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Posted at 3:23 PM ET, 05/13/2010

Did Texas school board abuse its power?

By Valerie Strauss

With the Texas State Board of Education getting ready to adopt controversial new social studies standards, a new report accuses the panel of abusing its power and asks the state Legislature to intervene.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas released a report that says members of the education board have inserted their own personal beliefs into curriculum and that they exceeded their authority in setting standards.

The board of education is scheduled to meet on May 18 and then, on the 21st, adopt the newly revised social studies standards, which, among other things:

*Plays down the role of Thomas Jefferson among the founding fathers
*Questions the separation of church and state
*Claims that the U.S. government was infiltrated by Communists during the Cold War. This is an attempt, apparently, to vindicate Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

“Favored leaders, organizations and policies are discussed in strictly positive ways, while disliked leaders, organizations and policies are thoroughly analyzed for their pros and cons,” the report says. “And finally, the impact of social movements and historical events unfavorable to some Board members’ ideological views are minimized and/or revised.....

“If adopted, this curriculum will allow a governmental entity to transform its subjective views into objective facts. As a result, students will be taught a one-sided history that will negatively impact their ability to engage and develop their analytical skills. Almost 4 in 10 Texas public school students fail to graduate from high school, and this curriculum may exacerbate Texas’ dropout problem by failing to engage students. Texas can’t afford to allow the Board to continue its abuse,” it says.

The ACLU of Texas asks the Legislature to:
*Establish minimum qualifications for all persons involved in determining the substance of the “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.”

* Remove the Board’s authority over the development and adoption of the standards by implementing one of the following three options:
a) Limit the Board’s authority to only those duties required by the Texas Constitution. Create a new body charged with the development and adoption of the TEKS and its related concerns,including textbook adoption and assessment standards.
b) Limit the Board’s role to non-substantive matters in the development and adoption of the standards and their related concerns,including textbook adoption and assessment standards.
c) Limit the Board to non-binding recommendations related to the development and adoption of the standards and its related concerns, including textbook adoption and assessment standards.

* Create checks and balances in the appointment process for all persons involved in the substantive development and adoption of the standards.

I’ve looked at the social studies standards, and besides the issue of distorting history, I had another reaction too: How deadly dull they are. Take a look and see for yourself.

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 13, 2010; 3:23 PM ET
Categories:  History  | Tags:  history, history standards and texas, texas board of education, texas social studies standards  
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A one sided view of history in Texas??? Frankly, I am SHOCKED. Thank goodness this does not happen in the Blue States, where only the truth is taught. Now let me get back to reading "Heather Has Two Mommies" to my class, to be followed by a lesson on the Constitution that completely ignores the Second Amendment...

Posted by: JERRYB1 | May 13, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Debates about what the children should be taught always miss the mark, because they are based on the assumption that education is filling up empty vessels rather than building strong brains. Education requires creating the conditions in which children sort through all this stuff and construct their own knowledge through research, writing, and dialogue which challenges them to think things through and make sense of a complex world. Arguing about what's in the texts is essentially an argument about who gets to brainwash the children--a rather hopeless enterprise and definitely not education.

Posted by: rickackerly | May 13, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

One would say that Texas wants to raise a generation of ignoramusses (ignorami?), except that it's apparent from flipping through the standards that it's already been doing that for quite some time. In their great purity purge that excised Thomas Jefferson from the list of major influences on the Constitution because of his church-state views, they left in Voltaire and added Aquinas. Voltaire was an atheist, which they would have known if they hadn't been totally ignorant of the standards they were "correcting," certainly more objectionable than the merely heterodox Jefferson. And as for Aquinas, there's no evidence that he influence the Founders' in their drafting of the Constitution - his chief qualifications seem to be that he's a saint and a name that the uneducated clowns on the Board associated with philosophy.

We should require Board members to pass a test of the same standards they expect school students to master.

Posted by: burntnorton | May 14, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Here's an excellent story of how Maine Republicans basically ransacked an eighth-grade classroom to impart their "values" to students:

Too many people on the right seem to prefer a one-sided, sanitized version of history.

