At their meeting in Austin yesterday, far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education complained that the news media had blown out of proportion calls by conservative “expert” curriculum reviewers (appointed by those board members) to remove liberal historical figures like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall from social studies curriculum standards.
Terri Leo, R-Spring, and her allies on the board insisted that the reviewers were only stating their opinions and that there was no organized effort to censor liberals and minorities in the standards. Ms. Leo, in fact, indignantly criticized “the media’s huge ‘knee-jerk’ reaction when this process hasn’t even started yet.”
Good grief. Ms. Leo must have selective amnesia.
Board members blew a gasket in March when a far-right group claimed that curriculum writing teams were crafting standards that left out important historical figures like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. (That turned out to be a bogus charge.) They also accused the teams of trying to undermine support for “free enterprise” by (gasp!) calling it “capitalism” instead. (Conservative board members claim that “capitalism” has a negative connotation and note that “free enterprise” is the term used in relevant statute anyway.)
Ms. Leo, in particular, was throwing around accusations that the writing teams were undermining patriotism. Social conservatives on and off the board blamed “radicals” on the teams. In a sneering e-mail newsletter a few weeks later, Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, claimed that the “education establishment” was trying “to hijack the social studies curriculum and replace the Founding Fathers and American values with freedom-bashing Multiculturalism 101.”
As we have pointed out, all that criticism was political nonsense and part of an ambush of the curriculum writing teams. The reality is that the materials board members were attacking in March came from preliminary and incomplete drafts that were leaked by then-chairman Don McLeroy to a political pressure group. That preliminary work didn’t represent what the writing teams were actually planning to recommend.
Many teachers and others on those writing teams, who weren’t given a chance to defend themselves at the March meeting, have been frustrated by the unfair attacks on their work. From an e-mail a teacher later sent one of the board members (although not a member of the board’s far-right faction):
“I would like to apologize for being a part of creating political controversy over the revision of the economics TEKS (standards). The economics committee has clearly illustrated that we are political neophytes. We had no idea that we were doing anything controversial or unacceptable. I can assure you that had we realized we would be creating controversy we would not have done this.”
So there you have it. Teachers feel the need to apologize because political extremists unfairly took their work out of context and labeled them unpatriotic radicals. And now Ms. Leo and her allies are crying foul about what they call “knee-jerk reactions” by the news media. Never mind that reporters and editorial boards are critiquing formal, written reviews submitted by board-appointed “experts” as a part of the public review process.