Don’s Rewriting History … Again

Former Texas State Board of Education chair Don McLeroy isn’t done distorting history.

While McLeroy was on the board in 2010, he and his colleagues gave Texas schools new social studies curriculum standards that downplay the primary role slavery played in the Civil War. Now, as a former SBOE member, he’s rewriting the role he and other board members played in writing those pretty much universally panned standards on which history textbooks for millions of Texas schoolchildren are based.

Here was McLeroy this week, appearing alongside TFN President Kathy Miller, on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” McLeroy defended the standards (as well as the ridiculous revision and approval process for those standards) and said some things that weren’t very accurate. Watch the clip in its entirety and we’ll have more below the fold.

On the causes of the Civil War, McLeroy says the board “never really discussed that very much.” He actually makes that claim twice in the “Ed Show” clip. Coincidentally, that’s how many times the board discussed (at length) the causes of the Civil War in just one day — May 20, 2010.

Thankfully, there’s video of that day. At just after the 9:30 mark of this clip, SBOE member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, says this:

“Yes, this is historically correct. Sectionalism, states’ rights were the real issues behind the Civl War. Slavery was an after-issue. It was part of the reason for the sectionalism and the states’ rights deciding whether or not they could have slaves moving to the other states, etc. But the real issue that the South broke away was because they wanted to have the right to say that they could do that and that sectionalism was the idea of moving slaves to other sections of the territories. So those were the real reasons for the Civl War. That’s why they would have those first. Slavery came about as a side issue to the Civil War. And, so it’s not the reason for the Civil War. It was not slavery.”

And in this clip from the same day (at the 4:21:00 mark), board member Lawrence Allen, D-Houston, moves to change a standard in the eighth-grade U.S. history course to emphasize slavery as the cause of the war. Following debate, Allen’s motion is promptly voted down.

So to say the board never really discussed it is just plain wrong. To say that everything is fine and dandy with how the standards portray the causes of the Civil War is also wrong, and even some conservatives feel the same way.

This is just the latest stop in the Don McLeroy hand-washing tour, in which he tries to dodge responsibility for what happened at the board he served on and even led for a time. The truth is that McLeroy was part of a determined effort to rewrite American history, including the history of the Civil War, to fit a false, right-wing political narrative.

19 thoughts on “Don’s Rewriting History … Again

  1. As I recall, teachers are allowed (encouraged?) to bring in relevant outside materials when teaching a subject. Perhaps someone could reproduce the Articles of Secession of all the states that did so, and reproduce them as handout. No comment or editorializing: “just the facts (texts) ma’am”. Then quietly mail it to all social studies teachers.

  2. First, in 15 months of meetings, and in endless hours of debate, this statement is not very much discussion.

    Second, Pat Hardy is a social studies curriculum expert; she is the epitome of someone Kathy and the TFN are endlessly touting for the board to listen to. Pat and the review committees–more social studies curriculum specialists–listed “states rights” first in their causes of the Civil War. For those who take the time to listen to the interview, you will find it clearly explained.

    If you disagree about the causes of the Civil War, have a debate with Texas social studies teachers.

    1. Dr McLeroy, I think a discussion with historians that specialize in the Civil War era might be more productive than a discussion with high school teachers. Perhaps even going so far as to read the documents that accompanied Texas’s secession from the USA would be appropriate, too.

    2. Don. I am a professional archaeologist who works with REAL American history in my job. This stuff you believe about American history and the Civil War is pure bullshit—plain and simple—just like Steve says in his post above. If there had been no slavery there would have been no Civil War. That much is certain.

      The questions I want to ask you are these Don. Do American blacks and other minorities frighten you so much that you desperately want to downplay their existence in American culture and any significant contribution to American history they have made? Are you like my late Uncle Malcolm who believed that the United States would never be a safe place for white people to live until we do something about our dangerous “nigger problem”? Do you have black patients at your dental practice—or do you just wish they would go to some other dentist with the right skin color? I am not accusing you of anything Don. I am just asking you some questions here, and I would like some answers directly from you.

    3. Don knows very well that the Social Studies standards review panels were stacked with their hand-picked minion “specialists” by the various rightwing agenda-driven SBOE members such as McLeroy to make sure the standards coming out of those panels matched the Board members extreme beliefs. They did indeed list “states rights” first in addition to sectionalism and slavery in their standard’s description of the cause of the Civil War. No standards-writing panel composed of legitimate curriculum specialists in this subject would have done that! States rights was the post-war Southern revisionist justification.