Posted by: bdunn1 | May 14, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

And how will Texas address the War of Southern Treason? How will Texas address the illegal aliens from the South who tried to invade the Mexican province of Texas to extend the reach of slavery?

Posted by: Garak | May 14, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

All this rewriting of history and group think sound a lot like the old Soviet system if propaganda and misinformation. Brings new meaning to a red state of Texas.

Posted by: atroncale1 | May 14, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

We are talking about a state that twice elected George W. Bush governor and twice voted for him for President.

Posted by: guitar1 | May 14, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Have you actually read the standards? Or are you relying on press reports about the standards, just like you do about the Arizona illegal alien law?

Posted by: RhymesWithRight | May 14, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Just another example of the need to require EDUCATORS on the school boards; not ill-educated, ideologically motivated shills whose only claim to competence is being a mother or father.

And, JerryB, I sincerely hope you are not a teacher, but if you were I would encourage you to include such practices that create a sense of tolerance and inclusion (read the book) as well as discuss the 2nd amendment -especially discuss the part about it being written at a time when armed citizenry was a necessity AGAINST FOREIGN AGGRESSION not against fellow coffee drinkers at a Starbucks.

Posted by: topwriter | May 14, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The Texans who rebelled against Mexico were not illegals, they were lead by people who got generous land grants from Mexico, and then rebelled when Mexico started limiting the hand outs to FORMER Americans. They were Mexican citizens/residents who committed treason and rebelled. Unlike the Southern Traitors they were initially successful, though no account I have ever read said they could have maintained their independence if they had not joined the USA. However, they were independent in fact when they joined the USA of their own free will, and then Mexico attacked what was now part of the USA, and lost more land as result. Note a lot of this land was still in the hands of its actual owners, the Native Americans, so in effect the USA took the right of excluding other land thieves for the game.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | May 14, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I looked at the high school social studies knowledge and skills standards. Wow. They have a Celebrate Freedom Week in Texas?

On the plus side, there is a stream called: "Knowledge and Skills for Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefit." That course does include some important lessons on financial literacy. But the best sign for hope is this standard:

"Economics. The student understands free enterprise, socialist, and communist economic systems."

So maybe, if this is properly taught, all of these moron tea parties and republicans will quit equating health care reform with socialism and communism. Sadly, since the dropout rate in Texas is so high, quite a few students will miss these important lessons.

Posted by: bikes-everywhere | May 14, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Uh, Communists did infiltrate the US government. Ever hear of Alger Hiss?

And separation of church and state appears nowhere in the constitution. The constitution prevents us from establishing a church as a state church, all the rest is judge's gloss.

As for Jefferson, I suggest if the ACLU has her knickers in a twist over him, perhaps the Board of Ed can add a page on him and Sally Hemings.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | May 14, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

This is why history should be taught based upon historical thinking standards. Picking what content should be in a history curriclum is a political process. RICKACKERLY you are 100% correct in your post. What I think is historically relevant will be different than others.

As for Nemo24601, you need to study some history. Using Alger Hiss to defend the claim that there was communist infultration during the Cold War? One person? And by the way he passed information to the Soviets during WWII when the Soviets were our ally. Doesn't forgive what he did, but it was done during WWII. I don't have enough time or space to correct you on the issue of the separation of chruch and state, but why is it that historians of the early American period, both liberal and conservative, point to the fact that the founders, having seen how the combination of chruch and state in Europe had caused so many problems, insisted on a separation of chruch and state in the US. And I absolutely agree that Sally Hemings should be included as well as the fact that many slave owners had sexual relations with slaves (most would be considered rape) and that they allowed the children created by these relations to be sold into slavery. In otherwords, their own children. ALL OF HISTORY should be taught, the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted by: smith6 | May 14, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

let's send texas back to mexico. America would be improved, and Mexico would eventually forgive us ( in a hundred thousand years)

Posted by: newagent99 | May 14, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

It's time Texas.
It's WAY past time.
Please secede from the union, and keep anymore of your moron's
from entering the United States.

Posted by: henry-coleman | May 20, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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