Tea Partiers: ‘Take Back Our Schools!’

by Dan Quinn

Next week’s public hearing on social studies curriculum standards in Austin could resemble last summer’s angry protests over health insurance reform. That’s because the anti-government Tea Party brigades are now turning their attention to curriculum matters at the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

The Austin Texas Tea Party Web site is screaming: “Take Back Our Schools and tell the SBOE America IS Exceptional!”

The so-called “American IS Exceptional” rally is set for noon to 2 p.m. on Wednesday (January 13) at the Texas Education Agency in Austin. The state board will be inside hearing public testimony on proposed new social studies curriculum standards for public schools.

Tea Party protests over the summer featured angry folks with signs comparing President Obama to Hitler, the Nazis and Marxists. They also accused health insurance reform supporters of trying to destroy the nation’s health care system and force patients to beg for their lives before official government “death panels.” And rowdy Tea Partiers proudly disrupted public meetings on health reform across the country.

Will we see the same wacky extremism next week in the debate over curriculum standards? The Austin Tea Party Web site sure seems dedicated to the same kind of hyperbolic nonsense we saw last summer:

“The Great State of Texas is preparing to teach 4.7 million students America is an Imperialistic Nation…with your help we can Take Back OUR Schools for OUR Children!”

First, there are no suggestions that social studies classes teach students that the United States is an imperialistic nation. (Curriculum writers did suggest that American expansionism overseas in the late 1800s and early 1900s was similar to European imperialism during the same era.) Second, what’s this “OUR schools” language all about? Do Tea Partiers think public schools belong just to them?

The list of speakers gives you another idea of the extremism that will be on stage during the “rally.” One speaker, for example, is Bill Ames — a member of a curriculum writing team who has complained about an “over-representation of minorities” in the standards. (See here and here for more about Ames.)

Sure enough, the Tea Party Web site suggests that groups like LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) are guilty of historical “revisionism” because they want the standards to reflect more accurately the contributions of Latinos in the history of Texas and the United States.

Another speaker: Brooke Terry, education analyst for the far-right Texas Public Policy Foundation. Last spring Terry helped the then-chair of the State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, ambush teachers on the curriculum writing teams by dishonestly accusing them of trying to write new social studies standards that leave out important historical figures and patriotic symbols and generally push a leftist bias.

The Tea Party Web site also suggests that curriculum writers are trying to promote homosexuality in social studies classrooms. That’s standard religious-right extremism. But we did love this line from the Tea Party Web site:

“Beware signs may not be allowed in the building…but they will look great along the exterior in all the photos taken by TFN!”

We’re flattered that the Tea Partiers are turning out for our benefit.

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