Blogging the Social Studies Debate VI

by TFN

3:10 – The state board is resuming its debate on the standards and is taking up the psychology standards. It’s unclear how controversial this course might be.

3:19 – Not controversial, apparently. No amendments for psychology, so on to sociology. Cynthia Dunbar Barbara Cargill moves to add Robert Nisbet to a list of sociologists students should study. Nisbet, she says, was a political conservative. Oh, well, then. The amendment passes. Apparently, pushing a political agenda extends into the sociology standards as well. It’s hard to take this board seriously at all.

3:27 – Cargill moves to strip out a sociology standard that calls on students to “explain how institutional racism is evident in American society.” She argues that this is a “negative standard” that should be removed. It’s “negative” to have students study the effects of institutional discrimination in laws, schools and private institutions? Well, the sociological effects of institutional racism are real. Mavis Knight of Dallas calls this amendment a “whitewash” of history. She’s right. Cargill’s amendments fails. Well, there’s at least one glimmer of light in this disastrous debate.

3:38 – Cargill moves to strike this standard: “differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how gender and socialization interact.” Cargill argues that this standard would lead to students learning about “transexuals, transvestites and who knows what else.”

3:40 – Lawrence Allen of Houston notes that most high schools include gay and lesbian youth. Mavis Knight says she read the standard as an opportunity for students to study about changing gender roles for men and women over time.

3:45 – Cargill says her amendment is based on her Google research. Really. Did she ever consider picking up a phone to call a sociologist?

3:47 – Mavis Knight points out that the curriculum writers are education professionals. She argues its insulting to think that teachers would do a Google search to find out what to teach students.

3:48 – Ken Mercer: this is about sex.

3:50 – The amendment to strip out the standard passes.

3:59 – Back to the amendment earlier today stripping Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about political philosophers who influenced political revolutions from the 1700s to today: whom did the board add to the standard in place of Jefferson? Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. John Calvin? Out with the Jefferson and the Enlightenment (the latter also removed from the same standard) and in with Christian fundamentalism. Got it.

4:06 – Terri Leo moves to add “including positive stereotypes” to a standard that currently reads: “discuss the ramifications of stereotyping”. Leo: “I don’t think stereotyping is always a negative thing. Sometimes it’s a positive thing.” She mentions positive characteristics of firemen and police officers, for example. But Mary Helen Berlanga points out that the overall standard is dealing with inequality and discrimination based on race and ethnicity. She’s right. Leo withdraws her amendment after “reading the context” of the standard. Really? She didn’t read the full standard before she offered her amendment? Is anyone surprised?

4:10 – Now the board is moving on to the high school economics course.

4:11 – Cargill’s first amendment: “Analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System since 1913.” We had already seen this amendment and ran it by economists. In short, this amendment is too ignorant even for this board. Pat Hardy puts it correctly: she’s amazed at how these board members see themselves as experts in economics. Mavis Knight makes the clear point: there are a lot of reasons why a currency increases or decreases in value over time, especially over the course of a century. This amendment is another detour into Crazy Town.

4:15 – Cargill accepts a change that simply calls on students to study the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar since 1913, leaving out a specific reference to the Federal Reserve System. But why start with 1913? This is silly.

4:17 – The board drops “1913.” So the amendment now just focuses on “analyze the decline in value of the U.S. dollar.” Except David Bradley now suggests adding “including the abandonment of the gold standard.” “I bet the Federal Reserve would object, but that’s okay,” Bradley says.

4:21 – Why doesn’t a board member suggest that they actually ask an economist whether this standard makes any sense? Well, they don’t, and the amendment passes.

4:22 – The board considers adding Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek to the standards for high school economics. Rick Agosto says he’s never heard of Friedman or Hayek and abstains. The rest of the board adds the two names. Frankly, we doubt more than a couple of board members know either name.

