Teachers’ Union Attacks as 2014 Texas Textbook Wars Begin

During 2014, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will be monitoring reviews of publisher-submitted textbooks for use in public school social studies classrooms across the state.

Current textbooks in use were approved back in 2002, during a contentious review and approval cycle.

Then in 2009-2010, new social studies standards were adopted by the SBOE after another raucous, multi-month cultural battle.

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During both of those processes, leftist educators, legislators, and media resorted to tactics and attacks meant to demean and insult their opponents.

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In spite of those efforts, and due to strong conservative leadership and a thin conservative majority on the SBOE, the left’s agenda was thwarted.

The new textbooks are to be based upon the 2010 standards.

Both sides in the culture war are once again gearing up for the fight.

Conservatives have formed a group of textbook reviewers named Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT), headed up by retired Lt. Col. Roy White of Boerne, Texas.

Leftists will likely flock to groups formed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), heavily recruited by teachers unions, SBOE Democrats, and moderate Republican members. There are movements pending in the TEA reviewer selection process that encourage exclusion of conservative members of these review panels.

Truth in Texas Textbooks pro-American patriots versus the leftist education establishment.

Review reports of a textbook by these ideologically opposed organizations will likely lead a reader to wonder if the reviewers read the same book.

As the title of this article suggests, scholarly, mature debate over the issues will be, as in 2002 and 2009-2010, all but impossible.

On January 7, 2014, the Texas arm of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, the teachers’ union that claims to “represent more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state of Texas”), published its Texas AFT Legislative Hotline Newsletter.

The newsletter, titled “The State’s Social-Studies Textbook Review Needs Experts Like You,” written by AFT Staff, calls for members to sign up for the TEA textbook review teams.

Okay so far, but the newsletter continues.

“There’s an unfortunate tradition in Texas of undue influence on textbook selection by nincompoops with an ax to grind. Hence, as the folks at TFN (the radical, misnamed Texas Freedom Network) have said, ‘It’s critical that truly qualified individuals serve on the review teams and counter far-right efforts to politicize the textbooks. That’s especially important because the new textbooks must cover controversial curriculum standards that distort the history of slavery, civil rights, separation of church and state and other sensitive topics.’ ”

More insults.

“Don’t let the nincompoops define our history to suit their prejudices and to promote their political agendas.”

Far right? Nincompoops? Really! How professional. And coming from the leadership of those responsible for teaching our Texas kids.

Such yellow journalistic behavior, at the very beginning of a supposedly civil debate among professionals, is stunningly inappropriate. I wonder how many of the claimed 65.000 AFT Texas members were also shocked.

And the leftists are dead wrong in their specific claims about the “controversial” state standards. Conservatives simply applied balance to the left’s attempt to rewrite history. Let us examine the claims.

Distortion of the history of slavery

Causes of the Civil War were vigorously debated during the 5th and 8th grade standards discussions. During the 5th grade discussion, Democrat SBOE member Mary Helen Berlanga asked moderate member Pat Hardy about the priority of the war’s causes. Berlanga’s choice of questioning Hardy backfired. Hardy, experienced as a long time social studies teacher, responded, saying “Sectionalism and states’ rights were the real reasons for the Civil War. Slavery was a side issue”. Taken aback, Berlanga responded that Hardy’s answer was self-contradictory, since in her opinion slavery created the sectionalism and states’ rights issues.

The argument was re-opened in the 8th grade discussions, with SBOE Democrat member Lawrence Allen once again questioning the priority. He proposed revising a current amendment, saying that the causes of the civil war be changed to “slavery and states’ rights.” Member David Bradley reminded the board that the causes and priorities had previously been discussed, and asked for consistency. Member Terri Leo offered an amendment to change to “sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery”. But member Berlanga still disagreed. She said, “We all know, and we don’t have to beat around the bush, we don’t have to kind of soften the blow, the real issue here is slavery. This is all about slavery.” Ms. Leo’s balancing amendment passed.

Civil Rights

The civil rights section of the U. S. history standards proposed by the review panel created a problem. The review panel had authored a one-sided, sanitized version of the civil rights story. They submitted the following language for SBOE consideration:

(9) History. The student understands the impact of the American civil rights movement. The student is expected to:

(C) describe the role of groups that sought to maintain the status quo;

(D) identify the roles of significant leaders who supported or opposed the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Betty Friedan, George Wallace, and others;

(E) describe presidential and bipartisan congressional efforts to achieve equality in the United States, including desegregation of the armed forces, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and

(F) evaluate changes in the United States that have resulted from the civil rights movement such as increased participation of minorities in the political process.

