Political Extremism and Curriculum Standardsby
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:
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, 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.
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.