Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott raised eyebrows last month when he and State Board of Education members engaged in a discussion of the intense focus on testing students. Scott, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, called the overemphasis on testing at the state and local level a “perversion” of what accountability proponents had intended.
You might be surprised to know that religious-right groups also haven’t been big fans of state standardized tests. But over-testing hasn’t been their concern. We found in our files a Dallas Morning News article from March 5, 1996, (“Criticism about TAAS puzzles some officials,” no link) about opposition to the state’s standardized test at the time. Here’s an excerpt:
Kelly Shackelford of the Rutherford Institute says many of his clients think the tests are really a tool for “liberal, educratic elitists” who want to monitor students’ values and undercut their religious beliefs.
For example, in 1992 a state-administered test used a reading passage and graphs on the number of followers of different religions around the world. The parents complained that the question was designed to make all religions look equal, therefore undermining their children’s Christian beliefs.
They are also concerned that the… Read More
Once again Texans are getting a lesson in how the religious right uses lies and distortions to promote fear and bigotry. The newest lesson revolves around the Mansfield school district's decision to accept a five-year, $1.3 million federal grant that largely funds elective classes teaching Arabic (alongside current classes in the district that teach Spanish, German, French, Russian, Latin and Chinese). Right-wing groups have been screaming that the classes will lead to pro-Islamic indoctrination in classrooms. Some have also used the program to make the equally absurd claim that an overbearing federal government is "forcing" students at the local level to learn how to speak Arabic. One of the loudest screechers has been Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family. Last week Shackelford, who is a major supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, spoke on an Internet radio show about the Mansfield program, offering one distortion after another. The show's host transcribed some of Shackelford's comments here. Shackelford's fear-mongering echoed bizarre complaints by other extremists on the right that Mansfield's classes would lead to students learning about Islam: “When you have requirements that not only teach the Arabic language, but the culture, the history, the traditions, the words that they use, you can’t help but teach Islam. Now you are going to be in a serious situation of how balanced or biased this is going to be." Read More
That's what happened earlier this spring at the Texas State Board of Education during the vote on new science curriculum standards for public schools, according to Kelly Shackelford of Texas' Focus on the Family affiliate, Free Market Foundation. When it looked like the board was about to pass science standards that did not include creationist-inspired criticisms of evolution, his group raised the alarm and: "...basically what happened is, God unleashed his people." Shackelford -- who made these remarks while accepting the "Family Champions" award from Focus on the Family Action at the far right's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. last month -- gave a dramatic play-by-play of the board's final vote on evolution at the March meeting: "It was clear that out of nowhere everything changed on a dime. And when we thought it was over -- I mean, it was shocking. But it was God. And we just kind of stood their with our mouth open and said, 'Praise the Lord.'" Watch the full video of Shackelford's remarks for yourself. Then consider the dishonesty it exposes. Read More