Right-Wingers Target Two GOP Texas Ed Board Members, Accuse Them of Promoting ‘Socialist Ideology’

by Dan Quinn

Right-wing activists are angry with a couple of Republican members of the State Board of Education who have refused to hop on their crazy train. The source of their anger (right now, anyway) is CSCOPE, the curriculum management tool that we reported about last month. CSCOPE is a product of a collaboration of regional Education Service Centers created by the state in the 1960s. Many Texas school districts use CSCOPE. Some teachers have found it very helpful, while others don’t like it for a variety of pedagogical reasons. But during a state board committee hearing on November 15, right-wing political activists attacked the program for supposedly promoting Marxism and radical Islam while trying to undermine America and Christianity. One speaker even compared CSCOPE to Nazi Germany.

Some board members — not surprisingly, considering the board’s recent history as a “culture war” battleground — encouraged and even fed off of those outrageous attacks. Other board members, however, defended the program or at least tried to separate legitimate concerns from the hysterical political claims. For example, they insisted that CSCOPE developers do a better job making sure school districts understand that parents can review the curriculum materials used by their children. They also probed CSCOPE’s processes for identifying errors and making any necessary corrections.

That’s all good, of course, but not enough for the political extremists who might have brought pitchforks and torches to the meeting if they had been allowed. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a variety of emails and online rants that continue the political attacks on CSCOPE. Then last weekend an activist published a post on her blog — Red Hot Conservative — attacking two Republican board members in particular: Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant. Hardy, an educator, has said that the quality of CSCOPE has improved over the years and that many teachers and districts find it useful. Ratliff tried to dispel some of the myths being circulated by CSCOPE critics.

“Ginger,” Red Hot Conservative’s blogger, calls Hardy and Ratliff “RINOs,” or “Republicans In Name Only.” Excerpts from her post:

“The curriculum [CSCOPE] is pro Islamic, anti Christian with a globalist agenda from K-12.”

“RINO RATLIFF supports Indoctrinating Tx School Children with socialist ideology.”

“Patricia Hardy promotes the indoctrination of a progressive, socialist curriculum called Cscope in Texas Schools.”

Religious-righters have been critical of Hardy for years, especially after she refused to bow to their demands that science curriculum standards adopted in 2009 require students to study so-called “weaknesses” of evolution — creationist arguments that scientists long ago debunked. They hate Ratliff even more because he defeated arch-creationist Don McLeroy’s re-election bid in the 2010 Republican Primary. Anyone who really knows Hardy and Ratliff, however, will laugh at absurd claims that they favor teaching “socialist ideology” or anything of the like in classrooms. Hardy traces her Republican roots back at least to Barry Goldwater’s conservative run for the presidency in 1964. Ratliff comes from a prominent Republican family in East Texas and has spent the last two years criticizing what he sees as government overreach that is undermining local control over public schools. And the two share something else: a disdain for political hysteria. Unfortunately for them, when the crazy crawls out of the fever swamps in Texas, it often makes a beeline for the State Board of Education.