Yes, They Can….Unfortunately

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If anyone thought the State Board of Education was chastened by the recent controversy over evolution, by the dethroning of its chairman and by the many, many bills that lawmakers filed this legislative session to strip the board of its power, well think again. The State Board is at it once more. The latest lunacy concerns revisions of the social studies curriculum. The board appointed six experts to review the current social studies standards. As they did with science, the seven social conservatives on the State Board made sure that three of the six experts were members of the Christian Right. And that’s how we ended up with David Barton—founder of WallBuilders, former vice chair of the Texas GOP and avowed opponent of the separation of church and state—as one of the experts reviewing what Texas schools teach kids in social studies class. A hat-tip on this to the Texas Freedom Network, which also identifies two other Christian conservative activists on the six-member panel, in a blog post this afternoon. In his social studies review, Barton contends that teachers should instruct students that the U.S. was founded as Christian nation, established with Biblical principles. He also contends that Cesar Chavez and Colin Powell shouldn’t be featured as influential historical figures. Barton writes: “Cesar Chavez may be a choice representing diversity but he certainly lacks the stature, impact, and overall contributions of so many others; and his open affiliation with Saul Alinsky’s movements certainly makes dubious that he is a praiseworthy to be heralded to students as someone ‘who modeled active participation in the democratic process.’”    Another member of the expert panel—Peter Marshall, the president of Marshall ministries—writes that, “To have Cesar Chavez listed next to Ben Franklin is ludicrous. Chavez is hardly the kind of role model that ought to be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”You can read all six experts’ critiques here. It appears that social studies curriculum will be the next battleground for the State Board for the coming year.  Lord help us.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.