Pwned! TFN Pres Smacks Down Distortions

One of the most frustrating things during the long debate over proposed new social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools was watching far-right pressure groups get away with distorting the truth about what was really happening. Among the worst distortions: pressure groups like Plano-based Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, repeatedly charged that curriculum writers were trying to make leftist, anti-American and anti-Christian changes to the social studies curriculum.

Right-wing media outlets — especially Fox News — dutifully echoed the absurd claims that “leftist” teachers and scholars on the curriculum teams didn’t want students to learn about patriotic holidays (like Independence Day and Veterans Day), symbols (like the Liberty Bell) and revolutionary heroes (like Nathan Hale). Viewers also heard that curriculum writers wanted to remove astronaut Neil Armstrong and Christmas from the standards. And some groups and State Board of Education members shrieked that kindergartners would learn they were “global citizens” before they learned they were “American citizens.”

So it was gratifying when Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller had a chance to correct many of those ridiculous distortions at a forum in Austin last night. Kathy spoke alongside Liberty Institute’s lawyer-lobbyist Jonathan Saenz at the forum, which was hosted by the Jewish Community Association of Austin. Almost right out of the gate, Saenz launched into many of the same charges listed above.

But Kathy was ready.

Kathy pointed out that the first drafts of the elementary standards (K-5) from the curriculum teams in July included three references to Independence Day, four references to Veterans Day and two references to Memorial Day. Moreover, there were many other references to patriotic songs, symbols and heroes throughout the standards. (Kathy didn’t note this last night, but curriculum writers proposed moving Nathan Hale from first grade to fifth grade, explaining that teachers found it  difficult for six-year-olds to comprehend the execution of someone for serving his country. Far-right groups suggested that moving Hale out of first grade was unpatriotic. Yes, the “debate” was that absurd.)

What about Neil Armstrong? Actually, the initial removal of the famous astronaut came at the insistence of Peter Marshall, an evangelical minister appointed by far-right state board members to a panel of so-called “experts” (even though Marshall plainly lacked credentials that would qualify him as a social studies expert). Curriculum writers even noted in their first formal draft that they removed Armstrong because the “expert reviewers” had asked them to. But instead of acknowledging that Marshall was responsible for Armstrong’s removal, Saenz and Liberty Institute have spent months blaming teachers on the curriculum teams instead.

What about Christmas? Liberty Institute also continues to suggest that anti-Christian zealots on the curriculum teams wanted to take Christmas out of the standards. But the group has ignored the fact that curriculum writers simply chose Easter — a major Christian holiday — instead of Christmas in a standard listing one example of a holiday or observance for each of the world’s major religions. Moreover, that standard appeared in the Grade 6 world geography and cultures course — a class where one would expect students to learn about major religions around the world.

Global citizenship? That didn’t come up late night, but it’s been a frequently distorted issue. The first drafts of the elementary school standards discussed establishing the “foundation for responsible citizenship in a global society.” Those drafts didn’t suggest students were legal citizens of a global body. In fact, the same elementary school standards included requirements that “students explore our state and national heritage by examining the celebration of patriotic holidays and contributions of individuals.” They also taught students about the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. But paranoid right-wingers demanded that any link between “citizenship” and “global society” be stricken from the standards — as if, we suppose, classroom teachers were commuting to campuses on black helicopters and hoping to indoctrinate their students with “one world government” propaganda.

Ironically, there was a real threat to students’ understanding of citizenship, but it didn’t come from liberals. It was right-wing board members who removed “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship. Why? Because at least one board member, Don McLeroy, thought that sounded too much like communism. (An earlier deletion of “justice” as a characteristic of citizenship appears to have been reversed in May.)

Of course, Saenz said nothing about that last night. He was too busy spinning falsehoods that smear classroom teachers as radical leftists who somehow hate America and Christians.

6 thoughts on “Pwned! TFN Pres Smacks Down Distortions

  1. This gets increasingly silly. Those Luddites need to be put on a boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean and let them navigate by all the hot air they create.

    Has anyone been able to point out to those people that this is 2010 and not 1810? I wonder when they’re going to demand that inoculations be discontinued and children be forced to be baptized before being permitted prior to being admitted to public schools? Ah, that’s the ticket, have only Christians (probably Southern Baptists) children in schools. For those who insist that other religions are superfluous and perhaps unlawful (because a member of a different religion may contaminate their pre-indoctrinated children) causing (gasp!) a revolution!!!!!

    Non-indoctrinated children may say, “Wait a second, it says in your book that shepherds were in their fields when Jesus was born. That means he had to be born in the spring when they happen, so Christmas could not have been in December.”

    Wow, that’s anti-Christian even though it is the truth. It is still considered a lie…so the truth becomes a lie and THAT IS WHAT THE SBOE IS ALL ABOUT. I’m totally disgusted with the whole thing.

  2. Yes, I have a comment. These two little guys never got a fair shake in their lives, and the mindset on the Texas SBOE is that they might never get a fair shake—and they don’t really mind. After all, the Religious Right white majority rules in Texas, and any fair shake these little guys might ever hope for would be a scrap of food dropped from the white man’s table—and even that would be benevolently dropped by the white majority. Religious Right in Texas and the Texas SBOE, look at this photograph and heed the words of the Bible:

    And Jesus said:

    Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
    Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matthew 18)

    Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18)

    Anyone seen any grownup “humble little ones” on the Religious Right in Texas or on the Texas SBOE?

  3. Charles, that picture could have been taken in the last century. I’m not saying it was, I’m just reflecting on what my ex and I saw while driving through the deep south in the ’70s. When we asked a waitress at a Denny’s how she felt about her governor, TEARS came to her eyes…not of shock or sadness, but of PRIDE that her governor refused to permit the schools to be integrated. “Them niggers have no right to sit with white children, ‘sides, they have their own schools that are good enough for them.”

    Our stomachs turned and left without buying anything; who could after hearing that from an ignorant kid whose grammar stunk to high heavens?

    We SAW kids that looked just like those two boys living in tar paper shacks (if one could call that living). We had just moved from Los Angeles and had to stop the car and have a cry after seeing what we saw: zero hope. I’ve a feeling that if we went back we’d see the same thing.

    Today, in the Arab lands, slavery is still going on. They lure young women to their lands with promises they have no intention of keeping and then take their passports from them. They live the rest of their lives in slavery.

  4. The fact is, Easter IS a more important holiday than Christmas in the Christian religion. Some Christian churches don’t even celebrate Christmas. I don’t believe anyone ever really said children should not learn about Christmas, but if you’re going to list just one Christian holiday in the standards, it should be Easter.

  5. Beverly:

    I agree. I even saw white children living in tar paper shacks in my southern town.


    I tend to agree with you. Easter is more important from a theological standpoint. The thing here is that Christmas was not taken out of the TEKs because anyone hated Christmas. The people over at the Liberty Institute want to make it look that way to anger the people who follow them and believe every piece of distorted nonsense they have to say—just because the institute claims Jesus. All a charlatan has to do in this American culture is drop the name “Jesus” into any discussion, and these rubes will automatically follow the piper to the jumping-off point on some cliff—and jump. The leaders of the Religious Right knows this and plays it for all its worth to raise the two things that are even more important than Jesus to these people—money and political power in this world. You will recall that Jesus rejected allegiance to both of those two imposters in the New Testament. But here is the real rub. It does not matter whether the leaders of the Religious Right claim Jesus. The real question that matters is this one: Does Jesus claim them?

  6. Their galling willingness to lie through their teeth is what really scares me. If they’re willing to say anything in order to get their preferred worldview imposed on the rest of us, what else will they be willing to do to push their religious right fascism?