Don’t fall for the star-spangled voodoo history

September 14, 2014

Star-spangled Banner and the War of 1812 - The original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem, is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Star-spangled Banner and the War of 1812 – The original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem, is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Every school kid learns the story of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” or should.

During the War of 1812, Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key, stood aboard a British ship in Baltimore Harbor to negotiate the release of his friend, Dr. William Beanes, who had been taken prisoner while the British stormed through Bladensburg, Maryland, after burning Washington, D.C.  Key witnessed the British shelling of Fort McHenry, the guardian of Baltimore’s harbor.  Inspired when he saw the U.S. flag still waving at dawn after a night of constant shelling, Key wrote a poem.

Key published the poem, suggested it might be put to the tune of “Anachreon in Heaven” (a tavern tune popular at the time) — and the popularity of the song grew until Congress designated it the national anthem in 1931.  In telling the story of the latest restoration of that garrison flag now housed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Smithsonian Magazine repeated the story in the July 2000 issue:  “Our Flag Was Still There.”

It’s a wonderful history with lots of splendid, interesting details (Dolley Madison fleeing the Executive Mansion clutching the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, the guy who had introduced Dolley to James Madison and then snubbed them after they were married; the British troops eating the White House dinner the Madisons left in their haste; the gigantic, 42 by 30 foot flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow trying to support her family; the rag-tag Baltimore militia stopping cold “Wellington’s Invicibles;” the British massing of 50 boats and gunships; and much more).

It’s a grand and glorious history that stirs the patriotic embers of the most cynical Americans.

And it’s all true.

So it doesn’t deserve the voodoo history version, the bogus history created by some person preaching in a church (I gather from the “amens”) that is making the rounds of the internet, stripped of attribution so we can hunt down the fool who is at fault.

We got this in an e-mail yesterday; patriots save us, there must be a hundred repetitions that turn up on Google, not one correcting this horrible distortion of American history.

Horrible distortion of American history

(The full version is a mind-numbing 11 minutes plus.  Some people have put it on other sites. )

Why do I complain?

  1. It was the War of 1812, not the Revolutionary War — there were 15 states, not 13 colonies.
  2. There was no ultimatum to to Baltimore, nor to the U.S., as this fellow describes it.
  3. Key negotiated for the release of one man, Dr. Beanes.  There was no brig full of U.S. prisoners.
  4. It’s Fort McHenry, not “Henry.”  The fort was named after James McHenry, a physician who was one of the foreign-born signers of the Constitution, who had assisted Generals Washington and Lafayette during the American Revolution, and who had served as Secretary of War to Presidents Washington and Adams.
  5. Fort McHenry was a military institution, a fort defending Baltimore Harbor.  It was not a refuge for women and children.
  6. The nation would not have reverted to British rule had Fort McHenry fallen.
  7. There were 50 ships, not hundreds.  Most of them were rafts with guns on them.  Baltimore Harbor is an arm of Chesapeake Bay, more than 150 miles from the ocean; Fort McHenry is not on the ocean, but across the harbor from the Orioles’ Camden Yards ballpark.
  8. The battle started in daylight. Bombardment continued for 25 hours.
  9. Bogus quote:  George Washington never said “What sets the American Christian apart from all other people in this world is he will die on his feet before he will live on his knees.”  Tough words.  Spanish Civil War. Not George Washington.  I particularly hate it when people make up stuff to put in the mouths of great men.  Washington left his diaries and considerably more — we don’t have to make up inspiring stuff, and when we do, we get it wrong.
  10. The battle was not over the flag; the British were trying to take Baltimore, one of America’s great ports.  At this point, they rather needed to since the Baltimore militia had stunned and stopped the ground troops east of the city.  There’s enough American bravery and pluck in this part of the story to merit no exaggerations.
  11. To the best of our knowledge, the British did not specifically target the flag.
  12. There were about 25 American casualties.  Bodies of the dead were not used to hold up the flag pole — a 42 by 30 foot flag has to be on a well-anchored pole, not held up by a few dead bodies stacked around it.

You can probably find even more inaccuracies (please note them in comments if you do).

