History Profs to SBOE: Please, Just Stop

Warning that the “integrity of the curriuclum revision process has been compromised,” university historians are are circulating an open letter calling on the Texas State Board of Education to postpone final adoption of the new social studies curriculum standards.

The letter asks the state board to allow curriculum teams and academic experts to review hundreds of changes board members made to the standards in January and March and prepare a new standards draft that is “fair, accurate and balanced.” It then calls on the board not to make any revisions to the new draft without “public consultation with classroom teachers and scholars who are experts in the appropriate fields of study.”

The board currently is set to adopt the standards in a final vote on May 21 in Austin. The group of historians at the University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at El Paso behind the project has invited colleagues at colleges and universities from Texas and across the country to sign on to their letter. (Click here.)

The education of Texas schoolchildren should be based on “mainstream scholarship, not on ideological agendas,” the professors write:

“Those of us who teach and conduct research in colleges and universities have grown concerned, however, that social studies curriculum standards in Texas do not meet student needs. We also believe that the Texas State Board of Education has been derelict in its duty to revise the public school curriculum. In short, recent proposals by Board members have undermined the study of the social sciences in our public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of American society.”

State board members essentially shredded draft standards that writing teams made up of classroom teachers and scholars spent much of 2009 researching and writing. In many ways, the board’s changes have turned what should be a curriculum document almost into a political manifesto.

For example, the newly revised standards now downplay the significance of the women’s and civil rights movements, suggest that Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunts in the 1950s were justified and weaken the study of constitutional protections for religious freedom. The board added a requirement that students study the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War. It even removed Thomas Jefferson, who argued that a “wall of separation between church and state” is essential to freedom, from a world history standard on the influence of Enlightenment thinkers who have inspired people around the world in their struggles for freedom. (See a list of some of the board’s worst changes and other decisions here.) Board members made those and scores of other changes based largely on their own limited knowledge (sometimes even conducting Internet searches on their laptops during the meetings). They refused to consult classroom teachers or scholars as they debated and voted on the changes.

Publishers will use the new curriculum standards to write public school textbooks. Under the current schedule, the state board will review proposed new science textbooks in 2011 and new social studies textbooks in 2012. Because of budget constraints, it’s possible those dates might change.

5 thoughts on “History Profs to SBOE: Please, Just Stop

  1. All the SBOE will do is “stand up to the experts” by doing whatever irresponsible thing they already have in mind to do. My fondest hope is that the good professors wil have about 10,000 names on their list by summer so it can be used against the far right SBOE members who are up for election. When people see a list like that, they will know that something is terribly wrong and vote accordingly.

    Message for Gail Lowe:

    “The scriptures do say that “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” However, that only applies if the thing you are doing is right. The thing you and your friends are doing is WRONG. That is precisely why you are not prospering and will not continue to prosper in your crusade.

  2. This isn’t enough. While I applaud the efforts by these academics, there needs to be more said and done. At this point it should be clear to all that all standing members of the TX SBOE should step down. They are clearly incapable of performing their jobs and have instead tried to turn education into religious and right-wing political indoctrination.

    It is time they be shown the door.

  3. “Publishers will use the new curriculum standards to write public school textbooks.”

    Does anyone know where there is a list of these publishers?

  4. Scott. I think there are only about three companies that are the really big publisher dogs in the textbook game. I know one of them is Houghtom Mifflin. I forget the other two off hand.

    I sent all three of them a very nice, balanced, and sensible letter threatening the lives of their first born male children (figuratively speaking of course) if they ever try to sell Texas curriculum-based textbooks in my southern state (which is not Texas). That was done at a special website that has been established SPECIFICALLY for sensible Texans and other people all over the United States to write a complaint letter to all three textbook companies, tell them how they feel about the actions of the Texas SBOE, and emphasize that they will be working to prevent the purchase of Texas curriculum-based textbooks in their various states. It was a great idea that someone had, and I feel certain that the textbook companies are getting an exceptionally frightening earful from all over the nation. People from Bangor to San Diego and Seattle to Miami Beach have heard about the TEXAS SBOE, and they are up in arms to keep it out of their states.

    In addition, I sent another sane, fair, and balanced letter to my own state board of education and threatened to lead a scientific and media jihad (figuratively speaking) if they ever tried to adopt Texas curriculum-based textbooks in my state. It pays to be a scientist in my state because people will listen to you when they know what you do for a living and where. They must have taken my letter very seriously because I got falling-all-over-themselves replies from many different state education officials and their legal counsel. What did they say? All of the letters. Each and every one? I’ll give you a quick summary.

    I want Don McLeroy, Cynthia Dunbar, Gail Lowe, Ken Mercer, Terri Leo, and the whole far right crowd on the Texas SBOE to know what the high officials at my state board of education said. I did not lead them on. They volunteered this of their own volition. They told me that they were well aware of the actions taken by the Texas SBOE and that they were absolutely APPALLED by it. They went on further to assure me in no uncertain terms that their textbook adoption process and other state education plans and rules that they have in place will prevent Texas curriculum-based textbooks from being adopted in my state. In other words, completely apart from me, the state education officials in my state and their legal counsel had already concluded on their own that the Texas SBOE is just plain NUTS—and we are not going to jump off an education cliff here im my state just because they are in Texas.

    And I live in a heavily Republican red state that is arguably even redder than Texas. I just thought the members of the Texas SBOE and the general citizens of Texas should be aware of this.

  5. Don’t tar the entire SBOE with the same brush. There are five Democrats on the board who are doing their best to fight the 2/3 majority of Republican extremists. Those Democrats should be retained and given more Democrats to help them fight the religious right board members.

    The Republicans are doing their best to dumb down our young people, essentially ensuring that young Texans will be at a disadvantage when they graduate and seek higher education and pursue career choices. And they’re using taxpayer money to promote their ignorance and religious bias.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that these professional educators are successful in their efforts to put a stop to the right wing insanity. I’m not an educator, but if I were, I’d sign on in a hurry.