Help Review the Social Studies ‘Experts’

The so-called “expert” reviewers appointed by the Texas State Board of Education have turned over their written reviews of the first drafts of the new social studies curriculum standards. While we work through these reviews, let us know what you think about them, too. The reviews are here. The first drafts are here.

Among the things we have already noticed in the review from Peter Marshall, a right-wing evangelical minister from Massachusetts, are a variety of absurd suggestions and glaring historical inaccuracies:

  • As you will recall, Marshall and David Barton have argued that the current social studies standards include too many minorities that, they say, really didn’t accomplish much. For example, they said Cesar Chavez was a poor role model for students who wasn’t historically significant. Marshall has now backed off his opposition to including Chavez. But who else does he suggest students should learn about? Pedro Flores, considered by many to be the first yo-yo maker in the United States. (Marshall inaccurately describes Flores as the “inventor of the yo-yo.”)
  • Marshall sees no problem with requiring students to learn about “conservative organizations and individuals like Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority. In fact, he suggests adding James Dobson (of Focus on the Family), Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association. Marshall also suggests “liberals organizations” like, the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood — “provided,” he writes, “the students are made aware of Planned Parenthood’s funding of abortion clinics.”
  • Marshall keeps up his efforts to blacklist Anne Hutchison, calling her “a favorite of modern feminists” but “not sufficiently ‘significant.'” In fact, Hutchison was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because she believed women deserved more rights and that individuals had the right to interpret the Bible as they saw fit (something Puritan clergy didn’t like).
  • He continues to insist that students learn religion was a leading influence in colonization and the desire for independence from Britain. We suppose that whole “taxation without representation” thing was just a passing fad, right?
  • Marshall says U.S. conquests and annexations of large swaths of Mexico and Hawaii and our control over the Philippines, Puerto Rico and other territories represented “expansion,” not “imperialism.” “Imperialism,” he writes, is a “pejorative” term that better described what the Europeans did.
  • He says the United States returned to Mexico “more than half” of the terrirory taken during the Mexican-American War, “drawing the border only where we had claimed it to be before the war — the Rio Grande River.” Actually, no. The United States annexed a huge swath of Mexican terrority from the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean. That area includes the entire southwestern United States today.

We should note, by the way, that the issue here isn’t whether American expansion was right or wrong. The issue is why someone who is wrong on basic historical facts is sitting on a panel of so-called “experts.”

We will post more about the other reviews as we work through them. But please post what you find as you read the reviews as well.

6 thoughts on “Help Review the Social Studies ‘Experts’

  1. I read two pages of David Barton’s review of the new TEKS and fled in horror. Clearly, we owe white men a debt of gratitude for all the rights “minorities” have been granted over time. This is probably why we don’t want our kids learning about suffragettes, Caesar Chavez and the like. Progress cannot be credited to them.

  2. Max Blumenthal writes about James Dobson (and I believe Newt Gingrich as well) in his book REPUBLICAN GOMORRAH: INSIDE THE MOVEMENT THAT SHATTERED THE PARTY.

    The question is: What contributions have Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority brought to the greatest number of people? Sure, the Moral Majority has collected a lot of donations but what exactly does it DO? How has Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlafly improved people’s lives? Have they brought a level playing field to the underclass and the disadvantaged? Have they improved public education, public health, etc? To what organizations have they donated their time/money?

    Don’t get me wrong. Gingrich and Schlafly are still alive so they still have a chance to make the world a better place. The question remains: What have they done so far? If they have inspired people to study/work hard, stay in school, then BRAVO. But too many people are inspiring to others, far more than could be listed in a book, so inspiration is just not enough.

  3. Frankly, for all of the money these groups have spent over the years, it appears to me that they have accomplished almost nothing. The political parties who represent them have always been more than happy to take their money and votes—and give them back nothing meaningful in return. They smile, pat them on the back, and say, “We’re with you up in Washington, D.C.” (with their fingers crossed). As Tucker Carlson and others showed us a few years ago, these politicians make fun of the leaders of the Religious Right and their followers at cocktail parties in the D.C. social scene. Among his confidentes, Adolf Hitler was famous for his Rich Little impressions of Benito Mussolini at Berlin cocktail parties in the 1930s and early 1940s. I would guess that it goes something like the same way at the D.C. parties. However, and I think this is important, why do the leaders and followers of the Religious Right follow around and kiss up to these politicians who have (arguably) bilked and betrayed them at every turn. I’d go start my own politcal party rather than put up with being treated like that, but I suppose people like us should be grateful to these right wing politicians for being smart enough to not let our government be taken to the cleaners by the RR.