4:26 – Pat Hardy suggests that in the introductions of course standards (but not in the standards themselves), language be added explaining that “capitalism” and “free market” are sometimes used in place of “free enterprise.” This would essentially be a suggestion for teachers, not a requirement for students. It passes (although Terri Leo still votes no — she’s still on the warpath against “liberal professors” apparently.)

4:30 – Finished (for now) with wrecking the economics standards, the board is now considering any additional amendments to earlier courses in the standards.

4:35 – Cargill moves to strip Santa Barraza from a list of Texas artists in the Grade 7 Texas history course. She wants to replace Barraza with Tex Avery and argues that Barraza isn’t appropriate for seventh-graders and apparently is distributing what some board members seem to think is an inappropriate painting. Other board members are appalled that Cargill would take an artist out because of a single painting that would never show up in a textbook anyway. (We haven’t seen the painting.)

4:42 – David Bradley argues that the painting would be inappropriate for seventh-graders. We don’t know what the painting is, but it’s inconceivable that any publisher would include a nude painting in a textbook. Will this silliness ever end?

4:47 – Mary Helen Berlanga: Should the board now censor Michelangelo because of the nudes in some of his artwork?

4:51 – The amendments passes. Barraza is out, Avery is in.

5:01 – Lawrence Allen wonders aloud whether the board really knows how to put together a curriculum standards document: “We need a workshop before we ever go through this process again.” Well, yeah. Better yet, however, would be to just eliminate this board altogether. It has done nothing to advance the cause of education for Texas schoolchildren, and that fact couldn’t be more clear than after today’s debacle.

5:09 – Mary Helen Berlanga announces that she’s leaving the meeting because she’s had it with the board’s willy-nilly amending of the standards.

5:36 – The board adds Bill Martin Jr. back to the Grade 3 standards. The board had removed the author of the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” in January, mistaking him for a man with the same name who had written a book on Marxism.

6:17 – We’re still here, by the way. The board is still working through “cleanup” amendments for courses that had been debated in January. (Perhaps we shouldn’t call them “cleanup” amendments. The damage done to the standards document is so thorough that the Texas Education Agency would almost have to start from scratch to make any significantly positive difference at this point.)

7:07 – Mavis Knight wants to amend the high school U.S. history standards to reemphasize efforts to expand political and economic opportunities for ethnic and religious minorities. Her amendment (with added part underlined): “explain actions taken by people to expand economic opportunities and political rights for racial, ethnic and religious minorities as well as women in American society.” This is similar to the wording in the original draft standards before conservatives changed it in January. Knight and civil rights groups have argued that the January change minimized the struggle of minorities and those who worked on their behalf. The board reverses its January vote by passing the amendment.

7:15 – Knight moves to add Rosa Parks to the high school U.S. history standards. The board does so after realizing they had not already included Parks in that course.

7:16 – Knight proposes the following amendment: “describe how litigation played a role in protecting the rights of the minority during the civil rights movement including the landmark cases of  Brown v. Board of Education; Mendez v Westminster; Hernandez v Texas; Edgewood ISD v Kirby; Sweatt v. Painter.”Terri Leo opposes the standard, claiming that this is covered elsewhere. But she’s wrong. Two of the court cases are mentioned elsewhere in a different context. The amendment passes over her objections, although the list of court cases is changed to be a list of suggested examples, not required.

7:32 – Don McLeroy offers an amendment on civil rights:

(C) identify the role of significant leaders who supported various rights movements, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Betty Friedan, and

(D) analyze the effectiveness of the adversarial approach taken by many civil rights groups versus the philosophically persuasive tone of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and his letter from the Birmingham jail, and

(E) describe Presidential actions and Congressional votes by party to address minority rights in the United States, including desegregation of the Armed Forces, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and

(F) describe the role of individuals and groups that sought to maintain the status quo, such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox, and including the Congressional bloc of southern Democrats, and

(G) evaluate changes and events in the United States that have resulted from the civil rights movement, including increased participation of minorities in the political process and unrealistic expectations for equal outcomes.

