Far-right Activists Descend on Texas SBOE

The Texas State Board of Education has made clear that it will hold a public hearing on proposed social studies curriculum standards in January. But far-right pressure groups apparently decided to preempt that hearing today.

Despite no prior public indication from the board that there would be extensive testimony on the standards today, nearly two dozen people have signed up to testify about the proposed social studies standards this afternoon. And the list of testifiers is a “who’s who” of far-right pressure groups. Speakers include MerryLynn Gerstenschlager from Texas Eagle Forum, Peggy Venable from Americans for Prosperity, Jonathan Saenz from the Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family-Texas and Brooke Terry from Texas Public Policy Foundation.

And get this: Nancy Jones from Texas Tea Party also signed up to speak. That should be enlightening. Will she bring along signs accusing teachers of being Nazis and communists? Will she shout down any other speakers? From what we’ve seen around the country, you never know with the Tea Party folks. Oh, the drama…

Bill Ames, a far-right activist on one of the social studies curriculum teams who has attacked teachers and fellow curriculum writers as leftists, is listed as the first speaker. Ames also complained earlier this year about an “over-representation of minorities” in the standards. Any guesses where his testimony will go?

As always, TFN is monitoring the meeting. Keep an eye on TFN Insider for news and updates. You can find a link to a live Web cast of the state board meeting here.

13 thoughts on “Far-right Activists Descend on Texas SBOE

    1. The meeting began at 9 a.m. The social studies item is tenth on the agenda. It’s likely to be mid-to-late afternoon before that comes up, but you never know with this board.

  1. Okay. It’s 2:48 p.m. EST and I am tuned in live. I do hope the testifiers will make mention of my favorite holiday dessert or maybe just act like that dessert. This is gonna be good—probably better than the series finale of The Sopranos.

  2. How much does it cost the state of Texas to put that gold agency logo on the headrest of those chairs? In my red state, the person who approved that kind of waste would get a one-way ticket to the infernal regions.

  3. I listened to all of these people tonight on the Web video. I was watching the graduation requirements discussion, but someone mentioned that about 25 individuals came to speak about social studies so I stuck around until 9:30 p.m. to listen to them. I admit I didn’t expect all the extreme right-wingers to come out and speak, but they took the opportunity so give them some credit. They and the Sikh religion supporters (who were very nice and articulate young women) monopolized the public testimony. They attempted to talk sensibly for the most part, but from time to time a bit of their wacko irrational beliefs slipped out.

    Ames acknowledged that Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King were important individuals whose major writings were an “attempt to have a dialog with the white majority that is not divisive,” so they were qualified to be in the history textbooks. On the other hand, he attacked several organizations that promote minority self-respect and encourage minorities to get involved in politics. Saenz was grateful that Christmas was put back into the standards, but complained several times that the writing committee added several other religious holidays. He was worried that mentions of Christianity were being diluted with other religions. Terry complained that the standards writers were obsessed with government science and technology research and dismissive of private sector research. She is apparently unaware that frontier scientific research is almost totally funded by the government while private research is mostly product oriented. Gerstenschlager wants more mention of American exceptionalism, not realizing that the term is used as a negative by social scientists, and she keep asking that Allen Quist’s 12 Pillars of Freedom be included in the standards. For an understanding of Quist, go to http://cmods.org/ to see his bizarre beliefs about science and history. He believes in Creationism, pseudoscientific archaeology, that dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with humans, and that the Shroud of Turin is authentic.

    My favorite, though, was a woman named Dr. Haines (or Haynes; I missed her first name). Along with Saenz and Terry, she wants the term “capitalism” replaced with “free enterprise,” since Karl Marx invented the term capitalism. She doesn’t understand how un-free American enterprise is–so dependent on federal handouts and stimulus funds. Free Enterprise in the US is really socialism for the capitalists. She claimed the social studies standards-writing teams were unbalanced and not a “cross-section” of American society, which has “20% liberals and 40-51% conservatives.” She complained about the “divisiveness and finger-pointing” so prevalent in American culture today and wants to stop it. With her next breath, she said “Republicans voted for civil rights and Democrats against, but we need a healing.” Because of the breakdown in values, today “we have more violence, no respect for people in authority, problems in the classroom, etc.”

    Mercer, Leo, Dunbar, and Cargill were asking serious questions of these extremists as if their views were useful and important. Mercer led Dr. Haines through several questions in which she complained that the majority of social studies writing panel members were liberal extremists and not patriotic enough. Mavis Knight was a great questioner of the radical right-wingers, especially of Bill Ames, who appeared to me to be a white supremacist. McLeroy, who appointed Ames, yelled at one point “DECORUM!” when Knight was quite justifiably saying naughty things about Ames. My favorite incident, however, was when Lawrence Allen asked Ames if he could name any African-Americans of the “1700’s or 1800’s.” Ames thought for a few seconds and then mentioned Thurgood Marshall! Allen said “no, that was in 1950” and asked him again, but Ames obviously was ignorant about the contribution of specific Blacks to early American history. Even David Barton did better than that!

    Come out in January and tell the radical right SBOE members what you think. Stand right up to the extremists on the Board and in so many nice words tell them what you think about their pseudoscholarly and anti-intellectual beliefs and policies. You won’t change their minds, of course, but you will feel better about yourself when you watch them eviscerate the good social studies standards written by educated and experience teachers and substitute their own bizarre, absurd, and right-wing agenda-driven beliefs in the standards. If they get eight votes, they can put in anything they want, no matter how crazy it is. When Mercer says he wants Texas to keep control of its education standards (only Texas and South Carolina have refused to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative–see http://www.corestandards.org/), he means he wants our standards to reflect his wacko, radical beliefs that ignore history and reality. He wants Texas kids to be educated in his own image: an empty-headed, slogan-spouting, believe-in-anything-if-its-crazy-enough ignorance purveyor.

  4. Hi Steve. Yes, I stayed up for all of it too. If I lived in Texas, the thing that would have POed me the most was how suddenly they decided to have this hearing, apparently without announcing it ahead of time. Then they saved scoial studies until the very last after a grueling day of testimony on other subjects. I must have watched this thing play out for 8-10 hours before getting to social studies, and social studies actually came up with a couple of speakers earlier in the day. Then, by the time social studies “really for real” came up, I was almost too tired to care. It went late, and I doubt the people of Texas would have stayed up for it. I guess you and I did because of our graduate school days where we learned how to stay up and burn the midnight oil.

    Therefore, because it occurred to me several times throughout the day, I am going to make a Charles accusation. After seeing how yesterday played out, I believe that the conservatives on the SBOE deliberately “GAMED THE DAY” to side-step the spirit of any Texas sunshine laws that might apply to their proceedings such that:

    1) Organizations such as TFN would have little to no notice time to arrange to speak.

    2) The right wing ideologues would get enough full notice time that they would be sure to show up in droves to speak—thus stacking the speaker deck and stacking it high to boot.

    3) The social studies discussion was theoretically set for mid-afternoon, but they intentionally gamed the agenda schedule so many other subjects in front of it would wear people out and make them uninclined to “stay with” the proceedings until they could get to social studies.

    4) Social studies was gamed to go late to discourage public viewing.

    5) If this had played out in my state, someone’s head would be delivered on a platter the next day. But I guess this kind of BS is what makes Texas special.

  5. But did you notice that only Chavez’ remarks made it into the day’s news cycle? Miller was far more shrewd…

  6. Just went in and listened to Dr. Haines… it’s really a shame that there was no one on the SBOE able or willing to challenge all that mumbo-jumbo.