Another sign that the social studies textbook adoption in Texas this year is going to be messy: A political activist who helped write new curriculum standards for the state’s public schools in 2009 is insisting that new textbooks under consideration this year should promote his revisionist views on issues such as slavery and the Civil War, the civil rights movement and church-state separation.
North Texas activist Bill Ames insisted in 2009 that the state’s previous social studies curriculum standards included an “overrepresentation of minorities” and had a leftist bias. He then served throughout the rest of the year on a state panel charged with drafting new curriculum standards for the high school U.S. history course. Don McLeroy, R-College Station, a State Board of Education (SBOE) member at the time, had insisted that the Texas Education Agency place Ames on the curriculum panel.
Although fellow curriculum panel members appear to have rejected many of Ames’ demands as they drafted the new standards, Ames was pleased when SBOE members heavily revised the draft document. He now praises the state’s social studies standards, but even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has called the state’s U.S. history standards a “politicized distortion of history” with “misrepresentations at every turn.”
In an article published last weekend on the right-wing website FreedomOutpost.com, Ames boasted that new social studies textbooks publishers will submit in April must be based on those deeply flawed standards. His article offers a guide for the kinds of textbook content he and other right-wing activists as well as some SBOE members will be looking for in the textbooks. Some examples:
- Ames wants textbooks to play down the role of slavery in causing the American Civil War by teaching students that the primary causes of the war were sectionalism and states’ rights. He points approvingly to SBOE member Pat Hardy’s statement in 2010 that “slavery was a side issue.”
- He gleefully points out that students will learn about “militant thugs and even cop killers” in the Black Panthers and other “militant black civil rights groups” when they get to textbook discussions on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
- He insists that the textbooks must tell students about the “unrealistic expectations from civil rights legislation, resulting in the burning and looting of a number of U. S. inner cities.”
- He wants the textbooks to suggest that Republicans were responsible for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even though northern congressional Democrats had long championed the measure, a Democratically controlled Congress passed it, and a Democratic president signed it into law.
- He expresses pleasure over the possibility that textbooks for high school U.S. Government might be forced to imply, despite numerous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court to the contrary, that separation of church and state isn’t a key constitutional principle.
These and other issues raised by Ames are largely why the social studies textbook adoption this year will likely be far more controversial than the science textbook adoption — with its disputes over evolution and climate change — in 2013.
We’ll also note, by the way, that Freedom Outpost features a number of articles (from other writers) that should raise eyebrows. For example, one post argues that support for evolution leads to racism. Another features a photo of President Obama dressed in a KKK robe and hood.
The website also includes articles that refer to President Obama as the “black Islamic President,” promote “birther” conspiracy theories about the president, and claim that “radical Islam in the White House is leading America toward [an] Islamic state and martial law.”
And gay people are the targets of especially vicious attacks. One article, for example, calls last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act a “victory for sexual perverts” and “sexual deviants” that moves the country “one step closer to civil war.” Another features an image of a swastika on a rainbow flag and declares:
“(T)hose who oppose the homosexual agenda find themselves in an enclosed arena fighting wild animals, who aim to tear them limb from limb. And they will if they get their way. They’re wild savages and they mean to kill.”
And that’s the website on which Ames promote his ideas about what social studies textbooks should teach Texas kids.