Live-Blogging the Social Studies Debate

by TFN

3:27 – The Texas State Board of Education is beginning its discussion and debate on new social studies curriculum standards.

3:47 – Oh, this is gonna be a lonnnggg afternoon…

3:53 – Board member Barbara Cargill has offered a variety of relatively minor amendments.

3:54 – To save our fingers, we’ll probably avoid recapping each amendment offered by board members unless it appears particularly significant or we’re bored. Or both.

3:55 – Board member Terri Leo wants kindergartners to learn how Christopher Columbus and John Smith helped shape Texas and America. The current standard lists just Stephen F. Austin and George Washington.

4:03 – Board member Mary Helen Berlanga wants students to learn about Jose Antonio Navarro. We expect this will be the first of a number of additions of Hispanic names to the standards at Ms. Berlanga’s request. The motion passes.

4:06 – Barbara Cargill wants first-graders to learn about Richard Allen, an African-American minister who lived from 1760 to 1831. The motion passes.

4:09 – Cargill wants to change a definition of good citizenship for first-graders that includes “responsibility for the common good” to say “responsibility in their daily lives.” Seems odd. What’s wrong with the common good? She also wants the definition to include “holding public officials to their word.” The latter suggestion is bringing debate, with some board members worried things are getting far to specific. One board member: How is a first-grader going to hold a candidate to his or her word? (None of the folks making objections to Cargill’s motion object to holding public officials to their word. They do seem to be concerned that board members are going to burden the standards with scores of small, specific changes.)

4:17 – We’re sorry. But is this the level of detail we really need in curriculum standards? Does anyone think public officials shouldn’t be held to their word? But is it necessary to add to first-grade standards? Really? We don’t object to the addition. But this is another example of board members who are so mired in minutiae they they lose focus on the big picture. If this is the level of debate we can expect this evening, then someone needs to roll in cots for rest periods.

4:26 – By the way, Cynthia Dunbar is missing again today. Very odd that the super-patriot is missing from a debate over social studies curriculum standards.

4:28 – Terri Leo wants to strike a first-grade standard about folktales and legends “such as Aesop’s fables.”  Here’s the standard: “explain the way folktales and legends such as Aesop’s fables reflect beliefs, customs, language, and traditions of communities.” Some board members object to deleting this. Leo says students will learn about folktales and legends in a later grade. Not sure what her problem is.

4:34 – We can’t resist: Why the “war on Aesop’s fables”?

4:35 – Leo’s amendment fails. Aesop’s fables win! (This is so silly.)

4:37 – On to second grade. Board member Bob Craig wants to know why Barbara Cargill wants to drop “justice” and “equality” from the characteristics of “good citizenship.” Cargill says both are an outcome, not a characteristic. Uh huh. Right. Craig isn’t buying it.

4:40 – “Equality” stays in.

4:43 – Regarding Dunbar’s absence again today, which is a little surprising. You might recall that she wrote a book — “One Nation Under God” — all about the importance of getting religion back in school classrooms. You would think she would be leading the charge today to sanctify the social studies curriculum.

4:46 – Observation: Suggested amendments are coming primarily from the board’s far-right faction.

4:49 – Board member Pat Hardy is objecting to a number of amendments, noting that many are simply not grade-appropriate.

4:51 – Board member Don McLeroy wants second-graders to learn about W.E.B. DuBois. McLeroy says he never knew who DuBois was until he was approached by a woman who educated about him about the cvil rights leader. The motion carries.

4:57 – On to Grade 3.

5:00 – Terri Leo wants to add four military chaplains to a standard on heroes third-graders would learn about. Check out a Web site about the chaplains. David Barton — one of the so-called “expert” reviewers — wanted this addition. The motion passes.

5:14 – Board members continue to add names to the standards, drawing objections from Pat Hardy that the laundry list of names is getting too long. She makes a good point, but it’s hardly slowing down other board members. (Note: Hardy actually has experience in the classroom and is a curriculum specialist in a Texas school district.)

5:35 – More names added, but Henry Cisneros doesn’t make the cut for fourth grade.

5:56 – Terri Leo wants to delete a standard referring to economic motivations for the settlement of Texas. Leo thinks students will think economic motivations are the only reason Europeans colonized the Americas. This is absurd. David Barton pushed this argument, saying that religion and other motivations were also important. In fact, those other motivations are included in the standards.

6:24 – This is a dreadful way to make education policy.

6:30 – Board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller moves to delete Dolores Huerta from a Grade 3 standard on good citizenship. Miller argues that she should be deleted from the standard because she was a socialist. The motion carries.

6:46 – Terri Leo wants to add “religious revivals” to a list of “causes and effects prior to and during the American Revolution.” The motion failed.

7:12 – Barbara Cargill wanted Thomas Paine listed in Grade 5 as an important patriot hero. We wonder if she’s read this line in Wikipedia: “Only six people attended (Paine’s) funeral as he had been ostracized for his criticisms and ridicule of Christianity.” (Source)

7:17 – The board approves a Cargill motion to require that students memorize the names of the 50 state capitals. (The republic is saved.)

7:20 – The board is taking a dinner break and will reconvene at 8:30. We will resume blogging at that time.

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