Today was the first day of the Texas State Board of Education meeting to approve the modified curriculum standards for Social Studies. (See backstor
May 20, 2010

Today was the first day of the Texas State Board of Education meeting to approve the modified curriculum standards for Social Studies. (See backstory here and here). Over 200 people have stepped up to testify before the final vote begins. Texas Freedom Network's live blog of the meeting has some interesting tidbits to share.

From LiveBlog 1:

  • Former Bush education secretary Rod Paige urges a delay on the vote.

    9:27 – Paige: “We have allowed ideology to drive and define the standards of our curriculum in Texas. It has swung from liberal to conservative.” (We’re waiting for evidence that the Republican-dominated board and then-Gov. Bush’s education commissioner in 1998 adopted “liberal” curriculum standards.) The swing has been too broad, Paige says.

  • Texas State Representatives Dan Flynn and Wayne Christian say "Take a vote."

    Flynn and Christian are still at the podium answering various questions from board members. They both continue to call on the board to adopt the standards on Friday and “respect the process.” Their argument is that the process so far has been just fine and that the board should finish its work on schedule. But the process hasn’t been fine. The board has essentially jettisoned the work of educators and scholars who spent a year carefully crafting the new standards. The question is whether standards should be based on the work of educators and academic experts or handful of politicians on the state board.

From LiveBlog #2:

  • Accusations fly about "religious cleansing" in public schools.

    11:23 – Kelly Shackelford, head of the Liberty Institute/Free Market Foundation, the Texas affiliate of the far-right Focus on the Family, is up. Shackelford argues that the words “separation of church and state” aren’t in the Constitution. Neither, we might say, is “fair trial,” “separation of powers” “checks and balances” and other basic constitutional principles. Shackelford thinks “separation of church” is being used to “abuse” the freedom of students. He wants students to contrast the intent of the Founders (or what he believes was the intent of the Founders) who wrote the Constitution with the phrase “separation of church and state.”

    11:32 – Board member David Bradley calls separation of church and state a “myth.” He notes that the Ten Commandments adorn federal buildings like the Supreme Court.

    11:34 – Shackelford: There are people who want to engage in a “religious cleansing” in this country. He argues that students are being punished for expressing their faith in public schools.

    I ask myself, what do these claims have to do with teaching Social Studies in public schools?

  • Promoting American "exceptionalism"

    Moore is arguing about the importance of promoting “American exceptionalism.” He claims that university professors earlier this year were testifying before the board in favor of socialism as the preferred “form of government” for America.

    Does it get any more paranoid than this?

Moving on to LiveBlog #3...

An interesting exchange between a University of Texas professor and Cynthia Dunbar, one of the most conservative members of the board:

5:08 – Prof. Julio Noboa, a social studies professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who served on the high school U.S. history curriculum writing team, is up. He’s very critical of the many changes board members made to the standards his team proposed. In fact, the American history standards have been among the most heavily revised by the board among all social studies classes. Prof. Noboa calls many of the changes a “whitewash” of problems and challenges in American history.

5:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar is challenging Prof. Noboa’s contention that the United States is a democracy. America has vastly expanded voting rights, making it far more democratic than in the nation’s early decades, Prof. Noboa says. He notes that Dunbar’s contention that the United States is a republic is too narrow — a republic is simply a nation without a hereditary monarchy and doesn’t truly describe what the United States is today.

From the live blogs, it appears that the number of public comments is definitely slowing things down a bit. According to TFN, about 10% of the people who appeared to testify have been heard. However, a good number of people made their voices heard during the lunch break today, when public education supporters held a "Don't White-Out our History" rally in front of the Texas Education Administration building.

I'll bring more as it rolls in....

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