Editorial Roundup: Ignorance and the SBOE

by TFN

Especially over the last week, editorial boards at newspapers across Texas have been focusing on the corrosive politics, blind ignorance and rampant incompetence evident on the State Board of Education. Editorial writers are heaping criticism on state board members who are once again wrecking the work of educators and scholars in crafting new curriculum standards — this time for social studies classrooms in the state’s public schools.

The dismay of San Antonio-Express News editorial writers, for example, was crystal clear today as they explained the state board’s outrageously misinformed decision this month to remove from the social studies standards the author of a popular children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Apparently, board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, had conducted a quick Internet search for the author’s name, Bill Martin, and mistakenly reported to board colleagues that he was the same Bill Martin who had written a book about Marxism.

Board members didn’t ask for input from the curriuclum writers, teachers or scholars. They simply accepted Ms. Leo’s research as fact and voted to strip Martin’s name from the Grade 3 standards. (Did they really think curriculum writers wanted third-graders to learn about the author of a book on Marxism?) From the Express-News today:

“How could the board that oversees public education in the great state of Texas have made such a mistake? By relying on research so superficial and shoddy that it would have earned any fifth-grader a failing grade. . . . For once again demonstrating that it can’t be trusted to pass sound judgments about public school curriculum, the State Board of Education owes the people of Texas an apology.”

The Express-News had already revealed its exasperation with the state board in an editorial on Jan. 21:

“The State Board of Education’s recent actions over the social studies curriculum undermined the already weakened credibility of this highly polarized board. Once again, it appears the board members are more focused on their own political agendas than helping provide the 4.7 million Texas public school children with a quality education that will make them competitive globally. . . .  SBOE members just don’t get it. They deserve an F on their critical thinking skills in setting the curriculum standards for textbooks. The books are not just about them and their personal views of the world. The board must stop micromanaging public education.”

Editorials at other newspapers have been even more scathing. Tuesday’s Denton Record-Chronicle, for example, condemned the state board’s “malignant stupidity”:

“These boobs on the State Board of Education aren’t historians, either. They aren’t even educators. For the most part, they are bottom-feeding politicians who have adopted the popular demagoguery of the day and have ridden it to membership on a little-known but very important state board.”

A Houston Chronicle editorial on Jan. 22 critized the state board for once again promoting political agendas over education:

“This is getting to be a familiar scenario: The Texas Board of Education, preparing to adopt new curriculum standards, makes our schoolchildren’s textbooks a matter of highly partisan wrangling. When the board met last week to discuss what to teach Texas’ public school students in history, geography, government and economics, their preliminary druthers were heavily weighted in favor of the blatantly divisive and ideological views of the board’s conservative majority. . . . This pattern would be troublesome in any agency, but when it concerns the very foundation of what we teach our 4.8 million public school students, how we equip them to grow into functioning adults and to compete in a national and international market, it is untenable.”

On Tuesday of this week, the Longview News-Journal in East Texas expressed its frustration with state board members intent on rewriting history to fit personal and political agendas:

“The process of creating a social studies curriculum has become far too politicized. That comes at the expense of providing a curriculum that will provide our students a wide-ranging education — an objective overview of the many cultures, religions, races, and other threads that make up our society. That is what education is supposed to do. That does not appear to be the goal of at least some of the members of the State Board of Education. It looks more like indoctrination to us.”

Like other newspapers, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reminded readers that this is an election year:

“When Texas students explore their state’s past and present in elementary and middle school, they probably don’t dwell much on the increasingly disturbing spectacle that is the State Board of Education’s rewrite of curriculum standards. No, that would be putting the state in a bad light. And a majority of the board most likely would object to any suggestion that would make schoolchildren think critically about their great state. But taxpayers and parents with students in Texas public schools should be dismayed at the politics being played with revisions to the social studies curriculum.”

For years the Texas Freedom Network has been sounding the alarm about an increasingly politicized, dysfunctional and incompetent State Board of Education. So it’s good to see more attention paid to what once was a sleepy corner of state government that now is doing so much damage to the education of Texas schoolchildren.