Lawmakers to Texas Ed Board: It’s Time to Talk

Today Texas lawmakers picked up a bigger megaphone to get the attention of a bitterly divided, out-of-control State Board of Education. At a Capitol press conference, members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) announced that they are scheduling a public hearing for April 28 to examine how and why the state board has run off the tracks and what the Texas Legislature should do about it.

Calling the board a “national circus,” MALC Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer (photo), a Democratic state representative from San Antonio, said the hearing will focus on the board’s badly broken process for developing curriculum standards and adopting textbooks. The hearing will also look at the highly controversial decisions the board has made in the development of new social studies standards this year.

The announcement comes after two state board meetings in which board members vandalized nearly a year’s worth of work by classroom teachers, scholars and others in drafting new social studies curriculum standards. The result has been a series of absurd changes that have turned a curriculum document almost into a political manifesto promoting ideological agendas of the board’s powerful far-right faction.

On March 11, for example, the board deleted Thomas Jefferson, who argued that “a wall of separation between church and state” is essential to liberty, from a world history standard on important Enlightenment thinkers. The board’s religious-righters, rejecting the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, also rejected a proposed government standard requiring students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”

The board has also decreed that “capitalism” is a negative word, requiring that classrooms use “free enterprise system” instead; removed references to “democracy” in discussing the American form of government, insisting that the term used in classrooms be “constitutional republic”; deleted other references to individuals, such as Dolores Huerta, because of their political beliefs; and even changed a standard to suggest that Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunts in the 1950s were justified. (See a list of some of the worst changes here.)

Martinez Fischer was particularly critical of the board’s lack of respect for classroom teachers and scholarly experts. He noted that board members with no academic credentials are making curriculum decisions based on what limited knowledge they possess or can readily find on their own.

“Nationally renowned experts are being replaced by what you can find on Wikipedia and the Internet,” he said, joking that board members at meetings have seemed engaged in a contest to see who can most quickly Google information from their laptops when debating the standards. At its January meeting, in fact, the board deleted from the third-grade standards a reference to the late author of a popular children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Based on an Internet search, one member confused the author’s name with that of another man who wrote a book about Marxism — so out he went. An embarrassed board added the author back to the standards in March. (Martinez Fischer held up a mock book covers that read State Board, State Board, What’s Wrong with Thee? and State Board, State Board, Let Me Be.)

The public hearing will be open to other House and Senate members from both major political parties who want to come, Martinez Fischer said. MALC sent a letter today inviting Gail Lowe, the state board’s chairwoman, to testify and answer questions from lawmakers at the hearing. MALC is also inviting scholars and other experts to speak.

In response to similar controversies, the Legislature in 1995 limited the state board’s ability to edit textbook content. Martinez Fischer reminded reporters that state lawmakers considered a number of bills in the 2009 legislative session that would have further limited the power of the board. In addition, the Legislature must appropriate funds for the purchase of textbooks written to meet the board’s approved curriculum standards.

Martinez Fischer was joined at the press conference by state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Corpus Christi, and two historians from the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University-San Marcos.

13 thoughts on “Lawmakers to Texas Ed Board: It’s Time to Talk

  1. Although my first reaction is one of revulsion and disgust for the SBOE, I pity them more than I do anything else. Why pity? Because of the stinted minds that do not let them look at anything that is not in the world’s worst version of the bible, the KJV. It is, like the SBOE, filled with errors and deliberate mistranslations. Example: They took the Greek “pesach” and violently twisted it to say Easter. Now the Greek is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew word Pesach or Passover. Why call it Easter? To bring in pagans who still celebrated the fertility rites, worshiping the goddess, Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. Don’t take my word for it; it’s readily available on or off line.

    That explains why bunny rabbits can squirt out eggs in dazzling colors. RABBITS GIVE LIVE BIRTH, or hasn’t anyone noticed? All of the symbols of Ishtar are fertility symbols and have zilch to do with Christianity.

    The SBOE is anti-Constitution. They don’t like a part of it, just delete it and hope that some smart kid reads it. Most people today do not realize that the Constitution of the United States trumps all state laws that disagree with it. It is the SUPREME law of the land.

