The Texas State Board of Education enjoyed its fair share of bad press lately, and rightly so.
Strike 1: In Friday night’sWorst Person in the World segment, Keith gave the finger to Goodhair for considering Cynthia Dunbar as a leading candidate to head up the SBOE. Not just any old run-of-the mill religious conservative, Dunbar is in the Obama-is-Hitler cult and also thinks (when she thinks at all) that public school is a “tool of perversion,” “unconstitutional,” and “tyrannical,” choosing to homeschool her own offspring rather than subject them to actual education. So naturally, our august governor thought she’d be a grand choice to chair the SBOE!
Strike 2: Actually, Olbermann was a step behind sincePerry had just chosen conservative Cynthia Lowe as chair of the board. Arguably, Lowe’s a few degrees better than Dunbar, but not by much.
In 2004 Ms. Lowe opposed requiring that publishers obey curriculum standards and put medically accurate information about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention in new high school health textbooks.
In 2008 Ms. Lowe voted to throw out nearly three years of work by teacher writing teams on new language arts standards. Over the strenuous objections of teachers and curriculum specialists, Lowe instead voted for a standards document that the board’s far-right bloc patched together overnight and slipped under hotel doors the morning of the final vote.
In 2003 and 2009 Ms. Lowe supported dumbing down the state’s public school science curriculum by voting to include unscientific, creationist criticisms of evolution in science textbooks and curriculum standards.
Strike 3: Conservative members of an “expert” curriculum advisory panel appointed by equally conservative members of the SBOE recommended that Texas social studies curriculum standards be altered so that certain historical figures — deemed by said conservatives to be poor examples for Texas schoolchildren — receive less focus. Among their targets:César Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, and Anne Hutchinson. Ms. Lowe offers context:
“Certainly those are historical figures that students should be aware of, and their goals and their place in history, but it needs to be in the context of what those people were known for. And so if the example is someone of good civic involvement, then there may be a different type of historical figure and leader that would be more appropriate.”
Hear that Texas schoolkids? “Good civic involvement” means conformity. Shut up, stay in line, pick those grapes and don’t bitch about your living conditions, vote with the majority, don’t think independently, and don’t diss the preacher and run off to Rhode Island. That kind of thinking is just notappropriate. Also, when possible, be white.
TFN is one of the examples I offer when otherwise intelligent people dismiss Texas as a bleak cultural wasteland devoid of strong progressives. TFN has one simple mission: “The Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right.” They fight the godbags* on many fronts throughout the state but education is a major battleground. Their site, and theTFN Insider blog, are the first places I turn to when I want to know the latest on the antics of the SBOE. Of particular interest are the annualState of the Religious Right reports. Bookmark TFN, learn from them, send them donations if the spirit moves you.
Lastly, those of you in the immediate area, make a difference and do something. The SBOE is formidable but it can be changed, from within. Next week, TFN offers a SBOE Candidate Trainingworkshop for those interested in running as a candidate in the SBOE elections in 2010.