  4. So far, I’ve read Marshall’s review and “stomached” a few pages of Barton’s review. Putting aside Marshall’s Christian and biblical biases (which, along his “white male” bias was much harder to do with Barton), I was struck by Marshall’s and Barton’s request to clarify that the US is a republic and not a democracy. I give them credit for that one (as I do Dreisbach for promoting it). I scanned the other three reviews and didn’t find it.

    I give the three reviewers credit because the confusion between republic and democracy is still pervasive even amongst educated adults. I admit that I overlooked the distinction for a good portion of my years. I’ve had discussions with people about rights and they are quick to bring up the “majority rules”, which, for the most part, is not how this country operates as a republic.

    Now, I suspect there is a reason for Marshall and Barton (and, perhaps, Dreisbach) to promote these changes that I am too naive to see. I see it as a good thing, as the protection of the rights of the minority are vital and are not subject (or shouldn’t be subject) to the whims of the majority. Perhaps it’s because I see the white male Christian perspective asserting itself as the majority, with everyone else as the minority (including undeclared, evolution-supporting liberals such as myself). Maybe Marshall and Barton perceive the opposite, that white male Christians are the minority whose rights are protected in a republic (or democratic republic) and not necessarily in a democracy.

    Marshall seems to leave well-enough alone with his call for recognition of our republican form of government. Barton, in the first few pages of his review, trashes his own point by constantly referring to rights that were granted to minorities by the “white male” majority. If these rights God-given or natural rights, then they are not granted by the majority; yet, Barton makes it clear that only by the grace of the “white male” majority are these rights available. He is correct as far as describing the mechanics of constitutional law, but he’s being quite hypocritical at the same time about the foundation of those laws, if he truly believed them to be God-given.

    So, while I support the assertion that we’re a republic or democractic republic, I suspect there is an ulterior motive on the parts of Marshall and Barton. Do I have a reasonable basis for my suspicion?

  5. Bryan—just a couple of points:

    On democracy vs. republic, we have had a long national conversation about that, which has been sometimes up, somtimes down, and sometimes just plain hidden and unawares. It was brought home to me by a friend that ran for a state legislative seat here in my state, which is not Texas. My friend said that there are two views here:

    1) Because the average citizen does not have time to read over thousands of pages of information related to an issue, the voter elects a representative to serve as his proxy. It is the proxy’s job to represent the voter by doing the reading on their behalf and to vote on the legislative bill according to what the representative thinks is the right thing to do. If a representative knows that his decision is right (based on his research), but 80 percent of the voters have another view, the responsible thing for the representative to do is vote for what is right rather than for what the ignorant mob wants. This is more of a “republic view” that would probably be appreciated by someone like Alexander Hamilton.

    2) There is also the view that an elected representative is voted into office to execute the will of the voter majority. If the representative (based on his research) believes that the wise thing to do is vote for a bill, but a poll indicates that 80 percent of the voters are against it, then the representative must bend to the will of the majority and vote against the bill—even if he knows that the bill would do more harm than good. This is more of a democracy approach within a republic context of representation. I suppose someone like Thomas Jefferson might like this approach.

    However, I think we have to be a little careful here when we look at words like “majority” in the context of the Religious Right; political representation; and people like Barton, Marshall, and Dreisbach. In my opinion, they see a “majority” as a cultural and societal leveler or deconstructor. For example, let’s pretend that we have 100 people going out to a movie together. A full 60 percent of the people like to eat popcorn during the movie. The other 40 percent want Milk Duds instead. In the Barton, Marhsall, Dreisbach view, it is not all right for 60 people to order popcorn at the concession stand and the other 40 people to order Milk Duds. Instead, because the 60 popcorn people are the majority, this obligates the other 40 people to totally abandon their desire for Milk Duds and order popcorn too—even if they despise popcorn and could not live with its taste if their lives depended on it. However, as you can probably see, this view of “majority” is actually a form of tyranny. Chew on that for a while.