‘Overrepresentation of Minorities’

Another early hint of trouble brewing in the Texas State Board of Education‘s revision of social studies curriculum standards: attacks on minority contributions to American history and society. And once again Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, is right in the middle of the brouhaha.

McLeroy’s appointee to the social studies writing team (the work group made up teachers and others who prepare the first draft of curriculum standards) is a man named Bill Ames. Mr. Ames claims to be serving on the team merely as  a citizen and a taxpayer, but  elsewhere he has identified himself as a “textbook reviewer” for Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right Texas Eagle Forum. And he certainly sounded like an Eagle Forum mouthpiece at a public meeting of the board’s Committee on Instruction last month. Mr. Ames complained about “multiculturalism” and what he called an “overrepresentation of minorities” in social studies curriculum standards. Responding to a question from SBOE member Lawrence Allen, D-Houston, about what a “fair representation” of multicultural content would be, Mr. Ames responded:

That, sir, my friend, is why I contend that there is an overrepresentation of minority content. And that’s all TEKS driven. The specific TEKS say ‘the problems of women,’ ‘the problems of immigrants,’ ‘the problems of minorities.’ There is nothing in the current TEKS that talks about celebrating America’s positive successes.

State Board of Education – Committee on Instruction (April 22, 2009)
TEA audio archive, approx. 3:28:55

Mr. Allen, who is African American, responded to this nonsense better than we can (and showed remarkable restraint in doing so):

Whenever you sit in a situation like this and you recognize that you come from an ethnic group that had no representation, and that most of the accomplishments by those of your ethnic group were discarded as if they never even occurred… when you begin to infuse some of the information that comes from the ethnic group that you represent, and then it’s titled as “overrepresentation” — that affects me on a personal basis…That’s why I was trying to see what a fair representation would look like.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Nominations Committee hearing last month, Chairman McLeroy warned that the social studies curriculum debate had the potential to be even more contentious than previous curriculum debates. Looks like he’s doing his part to make good on that.

18 thoughts on “‘Overrepresentation of Minorities’

  1. Let the SBOE dig their hole wide and deep.

    They will surely insult everyone that isn’t evangelical anglo-saxon protestant.

    And when they self destruct, the hole they dug for themselves can serve as their own gravesite.

  2. Bill Ames may be the jerk y’all claim him to be but what Mr. Ames ought to have replied to Mr. Allen is that he (and certainly I) has no problem with discussing “‘the problems of women,’ ‘the problems of immigrants,’ ‘the problems of minorities.’ “However, if indeed there is no discussion of “America’s positive successes”, then there is a problem. All segments of American society should be in TEKS including the good stuff and the bad stuff. America has made some major mistakes in our history (slavery, attempted genocide of Native Americans, lack of sufferage for women, etc) but we also have had some major successes and those should be mentioned. If they are, that should have been Mr. Allen’s rebuttal. This article also should have quoted Mr. Ames response. The Eagle Forum needs to be more fair-minded but so does TFN.

    1. Mark,
      No one objects to discussions of American successes throughout the social studies curriculum. The curriculum should include such discussions, it does so now, and it will do so in the future. But the right has long had objections to discussions of negative issues in American history. We recall, for example, an objection someone made back in 1993 or 1994 to history textbook discussions about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “After all,” she told the board, “they got three square meals a day!”

  3. TFN brings to the forefront the good, bad and ugly of what is occurring in Texas education today. Much of what they report demonstrates how truly ludicrous and shallow many TEA and SBOE members’ philosophies are. I find this understandable, but not excusable, as their constituencies are similarly, or less-educated on the average than the members themselves. (Most SBOE members have college degrees; about half have progressed to masters or other ‘advanced’ studies. None has a PhD; none has an advanced degree in a hard-core science. ) Given their backgrounds I expect they do not read widely and suspect that they do not have the tools to be afforded a deep comprehension of any scientific discipline. They are not to blame, and an ignorant public cannot be held to blame. And whom we blame makes no difference to our children who are the real butt of the consequences. Fortunately a few smart ones will excel..some will even be the exceptional Texan. The rest can leave their heads in the sand as the world flees by, continue to elect the lesser-qualified SBOE candidate, and re-live today’s problems with their own children.

