Texas Board of Education vs Texas Board of Education? The fundies lost ground!

Texas Board Approved Textbook Review Rule Changes, by Will Weissert, Associated Press via Houston ChronicleTX textbook protest

Among the changes approved Friday was a mandate that teachers or professors be given priority for serving on the textbook review panels for subjects in their areas of expertise. They also enable the board to appoint outside experts to check objections raised by review panels and ensure they are based on fact, not ideology.

Seriously? Texas students studying Social Studies are being taught fact-filled lessons? Really?

Here’s the full article:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Board of Education imposed tighter rules Friday on the citizen review panels that scrutinize proposed textbooks, potentially softening fights over evolution, religion’s role in U.S. history and other ideological matters that have long seeped into what students learn in school.

Tension over the issue has been building for years in the country’s second most populous state, where the textbook market is so large that changes can affect the industry nationwide. Critics complain that a few activists with religious or political objections have too much power to shape what the state’s more than 5 million public school students are taught.

The 15-member education board approves textbooks for school districts to use, but objections raised by reviewers can influence its decisions. The volunteer review panels are often dominated by social conservatives who want more skepticism about evolution included in science textbooks, arguing that a higher power helped create the universe.

The board also had long been controlled by social conservatives before election defeats weakened their voting bloc in recent years — but not before its culture war clashes drew national headlines. Those members pushed for deemphasizing climate change in science classes, and requiring social studies students to learn about the Christian values of America’s founding fathers and evaluate whether the United Nations undermined U.S. sovereignty.

Among the changes approved Friday was a mandate that teachers or professors be given priority for serving on the textbook review panels for subjects in their areas of expertise. They also enable the board to appoint outside experts to check objections raised by review panels and ensure they are based on fact, not ideology.

“It won’t eliminate politics, but it will make it where it’s a more informed process,” said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican board member who pushed for the changes, which he said “force us to find qualified people, leave them alone, and let them do their jobs.”

The new rules were unanimously approved.

An outspoken conservative on the board, David Bradley, said he did his best to insert language mitigating what was approved. But he said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

“Certainly there are some members that were unhappy with some of the experts that we’ve had in the past and certain reviewers,” said Bradley, a Republican from Beaumont.

“Maybe it’s embarrassing when citizens step forth and show some of the blatant inaccuracies in our American history, references to our founding fathers, our Christian heritage, truly errors. But to try and silence them with intimidation, I think, is wrong and that’s what this is all about,” he said.

Other changes require proposed books to be reviewed by at least two panel members, so that a single volunteer can’t raise objections. The new rules also require panelists to submit majority and minority reports about proposed material, and restrict board members’ contact with reviewers to avoid unfair influence.

A more ambitious plan that would have allowed the education board to remove panelists for inappropriate behavior failed 9-6 earlier in the week.

Friday’s changes will take effect before the board tackles the potentially thorny adoption of new social studies textbooks later this year. The board can force publishers to edit the content of textbooks for such classes, sometimes based on review panel suggestions, because Texas has such a large market for the books, and those revisions can make it into textbooks sold around the country.

The catalyst for revamping the citizen review panels came last summer, when ardent evolution skeptics — including a nutritionist and a chemical engineer — caused a tumultuous fight. They challenged a proposed biology textbook that they claimed contained too much information on natural selection, Charles Darwin’s theory on how life on earth evolved.

Ratliff refused to predict whether they would help avoid the raucous board debates of the past. But he said the education board has come a long way.

“This board is more cohesive and more policy driven than I believe we’ve been in a long time,” he said. “Which is not good for headlines but it’s good for public education.”

Though modest, the changes could indeed have a major impact in Texas — where Republican Gov. Rick Perry bragged during his 2011 presidential campaign that students were taught both evolution and creationism.

The previous year, the education board approved social studies and history curriculum in which children learned that the words “separation of church and state” were not in the Constitution. And, Thomas Jefferson was replaced as an example of an influential political philosopher with the likes of John Calvin, celebrated by the religious right.