    4. The South was not very much in favor of States Righs when it came to Northern States refusing to return slaves to the South.

  3. The issue is, the entire SBOE needs to go and the first requirement for membership on the board is actual classroom and educational experience. Dentists need not apply.

  4. I just love right-wing revisionist history. I was in the hearing room that morning when Pat Hardy made her absurd statement. I knew her to be a former social studies and American history teacher, so I had to catch my breath when she said that. This false revisionist history has not only been taught in Texas public schools for generations (so millions of Texans believe this nonsense about state rights; I met one at a Fourth of July party in Houston last week), but the SBOE during that debate inserted language encouraging this false interpretation into the Social Studies standards. This is a prime example of the falsification by politicization of widely-accepted mainstream scholarly knowledge, in this case American History. For the record, the single most important “states’ right” that the Confederate states wanted to preserve was the right to own other human beings. Numerous primary Confederate documents and statements attest to this fact. Contrary to Pat Hardy, that was the primary reason for the Civil War and this history has extremely wide agreement among historians. Only a few Southern Revisionist pseudo-scholars claim otherwise. When the Civil War and slavery in the U.S. ended, former Confederate leaders immediately began their revisionist program. I have read several scholarly books about this program. It is absolutely amazing that educated adults still believe the states’ rights claim 150 years after the war. Needless to say, this is a massive failure of public education that has been perpetuated by Republicans and Dixiecrats for the last 50 years.

    1. My old high school government teacher, in one of Dallas’ suburbs, believed in the “lost cause” and made a big deal out of always calling the war the “War of Northern Aggression.”

      And I, embarrassingly, believed what he said, because at that time I simply didn’t know any better.

  5. It is instructive to read the primary Confederate documents at the beginning of the Civil War, before the sophistry of historical revisionism began in 1865. Writing for a national audience in his First Inaugural Address on February 1861, Jefferson Davis was circumspect about the South’s reasons for seceding from the United States (http://bit.ly/1eWZXR0). He said nothing about slavery. This is the sole Confederate document that the Texas State Board of Education required to be read and discussed in its approved standards for American History. But his Message to Congress of the Confederate States of America on April 1861, at the ratification of the Confederate Constitution, was to a different audience and President Davis permitted himself to be much more explicit (http://bit.ly/1HqY8U5). In paragraphs 2-4 he clearly identified preserving the institution of slavery as the cause of secession and justified it on the basis of racial principles. For example, Davis reviled the North for failing to fully enforce the Fugitive Slave Act that compelled Northern authorities to return escaped slaves (their “property”) to their Southern masters. He claimed that the South had “elevated” the Negro slaves from “brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers.”

    Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens was even more explicit in his notorious Cornerstone Speech of March 1861, in which he declared that slavery was the natural condition of blacks and the foundation of the Confederacy (http://bit.ly/1deFCoK). Delivered extemporaneously and transcribed, Stephens claimed that, “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas [of the anti-slavery North]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition…”

    But the prime example of a completely candid Confederate justification for secession and the war is The Texas Ordinance of Secession (http://bit.ly/1HYXLE8). This is the document that an honest and thoughtful Texas SBOE would require that all Texas high school American History students read, since it so clearly explains the historical origins of the Texas character that is so evident today. In its brief and bigoted prose, the state’s leaders spell out in excruciating detail all the wrongs inflicted upon them by the Federal government for exercising their racist and venal beliefs that owning other human beings as slaves is necessary for their economic success. The text fairly drips with racial bigotry and a sense of wrongful oppression by national government. Today you could substitute federal air quality requirements, federal education mandates, federal health and safety regulations, etc. for slavery and the text could be lifted from current news reports.

    Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey wrote that he preferred the “honest boys from Texas” rather than the disingenuous lack of candid specificity from Jefferson Davis (http://bit.ly/1GhRWMj). Writing in 2010, Casey quotes Pat Hardy’s statement: “There would be those who would say, you know, automatically say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was states’ rights.” Then he quotes long excerpts from the Texas Ordinance. This column should be required reading in all American History classrooms in Texas not only to help students understand the cause of the Civil War, but also to understand how ignorance and politics motivates our state’s education leaders to mislead them. And citizens wonder why Texas public education is so poor that our state’s students have remained in the bottom 20% of all states’ student academic success by all measures for the last three decades. The reason–as I have maintained for many years–is that other states don’t have the degree of politicization of public education that Texas has. Our state’s Republican education leaders would rather impose their perverted version of political correctness rather than encourage students to learn critical thinking and skepticism about authoritarian public officials.

