Even as a conservative education think tank was putting the finishing touches on a report excoriating the Texas State Board of Education for wrecking social studies standards, former board chair Don McLeroy was speaking to a far-right Education Policy Conference in St. Louis (headlined by Ann Coulter) saying:
We have bequeathed a precious legacy to Texas public education. Strong academic standards are now in place that will improve academic achievement, prepare our children for the future and help develop well-informed citizens.
Let’s just say the scholars at the (right-leaning) Fordham Institute disagree:
A popular Lone Star State slogan proclaims ‘Texas: It’s like a whole other country’ — but Texas’s standards are a disservice both to its own teachers and students and to the larger national history of which it remains a part.
But while their conclusions about the rigor and accuracy of the new standards are miles apart, ironically, McLeroy and the reviewers at the Fordham Institute actually agree about quite a few things — principally that the fight over education standards in Texas is a lot more about politics than education. The difference is that while Fordham decries this fact, McLeroy celebrates it:
This battle is ideological; it’s between “the left” and religious conservatives… To get education right, you have to leave “the left” behind; to adopt sound education policy one must overcome the irrational opposition of the left.
And so it goes throughout McLeroy’s gloating speech — what Fordham identifies as blatant departure from mainstream scholarship, McLeroy holds up as victories for conservative ideology. Examples abound.
On the uncritical fetish Texas’ standards have with the free enterprise system, Fordham accuses:
Throughout the Texas standards, dozens of references (even the title of the high school economics course) offer a drumbeat of uncritical celebration of “the free enterprise system and its benefits” — resembling, in an inverted historical echo, Soviet schools harping on the glories of state socialism.
And McLeroy applauds:
The free enterprise system is the dominant economic theme of our new history standards; it is also built upon the radical Judeo-Christian idea that man is created in the image of God. This idea has led to limited government…and to the development of personal responsibility. The free enterprise system makes better people. The free enterprise system rewards hard work, diligence and competence; it punishes laziness, cheating and freeloading.
On the historically problematic attempt to exonerate Joseph McCarthy, Fordham accuses:
It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee—and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets).
And McLeroy is positively gleeful:
We touched the Holy Grail of leftism with this one!
On exaggerating the influence of biblical law and Christianity on America’s political ideals, Fordham accuses:
Members of the SBOE also showed themselves determined to inject their personal religious beliefs into history education. Judeo-Christian (especially “biblical law”) and “Moses” are, incredibly, listed as the principal political influences on America’s founders. The separation of church and state, a much-debated and crucial concept in the drafting of the state constitutions (1777–1781) and the federal Constitution (1787), is simply dismissed.
And McLeroy doubles down:
The source for the moral power on which the foundation of our country is based is the radical Judeo-Christian idea that all men are created in the image of God. Our whole idea of liberty, of the Declaration’s “all men are created equal”, and of the importance of the individual is grounded in this great truth.
But I’ll say this for McLeroy — at least he is honest about his agenda and ideological commitments. When Gail Lowe — the current board chair — is called before the Senate Nominations committee later this spring for her confirmation, don’t expect her to be so forthcoming.
You can read McLeroy’s full presentation here. (His presentation goes beyond social studies. He also gloats about the great conservative “victories” over mainstream science the board accomplished during his tenure.)