The Right Throws a Temper Tantrum

by Dan Quinn

It didn’t take long for right-wingers to erupt in fury over the Fordham Institute’s new report about the disastrously bad social studies curriculum standards in Texas. Fordham’s report demolishes the State Board of Education‘s politicized new standards. The far right’s unhinged temper tantrum and lashing out that we’re seeing in reaction is revealing.

A new press release from the Liberty Institute — the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family — is a good example. Last year LI’s lobbyist and Fox News ran around screaming that leftists who hate America and Christianity were undermining the State Board of Education’s efforts to promote American “exceptionalism” and “our religious heritage” in the social studies standards. Now the group says the following about the Fordham Institute’s conclusion that far-right members of the state board themselves engaged in “ideological manipulation” by basing many of the new standards on their own personal and political beliefs:

“This attack comes from a group funded in part by the liberal Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but I must admit I am still embarrassed for them in their inaccuracies, even with their clear bias,” said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO for Liberty Institute. “Texans are not impressed by some education elitist ‘think tank’, with left-wing funding and an agenda, launching bombs from Washington, D.C., aimed at Texas. This attack was baseless, inaccurate, biased, and ineffectual.”

We suppose that “elitist” is how groups like Liberty Institute describe anyone who actually seeks to promote knowledge rather than distortions and propaganda. And telling the truth apparently is “launching bombs.” LI’s sneering press release also criticizes “the media’s misrepresentation of the Fordham Institute as a conservative organization.”

In fact, Fordham is a conservative think tank. From the Houston Chronicle today:

The Fordham Institute also gets funding from the Walton (Wal-Mart) Family Foundation, the William Simon Foundation, The Hoover Institute and other conservative players.

“We could be described as right-of-center,” Institute spokeswoman Amy Fagan said. “We support education reform and are definitely critical of the status quo. We support school choice and more options for parents — including high-quality charter schools and voucher programs. And we are particularly big on smart accountability and high-quality standards.”

We should note, of course, that not all conservatives support private school vouchers. And people across the political spectrum support accountability and high standards. Regardless, the Walton Family Foundation, William E. Simon Foundation and Hoover Institute have long been major supporters of conservative causes in the United States. We seriously doubt any of them would describe Fordham as “leftist.”

But Liberty Institute does. You see, extremist groups like LI have moved so far to the right that they brand everyone else as “leftist.” And that includes anyone appalled by efforts of State Board of Education members to shove their own personal and political agendas down the throats of our kids in Texas schools.

The Fordham Institute’s analysis compared part of the new social studies standards to Soviet indoctrination in the old USSR. That’s how politicized the new standards really are. Now, we wouldn’t call Liberty Institute a communist organization. But the group apparently has a soft spot for the authoritarian’s desire to politicize education.