The entire enterprise is voodoo history.  The name of Francis Scott Key is right; the flag is right; almost everything else is wrong.

Please help:  Can you find who wrote this piece of crap?  Can you learn who the narrator is, and where it was recorded?

I keep finding troubling notes with this on the internet: ‘My school kids are going to see this to get the real story.’  ‘Why are the libs suppressing the truth?’  ‘I didn’t know this true story before, and now I wonder why my teachers wouldn’t tell it.’

It’s voodoo history, folks.  It’s a hoax.  The real story is much better.

If Peter Marshall and David Barton gave a gosh darn about American history, they would muster their mighty “ministries” to correct the inaccuracies in this piece.  But they are silent.

Clearly, it’s not the glorious history of this nation they love.

More:

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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Texas, the eyes of Darwin are upon you

September 20, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Graphic from Colin Purrington, in commemoration of the kickoff of hearings at the Texas State Board of Education on science textbooks, September 18, 2013

Colin Purrington Tweeted, “Thanks, @ncse for helping keep Darwin in Texas science textbooks. #Whac-A-Mole #creationism #StandUp4Science pic.twitter.com/8dNYbqFELV.”

More:


Campaign 2012: Texas State Board of Education, those who do not know history . . .

March 15, 2012

Texas Freedom Network SBOE play on Santayana

I get e-mail from people who work for good schools, the Texas Freedom Network:

Texas Freedom Network

TFN Launches SBOE 2012 Campaign

Ideologues on the State Board of Education are doing everything they can to keep our children in the dark (ages). They:

  • censor American history, including what students learn about separation of church and state
  • reject established science and dumb-down instruction on evolution
  • ignore the recommendations of teachers and scholars who know what Texas kids need to learn to be successful today

Ignorance is not a Texas value. Texas needs a new SBOE.

So what can you do?

Every 10 years all 15 seats on the SBOE are up for election at once. This is that year.

Throughout this election year, our campaign will help you:

  • Get informed about SBOE elections
  • Get involved in your community
  • VOTE for candidates that restore sanity to the SBOE

Take the first step: sign the pledge and join the SBOE 2012 campaign at tfn.org/educate.

Regards,
The Texas Freedom Network
tfn.org

P.S. Take another step toward fulfilling part of your pledge by clicking here to send this message to a friend.

P.P.S. For even more campaign updates, like TFN on Facebook and follow #SBOE2012 on Twitter.

Good idea.

For years, when people asked me about my opinions “in the really important races” I’d first ask them which school district they lived in, usually pointing out that I don’t know their district.  Local school board races are probably the most important most people will vote in (or fail to vote) in their lifetimes.  Since coming to Texas and fighting the Texas State Board of Education, I wonder sometimes if the state board races aren’t even more important than your local school board.  Santayana’s Ghost agrees with the sentiments on the TFN logo above.

If you don’t already use the site, you ought to at least check out the TFN Insider, TFN’s blog which covers the Texas  SBOE better than most media in Texas.


War on science, war on education: Evolution under fire at Texas education board

July 21, 2011

Ryan at the Texas Freedom Network laid out the stakes:

Just a reminder about what new chairwoman Barbara Cargill — and her five “conservative Christian” allies on the State Board of Education — have in mind for the meeting this week:

I am a little bit concerned in looking at some of these science online supplementary materials. I looked at one of the links and there was a picture of a — a graphic of a human fetus next to a gorilla fetus talking about how they only differ by one amino acid. Therefore, universal common decent. So that is of some concern. And I am not quite sure if we are going to have the votes to overturn that. We will work diligently to rectify and correct some of that. But remember we lost a conservative seat, so we’re down to six.

In this unguarded moment, Cargill drops the double-speak and is honest about her plan for the first meeting over which she will preside as chair  — pressure publishers to censor scientific information from their materials and to insert bogus information questioning evolution. And she knows exactly what her task is: to get the extra votes necessary to accomplish this.

Stay tuned to TFN Insider on Thursday and Friday as we give you a front-row seat at the contentious hearing and board vote.

