Panelist Echoes Conspiracy Theory Promoted by White Nationalists, Promoted Inflammatory ‘Voter Fraud’ Rhetoric in Weeks Leading Up to January 6 Insurrection, Calls for States to Take Over ‘Police Powers’ from Federal Government
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 24, 2022
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Freedom Network President Val Benavidez today called for the State Board of Education to withdraw the appointment of a conspiracy theorist to a key panel advising the board on what millions of Texas children should learn in Texas public schools.
“This curriculum overhaul appears headed off the rails right out of the gate,” Benavidez said. “The last person Texas needs guiding what our public schools teach is someone who echoes the conspiracy rants of white nationalists. His arguments are toxic, especially in a state with so many students who are immigrants or the children of immigrants from around the world. They are not a threat to America and American values, but his words are.”
State board members have appointed a panel of “content advisers” to guide the first major overhaul of curriculum standards for history, government and other social studies courses since a deeply controversial rewrite in 2010. Benavidez criticized the appointment of Stephen Balch, a retired Texas Tech professor and co-founder of the conservative advocacy group National Association of Scholars. Board members Tom Maynard, R-Florence, and Jay Johnson, R-Pampa, paired up to appoint Balch.
“Conservative or liberal political views should not disqualify someone from serving on this panel,” Benavidez said. “But his conspiracy theories, inflammatory rhetoric and shocking contempt for our constitutional and democratic institutions make him unfit for this role.”
What has Stephen Balch said?
In August 2021 he co-authored an essay with John C. Eastman, a controversial attorney who had advised then-President Donald Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election. In their joint essay, Balch and Eastman falsely charged that President Joe Biden has “thrown open” the southern border as part of a broader effort to use immigration to “destroy traditional America by whatever means are deemed necessary and expedient.” Such claims echo white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theorists who argue that power-seeking elites seek to transform the country by replacing white Americans with immigrants.
Balch has also promoted the falsehood that widespread voter fraud cost President Trump reelection in 2020. He portrayed Biden’s victory as a “literal coup” by criminals and called on Trump supporters to “depart from politics as usual” and “stretch institutional bonds to a degree that genuinely alarms our conniving subverters.” He demanded that Trump “must now lead his followers into America’s streets and squares” and explore other ways to overturn the election.
In another attack on our constitutional system of government, Balch in 2015 joined others in calling on officials simply to disregard the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans. And in his joint essay with Eastman, he called on states to assume “police powers” to seize control of international and even interstate borders. Such radical actions would risk one of the greatest constitutional crises in this country since the Civil War.
Why does this matter?
Balch’s appointment and the Legislature’s passage last year of new laws that restrict what Texas schools can teach about our nation’s history raise serious concerns about the politicization of education in Texas. The social studies standards – the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS – lay out information schools must teach students.
What is the national impact?
The debate over social studies standards will make Texas a key battleground in the right’s increasingly divisive culture war over what U.S. public schools are allowed to teach. Its large market gives Texas substantial influence over textbook content across the country.
What happened the last time the Texas SBOE overhauled social studies standards?
The state’s last major social studies standards revision in 2010, undertaken by a Republican-dominated state board, was widely criticized across the country. Even conservative organizations like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute condemned those standards as a “politicized distortion of history” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.”
Fordham criticized the standards for downplaying slavery, segregation, and racial discrimination, exaggerating and even inventing biblical influences on the nation’s founding, and dismissing separation of church and state. The organization’s reviewers also called out the board for largely ignoring the experiences of indigenous peoples, seeking to excuse McCarthyism in the 1950s, and for using the standards to attack traditional conservative political targets, like government programs, taxes, regulation, and even international treaties. Fordham released a new report in 2020 that noted some improvements the board made in a minor revision of the standards in 2018 but still gave the overall product low marks.
The Texas Freedom Network (tfn.org) is a grassroots organization of religious and community leaders and young Texans building an informed and effective movement for equality and social justice. Since its founding in 1995, TFN has monitored the State Board of Education and opposed censorship in textbooks and public schools.