Bob Craig moves to strike “and unrealistic expectations for equal outcomes.” McLeroy agrees — and well he should. Civil rights groups rightly saw that language as incredibly insulting.

The (E) section of McLeroy’s amendment requires students to study the congressional vote — by political party — of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. This suggestion is intended to support his argument that Republicans were more likely to support civil rights legislation in the 1960s. That’s a simplistic — and misleading — reading of the political dynamics of those votes. More Democrats voted for those laws than did Republicans. Second, many of the Democrats who opposed them were southern conservative Democrats. Many southern conservative Democrats in the 1960s became Republicans in coming decades.

Mavis Knight asks what McLeroy means by “adversarial groups” in (D). McLeroy first says he doesn’t know, then suggests the Black Panthers. Knight changes the language to “some adversarial” groups. Lawrence Allen thinks the suggestion of “adversarial groups” is inappropriate — why would a group be classified as “adversarial”? David Bradley suggests replacing “adversarial” with “disobedience.” We’re unsure what in the world he means by that. Clearly, conservatives on the board want to stigmatize the efforts of some civil rights groups while showing approval for others.

Bob Craig offers a compromise: “analyze the effectiveness and approach of civil rights groups.” Terri Leo opposes that and wants students to learn that some groups used illegal means to win civil rights. But isn’t that what civil disobedience was about? Sit-ins? Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat at the front of the bus? Marching for civil rights when local authorities sought to prevent such actions? McLeroy suggests that by adversarial, he meant “violent.”

7:58 – David Bradley suggests: “analyze the effectiveness of the approach taken by many civil rights groups, such as the Black Panthers, versus the philosophically persuasive tone of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech and his letter from the Birmingham jail.” The board accepts that change.

8:00 – Mavis Knight zeroes in on (E) and wants to know why students are supposed to study the congressional votes by party. McLeroy agrees to striking “by party.” The board then adopts McLeroy’s amendments, with changes already approved by the board.

8:31 – David Bradley wants students to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX. What “unintended consequences” does he have in mind? The amendment passes. (Only about half of the board members remain at the meeting.)

8:50 – Barbara Cargill adds more names of “Founding Fathers” for students to learn about: Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Peter Muhlenberg, Charles Carroll, and Jonathan Trumbull. That amendment passes.

8:53 – Cargill adds more entrepreneurs for students to learn about: Estee Lauder, Robert Johnson and Lionel Sosa. That passes. Does this board have any idea how teachers will fit all these names into their class time?

8:55 – Cynthia Dunbar wants to replace references to “democratic societies” to “societies with representative government.” Dunbar says she doesn’t want students to get the misperception that they live in a democracy (meaning, we assume, a pure democracy). That passes. (This goes back to an argument that David Barton made last year — students should learn “republican values,” not “democratic values.” Barton is the former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.)

9:00 – Don McLeroy wants students to study “Constitutional issues raised by federal government policy changes durign times of significant events including World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the 1960s, and 9/11.” The original standard simply asked students to study “how the role of the federal government changes” during times of crisis. The amendment passes.

9:02 – McLeroy wants a standard about “American exceptionalism.” We’ll summarize: America is the greatest ever, we’re unique, and everybody knows it. So why did McLeroy vote earlier today to take Thomas Jefferson OUT of a world history standard about Enlightenment thinkers who influenced political revolutions from the 1700s to today? Jefferson was, of course, one of the greatest of America’s Founders, and he was influential on revolutionaries who fought for freedom from Europe to South America. It passes.

9:09 – McLeroy repeats his failed amendment in January to remove “hip hop” as an example in a standard on musical genres in American history. The board voted that amendment down in January. But half of the board has already left for the night — so McLeroy sees the time to strike. McLeroy: “Hip hop has major components that are degrading to society, especially to women.” The amendments passes — “hip hop” is out of the standards. This is really a dirty way to treat fellow board members.

9:31 – The board is adjourned until tomorrow.


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