Live blogging the meeting starting at about 10:00 a.m today at TFN Insider at at Steve Schafersman’s blog, from the Texas Citizens for Science.

More, resources:


Friends of science and evolution: Testify next week in the Texas textbook process?

July 14, 2011

I get important e-mail from the Texas Freedom Network; they’re asking for help next week to fight creationism and other forms of buncombe popular in Texas:

Science and the SBOE: One Week to Go

Next week, the Texas State Board of Education will take a critical vote on science in our public schools. We need people like you to make sure the vote is in favor of sound, well-established science.

Up for board consideration are science instructional materials submitted by a number of publishers and vendors who want their product used in Texas classrooms. Even before the board meets, far-right groups have been hard at work trying to ensure materials approved by the board attack and diminish evolutionary science and include the junk science of “intelligent design”/creationism.

The attacks include one from a little-know firm out of New Mexico, International Databases, which submitted instructional materials rife with creationist propaganda.

It gets worse. Far-right SBOE members last month appointed creationists with questionable scientific credentials to teams tasked with reviewing the materials and making recommendations to the board.

And new board chair Barbara Cargill upped the stakes when in a speech just last week she framed the debate over science as a “spiritual battle.”

The board will hold just ONE public hearing on the science materials. Your participation is crucial.

It is critical that you act now by clicking here to express your interest in testifying before the board on July 21.

Please note: The deadline to sign up to testify is 5 p.m. Monday.

We must insist that the SBOE keep junk science – including “intelligent design”/creationism – out of our children’s classrooms. The board must approve only instructional materials that are accurate, that are in line with sound and well-established science, and that will prepare Texas children to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century.

Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right. www.tfn.org | www.tfninsider.org | General: tfn@tfn.org
Tell a friend to subscribe to TFN News Clips, Alerts or Rapid Response Teams. Subscribers may choose the issue areas that interest them. To change your TFN subscription preferences – or to unsubscribe – click here.
Copyright 2010, Texas Freedom Network

Trying to carve out time here.  Can you help?

Hearings will be most interesting.  Support for the Texas State Board of Education actually comes, often, from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  TEA this week laid off just under 200 workers, to deal with the 36% budget chopping done to the agency by the Texas Lege.  Word comes this week that curriculum directors at TEA were let go, including the director of science curriculum.

It’s rather like the first 20 weeks of World War II in the Pacific, with the aggressors advancing on almost all fronts against science.  When is our Battle of Midway?

Information, resources: 


Surprise attack on public schools today, in Texas Lege?

May 18, 2011

From the Texas Freedom Network (late last night — so where it says, “tomorrow,” think “today!”):

Voucher Lobby Launches Big Surprise Attack on Texas Public Schools

TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR NOW TO OPPOSE VOUCHER SCHEME THAT WOULD DRAIN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS

We have just learned that advocates of private school voucher schemes are planning to offer legislation as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) that would drain billions of dollars from our neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools across Texas. A proposed amendment to important fiscal legislation in the Texas House of Representatives would allow the state to give so-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants – vouchers – to families that send their children to private or religious schools. The money would come directly from tax dollars originally intended for public education – even if recipients of these vouchers had never set foot in a public school!

This radical new voucher proposal is backed by a virtual “who’s who” of anti-public education groups, including the Texas Home School Coalition and Tea Party activists. They are dishonestly claiming that their voucher scheme will save the state money – but the loss in funding would be catastrophic for neighborhood public schools.

Legislators in 2007 and 2009 voted overwhelmingly to bar spending any taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools. But now as lawmakers consider billions of dollars in cuts to the budget for public education, voucher advocates want to siphon off billions more in funding from our neighborhood schools.

