This is pretty hot, folks: The conservative-dominated Texas Board of Education has finished a lengthy debate of public school social studies standards, and the results are eye popping.
- Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment are out.
- Gun rights will be part of students’ discussions of the FIRST Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- They squelched an attempt to teach students about the founding fathers’ effort to separate church and state.
- Any mention of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas is out.
When it was over, according to The Houston Chronicle, one of the liberal board members condemned the standards the board had adopted:
“We are perpetrating a fraud on the students of this state,” said Mavis Knight, D-Dallas.
There’s a great deal of blogging going on of some bizarre board discussions that are hard to believe. (h/t to Scott Mange)
Journalist and blogger Ed Brayton has the details. The juicy bits are below:
Friday morning, one of the more conservative board members prevailed in removing studies of Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment from the state’s world history history standards:
9:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.
Shortly before noon, another board member insisted the standards regarding the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution include a discussion of the right to bear arms, which is in the Second Amendment (already the standards require study of the full Bill of Rights).
11:33 – Bob Craig tries, once again, to talk some sense into these folks. Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the original standard’s focus on the rights of “petition, assembly, speech, and press in a democratic society” unfairly emphasizes the First Amendment over others. She suggests taking that out altogether if the Second Amendment isn’t included. Board member Ken Mercer argues that the right to bear arms is too important not to include here. But it IS included in the standards. The purpose of the original standard is to have students understand the rights to free expression in a democratic society. The right to bear arms is not relevant to that purpose.
So now the standards on studying the First Amendment now include discussions of the right to bear arms. But wait. It gets EVEN BETTER. A less-conservative board member suggested they include a standard studying the founding fathers’ views on religious freedom:
12:28 – Board member Mavis Knight . . . points out that students should understand that the Founders believed religious freedom was so important that they insisted on separation of church and state.
12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”
12:38 – Let the word go out here: The Texas State Board of Education today refused to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others. They voted to lie to students by omission.
This last motion failed on a 5-10 vote, with 10 conservatives voting against it.
Why is this important to Virginia? It’s because, as the commentor Ron points out below, standards of large state such as Texas pretty much dictate what’s going to wind up in textbooks across the country.
Coming to Virginia soon, sigh. But don’t worry too much. The state probably won’t have enough money to buy those books!