Live-Blogging the Social Studies Debate III

by TFN

A video Web cast of today’s Texas State Board of Education hearing is available here.

9:42 – The Texas State Board of Education is resuming its debate and consideration of amendments for social studies curriculum standards. They will focus on high school courses today.

9:44 – It looks like they’ll begin with high school U.S. history this morning. The high school course covers 1877 to the present.

9:47 – Don McLeroy wants to students to learn that the destruction of New Orleans a few years ago wasn’t caused by Hurricane Katrina but by the failure of the levy system. (In other words, it was government’s fault.)

9:54 – We’re getting a preview of the proposed amendments for the high school U.S. history course. Lots of nonsense. We’ll point that out as we move along.

10:07 – McLeroy wants to change the description of U.S. acquisition of new overseas territories in the late 1800s and early 1900s as “expansionism” instead of “imperialism.” The board’s far-right faction has bristled at the idea that the United States engaged in a form of imperialism at one time. But the historical record is pretty clear: we obtained a number of overseas territories and held on to them through the wars (such as in the Philippines). Recognizing this fact isn’t “anti-American.” It’s real history.

10:09 – Pat Hardy is angry that McLeroy wants to remove a reference to propaganda as contributing to U.S. entry into World War I and warns: “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” We share Hardy’s frustration at the ignorance on display here. It’s appalling.

10:10 – McLeroy debates whether Margaret Sanger should be in the standards. Board member Terri Leo worries that students might learn she had a positive impact on American society. Really. The board votes to exclude Sanger.

10:27 – McLeroy doesn’t want students to learn about the “Red Scare” after World War I. Amazing. This is blatant censorship. McLeroy withdraws his suggestion after opposition from Pat Hardy.

10:35 – Pat Hardy’s growing frustration is easy to hear every time she speaks. (She later says that board members on the right are almost making her look anti-American because she’s opposing McLeroy’s absurd amendments. She notes that her opposition is to bad history. Indeed.)

10:40 – McLeroy offers an amendment that drops “opportunities and obstacles for women and ethnic minorities” from a standard about the home front and patriotism in World War II (although he adds the Tuskegee airmen). Big push back from Bob Craig and Mary Helen Berlanga. McLeroy relents and suggests putting “opportunities and obstacles for women and ethnic minorities” back in.

10:54 – The board is taking a short break to regroup. We’d prefer that they simply go home.

11:18 – Here goes McLeroy, suggesting that Joseph McCarthy has been vindicated. In a standard on McCarthyism, he proposes to require that students learn “how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U. S. government.” His justification: “Leftists historians bias history by ignoring that government was infiltrated with communists during the McCarthy era.” As we have noted in the past, the Venona Papers did not vindicate McCarthy and McCarthyism, as McLeroy’s amendment implies. McLeroy’s amendment is adopted.

11:23 – McLeroy says he will hold off on major revisions to the standards about the civil rights era until the board’s March meeting. But we have those proposed amendments and will post them later. They take this nonsense to absurd levels.

11:25 – McLeroy wants students to learn about “Reagan’s leadership in restoring national confidence,” with Reaganomics and his foreign policy (“Peace Through Strength”) as required examples. Will students learn about the massive budget deficits that Reaganomics saddled the country with? You know the answer to that.

11:28 – McLeroy proposes this standard: “Describe the causes, and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association.” His justification: “These standards are rife with leftist political periods and events: the populists, the progressives, the new deal, and the great society. Including materials about the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s provides some political balance to the document.” Barbara Cargill: “There were other time periods that were more liberal dominated,” so the standards should address conservative dominance in the 1980s. The amendment passes. Appalling.

11:38 – McLeroy wants students to learn about the “Klondike gold rush.” Pat Hardy asks: When was that? McLeroy: “Don’t know.” Amendment fails on a tie vote. (Lowe, as chair, is not voting on these amendments.)

11:45 – McLeroy wants students to learn the effects of governmental actions on “Fifth Amendment property rights.” This is in a standard that follows a discussion of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act. It passes.

11:54 – The board’s far-right faction has won many votes but is obviously frustrated that a few proposals have gone down on a tie vote. They want the board chair, Lowe, to vote, but she declines to do so.

12:01 – In a standard on the economic effects of World War II on the home front, McLeroy wants to delete a reference to effects on women and minorities and simply note additional opportunities. (The point of the standard, of course, was that the war brought economic advantages to previously disadvantaged people.) McLeroy withdraws his amendment after hearing opposition.

12:06 – Instead of having students learn about how the role of government change during times of significant events, such as World War I, the Great Depression and 9/11, McLeroy wants students to study constitutional issues that arose as a result of government policies that changed because of those events. He argues that government changes limited constitutional rights. He withdraws the amendment for further revisions.

12:09 – McLeroy wants students to debate the pros and cons of U.S. participation in international organizations and treaties. The amendment passes.

12:12 – McLeroy wants to add the following standard: “Evaluate Constitutional ‘change’ in terms of strict constructionalism versus judicial interpretation.” Bob Craig: You’re getting into a constitutional law course here that is beyond the scope of high school. Amendment passes.

12:15 – McLeroy offers the following amendment but asks that the board delay a vote on it until March:

(22) Citizenship. The student understands the concept of American exceptionalism; the idea that the United States and its people differ from other nations. The student is expected to:

(A) describe United States citizens as an association of people who came from numerous places throughout the world but who hold a common bond in standing for certain self-evident truths, like freedom, inalienable natural and human rights, democracy, republicanism, the rule of law, civil liberty, civic virtue, the common good, fair play, private property, and Constitutional government.

(B) describe how United States citizens have different states of mind, different surroundings, and different political cultures than other nations.