  4. Mark B. Why don’t you know? God himself created the United States of American to be the second Israel to replace the old Israel that God was mad at—you know the one—the one that Jesus said its house had been left to them desolate. We are the ones that God favors now above all others—that is as long as we does right and don’t makes him mad by using condoms. If you will recall, this nation was originally established by white people protestants from the British Isles. So, as you can see, from the very beginning this was OUR country and no one elses—and it will be again. The negra peoples came here only because we made them. We would like for them to go back where they came from and quit ruining our restaurants—not to mention our White House, which has now become the Black House. American Indians? They might have been here first, but they were heathens who worshipped not the Lord. Therefore, they deserved to die, and we got most of them too. We keep the few that’s left in federal prisons called reservations. Poles? They is mostly Catholics. God hates Catholics like them and the Irish. All them Jews and Catholics that came over here on a late boat from central and eastern Europe. They and their offspring are not real Americans—not really. And no matter what you heathens say, George Washington did cut down that cherry tree. My teacher taught me that back in 1963, and I have remembered it ever since. I just do not understand why all these sugary little liberals is a trying to rewrite American history and lie to me about how Mr. Washington did not throw that silver dollar across the Potomoc when he was a little boy? Never mind that there was no such thing as a silver dollar when he was a boy.

    This is who we are dealing with folks. Jesus help us, and I do not say that lightly or in vain.

  5. I feel sorry for you Charles. So full of hate. So full of ignorance. So full of bigotry. You need help.

  6. TEKS-driven overrepresentation of minorities and women in the Texas public school social studies curriculum, as well as portraying American history in a negative light, should be no secret to anyone who takes the time to understand TEKS document content and the resulting curriculum and textbook content.

    As a volunteer textbook reviewer during the 2002 SBOE textbook review cycle, I reviewed, among other books, the review copy of the Glencoe/McGraw-Hill textbook, The American Republic since 1877.

    In this book, the TEKS requirement to discuss problems of women, minorities, labor, and immigrants clearly trumps any discussion of America’s achievements, for which there is no requirement in the current TEKS. Such emphasis results in a negative bias of American history.

    An example of what results was the portrayal of the building of the Erie Canal: As an exploitation of labor, rather than being America’s foremost technological achievement up to that time.

    In the aviation section of the book, African American female pilot Bessie Coleman and female Amelia Earhart were given significant photo and text coverage. Only one line of text was devoted to Charles Lindbergh. The story of the Wright brothers first powered flight was omitted from the book.

    The space exploration section of the book gave significant text and photo exposure to minority astronaut Franklin R. Chang Diaz and female astronaut Sally Ride. The Challenger disaster was well documented, almost celebrated, by the textbook authors, its crew described as “Christa McAullife and six others”. Yet only one line of text mentioned Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk and there was no coverage of President Kennedy’s patriotic and inspirational “We choose to go the moon” speech at Rice University.

    In spite of these TEKS flaws, I was fortunately able to negotiate a proper description of the Erie Canal construction, inclusion of the Wright brothers story, Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk, and President Kennedy’s speech into the final textbook version as positive events in American history.

    Such are excellent, real examples of the TEKS-driven minority overrepresentation that I referred to in my COI testimony.

    Further, I suggest to the TFN that Texas public school students, whether they are black, brown, or white, are being deprived of a fundamental education if they are allowed to complete a U. S. history course without a comprehensive understanding of the Wright brothers first powered flight, America’s moon landing, and dozens of other positive historical events that wil help make Texas students proud to be Americans.

  7. I’m glad to see that TFN has put the Far Right on the defensive, that the Far Right finds TFN a voice that they must reckon with.

    Mr. Ames, I don’t have the expertise required to evaluate your claims, but I can clearly see a serious oversight in your argument. Minorities and their accomplishments have both been historically repressed in this country. Minorities are extremely sensitive to this, and the majority has some reparations to make to help counter the effects of yesterday’s miseducation. Whatever argument you make must both acknowledge this and address it. Ignoring this is a huge social faux pas. It’s not enough simply to be aware of this; it must color your approach.

    Everyone identifies most with people who are like them, whether race or gender, and clear role models need to be made available for everyone.

