Blogging the Social Studies Debate II

A live video webcast of the Texas State Board of Education debate over proposed new social studies curriculum standards is available here.

1:20 – We’re still here, but the board is debating relatively minor points. We haven’t even gotten to the most controversial items likely to come up today.

1:21 – Board member David Bradley wants third-grade students to study the impact of taxes and government regulations on consumer prices. In third grade? It passes.

1:32 – The board is taking an hour break for lunch. We’ll be back then.

2:50 – The board has resumed debate after the lunch break.

3:07 – Conservative board members earlier today refused to restore Dolores Huerta to a third-grade standard in large part because they say she’s a socialist and, thus, an inappropriate role model for students. In addition, board member David Bradley argued that Huerta is still alive and historical figures, he says, should be dead. Well. The board just added Wallace Jefferson, the Republican chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, to a standard in the fourth-grade class on Texas history. None of the board members, including Bradley, objected. Perhaps Republicans are exempt from Bradley’s “should be dead” rule for inclusion in history standards.

3:29 – Rick Agosto wants to add Henry Cisneros to a fourth-grade standard on notable Texans. Conservatives successfully opposed his inclusion earlier this year, noting moral issues. They again refuse to add him.

3:43 – Board member Pat Hardy argues that slavery wasn’t the reason for the Civil War. She argues states’ rights was the main issue. We like Pat (we really do), but she’s just dead wrong here.

4;24 – The board is finally on Grade 6, a world cultures/geography class.

5:07 – Pat Hardy wants to change a standard far-right board members added in March: “review the record of human rights abuses of unlimited governments such as the oppression of Christians in Sudan.” Hardy wants to replace “unlimited” with “various” so that students are required to study the abuses of all kinds of governments.

5: 18 – The board votes 8-7 against the change. Hardy warns the board that when the news media reports that the board isn’t seeking balance in the standards that other board members shouldn’t look to her for support because she tried and failed.

5:23 – The board votes to accept a motion from board member Mavis Knight to change the previously debated standard so that it reads: “review the record of human rights abuses of limited or unlimited governments such as the oppression of Christians in Sudan.”

5:38 – The board is now working on standards for Grade 7 Texas history.

5:56 – The board has been debating board member David Bradley’s suggestion to add a list of Texas military leaders and battles from the Civil War in the Texas history standards. Some board members are stunned by the attempt to glorify Confederate military heroes, but the motion passes by one vote.

6:05 – Now we’re on to eighth grade. Don McLeroy says he will not offer his proposed standard undermining separation of church and state until a later course.

6:10 – Mary Helen Berlanga brings up Grade 7 again and moves to replace Tex Avery in a standard on Texas artists with Bruno Andrade. The board earlier this year had replaced Santa Barraza with Avery in this standard, ostensibly because Barraza had a single painting that included exposed breasts. But yesterday board members learned that Avery was linked to cartoons that were racially offensive. Andrade is a contemporary Texas artist. The board defers a decision about adding Andrade until Berlanga provides information about him.

6:18 – Terri Leo moves, and the board approves without objection, deleting Tex Avery from the Grade 7 standard. Leo says none of the board members knew anything about Avery’s connection with the controversial cartoons. Of course they didn’t. That’s because they added his name on the fly, without seeking guidance from any experts in the arts. This is at least the second time now the board has voted without objection to reverse an earlier ill-considered decision. In January the board deleted Bill Martin, author of the popular children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, from the third-grade standards. Based on a simple Internet search by a board colleague, board members mistakenly confused Martin with another Bill Martin who wrote a book about Marxism. After an avalanche of derision, in March the board put the Brown Bear, Brown Bear author back in the standards. One wonders how these board members can still say with a straight face that they don’t need experts advising them as they rip through the standards, offering numerous revisions based on little more than their limited personal knowledge and opinions.

7:10 – Lawrence Allen wants to add to a standard on the Civil War causes of the war, slavery and states’ rights. Board conservatives want to add sectionalism as a third cause. And they want the list of causes to be, in order: sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery. This is yet another attempt by historical revisionists to downplay the importance of slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War.

7:14 – Mary Helen Berlanga isn’t buying this. The Civil War was “about slavery.” She’s absolutely right. The “right” southern states wanted was the right to enslave millions of human beings.

7:20 – The board votes to identify the causes of the Civil War as “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery.”

7:21 – Lawrence Allen moves to strike a requirement that students study the ideas in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address. A requirement to study the inaugural addresses of President Lincoln and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address remains. Allen notes that Davis’s address doesn’t mention slavery, and the standard currently puts Davis on an equal footing with Lincoln.

7:25 – Barbara Cargill wants to keep Davis’s inaugural address in the standard. Dunbar does as well, saying we shouldn’t “whitewash” history. But that’s what Davis’s address does! The address doesn’t even mention the reason southern states seceded: slavery.

7:28 – Bob Craig notes that an earlier standard already included a mention of Davis. Putting Davis’s address on an equal footing with Lincoln’s speeches and ideas is wrong. Students should analyze the ideas of people who made our country great, not the ideas of those who didn’t, he says.

7:31 – David Bradley argues that some people simply don’t like what Davis’s address said. Well, duh. Why should students study the disingenuous speech of a secessionist who led states that sought to continue enslaving millions of human beings?

7:35 – Geraldine “Tincy” Miller suggests that Davis’s address should remain in for balance.

7:35 – The board votes to keep Davis’s address and then moves the reference to Davis’s address to after the mention of Lincoln and asks students to “contrast” the speeches of the two. This is absurd. The ideas in Davis’s address are focused almost entirely on attacking federal authority — a modern-day TEA Partier could have written such a speech today. The speech said nothing about the evil institution of slavery that Davis’s administration supported. This is just another attempt to whitewash the real history of the Confederacy and the Civil War.

7:55 – The board votes to change “Atlantic triangular trade” to “trans-Atlantic slave trade” in a standard about the reasons for the development of the plantation system.

7:56 – The board is breaking for dinner until 9.

14 thoughts on “Blogging the Social Studies Debate II

  1. Thanks for the info Steven. I want to make sure I don’t miss anything as this disaster unfolds.

  2. “notable individuals in the fields of science and technology” Edison, Neil Armstrong, etc.

    Of those listed, Benjamin Franklin comes closest to what we mean today by “scientist.” They don’t know what science even is; but I guess we knew that.

    Also, some are convinced that Alexander Graham Bell stole the patent for the telephone — that he’s not really the original inventor.

  3. and neil armstrong was a fighter jock before he became an astronaut. what kind of scientist is that?

  4. I am troubled because I have been unable to get a competent audio or video feed from the meeting since I got home from work and the grocery store about an hour ago. Did they decide to cut the feed when their idiocy reaches a crescendo this evening? The people of Texas deserve better than that.

  5. Geeze, Bev, even Dunbar can use Google!

    Armstrong is a Purdue grad in aerospace engineering (1955) (Go Boilermakers!) and earned his masters in aerospace from USC in 1970. He was a university professor until 1979.

    He was a fighter jock AND an aerospace engineer before he became an astronaut which qualifies him as a notable figure in technology.

    I think that just being a Boilermaker qualifies him, but I’m biased.

  6. For the first time in 3 years, I’m impressed by something from Agosto:

    “You can put Jefferson Davis’ ideas in the front. You can put them in the back. You can put them where the sun don’t shine — They don’t belong in Lincoln’s standard.”