Check out this fascinating Q-and-A with Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, from The Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto.

Money quote:

“Look, down here there are these groups from the far left. Whatever we do, they want to make it look like we are dumb morons. They’re very effective, dadgummit. Jefferson’s name was taken out of a list of Enlightenment philosophers in world history because he didn’t fit the period of the Enlightenment.”

Words fail us. So we’ll again let a real historian respond:

“There is absolutely no question that Jefferson is an Enlightenment figure of the first order.”… Read More

Why do members of the Texas State Board of Education insist on rejecting guidance from real experts? Case in point: far-right board members continue to argue that they were justified in removing Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence, from a key curriculum standard for high school world history courses. Those board members claim that Jefferson, who argued that a "wall of separation between church and state" is essential to freedom, was misplaced in the standard. The original standard read: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Cynthia Dunbar, one of the board's most outspoken religious conservatives, persuaded the board to change the standard to this: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Board members have pointed to no historian to support the change. In fact, the board's far-right members, such as Chairwoman Gail Lowe, have simply stated their own opinions about Jefferson as fact. Here's what Lowe said last week: “This was inappropriate placement of Jefferson ’s name. Jefferson was not himself an Enlightenment philosopher, although he was heavily influenced by the writings of these individuals." We decided it was past time that someone -- especially if the board itself won't do it -- ask a real historian, instead of politicians, to weigh in on this. So we forwarded Lowe's statement and the revised standard to Dr. Edward Countryman, university distinguished professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Prof. Countryman is an award-winning author and specialist on colonial America and the American revolution. Here is what he has to say: There is absolutely no question that Jefferson is an Enlightenment figure of the first order. In my major-level Revolution course I’ve just taught Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia (1782), having previously taught his emergence piece (“A Summary View of the Rights of British America”) and the Declaration. We’ll continue the Notes on Tuesday dealing specifically with the tortured language on slavery and race. Read More

Still not sure where the Texas State Board of Education is going with the social studies curriculum standards? Then listening to a radio discussion with board member Don McLeroy from last week might help. McLeroy, R-College Station, spoke on Southern California public radio station KPCC last Monday about the social studies debate in Texas. (Click here for the archived audio clip.) Following are some excerpts from that program. McLeroy spoke about the biblical principles he sees at work in America's founding and focused on the Declaration of Independence. And it was clear that he hasn't given up his obsession with attacking evolutionary science: Read More

Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has been defending her action removing Thomas Jefferson from world history curriculum standards by disingenuously claiming his inclusion simply wasn't "germane." And during this month's state board meeting, she complained that critics were wrong in charging that she and other far-right board members were trying to force their religious views into public school classrooms. But the truth often has a way of finding its way to light: Dunbar opposes teaching world history students about Jefferson because she defiantly opposes his conviction that mixing government and religion is a threat to freedom for all. Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars notes that Dunbar is scheduled to appear  on May 1 at a rally in the nation's capital (May Day 2010: A Cry to God for a Nation in Distress). She reportedly will call on God to forgive America for supposedly removing Him from American schools. Here is how rally organizer Janet Porter, founder of the fringe religious-right organization Faith2Actiondescribes what Dunbar will tell rally participants: "She is going to come to May Day and repent for how we have taught our children lies, not only in revisionist history but also evolution, how we've kicked God out of school. She will repent on behalf of the education system, and she's also going to welcome God back in." Read More

The Texas Freedom Network sent out the following press release today:

SBOE Chair Lowe’s Explanation for Dropping Jefferson from Standard Doesn’t Hold Water

TFN President Kathy Miller Points Out the Distorted History Promoted by Board Extremists


Texas State Board of Education chairwoman Gail Lowe’s explanation for the board’s deletion of Thomas Jefferson from world history curriculum standards is deeply disingenuous, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.

TFN President Kathy Miller was responding to a statement from Lowe released today by the Texas Education Agency. Lowe criticized media coverage of the board’s vote last week to strip Jefferson from a standard requiring students to study great political thinkers who influenced political revolutions from 1750 to the present. Lowe notes that Jefferson remains in American history and government standards. But that misses the point, Miller said.

“This isn’t a contest to see how many times someone is included in the standards,” Miller said. “The issue here is why the board would not want students to learn that people struggling for freedom around the world have looked for more than two centuries to Thomas Jefferson and his ideals for inspiration. This is yet… Read More