Live-Blogging the May Social Studies Debate

by TFN

A live video webcast of the Texas State Board of Education debate over proposed new social studies curriculum standards is available here.

9:30 – The State Board of Education is about to begin debate on the proposed social studies curriculum standards. Education Commissioner Robert Scott, an appointee of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, just launched into an attack on the board’s critics. He encouraged the board to dismiss critics and push ahead with the standards. The commissioner also suggested that the board should be careful about delaying final approve of the social studies standards. But why? The board on Tuesday delayed indefinitely a decision to adopt new science textbooks, something originally scheduled for next year. That pushes the adoption of social studies textbooks — which will be based on the new standards — out even further. There’s plenty of time for the board to let teachers and scholars review the scores of changes board members made to the standards in January and March (in addition to those changes that they will make today). These standards will be in place for the next decade. Isn’t it more important to get this right than insist on meeting what is now an unnecessary deadline of final approval tomorrow?

9:49 – The board is working through technical corrections to the standards and revisions from January and March.

10: 40 – The board has finally started the amendment process — beginning with Kindergarten and marching up through each grade level.

10:54 – Board member Pat Hardy has decided to resume tilting windmills, begging her fellow board members to remove just a few of the long list of names the board added to the standards over the last two hearings. She requests that Nathan Hale be removed from the first grade standards after hearing from elementary teachers that Hale’s death-by-hanging is not appropriate for six-year olds. (Hale remains in the fifth grade standards.) Board conservatives — led by Teri Leo — play the patriot card and insist waiting until fifth grade is outrageous. Amendment passes 8-7 with all the social conservatives voting against.

11:06 – David Bradley asks that all amendments be presented in writing. We agree with Mr. Bradley. This would be a great rule for the board to adopt. Would he also support a rule requiring members to present amendments in advance so board members and the public have time to vet them carefully?

12:10 – Consideration of amendments proceeds apace — mostly minor, uncontroversial changes to elementary TEKS.

12:13 – Mary Helen Berlanga offers an amendment returning Delores Huerta — cofounder of United Farm Workers of America — to a list of good citizens in the third grade standards. (Huerta was originally included in the standards here, but the board removed her name in January when social conservatives alleged that she was a socialist and therefore not an appropriate role model for students.)

Berlanga and her colleagues are mounting a passionate defense of Huerta’s historical significance and worthiness to be included in this standard on citizenship. Ken Mercer’s reply — she’s still a socialist.

12:29 – Amendment fails on a 6-9 vote. So Dolores Huerta still does not qualify as a good citizen according to the Texas SBOE’s standards.

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