Report Authors Rip Far-Right Critics in Texas

by Dan Quinn

The authors of a think tank’s report that slammed the new and heavily politicized social studies curriculum standards in Texas clearly aren’t going to suffer silently as right-wing critics hurl lies and distortions at their work. Those critics have been absurdly suggesting that, among other things, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a left-wing organization that deliberately used its new report to embarrass Texas. But the Fordham Institute is  a conservative organization whose scholars simply think it was wrong for the Texas State Board of Education‘s far-right members to use the new U.S. history standards to promote their own personal and political agendas in public schools.

In a new essay for the History News Network, historians Sheldon and Jeremy Stern address a variety of criticisms of their report about U.S. history standards in states across the country. In a footnote at the end of their piece, the Sterns are especially dismissive of the ridiculously dishonest criticisms from Liberty Institute, the far-right Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family:

Claims that we have “lied” focus particularly on our criticism of Texas’s handling of slavery, which is barely discussed in the standards prior to the Civil War, and is then deftly subordinated in importance to “states’ rights” as the cause of the conflict. Texas’s Liberty Institute responded by doing a search for the word “slavery” in the document and triumphantly declaring that the standards do mention it… though, ironically, the quotes they produced demonstrate the very historical flaws we described (flaws also pointedly noted by Rod Paige, George W. Bush’s first secretary of education, and hardly a liberal shill). Likewise, angrily rejecting our criticism that the history of separation of church and state was dismissed and distorted in the standards, the Liberty Institute jubilantly declared, after another word search, that the phrase does indeed appear in the standards—yet the passage which they produced to refute our claim is again the very passage to which we referred in the first place! Yes, it does mention the concept of separation, but only to insinuate that it is a historical myth (a position Texas’s State Board of Education members took openly in their public hearings on the standards). And so it goes.

Here’s more from the Sterns about the Texas standards:

Our criticism of the historical distortions in the new Texas standards has received a significant amount of media attention in the Lone Star State and has spurred some calls to reopen the revision process. But, as with the defenders of social studies, the response of the supporters of the standards has been equally predictable—scoffing at Washington “elitists” trying to tell Texans how to do things. Some have gone a good deal further, accusing us and Fordham of being part a vast conspiracy to humiliate Texas. And, like all conspiracy theorists, they twist our factual findings beyond recognition, putting ridiculous words into our mouths and denouncing all contrary arguments as malicious “lies.”

Ouch.

But don’t expect the Sterns’ far-right critics to be embarrassed that their lies are being exposed. They’ll simply keep repeating those lies because they are determined to put their own political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren.

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