating important Americans and patriotic songs and symbols from the standards — they were simply looking for the most appropriate places to include them in the K-12 curriculum. The bottom line is that the writing teams were ambushed by McLeroy and TPPF. It was shameful.

  20. TFN.

    I think what the conservatives are worried about are “Das Kapital” and the use of the word capitalism throughout Grouch Marx’s “Communist Manifesto.” They see “capital” as a nasty word that Groucho, Harpo, and Fred Engels invented to label and criticize the nice economic system that we all enjoy today. However, I doubt that the word “capital” would ever come close to teeing up a kid to “go commie.” It’s all I can do to get my kids to read a book like “Holes,” so I know they will not go anywhere near the 19th century works of the Marx Brothers—which are—like most treatises on economics—boring. I nearly went to sleep reading the Communist Manifesto back in my college days, knowing full well that something that boring could never work.

    By the way, in the small town where I grew up back in the 1960s, one of the local loan businesses was called Associates Capital, and I never saw in red hammer and sickle arm bands coming out of there. Therefore, I figure the right wing social studies experts are…well…just plain nuts?

  21. So,if the draft reports were shared, is it possible to get copies of what was shared, for comparison’s sake?

    Its funny that the conservative Long Knives complained about leaving songs out, and the current crop complains of too much of that stuff. But since when do harpy critics need consistency?

    I’m also still interested in the membership of the curriculum writing teams. The carpetbagger argument usually isn’t a big one, but I’ll wager the group had better chops than McLeroy’s experts. The original team included at least one professor of economics from a Texas university, I hear, and it would be likely several of the members had advanced degrees, in history, economics, and education.

    In short, they rejected Texas experts in return for amateur, biased non-Texans. That’s bad policy, and contrary to state law, I’ll wager.

    Does Texas have a state equivalent of the federal Administrative Procedures Act? You know, federal agencies can’t be stupid like this, under the law. They gotta follow certain rules, especially those rules that require listening to real experts.

  22. You know Darrell. In what Voltaire called the “…best of all possible worlds…” I bet there would be a law like that in Texas. Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, the radical right on the SBOE would have never been put on the SBOE. Therefore, I doubt that such a law exists in Texas, and even if it did, I doubt that the powers that be would enforce it.

  23. VOTE PEOPLE!!!! These anti-educatio, anti-intellectual board members are voted on by Texans. If Texans choose to ignore the board elections than this is what happens. So embarrassing. Go to the TEA website and listen to these people speak during the state board meeting next week. It’s beyond absurd. It’s shameful! And hopefully it is motivating. Vote the ignorance off.

  24. So Tired:

    The problem is that most Texans don’t think when they’re in the voting booth. All they care about is if there’s an (R) by the name, and it doesn’t matter if the person is a sane (R), like Kay Bailey Hutchinson, or an insane power-hungry avaricious dominionist moron…like…oh…99% of TXGOP pols.

  25. I guess the SBOE needs behavorial and social sciences remediation. Schools are for learning, and not to institutionalize pursuations of certain politicos who are’s in power. Case in point, exsclusion of Cesar Chavez, migrant farm worker and union activist supposedly could not ever rise to the greatness of Ben Franklin’s historical stature and should be struck out of social studies the State’s TEKS, Texas Essentials of Knowledge and Skills, a required minimum standard for what is taught in Texas schools and is a state mandate for their curriculum alignment. Well, I guess Jimmy Hoffa, the teamster union leader, with underworld implications must have had a greater stature then Cesar Chavez, because he has never been struck out of history books or banned from school libraries…for these so called conservatists whcih have nationally gain notoriety as the party of “NO!” to everything that has gotten this state and country into the mess we are in. Wasn’t realty takings enough for these marauders and looters who have been de-humanizing everything to self-serve themselves!!…eom.

  26. So I assume from the statement below that Peter Marshall would not object to including Franklin’s deism and “diplomatic efforts” with the women of France into the social studies textbooks as examples of behavior worthy of emulation?

    “‘To have César Chávez listed next to Ben Franklin is ludicrous,'[Peter Marshall] said in his assessment.’Chávez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.'”