Political Extremism and Curriculum Standards

In March the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) ambushed teachers and others who have been working to revise social studies curriculum standards for the state’s public schools. TPPF charged that the curriculum writing teams — made up of teachers, academics and others — were drafting standards that left out important historical figures such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, holidays like Independence Day and various patriotic symbols like the Liberty Bell.

That was nonsense. As we noted later, Don McLeroy (who was State Board of Education chairman at the time) had leaked early work from the writing teams to TPPF — work that was nowhere near complete. It seems clear that TPPF’s purpose (and McLeroy’s) was to discredit the work of the writing team members. Most of those team members are hardworking educators and academics who know history and understand quite well how to craft curriculum standards for students.

But not all of them. We have already reported about the ideologues the McLeroy faction on the state board has appointed to a panel of so-called “experts” who will help guide the revision of the social studies standards. It turns out that faction members have also embedded fringe right-wingers on the very curriculum writing teams that they were criticizing last March. Here are three:

Bill Ames
We told you a little about Bill Ames last month. Ames — appointed to the writing teams by state board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station — spoke before the State Board of Education’s Committee on Instruction in April, criticizing what he called an “overrepresentation of minorities” in the social studies curriculum standards.

Over the years Ames has been a regular speaker at public hearings about textbooks and curriuclum standards in Texas. In 2004, for example, he testified before the state board in support of new abstinence-0nly health textbooks. He criticized comprehensive sex education as an effort “to promote sexual activity as no more than an adolescent game, without responsibility”:

“The other side’s agenda is not about helping children. Rather, it is about growing the business volumes and revenues of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Such a goal requires high numbers of sexually active teenagers, indoctrinated and encourages by anything-goes sex education programs in our public schools.”

When it comes to social studies, Ames often complains that textbooks spend too much time discussing the contributions of minorities, thus crowding out what he considers the real contributions that made America great. And he is angered by textbook passages that he deems insufficiently patriotic or that he thinks dwell too much on negative aspects of the nation’s history.

Ames also has ties to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls “a nativist extremist group” that sends armed members to patrol the nation’s border with Mexico. Ames wrote about his work with the Minuteman group in the Collin County Republican Review in December 2005:

“(I)llegal aliens are overrunning our tax supported hospitals, public schools, and welfare systems. They are bringing diseases to the U.S. which were eradicated here decades ago: including tuberculosis, malaria, plague, leprosy, and polio.”

As an organization, TFN takes no position on immigration, illegal or otherwise. But efforts to demonize illegal immigrants by portraying them as disease-carriers has been a key key tactic of nativist groups and their supporters for years now — even though those claims are often based on distorted and often erroneous information. (See here and here, for example.)

Peter Morrison
Peter Morrison, appointed by state board member David Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna, is a member of the Lumberton Independent School District Board of Trustees in Southeast Texas. Morrison publishes an e-mail newsletter, The Peter Morrison Report, that calls on Texas conservatives to “light a fire to take back our state and country from RINO sellouts and liberal extremists.”

Morrison, who shares Ames’ nativist passions, gets plenty of e-ink on various Web sites. A “culture warrior” to the core, he is harshly critical of Republicans he considers insufficiently conservative (“Republicans in Name Only”). Perhaps needless to say, he harbors a particularly vicious loathing for Democrats. Here is some of what he wrote after Obama’s election in November:

We are in a cultural war with the Left: with those who want to welcome every person in the planet into the United States and grant them citizenship; with a President-elect who isn’t afraid to embrace the tenets of communism; with a political party that wants to raise your taxes during a time of economic crisis.

His recent attacks on Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated by President Obama for the U.S. Supreme Court, have been especially vitriolic, subtly questioning her sexual orientation and calling her a racist:

“For one thing, if she’s confirmed, there’s every indication she’ll be a big promoter of the radical gay agenda on the court. She’s replacing David Souter, a lifelong bachelor and recluse who lived with his mother when he was appointed. President Bush Sr. assured us that the unknown Souter was a real conservative, but he turned into one of the biggest champions of gay rights on the court. Likewise, Sotomayor was briefly married thirty years ago, had no children, and has never remarried. She’s certainly not going to be a friend of the traditional family, to put it mildly.

The anger and hate are almost palpable when Morrison argues that Obama (“a radical black activist who has nothing but contempt for people like us”) and Sotomayor (a “race hustler” who “is proud of her racism”) are racists. His contempt is so overpowering that he even supports the secession of Texas from the union:

The flip side of Obama’s ’empathy’ is apparent hatred and contempt for white people, traditional families, small business owners, evangelical Christians, conservatives, and everyone else that liberals call the ‘racist, heterosexist, nativist, Christianist, capitalist, homophobic power structure’ in America. In other words, what most of us call normal people. These radical leftists regard folks like you and me and our children as the enemy, and it’s their mission in life to put us in our supposed place, which to them means at the back of the bus. They’re in charge now, and they fully intend to use their power to remake America in their image. If the Senate approves Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, Obama will know that he has carte blanche to escalate his all out war on traditional Americans. . . .

