Texas SBOE Education Standards Challenged

Everyone knows about the Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre, which requires Texas public schools to teach “all sides” of the evolution controversy. After that Luddite accomplishment, the crazed State Board of Education (SBOE) then altered the teaching standards for social studies (see American History Revised in Texas).

In the Houston Chronicle we read SBOE standards for social studies appealed to feds, which informs us that some of the state’s newly-adopted social studies standards are being challenged. This doesn’t involve the state’s science standards, but it’s of interest anyway because it’s about the work of the same theocratic and creationist board. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A school curriculum teaching children about violent Black Panthers while playing down Ku Klux Klan violence against blacks is not only inaccurate but discriminatory, the Texas NAACP and LULAC said Monday in a joint complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education.

We hadn’t heard of the LULAC before. They’re the League of United Latin American Citizens. Let’s read on:

The complaint asks the department’s Office of Civil Rights to review Texas’ new social studies curriculum standards approved by the State Board of Education and to take legal action if the state tries to implement the standards the groups call “racially or ethnically offensive,” as well as historically inaccurate. The new standards also balance the speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and attempt to point out positive aspects of slavery.

The positive aspects of slavery? Yeah, right. One more excerpt:

A review of the new social studies curriculum standards by historians and college professors indicates that 83 percent of the required historical figures and notable persons for students to study are white. Only 16 percent are African American or Latino.

Pointing out the “positive aspects of slavery” seems crazy. But the NAACP’s statistical approach to compiling a list historical figures doesn’t impress us. Considering the abysmal conditions for blacks during much of American history — a topic that is certainly worthy of study — it’s not surprising that there haven’t been many until recently who would qualify for a list of “historical figures and notable persons.” That is, not if the list applied the same standards to everyone, because then it would likely consist of high-ranking politicians, military officers, and influential persons in business and science. Understandably (and regrettably) some groups wouldn’t have many people on such a list. That’s the historical result of racism, certainly, but the list shouldn’t be packed with people of lesser achievements merely for political correctness — at least in our Curmudgeonly opinion. We know, opinions vary, but that’s ours.

Anyway, this looks like an interesting start at the essential task of dismantling the ridiculous education standards adopted by the SBOE. We think an assault should — and probably will — be made regarding the new creationism-friendly science standards.

But when that happens, it won’t be in the form of a civil rights complaint to a federal bureaucracy, and it probably won’t be the NAACP or the LULAC who bring the case. It’ll likely be some kind of constitutional challenge in federal court, and it’s not only the First Amendment that will be involved. Teaching creationism arguably violates the Texas Constitution. See Sections 6 and 7 of their Bill OF Rights.

Perhaps a majority the new SBOE will be sufficiently sane and honorable to undertake that task themselves. They shouldn’t need to be forced into doing the right thing.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Texas SBOE Education Standards Challenged

  1. There is another, indirect way this could influence the creation/evolution political fight. The mainstream position has generally been that bad science is not constitutionally banned, just religion being taught as scinece, and that is what creationism is.

    Now, the ACLU and LULAC are essentially arguing that the standards call for bad history, and that this violates Texas state civil rights. If they win (and this is not an endorsement, just a speculative if), that would of course open up the possibility of arguing against creationism on a second front. I.e. even stripped of all religious content, it would still be illegally bad science.
    There’s a lot of caveats here. Its a state, not federal case, so even if they win, the answer could apply to Tx and nowhere else. Who knows if they will win or not. Who knows if its bad history or not. And in terms of creationism IMO the first amendment argument is a hell of a lot stronger. But with all those caveats, if they do win, it could have implications for what gets argued in future court cases against creationism.

  2. IIRC, it is already a law that the schools aren’t allowed to teach known inaccuracies… I’ll do some research and let y’all know.

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    As long as the government considers itself in the business of educating children, political groups will be trying to push their pet versions of history into schools.

    History is not like science. You can’t teach every possible historical fact. You have to tell a story about history that treats some facts as important and some facts as not.

