28 Feb 2011

Texas school board members injected their personal religious beliefs into social studies curriculum

Secular News Daily - February 18, 2011

Slow Learners: Conservative Think Tank Flunks Texas Social Studies Standards

by Sandhya Bathija  | Communications Associate for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Texas should have seen this coming.

The Lone Star State has received a “D” for the bogus public school social studies curriculum that its State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted last year.

The icing on the cake is that this letter grade comes from a report issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank.

If you recall, Texas became the subject of national ridicule last March when the elected school board proposed curriculum downplaying Thomas Jefferson and the separation of church and state, while playing up Christian nation propaganda. The Religious Right bloc of the board quickly adopted these revisionist history standards, disregarding advice from historians and academics.

Reviewers at the Fordham Institute have now evaluated each state’s history standards in grades K-12, discovering 28 states deserve D or F grades. All of those state should be embarrassed, but Texas got singled out for special mention for using the public schools as a culture war battleground.

“The conservative majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has openly sought to use the state curriculum to promote its political priorities, molding the telling of the past to justify its current views and aims,” the report states. “Indeed, the SBOE majority displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.

“Members of the SBOE also showed themselves determined to inject their personal religious beliefs into history education,” the report continues. “‘Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law)’ and ‘Moses’ are, incredibly, listed as the principal political influences on America’s founders. The separation of church and state, a much-debated and crucial concept in the drafting of the state constitutions (1777–1781) and the federal Constitution (1787), is simply dismissed.”

The report claims this is “ideological manipulation” and that “the chief casualties are historical comprehension, and the good of the students themselves — which is always the case when education becomes an ideological weapon.”

It’s clear that whether you lean left or right, teaching revisionist history does no one any good, as Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said.

“This analysis adds to a growing chorus of criticism aimed at state board members who deliberately and arrogantly substituted their own political biases for facts and scholarship throughout the standards,” said Miller. “It’s hard to imagine a more damning indictment of the way the board has politicized and manipulated the education of Texas kids over the past several years.”

We hope this report resonates with the Texas SBOE, but that’s probably wishful thinking. Being a national laughing stock didn’t interrupt its ideological mission. A scolding by a conservative think tank probably won’t, either.

SBOE Chair Gail Lowe has already defended the curriculum and criticized the report for being based on “misinformation.”

While this board may not recognize its mistakes, Texas residents should. They need to keep up the heat and insist on standards that foster good history, not a misguided ideological agenda.

Related articles on Secular News Daily:
Americans United, Allies Commend House Resolution On Texas School Board’s Biased Social Studies Standards
Humanists Decry New Texas Social Studies and History Curricula; Urge Other States to Reject Texas Textbooks
Texas Appoints Fundies to Rewrite Statewide Social Studies Curriculum
CFI Action Alert: Help Prevent Political Interference with Curriculum Standards
Secular Coalition Applauds Resolution Supporting Fact-Based Education, Denouncing Texas School Board Meddling

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