TAKE ACTION

The Texas House of Representatives could vote on this reckless voucher amendment tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18). It’s critical that you CALL YOUR LEGISLATOR TODAY and TOMORROW MORNING and insist that he or she oppose this irresponsible effort to defund neighborhood public schools. Tell your legislator:

  • So-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants are nothing more than a radical and irresponsible private school voucher scheme. They could drain billions of dollars from neighborhood public schools on top of the billions in painful cuts to public education already in the current House and Senate budget bills.
  • These vouchers/grants would not cover the full cost of private school tuition and would therefore go mostly to tuition subsidies for high-income families – including families with children who were never in public schools to begin with.
  • This voucher scheme would send public tax dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. In fact, the proposed amendment includes no standards or regulations at all for recipients of these tax-funded vouchers – it’s simply a tax-dollar giveaway.

Click here to find out who represents you in the Texas House of Representatives and the contact information for his or her office.


Pressure on Texas Board of Education to fix damage to social studies standards

February 18, 2011

Probably not enough pressure to get the board to act, but the Dallas Morning News turned a cannon on the Texas State Board of Education this morning, asking that they fix the damage done to social studies last year.

The paper’s editorial board keyed off of the Fordham Institute’s grading of state standards — Texas failed, with at D.

Here’s the editorial in its entirety — there’s more at the Dallas Morning News website and I encourage you to go read it there:

Editorial: Report offers new reason to rewrite standards

Just in case you think it’s only us warning about Texas’ new social studies standards, check out the awful grade that the respected Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave those benchmarks in a report released Wednesday.

A big, fat “D” is what Texas got for the history, economics, geography and cultural standards the State Board of Education approved last year for Texas’ elementary and secondary school students.

Some of that awful mark was for the way the standards are organized. Fordham researchers likened their confusing structure to a jigsaw puzzle. But much of the national organization’s critique was about how politicized the State Board of Education has made those standards.

We were particularly struck by Fordham’s conclusion that the hard-right faction on the board, which dominated the writing of the standards, made the same mistake left-wing academics have made in approaching such subjects as history and economics. The Fordham study puts it this way:

“While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the hard right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points.”

Oh, it gets worse. Back to the report: “The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content from the start.”

For the record, Fordham is not a left-wing outpost of American thought. Its leader is Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official and one of education’s most recognized voices. At the least, his organization’s critique is not a predictable one.

The institute echoes the complaint this newspaper has had since the 15-member Texas board rewrote the state’s social studies standards. Its hard-right faction at the time insisted on inserting its slant on those important subjects, such as suggesting Joe McCarthy wasn’t so bad, that international treaties are a problem and that the separation of church and state is misguided.

The warped view is why the revised board must go back and rewrite the standards this spring. And that should be possible.

Voters were so frustrated with the board’s work last year that they elected more moderate Republican members. Moderates now have enough of the upper hand to fix these standards before schools start planning for next year and before publishers start drafting new history and social studies textbooks.

Some on the new board may believe that rewriting the social studies standards will be too difficult. But surely Texas students deserve better than a “D” when it comes to what the state wants them to learn in some of the most critical subjects.

 

Texas fails among its peers

How big states fared on the Fordham Foundation report on social studies standards nationwide:

California: A-

New York: A-

Florida: C

Texas: D

National average: D


Petition to Congress: Tell Texas Board of Education to fly right correctly

August 11, 2010

E-mail from the Texas Freedom Network:
Alert Header

Tell Your Congress Member to Support Education over Politics

The Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Faith Network this week joined nearly two dozen national organizations in support of a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the State Board of Education to stop playing politics with the education of Texas schoolchildren. We have signed on to a letter to U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, supporting House Resolution 1593. Congresswoman Johnson introduced the resolution in the U.S. House on July 30. The resolution, which has four other co-sponsors from Texas, calls out the state board for disregarding nearly a year’s worth of work by teachers and scholars who wrote initial drafts of new social studies curriculum standards. It also notes that more than 1,200 history scholars have warned that the heavily revised standards, which the board adopted in May, “would undermine the study of the social sciences in public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of United States society.”

The House resolution is available here. The letter from TFN and other organizations supporting that resolution is available here.

Take Action

Ask your U.S. House representative today to support House Resolution 1593 by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. You can find out who your U.S. House member is here. When you call, tell him or her:

  • Teachers and scholars should write curriculum standards and textbook requirements, not politicians.
  • Texas schools should give our schoolchildren an education based on sound scholarship that prepares them to succeed in college and their future careers. Decisions about curriculum and textbooks shouldn’t be based on the personal and political agendas of state board members.
  • Because of the size of Texas, publishers often write their textbooks to meet curriculum standards in this state and then sell them to schools across the country. Texas should be a model for good curriculum and textbooks, not a national laughingstock.