    For example, in my history classes in Washington State I didn’t learn that the Nez Perce and some other tribes were allies of the US government in their wars with yet other tribes. We only learned about Chief Joseph trying to escape from the government. I had to go back to much older secondary sources for that.

    And the World Civilizations course I took in college has one sentence on Einstien or Thomas Jefferson, but gives Mary Wollstonecraft a whole chapter section. The Left is as bad as the Right in this area.

  4. I am not a huge fan of LULAC, having dealt with them before. They are actually a lot like creationists in that any slight, real or imagined, will be attacked with law-suits, threats of law-suits, many press releases decrying the target as racist, and various other not so polite tactics.

    In this case however, I have to give them props for trying.
    I really hope that the SBOE can get some revisions made before the fit hits the shan.

  5. Hmmmm… from the Texas Education Code:

    Sec. 21.459. BIBLE COURSE TRAINING. (a) The commissioner shall develop and make available training materials and other teacher training resources for a school district to use in assisting teachers of elective Bible courses in developing:

    (1) expertise in the appropriate Bible course curriculum;

    (2) understanding of applicable supreme court rulings and current constitutional law regarding how Bible courses are to be taught in public schools objectively as a part of a secular program of education;

    (3) understanding of how to present the Bible in an objective, academic manner that neither promotes nor disparages religion, nor is taught from a particular sectarian point of view;

    (4) proficiency in instructional approaches that present course material in a manner that respects all faiths and religious traditions, while favoring none; and

    (5) expertise in how to avoid devotional content or proselytizing in the classroom.

    (b) The commissioner shall develop materials and resources under this section in consultation with appropriate faculty members at institutions of higher education.

    (c) The commissioner shall make the training materials and other teacher training resources required under Subsection (a) available to Bible course teachers through access to in-service training.

    (d) The commissioner shall use funds appropriated for the purpose to administer this section.

    http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.21.htm

    So this article makes it clear that Texas education is SECULAR…. but still looking for the laws about accuracy of facts…

  6. Well, here is a bit on “factual errors”–

    Sec. 31.030. USED TEXTBOOKS. The State Board of Education shall adopt rules to ensure that used textbooks sold to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools are not sample copies that contain factual errors. The rules may provide for the imposition of an administrative penalty in accordance with Section 31.151 against a seller of used textbooks who knowingly violates this section.

    http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.31.htm

    I’m sure it’s listed elsewhere and I just can’t find it now, but the schools aren’t allowed to teach factual errors here in Texas. It is illegal to adopt textbooks with factual errors (this may not be listed in the Texas Educational Codes, but rather in the “Rules” that the code permits the BOE to make).

  7. So, what I’m going for here is that it is illegal to teach “inaccurate” information in Texas, and so if the Texas NAACP and LULAC are claiming:

    “A school curriculum teaching children about violent Black Panthers while playing down Ku Klux Klan violence against blacks is not only inaccurate but discriminatory”

    They may have a legal leg to stand on.

  8. LRA says:

    So, what I’m going for here is that it is illegal to teach “inaccurate” information in Texas …

    Can a teacher be fired for teaching flat earth? I suppose the union would fight it, but even so, could it be done? I donno.

  9. We don’t have unions here. And, yes, a teacher can be fired for that. It’s part of our evaluations.

  10. Gabriel Hanna

    @LRA: They may have a legal leg to stand on.

    Only if they taught that Ku Klux Klan never existed and that Black Panthers carried out lynchings or some such. Emphasizing some facts at the expense of others isn’t a factual inaccuracy.

    Otherwise my university was guilty when they taught incoming freshman noting about TJ and Einstein and spent pages on Mary Wollenstonecraft.

  11. SC: “The positive aspects of slavery? Yeah, right.”

    The Devil’s Advocate (or political spinmaster) would say, “Well there was free room and board, and don’t forget 100% guaranteed employment. Oh — and free transportation to the New World.”

  12. Ah yes, the evaluations, given to us by principles who don’t even know what the standards we’re required to teach are.

    sigh.