If they approve her (and to be honest, with only 40 squishy Republicans in the US Senate, it’s unlikely), it’s time to get serious about finding a way for our beloved Texas to exit a system where Barack Obama and his racist friends interpret the laws that undergird our very life, liberty and material security.

Tom Owens
Board member David Bradley also appointed Tom Owens, another Lumberton resident, to the writing teams. Owens is a right-wing activist with ties to the Constitution Party, which seeks “to restore our government to its Constitutional limits and our law to its Biblical foundations.” News reports indicate that in 2005 he sent mailers to about 70,000 California households attacking a Republican candidate for Congress as a “lying scumbag” with “terrorist friends.” The mailers supported the nominee of the Constitution Party (who also happened to be a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps).

But that’s mild compared to the vicious, gay-bashing Web site Owens created to attack Democratic congressman Nick Lampson in Houston: Why Rep. Nick Lampson Is “Bought and Paid For” By the Homosexual Lobby.” Some excerpts:

Lampson wants homosexuals to have easy access to your children and wants the Boy Scouts to “pay up” for offending the homosexual lobby.

Nick Lampson voted AGAINST banning homosexuals from adopting children in Washington, DC. . .  given homosexuals’ notorious promiscuity (i.e. preventing a stable home environment) and their propensity to molest children (crime statistics reveal male homosexuals are 16 times more likely to molest children than the general population), such a policy is a crime against children from a politician that promotes himself as an advocate of children.

Nick Lampson cosponsored the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, a bill that would allow homosexual immigrants to bring their partners to the US  . . . . Lampson wants to throw open the borders to millions of homosexuals who will not only take American jobs but also worsen the AIDS epidemic (including free health care once they get here) in our country.

Do you agree with Nick Lampson that people who speak out against the homosexual agenda should possibly be jailed for their opinions?

You really should read the whole, vile thing.

All of this is just a taste of the extremism that may influence what our kids learn in social studies classrooms over the next decade. Perhaps now we know why the state board’s McLeroy faction and TPPF are so intent on trying to discredit the work of writing team members — members who are likely appalled by the fringe political activists they have been forced to work with.

11 thoughts on “Political Extremism and Curriculum Standards

  1. How did the RR board members get ideologues onto the social studies writing team but not the science writing team? The science team seemed to be untrammeled by creationist pressure, with the problem arising only at the review panel level. As usual, good luck and thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. Aha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    They were doing the old “…turn in the early working draft and make out like it was the final ” trick. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book for trying to falsely discredit an opponent. It’s right up there with “…my dog ate my homework.” Talk about juvenile!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Southern Baptist Dr. R. Kirby Godsey has said:

    “There is not a dime’s worth of difference in Christian, Baptist, Jewish, or Islamic fundamentalism. They are all dangerous, evil forms of religious commitment. People who maim, kill, and destroy, and put other people down in the name of God are children of evil and the appeal to God’s name does not bring sanctity to their work. Holy meanness is still meanness.”

    Rigging a democratic election is right up there with “misrepresenting drafts as finals” and saying that “my dog ate my homework.” For those of you who do pray, I hope that you will pray for the protection of people like Neda who have seen the playing out of Dr. Godsey’s statement and have paid the ultimate price for it. She is a TRUE Islamic Martyr, and I hope that we Americans and people all around the world shall never forget her faith and courage in believing that there must be something better in life than the living nightmare that the fundamentalist Imams have created for the people of Iran—and the nuclear nightmare these same idiots are trying to create for all of us.

  3. I am simply stultified, bowled over, incapacitated–I can’t find the words–by what comes out of the heads and mouths of the far right. What is causing this? What is happening to our society? There seems to be no way of talking anything through to a solution or compromise with them. They have demonized us beyond . . . beyond what? The point of no return?

    I am living among Republicans who believe absolutely in the free market etc. But there is one neighbor who gets so angry when she merely hears the word democrat that I can only think there is some kind of pathology in action. Isn’t there a sociologist somewhere who has some kind of an explanation to help us out of this morass? Or a psychologist. In l963 Eric Fromm, psychiatrist, wrote THE SANE SOCIETY. As I remember his conclusion then was that our society was sick. What would he say now?

  4. The far right has often be characterized as “conservative Christian.” Anyone who reads them should realize immediately that they are not “right” – i.e. correct, nor conservative, and especially not ” Christian.” And the promotion of “scientific creationism” is rank heresy and has nothing to do with the Bible.
    The Rev. Bert Clayton, retired United Methodist Minister

  5. I don’t see how Peter Morrison can be a member of the Lumberton School Board if he lives in Buna. I don’t think they are even in the same county. Would you check on that?