    As I have acknowledged before, states’ rights and sectionalism WERE causes of the Civil War, but the single state right in dispute was the right to own other human beings as slaves. ALL of the sectionalism disputes between the North and South–the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854–were predicated on the issue of slavery. They were adopted to evenly divide the nation into slave and free states to placate the South and prevent secession, but both failed because the South wanted more. In all purported causes of the War, slavery is at the bottom of every one.

  6. Long-time SBOE critic Steven Schafersman writes:

    “Don (McLeroy) knows very well that the Social Studies standards review panels were stacked with their hand-picked minion “specialists” by the various rightwing agenda-driven SBOE members such as McLeroy to make sure the standards coming out of those panels matched the Board members extreme beliefs.”

    Mr. Schafersman’s memory must be failing.
    On March 10, 2010, he testified before the SBOE, complaining about amendments to the review panels’ proposals….

    “Don’t change the material from the review panels, except for the addition of more minorities”.

    The reality of review panel makeup was that they were “stacked”….but with mostly leftist “educators” intent upon incorporating their history revisionism into the standards. In spite of that, the one review panel knew the truth, correctly calling out that states rights was the primary cause of the civil war.

    Of the approximately 100 review panel members across some 15 social studies courses, only three of us were conservative non-educators. On my 11th grade U. S. history since 1877 review panel, it was me and 8 educator revisionists, a couple of whom actually harbored a visceral hatred for America.

    My panel’s proposal to the SBOE was therefore an unacceptable tirade against America. It took my package of 50+ amendments, submitted to the SBOE, to bring balance to the final, adopted standard.

    Other contempt-for-America panels deleted Christmas and Rosh Hashanah, Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and the Liberty Bell from the standard. These “experts” also refused any mention of American free enterprise and American exceptionalism in their standards proposals, while repeatedly emphasizing an agenda of global, rather than American, citizenship.

    All this is documented in my 2012 book, Texas Trounces the Left’s War on History.

    Any who are as confused as Mr. Schafersman appears to be, might give it a look.

    From all this….the conclusion is that Mr. Schafersman is as wrong in his characterization of review panel makeup as he is in his unsuccessful attempts to revise U. S. history.

    1. States’ rights was the primary cause? Just read the documents Steve linked to!

      “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas [of the anti-slavery North]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition…” It’s as clear as can be!

    2. Bill Ames was one of the SBOE’s minions who got appointed on one of the TEKS-writing panels to revise the scholarly standards to reflect the desired radical religious right political and religious ideology of the Board. Was he on the one that listed states’ rights as the primary cause of the Civil War, not slavery? How many social studies teachers did the “conservative non-educator” have to bully to achieve that goal? After searching my “failing” memory, I agree with him that overall he and his two fellow travelers were in the minority and the Social Studies standards, just like the Biology standards before them, came to the State Board largely in a form consistent with the most accurate and professional knowledge of genuine history and social studies curriculum experts. That’s why the radical Republicans on the Board were obliged to make about seven pseudoscientific debilitating revisions to the Biology and Earth and Space Science standards and make over 100 amendments in public to revise the Social Studies standards as submitted to make them fit their extreme, false, and bizarre religious and political beliefs about American history.

      The SBOE Republican members learned from this lesson–or Barbara Cargill was more competent than Don McLeroy and Gail Lowe at getting their right-wing agenda expressed in instructional materials–by purging the professional science and social studies staff at TEA and forcing them to place their hand-picked minions seated on the Biology and Social Studies instructional materials review panels–at least one on each panel which was not a coincidence–to criticize the textbooks from their viewpoint as religious fundamentalists, Christian nationalists, American Exceptionalists, proponents of unregulated corporate laissez faire capitalism, enemies of the Enlightenment, and opponents of modern science and university-based historical scholarship. The Board’s radical agenda-driven Republicans wanted the biology and social studies books cleaned up before they got to them for a final adoption. Despite this new and final attempt, the effort to corrupt the biology textbooks failed due to the efforts of TFN, NCSE, and myself (TCS). The similar attempt to attack and censor the submitted history and other social studies textbooks fared a little better by keeping Moses in as someone who influenced the origin of the United States and the idea that states rights and sectionalism were more important than slavery as causes of the Civil War, both ideas being blatant distortions of history. Much other potentially-damaging false content was removed by publicity and lobbying by TFN and some professional history organizations.

