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TFN President: Fordham Analysis Confirms That New Social Studies Standards Are a Disaster for Texas Schools

Conservative Think Tank’s Report Savages State Board of Education for Politicizing New Curriculum Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2011

A conservative think tank’s analysis confirms what the Texas Freedom Network has been saying for months: new social studies standards adopted by the State Board of Education last year are a disaster for Texas schools and students, TFN President Kathy Miller said today.

“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,” Miller said. “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. Political agendas – from the left or the right – simply have no place in our kids’ classrooms.”

The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute released its analysis today. “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011” analyzes U.S. history curriculum standards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report gives Texas a grade of “D” for its standards.

Among Fordham’s criticisms is that Texas State Board of Education members engaged in “ideological manipulation” by basing many of the new standards on their own personal and political biases. The analysis goes so far as to compare the heavily politicized approach in part of the standards to Soviet indoctrination in schools of the old USSR.

The report also criticizes the state board for its “overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars” during the curriculum development process. A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund poll last year, conducted by the national firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, showed that 72 percent of likely Texas voters want teachers and scholars, not politicians on the state board, to be responsible for writing curriculum standards for public schools.

The state board adopted the new social studies standards last May. Those standards guide what students learn in all of the state’s public schools. Textbooks, other instructional materials and tests will be based on the new standards for the next decade.

Prominent critics of the new standards have included a wide array of teachers, education and civil rights groups, former Bush education secretary Rod Paige and now the conservative Fordham Institute. That criticism should sound a loud call to Texas lawmakers in the current legislative session, Miller said.

“Since the state board refuses to stop playing politics and focus on educating Texas kids, then it’s time for legislators to step in,” Miller said. “Do they stand with families who are tired of seeing their kids’ classrooms turned into political battlegrounds? Or will they make more excuses for politicians on the state board who care more about promoting the ‘culture wars’ than ensuring our kids get the education they need to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century?”

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support public education, religious freedom and civil liberties.

 Examples of ‘Ideological Manipulation’ in the Texas U.S. History Curriculum Standards Highlighted by the Fordham Institute Analysis

The Fordham report is available here.

“A popular Lone Star State slogan proclaims ‘Texas: It’s like a whole other country’—but Texas’s standards are a disservice both to its own teachers and students and to the larger national history of which it remains a part.” (page 143)

Contempt for Expertise
“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. Indeed, the SBOE majority displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.” (Executive Summary, page 15)

Economic History
The approach in the standards regarding instruction about “the free enterprise system and its benefits” resembles, “in an inverted historical echo, Soviet schools harping on the glories of state socialism.” (Executive Summary, page 15)

“ ‘Minimal government intrusion’ is hailed as key to the early nineteenth-century commercial boom—ignoring the critical role of the state and federal governments in internal improvements and economic expansion.” (page 142)

Religious Liberty
“Members of the SBOE … showed themselves determined to inject their personal religious beliefs into history education. ‘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 critical concept of the state constitutions (1777-1781) and the federal Constitution (1787), is simply dismissed.” (Executive Summary, page 15)

“Complex historical issues are obscured with blatant politicizing throughout the document. Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented. The complicated but undeniable history of separation of church and state is flatly dismissed.” (page 142)

Slavery/Civil Rights/Civil War
“Native people are missing [from the standards] until brief references to nineteenth-century events. Slavery, too, is largely missing. Sectionalism and states’ rights are listed before slavery as causes of the Civil War, while the issue of slavery in the territories—the actual trigger for the sectional crisis—is never mentioned at all. During and after Reconstruction, there is no mention of the Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, or sharecropping. The term ‘Jim Crow’ never appears. Incredibly, racial segregation is mentioned only in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces.” (page 142)

“Opposition to the civil rights movement is falsely identified only with ‘the congressional bloc of Southern Democrats’—whose later metamorphosis into Southern Republicans is never mentioned.” (page 142)

McCarthyism
“It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee—and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets).” (page 142)

 

 

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