You can do three other things to stop radical members of the State Board of Education from promoting their political and personal agendas in our kids’ classrooms:

Join the Just Educate campaign, which is working to reform the State Board of Education.

Stay informed by signing up for TFN News Clips and reading our blog, TFN Insider.

Support the Texas Freedom Network by making a special gift today.

Take Action Now

Reform the State Board of Education

In the race to the future, politicians are holding our children back. Find out what you can do about it!

Tell politicians to stop promoting ideological agendas in our public schools. JUST educate the children of Texas!

Sign the petition »

Sounds good to me. Unlikely, and rare for the national Congress to urge state action — but appropriate in this case.


White men gave civil rights to women, blacks and Hispanics?

July 16, 2010

It’s maybe an apocryphal story. Republicans in Texas hope so.

It was at a very large, mostly African-American church in Dallas. The social action committee, or whatever it’s name is, was meeting. The only white guy in the room was there to try to get them interested in the elections for the members of the Texas State Board of Education. Normally these races are sleepers, down ballot, and off the radars of almost all interest groups. The social action committee was just as tough an audience as any other group with limited resources and limited time to try to get good political action.

Besides, a good chunk of Dallas is represented by Mavis Knight, an African American who is a pillar of common sense on the Texas education board, and Ms. Knight’s seat isn’t being contested in 2010. Why should Dallas voters be interested in any of these races?

“Before we start talking,” the lone white guy said, “I’d like to show you some of what has been going on in the Texas State Board of Education over the last year, in their work to change social studies standards.”

And he showed the video below. The entire committee grew quiet, silent; and then they started to shout at the television image. “What’s that?” “Is he crazy?” “He said white men gave us civil rights?”  “HE SAID WHAT?”

A 58-second video clip that could greatly animate electoral politics in Texas. The comments came fast and loud.

“That was part of the debate?  What, are they crazy down there?  Don’t they know history?  Don’t they know the truth?  They aren’t going to tell our children that Martin Luther King didn’t work to get civil rights, are they?  They aren’t going to say Martin Luther King died, but some white man gave rights to African Americans — are they?”

It’s a video clip that every Republican candidate in Texas hopes will be hidden away.  The Democratic tide that has swept Dallas County in two consecutive elections threatens to stop the Republican stranglehold on statewide offices in November, if those who voted in such great numbers in 2008 turn out again.

There are other stakes, too — the Republican stranglehold allowed the state education board to gut science standards, to eliminate Hispanic literature from language arts standards, and to try to change history, to blot out Thurgood Marshall and as much of the civil rights movement as they could hide.  So Texas children get a second-rate, incorrect set of standards in social studies, in English, and in science.

Republicans have declared war on good education, war on the children who benefit most from good education.

So, according to Don McLeroy, who lost the primary election to keep his seat, this little piece of history, below, is inaccurate. Tough for McLeroy — the Schoolhouse Rock video sits in too many Texas school libraries. Sometimes, the facts sneak through, defying the best efforts of the Texas State Soviet of Education to snuff out the truth.

But don’t you wonder what every woman, African American, and Hispanic in Texas will think about the importance of the 2010 elections, when they see what Gov. Rick Perry’s appointee to chair the SBOE, thinks about how civil rights were achieved in the U.S.?

Over at Republican headquarters, they hope that story is apocryphal.

Video of the Texas State Board of Education from the Texas Freedom Network.

Here, you can make sure other voters see this video that Don McLeroy hopes you will not see:

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How Extreme Will the Texas GOP Get? (via Texas Freedom Network)

June 9, 2010

Mothers, hide the babies: Republicans are coming to Dallas this weekend.

Come to think of it, you maybe ought to hide your Bible and any other books of note — dictionaries, science books, history references — too.  Texas Freedom Network has the full rundown.  Be sure to read the specific stupidities.