    The ignorant Congresscritters are attempting to “repeal” the healthcare reform bill. YO! LISTEN UP, IT ISN’T A BILL, IT IS THE LAW OF THE LAND. As a LAW it can’t be redone; it is not a do-over. Where is that written? Article 6, Paragraph 2. Go read it and weep.

    I just pray that the SBOE will be stopped in their tracks and their work of evil will be undone before it is all over.

  2. –“Nationally renowned experts are being replaced by what you can find on Wikipedia and the Internet,” he said…–

    Sh*t, if they even read what was on Wikipedia they’d be much more knowledgeable than they actually are.

  3. Hopefully, perhaps, the need to abolish the dysfunctional Texas SBOE will receive due consideration.

  4. Good for them! Hopefully they can remove these clowns off the SBOE and reintroduce good science/social studies materials.

  5. Have any of you looked at the Texas Republican Party Platform lately? Those Republicans are doing EXACTLY what their platform said. I tried to warn Democrats in January and February when I was running for the SBOE Dist. 5 on the Democratic ticket. Even TFN has tried to alert Texans about them. The Republican Party of today is not the same party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt. They could not even get elected to any Republican office today. It could be a blessing in disguise. Maybe all Democrats will be waken up by the SBOE and Texas can become Democratic again. My slogan was “TAKE TEXAS BACK, PUT HER BACK ON TRACK, VOTE DEMOCRAT, OR PEOPLE LIKE BUSH WILL BE BACK!!

  6. It’s about time they did something. I guess they fear a mass exodus from the public school system. Isn’t federal funding based on the schools population of students? Too bad they had to wait until Texas became the laughingstock of the whole world before they decided to take action.

  7. @ Beverly Kurtin: When you write about the Bible and mistranslations, you echo points I’ve been making for months here, much to the chagrin of readers. For example, the word ‘almah’ is deliberately mistranslated as ‘virgin’ when, in reality, it means ‘young woman.’ (The Hebrew word for ‘virgin’ is ‘betulah.’) Why did the missionaries mistranslate ‘almah’? To make Christianity as palatable as possible to the pagan gentile world. When Jews were rejecting Christianity en masse, the Jewish/Christian apostles and missionaries were forced to sell the new faith to the only other available audience: gentiles. The pagan gentile world was chock full of trinities and gods mating with human women to create man/god saviors. Such concepts are utterly alien to Judaism. But the Holy Trinity fit right in with already embedded ideas, and Christianity took off like wildfire in the gentile world.

    @ Gordon Fowkes: What left-wing seditionists? In fact, it is the right-wing militias and fruitcakes who are talking about overthrowing the U.S. government. Crazy Hooteries* (if that’s how it’s spelled) wanted to spark a revolution to overthrow the U.S. government. Secessionist whispers in Texas for Texas’ secession have grown louder and more publicly acceptable, and this too is coming from the Wrong – er, Right. The Right is also organizing a March On Washington D.C. for April 19. They’ll point to April 19 being the anniversary of the opening shots of the American Revolution but, in their case, it takes a more sinister connotation for me: Isn’t April 19 the anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City? I believe – based on their own talk of “reloading” – that their March On Washington will be more in celebration of Timothy McVeigh than of the Concord Minutemen.

    * Frankly, I think ‘Hooterie’ is a great name for Star Trek-like characters.

  8. The Left wing seditionists of the Sixties are the template for the Right Wing seditionists of today. That applies to thier tactics borrowed directly from the Flower Children. The phoneomenon is well described in Eric Hoffer’s books on True Believers, et al.

    The Brown Shirts (SA) of Berlin were recruited en masse by Joseph Goebbles from the ranks of the Communist Red Front. Those who survived the war, switched back to become the Volks Polizei and Stasi. True Believers don’t have strong beliefs except in the strength of believing.

  9. Gordon, thanks for your answer but I only see a mild connection between the “Left Wing”* seditionists of the Sixties to the Right Wing seditionists of today. For one thing, there were far fewer of them then than the population of today’s Right Wing seditionists. In fact, I can only think of the Weathermen who numbered maybe a couple of dozen.

