Blame the Gays

by Dan Quinn

Didn’t think the curriculum battle in Texas could get any loonier? Guess again. Now right-wingers have decided that the controversy over social studies standards in Texas is part of a big homosexual conspiracy to undermine the education of young people.

That’s the gist of a new e-mail screed sent out by Donna Garner, the right-wing gadfly who last year circulated an e-mail suggesting that Jeffrey Dahmer became a serial murderer because he believed in the science of evolution.

Actually, Garner is a bit more than just your common gadfly. In 1998 she nearly derailed the curriculum revision process in Texas with her own proposed curriculum standards for language arts courses. Gov. George Bush’s education commissioner, a majority of State Board of Education members, teachers, and curriculum specialists rejected Garner’s “alternative document” at the time as outdated and inferior.

But Garner has the ear of right-wingers who now run the state board. In 2008 those far-right board members fell just one vote short of adopting Garner’s proposed language arts standards (essentially the same one she was pushing 10 years earlier) instead of a new standards document put together by educators and curriculum specialists over the previous three years. The board’s right-wingers eventually sneaked some of Garner’s standards into a final document they slipped under the hotel doors of other board members an hour before the final vote on those standards two years ago.

Interestingly, Garner apparently didn’t have the courage to come to Austin in 2008 to testify before the state board in defense of her standards document. Instead, she sent out a flurry of vicious e-mails attacking anyone who opposed her “alternative document.” In fact, hiding behind insulting e-mails is Garner’s standard modus operandi — and the board’s right-wingers eat it up.

This new e-mail from Garner is a good example. In it, she claims that the Texas Freedom Network is working with San Francisco Chronicle/ online columnist Mark Morford to attack the State Board of Education over its appalling revisions to proposed new social studies curriculum standards. Garner attacks a new Morford column (“Dear Texas: Please shut up. Sincerely, History”) and bizarrely suggests that the columnist’s support of gay rights (Morford is straight) has led him to work with TFN. (We have never met or corresponded with him, but we’d be delighted to do so.)

Anyone who has read Garner’s e-mails knows that she is obsessed with homosexuality. And in today’s e-mail — as in numerous others in the past — she charges that the Texas Freedom Network, Human Rights Campaign (which she describes as “the largest homosexual organization in the country”) and her other favorite whipping boy, Planned Parenthood, are all working in cahoots to destroy America (or something like that):

“Texas Freedom Network, Planned Parenthood, and the Human Rights Campaign work together as ‘triplets’ and speak with one voice. Mark Morford is a part of that network. What parent in his right might would want TFN and their network to have any influence over what impressionable and vulnerable students are taught?”

So there you have it. Flak the board is getting for censoring discussions of Thomas Jefferson in world history classes, refusing to teach that the Constitution bars government from promoting one religion over all others, suggesting that Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts and baseless smears were justified, minimizing the struggle of women and minorities to gain equal rights — all of that and so much more — are the product of an evil conspiracy among homosexuals and abortionists. So thinks Garner, who is defiant in the face of the homosexual horde supposedly harassing the state board:

“When our new Texas Social Studies standards are approved in the May 2010  SBOE meeting, we will have the most fact-based Social Studies standards in the country.”

“Most fact-based in the country”? Anyone who watched the state board vandalize the social studies standards over the past two meetings knows that’s a joke.

What really worries us isn’t the nonsense Garner sends out in her hateful, bigoted e-mails. It’s that seven extremists on the Texas State Board of Education take what she says seriously.