UPDATE: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that immigration is likely to be a key point of contention in the Texas GOP’s platform debate this weekend. Other platform proposals are expected from “birthers” who don’t believe President Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen and people who want Republicans to support the Constitution against threats by “Sharia law adherents living in the United States of America and the rest of the world.” … W … Read More

via Texas Freedom Network


Liveblogging the Texas State Board of Education

May 21, 2010

Or, should that be “Texas State Soviet of Education?”

Steve Schafersman (of Texas Citizens for Science fame)  is live blogging for the Texas Observer, here.

Texas Freedom Network blogs it here.

Did I forget to mention that earlier?

More:


Blasphemous prayer in Texas

May 21, 2010

One might have thought it improbable, if not impossible.

Texas State Board of Education Member Cynthia Dunbar, in a parting shot, concedes the grounds upon which a challenge might be made to the gutting of social studies standards she wishes to accomplish today.  Is there any doubt her intent is solely religious?

Tip of the old scrub brush to the Texas Freedom Network, for capturing this event for history.


Texas education: Social studies on the gallows today

May 18, 2010

Social studies curricula climb the scaffold to the gallows set by the “conservative” majority of the Texas State Board of Education today.  If they get their way — and signs are they will — they will hobble social studies education for at least a half generation.

As The Dallas Morning News explains this morning, lame-duck board members fully intend to change Texas and American culture with their rewriting of history, de-emphasis of traditional history education, and insertion of what they consider pro-patriotic ideas in social studies.

AUSTIN – When social conservatives on the State Board of Education put the final touches on social studies curriculum standards this week, it will be a significant victory in their years-long push to imprint their beliefs upon what Texas students learn.

We in the part-time blogosphere can’t cover the meeting as it deserves — nor have we been able to mobilize pro-education forces to do what was needed to stop the board — yet.

McLeroy will make the most of his remaining time on the panel. He proposed several additions to the social studies standards for the board to consider this week. One would require students to “contrast” the legal doctrine of separation of church and state with the actual wording in the Bill of Rights that bars a state-established religion.

McLeroy has resurrected the old Cleon Skousen/David Barton/White Supremecist argument that “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, disregarding what the document and its amendments actually say.  Jefferson warned that such discussions poison children’s education, coming prematurely as this one would be as McLeroy wants it.

Watch that space.  Tony Whitson at Curricublog will cover it well, and probably timely — read his stuff.  Steve Shafersman’s work will be informative.  The Texas Tribune offered great coverage in the past.  Stay tuned.  And the Texas Freedom Network carries the flag and works hard to recruit the troops and keep up morale.

People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have already chimed in.

It is discouraging.  Under current history standards, Texas kids should know the phrase “shot heard ’round the world,” but they do not get exposure to the poem from which the phrase comes, nor to the poet (Emerson), nor exposure to Paul Revere whose ride inspired Longfellow later to write a poem that children have read ever since — except in Texas.

But under the new standards, Texas children will learn who Phyllis Schlafly is.  Patriots are out; hypocrites and demagogues are in.


Especially Texans: Please stand up for high-quality, non-political education

May 13, 2010

I get e-mail, this time from the Texas Freedom Network:

The State Board of Education meeting is next week, and we need YOU to make a difference.

“Am I a religious fanatic? Absolutely. You’d have to be to do what I do.”
– State Board of Education member Don McLeroy

Don't White Out our education - Texas Freedom Network

Don't White Out Our History! - Texas Freedom Network

Is this who you want to decide what Texas schoolchildren learn? Or would you rather entrust that task to someone who believes public education is a “tool of perversion,” as board member Cynthia Dunbar believes? Or maybe any one of the board members who believe the separation of church and state is a myth?

If this is not what you want for Texas children, NOW is the critical time to take a stand.

The controversial social studies curriculum process is coming to an end. Public testimony will be heard at the State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, May 19, and we expect a vote on these standards to take place the following day. We need you to stand up to the State Board of Education by attending our rally on Wednesday, May 19. Or testifying in front of the board. Or both!