      There are two major sequential steps where the instructional materials can be censored and distorted in this state: (1) the standards writing process and (2) the textbooks (instructional materials) adoption process. In Texas, unlike other states with well-functioning public education systems and documented student academic success, the actual text of the educational content in such materials can be censored, debilitated, or misrepresented by an 8-person majority on the SBOE during either of these two steps. Thus, it takes a constant effort to monitor, observe, understand, publicize, organize, and lobby when the 8-person majority decides to push its own extremist agenda to mislead, confuse, and indoctrinate innocent Texas students by re-writing either professional curriculum standards or professionally-written instruction materials. This sequential multi-step process–that extends over several years–can be confusing, and I misremembered when the SBOE Republicans finally started deliberately stacking the review panels.

      The Board stacked the panels during the second step, not the first. They were prevented from doing it during the standards-writing process years ago because at that time the TEA curriculum staff still had professionals with integrity and had not yet been totally purged or quieted. The TEA has been a captured agency ever since Barbara Cargill became chairman of the SBOE and this continues today under Michael Williams. By her standards, Barbara Cargill undoubtedly believes she has achieve constant success, while Don McLeroy during his tenure as chairman was constantly frustrated by the TEA staff as well as by professional standards-writing panel members. His great claim to success is initiating the anti-science and anti-history standards and textbooks revision process, something to be proud of if your legacy goal is to have a positive entry in Conservapedia. (I just checked: There is no entry for Don McLeroy, surely an enormous lapse on the part of Conservapedia! I just checked my own name and, although I don’t have an entry either, I’m mentioned three times, surely in a derogatory way, so my legacy is assured!)

      Now let me correct a few of Bill Ames’ errors. He writes, “The reality of review panel makeup was that they were “stacked”….but with mostly leftist “educators” intent upon incorporating their history revisionism into the standards.” This is mistaken in two ways. First, the makeup of the social studies standards-writing panels was not composed of “leftist educators.” The members were Texas public university history professors, social studies curriculum experts, and ordinary Texas teachers. I know who the “leftists” are in this state and the list does not include these professional, progressive, and politically moderate educators. And yes, they are true educators, not nonsense-purveying “educators” such as Bill Ames. Of course, Bill Ames probably thinks that anyone who doesn’t share his reactionary right-wing Tea Party views is a “leftist.” If that’s the case, then his absurd statement is–in his mind–accurate!

      Second, the term “revisionism” refers to a re-writing of established, mainstream, scholarly-accepted history. That kind of history was what was expressed in the original Social Studies standards, so the standards-writing history educators were not the ones performing “revisionism.” The SBOE and its minions, such as Bill Ames, were the ones doing that.

      Pointing to the other educators on the Social Studies panel he was on, Bill Ames says of them, “a couple of whom actually harbored a visceral hatred for America.” I don’t know exactly what they said but I have heard this smear before. No doubt what they hated were the actions of federal public officials, such as George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, who share the political and religious views of Bill Ames. These two and others of the ilk did many hateful things. Hating those actions and individuals does not constitute hating America. Writing that is just a libel.

      Bill Ames must have been on the panel that said that “American imperialism” was the cause of several conflicts; the Board changed the phrase to American expansionism or something like that. Imperialism is the term we use for similar actions by other countries, and most other countries use that term to describe the historical actions of the United States. I don’t believe that the other panels “refused any mention of American free enterprise” although they may have refused to mention it precisely in the narrow and inaccurate way that Bill Ames wished. As for “American exceptionalism,” that term can refer to a variety of doctrines, some good and some bad. The United States is indeed an exceptional nation that–because of its exceptional history, size, wealth, and power–has a special responsibility to act responsibly in the world. When it does, the U.S. is indeed exceptional in a good sense, but the U.S. has not always acted responsibly. The professional educators wanted students to understand the actual, true history of U.S. actions, not the sanitized, censored, and false history they often learn. The professional educators believe, as do I, that Texas students should learn the truth about our country if they truly wish to be educated. If they instead learn myths and lies, then they are not educated but rather misinformed and indoctrinated. You have only to look at the frequent ignorant, hateful, and fearful statements of our state’s Republican leaders to realize which Texas education they received.