In this sanitized description, a number of key, politically incorrect historical items had been ignored: the existence of militant black civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers, unrealistic expectations from civil rights legislation, resulting in the burning and looting of a number of U. S. inner cities, and southern Democrat Congressmen and Governors who opposed the civil rights movement, while a majority of Republicans ensured passage of the civil rights legislation. These elements were required to provide balance and diversity of opinion to the civil rights story.

SBOE member Don McLeroy added such elements. He offered a large, new amendment to replace the previously noted language.

McLeroy’s action resulted in a thirty-minute debate, mostly centered on “adversarial” civil rights groups and “unrealistic expectations.” SBOE Democrats disavowed any knowledge of adversarial actions by the Black Panthers. Such chicanery on their part was not only misleading but deceiving, since it is well documented history that in the late 1960s, many members of the Black Panthers were militant thugs and even cop killers.

The proposed, balanced language in Dr. McLeroy’s civil rights package was approved by the SBOE….without opposition.

(9) History. The student understands the impact of the American civil rights movement. The student is expected to:

(C) identify the roles of significant leaders who supported various civil rights movements, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Hector P. Garcia, and Betty Friedan;

(D) compare and contrast the approach taken by some civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers versus the nonviolent approach of Martin Luther King Jr.;

(E) discuss the impact of the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. such as his “I Have a Dream” speech and “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on the civil rights movement;

(F) describe presidential actions and congressional votes to address minority rights in the United States, including desegregation of the armed forces, the Civil Rights acts of 1957 and 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and

(G) describe the role of individuals such as governors George Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Lester Maddox and groups, including the congressional bloc of southern Democrats, that sought to maintain the status quo;

This final wording balanced the review panel’s bias, and presented an honest view of the civil rights movement.

Separation of Church and State

Many leftists have a strong belief that all references to God should be removed from government. They put little credence in the actual wording of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The resulting debate was magnified by the media into a view that the SBOE conservatives were injecting religion into the standards. SBOE member Mavis Knight represented the leftist views by proposing the following amendment to the U. S. Government standards:

“Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”

SBOE member and Constitutional legal expert Cynthia Dunbar challenged the amendment, especially use of the word “barring”, correctly stating that Constitutional author James Madison, rather than “barring” anything, indicated that citizens were free to worship as they chose, and the government in fact had no authority in the matter. Knight’s amendment failed, along party lines, by a five to nine vote.

Later, during the SBOE May meeting, there was continued debate about a proposed amendment to contrast the actual words of the First Amendment with the contemporary term, “separation of church and state”. The final version adopted by the Board read:

Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and compare and contrast this to the phrase “separation of church and state.”

Other sensitive topics

As well documented in my book, Texas Trounces the Left’s War on History (May, 2012, http://www.WNAenterprises.com), the left suffered numerous defeats in its agenda to rewrite history.

As an example, Daniel Bonevak, a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, presented significant, specific testimony before the SBOE. Professor Bonevak congratulated the Board on the standards, and especially the good changes to the standards through the amendment process, highlighting those changes that brought balance to the biased document submitted by the review panel. He applauded changing “capitalism” to “free enterprise,” “imperialism” to “expansionism,” and “democracy” to “republic.” He mentioned the expansion of the analysis of the New Deal, from FDR’s versus Hoover’s programs, to the broader New Deal versus its opponents. He also liked the balance added, through the addition of “philanthropy” to “social gospel”, as well as the “unintended consequences” of the great society programs. He also commented on the balancing of the “government good, private sector bad” bias in the review panel document. The bottom line is that he recognized the importance of the Board’s “leaning in the opposite direction” in balancing the liberal bias held by most university professors.

It will be interesting to observe the left’s strategy in 2014, being forced to approve incorporation of these standards into the textbooks.

The left choked on these improvements, and unable to refute accurate history, resorted to its only refuge, name-calling.

An especially egregious example of name-calling appeared in the January 27, 2010 Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle. The editorial typified the leftist “mainstream” media’s bizarre, vitriolic attacks, condemning the state boards’ “malignant stupidity.”

“A large and disruptive segment of the Texas State Board of Education is not only ignorant …..It is proudly and aggressively ignorant, which goes beyond simple ignorance and ventures into the territory of malignant stupidity.

“The boobs on the State Board of Education aren’t historians, either. They aren’t even educators. For the most part, they are bottom-feeding politicians who have adopted the popular demagoguery of the day and have ridden it to membership on a little-known but very important state board.”

Unlike the AFT, at least the Denton folks waited until the process was underway before launching their nastiness.

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams and SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill have been notified of the teachers’ union’s misbehavior. As ultimate managers of the process, they must ensure, on behalf of mainstream Texans, that the textbook review process is conducted by grown-ups.

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