THIS is about one of the all-too-rare politicians in Texas who understands the nightmare known as the State Board of Education. We’ve written about Texas state Senator Rodney Ellis before. See Texas Creationism: One Clear Voice Emerges.
Senator Ellis has written an article which appears in the Houston Chronicle: Now’s the time to educate State Board of Education. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
Parents have become increasingly concerned about state board members who seem more interested in promoting personal and political agendas in public schools than ensuring that our schoolchildren get a sound education. The last three months have once again highlighted why they are worried.
For nearly a year, teachers and scholars worked hard to craft new curriculum standards for social studies classrooms. Then in just two meetings in January and March, the state board shredded their work, making hundreds of ill-considered changes.
Ill-considered changes? How can that be? They’re the work of a faction led by a creationist dentist. We hope, for his patients’ sake, that Don McLeroy knows more about dentistry than he does about science and history. Let’s read on:
Among scores of changes, the board deleted Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard on Enlightenment thinkers who have influenced political revolutions around the world. Board members said Jefferson, who was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and argued that “a wall of separation between church and state” is essential for freedom, didn’t belong in the standard.
The board also rejected a proposed requirement that students learn why our nation’s Founders barred government from promoting one religion over all others. Opponents claimed that the Constitution doesn’t really protect religious freedom by keeping religion and government separate.
Government can’t promote religion? That’s an outrage — at least in Texas. We continue:
The board made all these changes without asking for the guidance of even one teacher or scholar at the meetings. Their contempt for real expertise could hardly have been clearer.
Who needs experts? McLeroy and his merry band know that the Founders really created the US as a theocracy. It’s not important how they know — they just know. Here’s more:
This kind of nonsense is not new. For years now, extremists on the board have turned issue after issue before them into a divisive, unnecessary “culture war” battle. Those battles reached a high pitch last year. Despite the pleading of world-class scientists in Texas — including Nobel laureates — and businesspeople worried about the education of their future employees, the board inserted creationist arguments against evolution in new science standards.
As the battle over evolution raged, legislators meeting in Austin considered more than a dozen bipartisan bills aimed at reining in the board’s power. Many of those bills would have given authority to set curriculum standards and adopt textbooks to teachers and academic experts with the training and knowledge to make informed decisions.
We wrote about some of those. See Texas Creationism Bills: 2009’s Last Roundup. This is how the essay ends:
None of those bills passed the Legislature last session, but they should have served as a clear warning to the board about the limits of our patience with their irresponsible actions. We will certainly consider similar legislation this spring because Thomas Jefferson was right about the importance of public education. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization,” he wrote, “it expects what never was and never will be.”
Board members appear to have forgotten those words. It’s time they were reminded.
Rodney Ellis is a good man. Maybe something will emerge from the Texas legislature to clean up the education mess. It’s certainly needed.
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