  7. On June 26, 2012, while delivering a presentation about my experience on the
    U. S. history since 1877 review panel, I was asked, “Where does the progressives’ hatred and contempt for America come from?”.

    Pondering the question, I recalled that in 1958, author and political theorist Cleon Skousen released his book, The Naked Communist. On January 10, 1963, Congressman Albert Herlong of Florida read the book’s main content, Communism’s 45 goals to destroy the United States, into the Congressional Record.

    Not surprisingly, the opinions of those that Steven Schafersman characterizes as “professional, progressive, and politically moderate educators” aligns with many of these communist goals, and thus the question from my audience is answered.

    My July 2,2012, article, “Happy Birthday, America….We Hate You”, published in TexasInsider.org, revealed examples of how the review panels’ actions attempted to advance the Naked Communist agenda. The specifics can be viewed at http://www.texasinsider.org/happy-birthday-america-we-hate-you/#more-64570.

    Rather than the review panels’ contempt-for-America temper tantrum, I prefer to follow the Texas Education Code mandate:

    28.002(h) The State Board of Education and each school district shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of instructional materials. A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.

    I am proud of my work. As a partial result of my work, tens of thousands of Texas students have a balanced view of U. S history, understanding our problems, but also the overwhelmingly positive story of our American heritage…..Is it any wonder that immigrants from all over the world flock to America?

      1. I am pleased with the significantly expanded minority content included in the 2010 SBOE-adopted social studies standards.

        The Social Studies standards include more minority representation than ever before. Among the many individuals who have been added to the standards are Crispus Attucks, Jose Bernardo Guillermo de Lara, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Wentworth Cheswell, Francisco Coronado, Bernardo de Galvez, Juan de Onate, Adina de Zavala, Enrique Esparza, W.E.B. DuBois, Carmen Lomas Garza, Henry B. Gonzalez, Raul A. Gonzalez, Maria Mitchell, Ellen Ochoa, Jose Antonio Navaro, Irma Rangel, Juan Seguin, Erasmo Seguin, Phillis Wheatley, Lulu Belle White, Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Simon Bolivar, Bessie Coleman, Tomie dePaola, Marcus Garvey, Lydia Mendoza, Kadir Nelson, Danny Olivas, Raymond Telles and Amado Pena Jr.

        Further, The curriculum standards include historically significant individuals and groups from a wide array of ethnic, cultural, racial and religious backgrounds.
        For example, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is required study at two different grade levels. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also is required, as is separate study of founders W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells at various grade levels. Other notable leaders such as Anne Richards, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Jordan also are included.
        Students are required to study various social and political advocacy positions, including organizations that promoted civil rights for African Americans, Chicanos and American Indians. Individuals who promoted civil rights, labor rights and women’s rights also are included, such as Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B.DuBois, Clarence Darrow, Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, Hector P. Garcia, Frances Willard, Jane Addams and Dolores Huerta. The proposed history standards include diverse individuals and groups for study at each grade level.

        These individuals and groups deserve mention in Texas’ social studies curriculum.

        These positive representations of minorities, however, do not negate my past concerns. The SBOE had no complaints against multicultural content in the standards, but insisted on consistency of contribution. Those desires largely fell upon the deaf ears of many review panel members.

        There were bizarre examples:

        The 1st grade social studies review panel removed Thomas Edison from the standards, and replaced him with African-American Garrett Morgan, who invented the three-way (red, yellow, green) stoplight. The justification, according to the review panel presenter? To add ethnicity and diversity to the standard.

        In the 3rd grade standards, Cyrus McCormick and Jonas Salk were replaced by Margaret Knight, whose accomplishment was the invention of a machine that made paper bags with square bottoms.

        And going back to the 2002 review of social studies textbooks, in the aviation/space sections of the proposal copies of McGraw-Hill’s the American Republic since 1877, the Wright Brothers were replaced by Bessie Coleman….and Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was replaced by a profile of Franklin R. Chang-Diaz.

        One would have to be historically biased to not identify these examples as “overrepresentation”.

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