Litmus Tests at the SBOE?



Dave Mann

A reader passed along a link to this Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel story that shows just how much some members of the State Board of Education are trying to slant social studies classes in Texas.

The newspaper reports:

‘Would you consider yourself a conservative when it comes to patriotism, the constitution, the heritage of our forefathers, etc?’That was the last question that State Board of Education (SBOE) member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, asked SFA’s Education Coordinator Rhonda Williams in an e-mail interview for a spot on the state’s world history curriculum writing committee last December.

Williams was nominated to sit on a writing panel that would help shape the state’s social studies curriculum for the next 10 years. She was hoping that she would be selected for the world history writing committee where she felt her expertise could be best utilized. The writing teams are usually made up of high school and college level educators who help to draft curriculum standards in their respective fields.

Now, a lot of people hold politically conservative views of the Constitution, and that’s perfectly fine.

But can someone explain to me how on Earth anyone could consider themselves conservative or liberal about “patriotism” and “the heritage of our forefathers”?

The story continues:

‘I believe that citizens cannot be truly patriotic without being fully informed about the history of their country — its background, its development, its achievements, and its mistakes,’ Williams said in her response.Without ever hearing from Cargill again, she was notified that she had been relegated to a lesser panel where she would not be responsible for drafting any content for the general classroom. Williams taught secondary level history in Texas public schools for 11 years, as a graduate student taught at Vanderbilt University and is now working at SFA where she develops digital lesson plan materials that are available free of charge for teachers and students all over the world.

I haven’t seen this email exchange between Cargill and Williams reported anywhere else. The story offers a peak at just how hard the right-wing board members are working to slip their particular political views into Texas classrooms.

The Daily Sentinel delves into delicious detail:

Peter Marshall, one of Cargill’s expert appointees to the review board that will advise the SBOE on how to vote in 2010 when the standards are finalized, recently made headlines across the state after his review of the writing committees’ rough drafts, which were published online. Marshall, an evangelical minister from Massachusetts, suggested that female aviator Amelia Earhart, anti-segregationist pioneer and first black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Mexican-American civil rights leader Cesar Chavez are not important enough to be included in school curriculum.Marshall wrote, “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.”Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. He has many schools across the nation named in his honor, and his birthday, March 31, is officially recognized by the state of Texas as Cesar Chavez Day. In 2007, the University of Texas unveiled a statue bearing his likeness, and his portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.Marshall also discarded the importance of Anne Hutchinson, who was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony after she advocated, through her Bible study groups, the need for more women’s rights. After her banishment, she played an instrumental role in the founding of the Rhode Island Colony. Today, her statue stands in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.Marshall said of Hutchinson in his review, “She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn’t accomplish anything except for getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble.”

It’s going to be a wild year at State Board of Education meetings. And that’s really saying something.