Blogging the Social Studies Debate II

by TFN

12:18 p.m. – Civil rights groups are out in force today, with speakers calling on the Texas State Board of Education to stop undermining the coverage of minorities and the civil rights movement in the standards.

12:32 – State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, noted the state board debate on his Web site this morning:

“I hope the SBOE does the right thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they show up on one of the Comedy Central Shows this week.”

Neither would we, Rep. Villarreal.

12:46 – State troopers have been posted outside the board room. That’s unusual. Are board members worried about the civil rights supporters here to speak today?

1:03 – Now someone is criticizing “atheists” and “statists” for corrupting the education of young people. Statists are promoting “class warfare,” he charges, and “minority victimization.”

2:08 – The board is gathering after a lunch break. Board members will continue hearing public testimony for a while longer this afternoon.

2:11 – Steven Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is also blogging from today’s board meeting.

2:15 – One testifier goes after board member Don McLeroy’s contention that minorities owe thanks to the majority for gaining equal rights in this country. Click here to hear what McLeroy had to say on the subject in September. The speaker is also critical of other efforts by far-right board members to rewrite the history of the civil rights movement with political nonsense. McLeroy offers no challenge to the testimony.

2:35 – Another testifier worries aloud about efforts to remove information about America’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage. Yet no one has suggested that students shouldn’t learn about the influence of religion in American history. TFN certainly has not done so. The issue is whether students will learn the falsehood that the Founders intended to create a Christian nation based on fundamentalist Christian principles. The Founders did not, but some board members — such as Don McLeroy, Cynthia Dunbar and Terri Leo — are determined to rewrite American history to advance their ideological point of view in public school classrooms.

2:44 – Luis Figueroa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) calls on the board to stop efforts to rewrite and water down instruction on the history of the civil rights movement.

3:16 – A testifier calls on the state board to make sure “students are educated on the facts.” She then goes on a long diatribe against Islam and threats posed by Muslims, particularly through population growth: “Europe could be lost to Islam without a shot being fired.” She says students should learn that the Muslims are taught to kill non-Muslims after the holy month of Ramadan. And on it goes…

3:30 – A conservative testifier asks that the standard calling on students to study the significance of the 2008 election (the election of an African-American president) should also be required to study the supposed “backlash” from Americans in 2009-10. Board member Ken Mercer suggests that perhaps students should learn about the Tea Party movement.

3:47 – Board conservatives are disputing why Dolores Huerta was removed from the Grade 3 standards in January. She was removed because board members said she is a socialist. Board member Ken Mercer suggests that Huerta is NOT a good role model for young students because she’s a socialist. One wonders if Mr. Mercer knows much at all about the cofounder of the United Farm Workers of America.

4:34 – The board apparently will finish testimony from everyone signed up to speak. It could be another hour or more before board debate begins.

4:41 – Jonathan Saenz of the far-right group Liberty Institute (formerly Free Market Foundation) is up. Liberty Institute (the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family) has been one of the primary groups promoting the lie that curriculum writers don’t want students to learn about Christmas, American heroes and patriotic symbols. And now he’s going on again about protecting “Judeo-Christian values” in the standards. Saenz charges that the board has been under “pressure” to downplay the subject of Christianity in the standards. That’s another lie. Saenz should be ashamed of himself. He and his organization have spent months now attacking the faith and patriotism of teachers and other curriculum writers, yet he claims that unnamed people are attacking Christianity.

5:19 – Ken Mercer argues essentially that the presence of Congressional chaplains, prayers in Congressional sessions, and “In God We Trust” means the United States is a Christian nation.

5:31 – A testifier wants students to learn that LBJ and the CIA had President Kennedy assassinated in 1963. The train has officially pulled into Crazy Town.

6:02 – The board is finally ready to begin debate over the standards.

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