SBOE-Appointed Social Studies ‘Experts’ Lack Credentials, Denounce Public Education, Support
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2009
The Texas State Board of Education is set to appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel that includes absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education and argue that laws and public policies should be based on their narrow interpretations of the Bible.
TFN has obtained the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.
The two have argued that the Constitution doesn’t protect separation of church and state and hold a variety of other extreme views related to religion, education and government, TFN President Kathy Miller said.
“It’s absurd to suggest that Texas universities don’t have accomplished scholars in the field who are more qualified than ideologues who share a narrow political agenda,” Miller said. “What’s next? Rush Limbaugh on the ‘expert’ panel? It’s clear now that just appointing a new chairman won’t end this board’s outrageous efforts to politicize the education of our schoolchildren. It’s time for the Legislature to make sweeping changes to the board and its control over what our kids learn in public schools.”
“With Don McLeroy’s confirmation hanging in the balance in the Senate and lawmakers considering 15 bills that would strip the state board of its authority, these board members continue trying to push extremist politics into Texas classrooms,” she said. “It’s as if they’re daring the Legislature to call them on it.”
Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is a self-styled “historian” without any formal training in the field. He argues that separation of church and state is a “myth” and that the nation’s laws should be based on Scripture. He says, for example, that the Bible forbids taxes on income and capital gains. Yet even such groups as Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist Joint Committee have sharply criticized Barton’s interpretations of the Constitution and history.
Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify any primary sources showing that they really said them.
Some state board members have criticized what they believe are efforts to overemphasize the contributions of minorities in the nation’s history. It is alarming, then, that in 1991 Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.”
In addition, Barton’s WallBuilders Web site suggests as a “helpful” resource the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, an organization that calls public schools places of “social depravity” and “spiritual slaughter.”
The Peter Marshall Ministries Web site includes Marshall’s commentaries sharply attacking Muslims, characterizing the Obama administration as “wicked,” and calling on Christian parents to reject public education for their children.
Marshall has also attacked Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. In his call for a spiritual revival in America last year, he called traditional mainline Protestantism an “institutionally fossilized, Bible-rejecting shell of Christianity.”
The state board is scheduled to adopt revised social curriculum standards in March 2010. Publishers will use those standards to write new textbooks for Texas classrooms. The board is scheduled to adopt those new social studies textbooks in 2012.
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonprofit, grassroots organization of faith and community leaders who support public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.