Today’s State Board of Education hearing on proposed new social studies standards for Texas public schools was long and often exhausting. (Scroll down to find our blog posts from the hearing.) But we noted some important progress for ensuring that our schoolchildren get an honest and sound education.
In particular, David Barton and Peter Marshall were in full retreat from their calls over the summer to remove Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall from the social studies standards. When questioned today by state board members, the two claimed they had never really wanted to blacklist the two famous civil rights leaders. Oh no, they simply thought that Chavez and Marshall had been misplaced in the standards. By suggesting that discussion of Chavez be moved elsewhere, for example, Barton even claimed he was trying to make room for more minorities. Marshall protested that he had only wanted to make sure that the two were discussed in their proper context.
All of that was misleading, of course. This is what Barton had said about Chavez last June:
“(Chavez’s) open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is a praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone ‘who modeled active participation in the democratic process.’”
Peter Marshall had said much the same:
“Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”
He had also argued in June that Thurgood Marshall wasn’t “a strong enough example” of an important historical figure to be included in the standards.
So what happened? After TFN exposed those absurd comments this summer, newspapers, elected officials, educators, civil rights groups and parents were vocal and loud in opposing efforts to censor instruction about Chavez and Marshall. Barton and Peter Marshall obviously felt the heat and backed down. In fact, Barton today ended up offering an extensive list of minorities he thought should be included in the standards (even though he has argued in the past that “multicultural” standards too often crowd out instruction on important American heroes and historical figures from the past).
But while we made some progress today on one front in the far-right’s curriculum “culture war,” the board’s far-right faction continued to pressure curriculum teams to rewrite the history of the relationship between religion and government in the United States. They insisted that the teams include standards suggesting that our nation and government were founded on conservative Christian biblical principles. Those efforts to distort history — and undermine important protections for religious freedom in our country — are likely to continue until the final vote on new curriculum standards in March.