    For example, I cannot think of the name of a single black scientist, though I can think of many white ones — and I studied science. I recall having bumped into a few, though, and looking them up now I located George Washington Carver and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who’s educational outreach I admire greatly.

    There are two sides to this scale, and you are standing too heavily on one side. Clearly keep feet on both sides and you will find audiences more receptive and yourself more broadly respected.

  8. I should clarify that I did not hear about either George Washington Carver or Neil DeGrasse Tyson in school. I bumped into them in my readings on science. Children need to learn about these people in school, though, not only to provide role models, but also to break yesterday’s stereotypes.

  9. Mike – Charles is yanking our chains. He forgot the winkyface icon at the end of his post…..

  10. To Joe Lapp…..

    My textbook negotiations with Glencoe/McGraw-Hill did not eliminate the minority content. I only strived to add significant events.

    Tthe bottom line here is that the mulitcultural revisionism of U. S. history (Bessie Coleman, Franklin R.Chang-Diaz) must not be allowed to replace the truly significant contributors (Wright brothers, Neil Armstrong). To do so is the clear agenda of leftist groups such as the Texas Council for Social Studies and the TFN, and as I previously comnmented, is detrimental to all Texas public school students regardless of their race or gender.

  11. Bill, your actions will speak louder than your prepared rhetoric.

    Let’s see what you actually do and how you attempt to influence the far right wing of the SBOE to act versus and your pre-emptive words.

    We are watching. But based on your track record, I know what you will do.

  12. Mr. Ames, you have just contradicted yourself. You say that you only want to add items and then say that “multicultural revisionism” replaces your items, as if the two were mutually exclusive.

    And your term “multicultural revisionism” actually expresses disdain for minority issues when sensitivity and respect is necessary.

    Should your attitude leak into the textbooks we’ll be reinforcing racism. The problem with the Far Right is that they have no tolerance for any position but their own. We live in a multicultural society and students need to be prepared to appreciate this and not disdain it.

  13. Hi Mike. I apologize if you misunderstood. I was spoofing. It just gets so frustrating sometimes that I feel like stepping to the other side of the fence and expressing what the world looks like from over there. Here is something positive.

    I attended church this morning in a rural area of a red state. It is an area that one might describe as red to the second power. This was the church that my long-deceased parents grew up in back during the 1910-1920 period. It is a white church with white members and a long all-white string of pastors going back into the 1800s. Well, they recently got cut off from their normal minsistry circuit because they are so rural, so isolated, and so small. They could no longer get a real pastor to serve them. They awakened one morning to find that the United Methodist Church had appointed a non-ordained lay leader from outside as their pastor—and he was a black man. Anyone seen “Blazing Saddles?”

    Well, this black lay minister conducted what was quite likely the most energetic and postive church service that I have been to anywhere in a very long time. The entire church has responded to him very positively, and he is very postively linked to them now. So much love. so much positive. so much togetherness. A church that some thought was dying might actually have a future. It is a complete 180 degree turn from what one might have expected. I say drop 10,000 additional Reverend Moores into rural, red state America and let the good Lord do his work—turn this whole sick American puppy of ours around for good. If what I saw today in that small congregation of white people and that black preacher is real—and you guys know that I know REAL when I see it—the McLeroys, Dunbars, and Leos of this world have to know that they are fighting for a lost cause. The tide has already turned and is continuing to turn in quiet, hidden-away little places like the one where I was this morning. I think George H. W. Bush referred to it once as a 1000 points of light. The Lord lights a candle quietly in rural New Mexico. The Lord lights a candle quietly in rural Tennessee. The Lord lights a candle quietly in rural Montana. The Lord lights a candle quietly in rural Texas. The Lord lights a candle quietly in rural Florida. The Lord lights a candle quietly in rural Maine.

    Dunbar, McLeroy, and Leo are going to wake up one of these fine mornings to a whole nation on fire, and it is going to consume everything wrong that they believe in—forever. It is hard to fight against the truth. It is hard to kick the pricks. Jesus come, burn down their sad little world, do it quickly, and establish your kingdom in its place. Amen.

  14. I have to honestly say that what Mr. Ames says above is ludicrous. I say that as a social scientist. I say that as a historian. I say that even more as a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant whose ancestors came over here on a boat to the 13 colonies as Englishman long before there ever was a United States of America on July 4, 1776.