(C) describe how citizens pursue the American dream and the slow yet continuous journey of the people of the United States, sharing a nation and a destiny, to build a more perfect union, to live up to the dreams, hopes, and ideas of its founders, so that “these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this Earth.”

His justification: “The concept of American Exceptionalism was first documented by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1830s book, Democracy in America. The United States is an exceptional nation. Most Americans would not regard that as a controversial statement. And there is a good reason for that: it is true. The U.S. is the world’s oldest and most stable capitalist liberal democracy, older even than Great Britain, which did not become a mass democracy until the late nineteenth century.”

12:16 – McLeroy wants to add a laundry list of conservative names to a standard on the contributions of significant political and social leaders. The list already included conservatives such as Barry Goldwater and Phyllis Schlafly (as well as liberals such as Hillary Clinton and Thurgood Marshall, among others). He wants to strike Schlafly and add Jeane Kirkpatrick, William F. Buckley and Newt Gingrich. Rick Agosto wants to add the late Ted Kennedy. Republicans object to Kennedy’s inclusion. Kennedy doesn’t get in. Mavis Knight suggests “the Kennedy family.” While we don’t necessarily oppose including the Kennedy family, this whole debate (including the effort to add Buckley, Kirkpatrick and Gingrich) has become a prime example of how the board is more interested in promoting personal political biases rather than good education standards. In any case, the board votes against including the Kennedy family. And then McLeroy’s original amendment fails on a tie vote.

12:34 – McLeroy moves to replace “hip hop” and with “country and western music” in a standard about “the impact of significant examples of cultural movements in art, music, and literature on American society.” Lawrence Allen asks whether McLeroy even knows what hip hop is. Rick Agosto backs up Allen’s comments. And now we’re hearing a debate over the positive and negative effects of hip hop.

12:42 – Barbara Cargill: Hip hop = gangsta rap, so leave it out.

12:45 – Terri Leo: Hip hop has a negative impact on students: “I’m sorry. It’s degrading.”

We can see the right’s campaign now if hip hop stays in — fliers and ads about liberals pushing for students to learn about drugs, rape and cop-killing in music. You just know that’s where things will go.

12:47 – Lawrence Allen reminds board members that rock and roll was considered “satanic” by some people at one time. (Heck. Some still think that.)

12:49 – The amendment to strip out hip hop fails on a tie vote. Bob Craig votes to simply add country and western music. That motion passes.

12:50 – McLeroy moves to change the following standard: “explain actions taken by people from racial, ethnic, gender, and religious groups to expand economic opportunities and political rights in American society.” He wants to strip out “from racial, ethnic, gender, and religious groups.” He calls the inclusion of those categories “redundant.” This changes the meaning of the standard entirely. McLeroy has argued in the past that “majorities” give rights to minorities. The point of the standard is how disadvantaged groups worked themselves for equal rights. The amendment passes.

12:55 – McLeroy moves to change this standard: “explain how the contributions of people of various racial, ethnic, gender, and religious groups shape American culture.” He wants to remove “various racial, ethnic, gender and religious groups.” He argues that the standard is in a section talking about the contributions of “various groups” of people and suggests listing categories is “redundant.” Mavis Knight: “It’s not redundant to me.” “You are sanitizing the difficulties people from these groups have had to overcome” to win equal rights. Mary Helen Berlanga also speaks strongly against the motion.

1:02 – The board’s Republicans support the amendment. Barbara Cargill worries aloud about standards that don’t emphasize the unity of our country. Mavis Knight (who is African-American) is visibly and audibly angry. This proposed amendment may be one of the most emotionally divisive so far for board members. Knight stops to compose herself in mid-sentence.

1:05 – Republican Bob Craig appears to oppose McLeroy’s amendment. And the amendment fails to pass.

1:08 – McLeroy says he will offer amendments on science (oh dear) at a later time and then offers this amendment: “discuss the meaning and historical significance of the mottos E pluribus unum and In God We Trust.” It passes.

1:09 – It’s important to note here that the board’s far-right faction has been voting almost entirely as a bloc. Deciding votes have tended to be cast by Republicans Bob Craig, Pat Hardy and, to a lesser extent, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, none of whom are part of the far-right faction.

1:15 – Mary Helen wanted students to learn about a variety of Latino civil rights groups, but that motion fails.

1:21 – Dunbar wants to delete Clarence Darrow (she says the attorney from the Scopes trial “tends to be a very controversial person”) and Marcus Garvey from a standard on significant people from the 1920s. She says she wants to limit the number of controversial figures. She says Garvey was deported and that there are better examples of people students should learn about. Bob Craig, as usual, introduces common sense to the discussion: they were significant figures, regardless of their backgrounds (or, we might suggest, controversy about their positions on issues). Dunbar’s motion fails (although the far-right faction votes again as a bloc, this time in favor of the Dunbar amendment).

1:31 – Dunbar moves to make discussions of landmark court decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Topeka Board of Education not required to be taught so that teachers have the ability to pull in other “landmark” cases they might otherwise not have time for in the classroom. Like what? She suggests Wisconsin v. Yoder, a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case that found that Amish children could not be placed under compulsory education past 8th grade because such a requirement violated their parents’ freedom of religion. In any case, Dunbar’s amendment fails.

1:35 – Rick Agosto wants to list Sonia Sotomayor in the standards. Dunbar counters by moving that Benjamin Cardozo be listed instead, saying that he was the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Cardozo, appointed by President Hoover, was of Portuguese descent. Dunbar argues that Sotomayor hasn’t done anything of significance yet. Dunbar eventually withdraws her motion. But Terri Leo speaks out against listing Sotomayor. She thinks Clarence Thomas would be better (but doesn’t offer that as an amendment). The motion to add Sotomayor fails.

1:45 – Betty Friedan gets cut from a standard on the Civil Rights movement. Then the board breaks until 2:10.

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