Education

With a public school enrollment of more than 5 million, Texas has an increasingly diverse public education system. Unfortunately, that public education system is also the target of politicians seeking to privatize our neighborhood public schools and push a culture-war agenda in the classroom.

To that end, the Texas Freedom Network – while continuing to fight private school voucher legislation at the Capitol – has conducted groundbreaking research into what is being taught in classrooms on subjects like sex education and religion.

Resources

Broken Promises: Charter Schools in Texas (2000 report)

Broken Promises II (2001 report)

 

The State Board of Education: Dragging Texas Schools into the Culture Wars (2008 report)

 

Just Say Don’t Know: Sex Education in Texas Public Schools (2009 report)

Sex Education in Public Schools: Progress in the Lone Star State (2011 report)

Reading Writing & Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools (2006 report)

Reading, Writing & Religion II (2013 report)

Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum (2014 report)

 

Of all the ways that the Texas State Board of Education twisted and distorted American history when adopting new social studies curriculum standards in 2010, one of the worst was — as the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has pointed out — the way “biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented.” The clear purpose of such exaggerations, of course, was the desire by the SBOE’s bloc of religious-righters to promote the idea that the founders intended to create a distinctly Christian nation with its laws based on a conservative Christian reading of the Bible.

Sadly, publishers caved almost completely to the political pressure to include that historical revisionism in the new textbooks they submitted for consideration in Texas last April. As we have already reported, the textbooks teach that Moses was a major influence on the writing of our nation’s founding documents. They also suggest that the roots of democratic systems of government “include elements related to Judeo-Christian philosophy, dating back thousands of years to Old Testament texts and Biblical figures such as Moses and Solomon.” Of course, no one should deny the profound influence religion has played in American history. But textbooks shouldn’t exaggerate this influence to the point of simply… Read More

This month’s public hearing at the State Board of Education (SBOE) highlighted serious problems in the proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools. Scholars working with the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund noted many of those problems in extensive reviews of the new textbooks. We released our scholars’ reports on those textbooks September 10. You can read the reports here.

We knew there would be problems in 2010, when religious-right members of the SBOE passed new curriculum standards requiring Texas schools to teach students that Moses influenced the writing of America’s founding documents. Historians and constitutional scholars have dismissed that requirement as absurd. But publishers appear to have felt compelled to include those claims in their textbooks anyway.

Perfection Learning’s Basic Principles of American Government textbook puts Moses ahead of John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu in a list of “philosophers, historians and economists” from whom the nation’s Founders got their ideas for the U.S. Constitution. The text also goes so far as to suggest that the story of Moses getting the Ten Commandments from God is historical fact:

 “Moses (born in the Second Millennium BCE in Egype) was the Hebrew leader who forced the Pharaoh to release his people from slavery. During their years of… Read More

The Texas Freedom Network has been very fortunate to work with respected professionals on a number of projects over the years. Among those professionals are scholars at Southern Methodist University in Dallas — scholars who care as much as we do that Texas students get honest textbooks based on facts and sound scholarship, not the political agendas of ideologues on the State Board of Education.

So we were pleased late last week to see SMU’s press office acknowledge the university’s scholars who have worked with TFN on issues ranging from public school Bible courses to the adoption of science and social studies textbooks. Check out the SMU press release  below (and online here):

SMU experts address controversial content proposed for Texas’ new public school textbooks

‘This is not a political issue. It is simply whether the books provide good history.’

September 19, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences faculty members Ron Wetherington, Kathleen Wellman, David Brockman and Edward Countryman are speaking out about what they see as “flawed” and “distorted” textbooks being considered for Texas classrooms.

Wetherington, Wellman and Brockman addressed the State Board of Education (SBOE) at a daylong hearing in Austin on Sept. 16.… Read More

It’s always good to see folks in responsible positions refuse to play games with far-right fanatics who substitute ignorant, facts-free ideology for honest research and expertise. So we enjoyed reading a particular section of state District Judge John Dietz’s opinion on Thursday that the public school finance system in Texas violates the state Constitution.

The case is almost certainly headed to the Texas Supreme Court down the road. And Judge Dietz’s opinion is long — nearly 400 pages. But check out pages 335-336 of that opinion.

In his lengthy list of “Findings of Fact,” Judge Dietz rips into wild and unsubstantiated claims that the head of the right-wing, corporate-funded Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, made when he testified in the case last year. The Heartland Institute argues, among other things, that the overwhelming scientific evidence on the growing threat of global climate change is wrong. It also supports voucher schemes that take funding from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools instead.

In his January 2013 testimony in the school finance base, Bast claimed that the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program, a voucher scheme that failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011, would save the state about $2 billion over the first two years. As Dietz… Read More

Achieving Together TX

ICYMI new blog post this week: "HIV Prevention Begins with Comprehensive Sex-Ed" by the wonderful Melissa Pintor Carnagey w/ great quotes from the folks at @TFN w/ their #teachthetruth campaign. #HIV #SexEd #SexPositive #ThursdayThoughts achievingtogethertx.… pic.twitter.com/4A7f…