Blogging from the SBOE Social Studies Hearingby
9:45 – The State Board of Education has begun today’s hearing proposed new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, is objecting to efforts to downplay the significance of Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall in the new standards.
9:47 – A live video Webcast of the hearing is available here.
9:53 – Latino members of the State Board of Education are also speaking out on the importance of including the contributions of Latinos in our state and national history.
10:02 – TFN President Kathy Miller is now speaking before the board.
10:03 – Kathy is expressing her concerns about the process the state board has taken to this point in the standards revision. “It really looks like (the state board is) putting politics ahead of sound scholarship and quality education in our classrooms.”
10:04 – “Even the writing teams are feeling the heightened politicization of the process.”
10:05 – Kathy: This politicization is eroding the faith that parents might have that the process will result in standards that give their kids a sound education.
10:08 – Yannis Banks of the Texas NAACP expresses his dismay at suggestions that Thurgood Marshall isn’t a significant enough historical figure to be included in the standards, calling that contention “insulting.”
10:15 – Fidel Acevedo of Texas LULAC also argues for including important Latinos like Cesar Chavez in the standards.
10:16- It’s important to note that some board members are blaming curriculum writers for suggesting that Marshall and Chavez be dropped from the standards. But that’s not true. Calls to drop them from the standards came from David Barton and Peter Marshall, two unqualified right-wing political activists placed by the state board on a panel of so-called “experts” helping guide the curriculum revision process. Board members should stop trying to blame the teachers and academics on the writing teams. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the board members who put Barton and Marshall on the “expert” panel.
10:28 – The far right has its own activists here. One wants students to understand that Christianity, Judaism and Islam worship one God, unlike Hinduish. “This is a religion that pushes many, many gods — almost one for every day of the week.” OK. Got it.
10:29 – “There are forces in our federal government trying to completely rewrite our Constitution of the United States.” Okay… (eye roll)
10:30 – Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is speaking now, criticizing efforts to use the social studies standards to promote religion and undermine separation of church and state.
10:33 – Public testimony is done. The board will now hear from the so-called “experts” and curriculum writers.
10:49 – Prof. Frank de la Teja from Texas State, one of the board’s social studies experts and chairman of the Texas State history department, speaks first. One of the themes in his statement is the importance of recognizing America’s diverse history and peoples and their contributions.
10:51 – Evolving democratic institutions in the United States, de la Teja explains, expanded voting and other rights and participation of minorities in American government and society. “The republic has been moving in the direction of a more perfect union since its founding. That journey is not over.”
10:57 – De la Teja is making clear that we do a disservice to our children by presenting a view of American history that is too narrow and limited just to traditional historical figures and events.
11:11 – Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries is up. He goes right to the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming that the United States was “founded on a creed, a statement of faith.”
11:13 – Rev. Marshall moves into sermon mode, arguing about the importance of belief in God to the nation’s founding and the rights and equality of people. He also argues that a study of the Great Awakening is critical to understanding the nation’s founding.
11:20 – Marshall: Students should learn that “America is a Godly experiment that has no equal in human history.”
11:25 – Marshall: “I’m concerned that the modern trend of just identifying people as groups … I don’t want to see that get out of hand.”
11:25 – SBOE member Mary Helen Berlanga isn’t buying it, reminding Marshall that Hispanics have often been treated as a group — discriminated against because of who they are.
11:27 – SBOE member Mavis Knight wants to know why Marshall wanted Thurgood Marshall dropped from the standards. Peter Marshall goes into a strange discussion about the importance of teaching character to children. What does that have to do with the question?
11:32 – Peter Marshall: He argues that the Founders meant all people when the Declaration of Independence stated that “all men are created equal.” That would be disputed by a number of historians, of course — especially those who correctly note the many Africans who had been enslaved in this country and that women had no right to vote at the time.
11:38 – SBOE member Rick Agosto of San Antonio wants to know why Rev. Marshall wants to include Pedro Flores as “inventor of the yo-yo” in the standards. Marshall replies that he just wanted to be careful about throwing people in the standards. Yeah, we’re confused, too.
11:39 – Prof. Lybeth Hodges of Texas Women’s University is speaking now. Prof. Hodges is focusing partly on issues in coordinating the curriculum standards and standards-based testing. She also expresses the importance of including coverage of minorities and their contributions in the standards.