    Jo Krouse

  6. Wel, I had not read all of the original TFN post that started this blog. Just did.

    My guess is that some version of these outbursts is going on in nearly every county in the country. My prediction is that the results will be more public murders of the people who disagree with them, people who are wrongly thought to disagree with them, and innocent people who just happen to be standing nearby. In many ways, these people are like their conservative counterparts in Iran. They are nuts and, unfortunately the nuts have most of the guns.

    Of course, I have been known for producing some inflamed rhetoric against the radical right myself. However, I most humbly beseech anyone out there who is outraged back at the radical right to get a grip and DO NOT do anything violent against them. Just be calm and peaceful in the knowledge that anyone who gets as weird as those radical right folks is bound to step across some line where they hang themselves with their owns words and actions—because normal people just plain don’t do the kind of stuff they will be doing. Then EVERYONE will know that they are totally fruitloops—and that will be the end of them.

    Peace and remember Neda.

  7. “There is not a dime’s worth of difference in Christian, Baptist, Jewish, or Islamic fundamentalism. They are all dangerous, evil forms of religious commitment. People who maim, kill, and destroy, and put other people down in the name of God are children of evil and the appeal to God’s name does not bring sanctity to their work. Holy meanness is still meanness.”

    Amen to what Rev. Godsey said.

    RIP Neda. May your memory be a blessing.

  8. Like Charles, I just now read the entire TFN presentation above. MY GOD! I was married 30 years ago, had no children, and have not remarried. In their eyes, I am some kind of Enemy Of The State. And, as a Jew, I am definitely on their Hit List. If these people want me to be afraid – very afraid – I can assure them I AM! I feel as though any minute I will be hunted down and shot – either in my home or in my synagogue where, at least, I won’t be the only one dispatched.

    I am removing the mezuzah I lovingly affixed to my front door. I have removed all trinkets from my car that identify me as a Jew. (I never did place an Obama/Biden bumper sticker on my car for obvious reasons). I no longer wear my beloved Stars of David pendants. And I had never thought of this before and am ashamed to be thinking of it now, but I am seriously considering buying myself a weapon and taking weapons classes in its use. Sorry, Charles. But I have to protect myself. Nobody else is going to.

  9. Cytocop:

    Do you need a hug? I would not go too overboard. This is still the United States and there are no brownshirts standing at every street corner yet. It appears to me that the Obama election was some sort of catalyst that pushed some of the fruitcakes over the deep end. The number that would hurt anyone physically is really quite small—maybe one in several 1000. It may just seem like there are more of them out there because of the attention they get when they take a shotgun to church and use it. With enough media attention, one person can look like 1000s in the eyes of a frightened person.

    It reminds of the time when my Honda Civic engine quit on a residential street here in my hometown. Cell phones were not numerous then, and I had to knock on a door to use the telephone. I was dressed nicely with shirt, tie, and wingtips and looked nothing like the criminal type. Well, I knocked on this door several times and an elderly couple came to the door. I could tell immediately that they were frightened out of their wits. They were essentially trembling. I simply asked if I could use their phone to call a tow truck, and they refused. After another couple of minutes of friendly persuasion, they finally let me use the phone, but they were scared out of their minds. Now, you have to understand, this was not a bad or criminal-ridden neighborhood. It was MY neighborhood. I think this old couple stayed inside all of the time and watched lots of T.V. news. As a result, they got this impression that there was an extremely dangerous world outside and that a trip to the supermarket would involve running a gauntlet of hardened criminals on every street corner—when in fact—it is nothing like that here in our town.

  10. Thanks, Charles. Maybe I do.

    You wrote: “….there are no brownshirts standing at every street corner yet.” For me, the key word in that sentence could be “yet.”

    Why? Because there are more and more people like Bill Ames, Peter Morrison, and Tom Owens and more and more people like them gaining positions of authority and influence. In addition, more and more people want to vote for candidates like them.

    Consider the fact that mainstream protestant denominations have been steadily losing members over the past 30 years while fundamentalist and evangelical denominations have been gaining converts by leaps and bounds over the same period. I see no sign of this shift diminishing or even leveling-off. This crowd is gaining, not losing adherents.

    I also see the extremists as just a continuum on the same spectrum.

    The election of Barack Obama could be just a blip on the longterm scale of the U.S. political slide to the far right and may only represent Bush Fatigue rather than a true pro-Obama sentiment. In 4 or 8 years, we could see the election of a Republican president who might make Bush look like a “Lefty.” And America could be on its way to becoming a fascist state.

  11. Reply to James F who said: “How did the RR board members get ideologues onto the social studies writing team but not the science writing team? The science team seemed to be untrammeled by creationist pressure, . . .”

    The ESS standards writing team had two Young Earth Creationists on it appointed by Terri Leo and David Bradley. They gave us a lot of trouble. You can read about what happened at http://www.texscience.org/reports/ess-response-yec-2009jan15.htm