“Don’t White-Out Our History”  Rally
Wednesday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m.
William B. Travis building (where the state board meets).
Click here to sign up to attend the rally
.

Also on Wednesday, the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on the social studies curriculum standards. Since you are already planning to be at the William B. Travis building for the rally, you can also sign up to testify! Read below for more information on registering to testify with the Texas Education Agency. (Testimony will begin in the morning and likely stretch into the evening — so if you wish to testify, be prepared for a long day.)

We look forward to seeing you next week. If you have any questions, e-mail Judie or call us at 512-322-0545.



Sour grapes of wrath at the Texas State Board of Education

March 10, 2010

A couple of months can make a big difference.  Can.

A difference which way?

Two months ago the Texas State Board of Education suspended its revamping of social studies standards — the efforts to grind the standards into a right-wing crutch were so controversial that hearings, discussion and amending proposed standards took up more time than allotted.  SBOE delayed final votes until March 10.

Today.

Last week Texas voted in primary elections.  Several board members’ terms are up.  Two incumbents lost primary challenges, Don McLeroy, the Boss Tweed of the right wing cultural war ring, and Geraldine Miller, a long-term veteran from Dallas, whose very conservative views cast her as a moderate among SBOE members.  Both are Republicans.

How will those primary losses affect them and their work on the board?

In addition, other members of the culture war ring are retiring, including Cynthia Dunbar. Will the lame ducks be content to vote up the changes urged by history and economic professionals and professional educators, or will they do as McLeroy suggested they need to do earlier, and fight against the recommendations of experts?

How will the lame ducks walk and quack?

Stakes are high.  New York Times Magazine featured the culture wars on the cover on Valentine’s Day (you should read the article)Texas Monthly weighed in against the culture wars, too — a surprise to many Texans.

Cynicism is difficult to swim against.  I expect McLeroy to try as best he can to make social studies standards a monument to right wing bigotry and craziness.  We’ve already seen SBOE vote to delete a wonderful children’s book from even being mentioned because the text author shares a name with a guy who wrote a book on socialism earlier.

Most of us watching from outside of Austin (somebody has to stay back and grade the papers and teach to the test . . .) expect embarrassments.  On English and science standards before, the culture war ring tactics were to make a flurry of last-minute, unprinted and undiscussed, unannounced amendments apparently conspired to gut the standards of accuracy (which would not make the right wing political statements they want) and, too often, rigor.  Moderates on the board have not had the support mechanisms to combat these tactics successfully — secret e-mail and telephone-available friends standing by to lend advice and language on amendments.  In at least two votes opponents of the culture war voted with the ring, not knowing that innocent-sounding amendments came loaded.

In a test of the No True Scotsman argument, religious people will be praying for Texas kids and Texas education.  Meanwhile, culture warriors at SBOE will work to frustrate those prayers.

Oy.

Thomas Jefferson toyed with the idea of amendment the U.S. Constitution to provide a formal role for the federal government in guaranteeing education, which he regarded as the cornerstone of freedom and a free, democratic-style republic.  Instead, American primary and secondary education are governed by more than 15,000 locally-elected school boards with no guidance from the national government on what should be taught.  Alone among the industrial and free nations of  the world, the U.S. has no mechanism for rigorous national standards on what should be taught.

For well over a century a combined commitment to educating kids better than their parents helped keep standards high and achievement rising.  Public education got the nation through two world wars, and created a workforce that could perform without peer on Earth in producing a vibrant and strong economy.

That shared commitment to quality education now appears lost.  Instead we have culture warriors hammering teachers and administrators, insisting that inaccurate views of Jefferson and history be taught to children, perhaps to prevent them from ever understanding what the drive for education meant to freedom, but surely to end Jeffersonian-style influences in the future.

Texas’s SBOE may make the case today that states cannot be trusted with our children’s future, and that we need a national body to create academic rigor to preserve our freedom.  Or they will do the right thing.

Voters last week expressed their views that SBOE can’t be trusted to do the right thing.  We’re only waiting to see how hard McLeroy is willing to work to put his thumb in the eye of Big Tex.

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