    The truth of the matter—the real truth of the matter—the real truth of the matter—the real truth of the matter is that this nation of ours was built from stem to stern by all of its people and by all of the many generations of Americans that came before ours. America’s families built this country. Those families have surnames: Lone Wolf, Robertson, Klepner, Bataglia, Wasimbe, Chang, Diaz, Baker, Ostrowsky, Plotchnikov, Onazuka, Campbell, O’Malley, and the rest of a list that is probably a mile long. The people that populated these names did the thinking, building, laughing,crying, sweating, and dying that made this country what it is today. If one takes a look at the whole huge list of surnames, one quickly realizes that the United States and all that it became over its long history was not and could not possibly have been the sole work of a few selected “white guys” with names like Washington, Wright, and Armstrong.

    The history of the United States was a family effort and a team effort. No one is going to sit there on their John Birch high horse and tell me that a white financial genius from the British, West Indies, a space capsule jockey, and a couple of Anglo-Saxon bicycle mechanics from Ohio created the United States of American while 500,000,000 other Americans over 230 years just sat on the bench with their thumbs up their rears. Our kids need to be aware of the fact that a great many of our people had a part in creating this great country.

    We might start with the Native Americans who were here first—you know—the ones who first got this American snowball of ours up and rolling. Anyone remember the old Walter Cronkite-narrated historical series for kids, “You Are There.” ? I would like to drop our Mr. Ames into a suit of Spanish armor on the DeSoto expedition. The historical reality surrounding some of our little known Native American ancestors would set in fast, and I can guarantee him that the term “Arrow Shirt” would take on a whole new and very personal meaning.

  15. Dear Mr. Ames, from one social studies review committee member to another:
    Let’s be very clear here: the TEKS are the curriculum documents which the state of Texas requires teachers to teach their students every year; this is the document that is currently under review. Textbooks are written by textbook companies, sold at a profit to school districts across the country, and are supplemental materials for use in Texas classrooms. Textbooks are not synonymous with ‘curriculum’; they are to be used in addition to other materials used to teach the TEKS! If one textbook company’s book does not complement Texas’ curriculum very well, it should not be purchased for use in Texas classrooms.

    Now let’s look very specifically at the TEKS document to which you refer, Mr. Ames. According to the TEA website, you are on the high school US History committee, correct? That course is ‘US History Studies Since Reconstruction’. When I look at the US history TEKS , the only reference I see to ‘problems of’ is this: “(1) History. The student understands traditional historical points of reference in U.S. history from 1877 to the present. The student is expected to(C) analyze social issues such as the treatment of minorities, child labor, growth of cities, and problems of immigrants. ”

    Using this TEKS strand and examples from textbooks that are not even used in Texas to prove your point that we have an ‘overrepresentation of minorities’ in our curriculum is bogus and obfuscates the real issue: that a small minority of fringe interests are trying to impose their outdated, bigoted, racist beliefs on the rest of the state which is unfortunate for the schoolchildren of the state of Texas. The vast majority of these children, by the way, are NOT white males.

  16. Charles, my dear man — thank you for your posts on this thread. You have been a great blessing to me today, and reading your words, I take hope that our country will someday live up entirely to the promise of our founding documents, that government of ALL the people, by ALL the people, and for ALL the people shall not perish from this earth!

    Ms. Griffiths, thank you for comprehensively rebutting Mr. Ames. How encouraging to know that our children’s education is safe in your capable hands.

    And Mr. Ames, you said, “[M]ulticultural revisionism of U. S. history (Bessie Coleman, Franklin R.Chang-Diaz) must not be allowed to replace the truly significant contributors.” How dare you imply that women and people of color who are belatedly being recognized for their contributions to our shared history are not significant?

  17. The TEKS are NOT “the” curriculum. They are minimum standards upon which the taught curriculum is based. By SBOE rule, teachers must include them, but should feel free to go beyond what is stated in the TEKS. The most powerful motivation to teach the TEKS is the assessment system, which is solely based on a small subset of TEKS. Frequently you will hear the SBOE state that it is the law that all the TEKS be taught. True enough. But who enforces that law? According to the Texas Education Code, that responsibility rests with the LOCAL boards.