    * And I’m not sure what you mean by ‘left wing’ when referencing the seditionists of the Sixties. I don’t see where they had any greater love for Government than they had for Business. They were opposed to both so, in that sense, they could be thought of as No Wing.

    As for the Flower Children, they were more interested in dropping out of society than they were in changing it by overthrowing the government. If they knew nothing else, they knew they were too small and powerless for any such grandiose scheme. For one thing, they had little organization and no army, – except for a very small one in the form of Charles Manson’s Family. Also, Flower Children lived on communes – or aspired to – and those communes were a way of getting-away-from-it-all rather than changing-it-all.

    So, from your description, I see little factual evidence to support Eric Hoffer’s ideas, though they are interesting – especially what you said at the end: believing in a belief – whatever that belief may be. Yes, like the tea partiers and their belief in death panels. Though none of them can point to any words in the bill (now law) that references the implementation of death panels, they will go to their graves believing we now have death panels. (Actually we DO have death panels but we’ve had them all along. They are called insurance company denials.)

  10. I am an old fart, and can remember the Sixties because I was from the Fifties. As a student at the University of California at Berkeley (the UC), I was taught the labor theory of value as if it were a part of Samuelson economics. My English Comp professor required us to write essays extolling the virtues of a government controlled market as the free market was irresponsible and too erratic to trust.

    The week before finals, the week everyone blows off steam, blew off steam in San Francisco at the House Committee on Un-American Activities (Rep Nixon in Charge). From that point UC turned away from pranks and apathy to activism, and every thing goes and it went. Sauselito had a former madam as mayor and the porno industry went mainstream. The theme became anti-establishement, being establishment meant out to lunch.

    Tie dyed T-shirts and Acid drop outs united the Flower Children into an anti-war anti-establishment “happening”. Any one daring to represent some form of responsibility was “establishment” and hundreds of thousands of activists crowed the Capitol Mall from street to street and from Lincoln to the Capitol. Spontaneous porta potties appearned wherever the demostrators screaming death to America, and Ho Ho Ho Chih Minh Will Win.

    I was there. I saw it all, After I spent a year in sunny Sooth Vietnam under fire from Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. I found it difficult to stomach the anti-establishment Flower Children waving the flags of those who we were in combat with.

    The years since, I have suffered the indignation of the so-called intellilgentsia rambling on about how “they” had stopped the Vietnam War. Stopping as in Won. This clap trap continues as of this day.

    Sadly, I see the Righteous Right as no different in their arrogance and assurance of absolute truth as did the VC sympathizers of yesteryear. While they seem ignorant, and they are, they are no more vapid that their predescessors of the Left.

    It would be awfully nice in academi standards stuck to the scientific method of testing proposition with validated proofs.

    But that woudn’t be as much fun.

  11. Earth Day pictures of the first “Earth Day” taken of Congressmen showed North Vietnamese Battle flags waving behind them and in front of our national capitol. The association with so called environmental movements of that day were allied in what some called a “rain bow coalition” meaning an aggregate of persons in protect regardless of similarity of proposals.

    Saving the whales was a biggie back then, which generated a few spiffy responses like “Nuke the Whales”. The aggregate of protest rest heavily on anti-nuclear power and nukes in general. The plight of the Artic Polar beas became the fault of Capitalism.

    What these disparate themes, symbols and movements had in common was the suport of Soviet (as in Russian) military and international objectives. They still do. It is the Russian industrial areas in Siberia an d in northern Russian that lie in the watershod of rivers going north into the Arctic, thus hosing the ice cap down by a third in the last thirty years. It is misdirection.

    At the time of the protests, a specific protest was launched against the B-70 super sonic bomber. I was there when the Left was demonstrating against it. This lasted up until the Mig-25 Foxbat interceptor was launched. The B-70 gone, it was used for reconnaissance.

    That the Russian state is now non-communist, it is non the less still Russian. No Russian regime ever gives up a perfectly good spy network nor one trained and adapted to disruption of other peoples countries. As such, we have the aged white haired hippy still plugging along with slogans now adapted to the profit of the Russian energy and defense industries.

    What I find is so distressing is that the Righteous Right is just as fixated psychologically on slogans and sound bites as to churn my stomach.