by Dan Quinn

It appears that the Texas State Board of Education‘s social conservatives and their supporters have embarked on a new campaign of blanket smears against almost everyone involved in the revision of social studies curriculum standards. And the attacks increasingly sound almost like unhinged rants.

This week state board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, and Bill Ames, appointed to a curriculum panel by board member Don McLeroy, R-College, are both attacking “leftists” involved in the social studies revision. Their targets include teachers, Texas Education Agency professional staff, the news media and (of course) the Texas Freedom Network.

We already knew about Mercer’s contempt for classroom teachers. Now in a new Q-and-A article on the conservative blog Ramparts360, Mercer says that the battle over what Texas students will learn in their public school social studies classrooms is part of a “nationwide culture war” against “the far left.” And who makes up the “far left”?

Ken refers to what he calls “the Big Five Print Media Mafia” (Austin American Statesman, San Antonio Express News, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star Telegram). Big Five Mafia for short. “The far left attacks constantly without mercy. And within the educational system there seems to be an academic and journalistic assassination of conservative leaders in science and history, even to the point of denying their degrees or professional influence.”

Their accomplice is a group with the Orwellian moniker “Texas Freedom Network” and the Big Five Mafia is constantly quoting the group members as authorities on education. These are the indoctrinators for whom the term “religious freedom” doesn’t mean freedom OF religion as much as it means freedom FROM religion. Big difference.

In a separate Q-and-A article, Ames echoes Mercer’s charges and calls conservative teachers a “minority” in Texas. He repeatedly refers to teachers and others (including “moderate Republicans”) helping revise the standards as leftists and liberals:

“On one side [of the debate over curriculum standards] are those with a leftist mindset, with the goal of creating a negative view of America, revealing a history of oppression and exploitation of minorities, women, and labor. This group is highly organized, consisting of the Texas Council for the Social Studies, the two major teachers unions in Texas, Democrats and some “moderate” Republicans on the SBOE, and even some left-leaning staffers at the Texas Education Agency. They are all ideologically joined at the hip and many contribute money to the Texas Freedom Network, which is their selected mouthpiece to trash their opponents.”

Ames also thinks the debate in Texas is part of a bigger battle against the “severe” threat of leftists in America:

“The ascension of Obama and the overwhelming majority of leftists in government has emboldened the Texas leftist groups beyond any previous levels. The U. S. history review panel of which I was a member displayed an astounding arrogance towards both the SBOE and the conservative values of Texas citizens.”

He even calls on Texans to defund and remove their children from public schools:

“The ultimate parent’s weapon is to reduce public school funding by homeschooling or putting their kids in private school.  Many parents believe this is not affordable and/or too difficult. But they should consider the importance of their children’s education measured against overall family priorities.”

“Big Five Mafia”? “Indoctrinators”?  The “leftist mindset” of teachers? “Left-leaning” TEA staffers? Of course, we’re not terribly surprised by these tired “Red Scare” tactics. After all, some board members also think students should learn that Joseph McCarthy was a truth-telling American hero. But it’s troubling — to say the least — that these extremists have so much influence over the education of Texas schoolchildren.