Still, Friday’s changes only deal only with textbook reviews and won’t stop larger clashes by education board members about textbooks. They also won’t affect panels that vet proposed curriculums.

The vote was a positive step, but “we’d like to see even stronger protections against political meddling,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that keeps tabs on the education board.

“It’s way past time to stop (board) members and activists with an ax to grind from manipulating this process and politicizing our students’ textbooks,” she said.

The intimidation isn’t over quite yet. But I sense that Texas is reaching a tipping-point, in which Reason and Sanity finally take back the reins.

FSM, I hope so!

This entry was posted in America's image, Atheism, Boo-fucking-hoo!, Creationism, Education, Religion, Values. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Texas Board of Education vs Texas Board of Education? The fundies lost ground!

  1. Woody says:

    I like what I’m seeing here, naomi45.
    While I don’t work in education anymore, I still feel the powerful need to see that future generations are not raised on shit.
    I have no objection to the teaching of world religions, their history, their effects on societies and the wars/atrocities that they are mostly responsible for. These are important lessons for the students to learn.
    But the texts for science, social studies and history need to stay clear, unmuddied by religion.
    Thanks for this post.

  2. Cerberus says:

    Thanks for the article! That is a welcome change indeed!

  3. JTD says:

    I’m just hoping that nobody is killed over this… Let’s face it, Jesus loons are like Mooslims: if they don’t get their way, shit happens…

    I still think that Texas should secede, given all the Republican morons living there… Let them found their own Jesus state and when it starts going sour they can blame the Atheists and Satan until they have to beg to return…

  4. naomi45 says:

    Woody, I totally agree with you. I read the article twice and found that there was a great deal of common sense throughout. Unlike during the Bush years as president, when we started hearing about the sheer power wielded by Texas’ Board of Ed and how pervasive and determined the majority of the Board was to teach Creationism and smother the role of science — well, I was terrified!

    An example of a bad outcome: inability to get into higher education. How tragic that would be! And even if a student didn’t aspire to a degree, the lack of critical thinking skills would handicap that student for life. Sad. Sad. Sad.

    As to comparative religion, I would make it just an elective, for anyone interested. With the decline of interest in religion by our young suggests that most would skip that class as a huge “yawn”. At least I would. :grin:

    JTD, you and I must agree to disagree. I have friends and acquaintances of both Muslim and Hindu. We’ve torn down a barricade and get along well. Would that more could do that. But it has been easy, here in Oregon. Having moved here from Tennessee, I still read about the place I lived for 20 years. Recently, burning down an under-construction mosque in Murfreesboro, and having the mosque built any way — now the low-life, rightwingnuts are saying that the faithful cannot have a cemetery, that that would be a straw too heavy for the rednecks to carry. Probably nothing less than shipping the dead back to the Middle-East would half-satisfy them.

  5. JTD says:

    Well, I’m still trying to figure out what they do in mosques that they can’t do anywhere else…

  6. naomi45 says:

    Mosques and imams are the same as Catlicks and priests. And fire&brimstone/snakehandling/tongues-talking nutcase preachers in tiny white churches. Running the gamut from seemingly benign all the way to JimJones-insane, from little cult to BigCult — it’s all the same. Manipulate the gullible, the fearful and the easily-guided. Keep them coming back. Never let the virus die.

    I favor putting them in spiritual quarantine — really quarantined, with no contact with the outside world — so that they only re-infect each other. It’s a real solution. And it ain’t gonna happen. Not in my lifetime.

    You know, it they would just STFU, stop proseletyzing, keep out of our government and educational system, pay taxes, take down their butt-ugly “houses of worship”, allow birth-control and abortion, bring their toxic missionaries home — IOW, just be sane and rational — I would shut up, too. I promise.

  7. JTD says:

    And try walking your pet pig through a Muslim neighborhood and see what happens…

    Maybe something can be put in their water to make them less fertile so they’ll quit hulking up their populations… Obviously reason, logic, or even common sense doesn’t apply to these guys…

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