The People Choosing Texas' Social Studies Texts Don't Know Enough about Social Studies

You children could be learning horrible things in this social studies classroom. Like how the earth evolved over millions of years.
Last year, like so many years, Texas' attempt to adopt new science textbooks was clouded by controversy, as creationists tried once again to cut out teaching of evolution.

This year it's social studies' turn. And while experts say the state board, the elected and highly political body that governs textbook adoption, has worked to clean up the process, critics say there remain too few social studies scholars and too many unqualified, politically-motivated appointees on the panel that will help choose the textbooks.

"We've seen time and again the State Board politicize these subjects. Science, language, even math, but especially social studies," says Texas Freedom Network spokesman Dan Quinn.

The Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank on education, issued a report in 2011 on the state of Texas' classroom social studies standards. The findings were grim:

"Texas combines a rigidly thematic and theory-based social studies structure with a politicized distortion of history. The result is both unwieldy and troubling, avoiding clear historical explanation while offering misrepresentations at every turn ... The leaders of the State Board of Education made no secret of their evangelical Christian- right agenda, promising to inculcate biblical principles, patriotic values, and American exceptionalism."

In the last couple of years, Texas has been making an effort to improve its reputation. "There are more than a 100 educators, teachers, and curriculum folks, on the list, and that's very good," says Quinn. "The alarming thing is the shockingly small number of academics who work at Texas universities on the list. And if you look at list you see a number of people who are simply not qualified."

Chief among these allegedly unqualified members is Mark Keough, a Tea Party Republican from Houston currently running for the Texas House. "He spent something like 26 years as a car salesman, is a pastor, and doesn't have a background in social studies," says Quinn. "He is simply not qualified to determine these textbook standards."

Included in the list of higher ed individuals that were not selected for panel membership are Dr. Kathleen Wellman, History Department chair at SMU, and Dr. Todd Moye, a tenured history professor at UNT.

"I applied to serve because of my concern that the review of social studies texts in Texas may reflect more about the political and ideological concerns of some members of the board than the state of current knowledge in these disciplines," Dr. Wellman told Unfair Park in an e-mail.

"I became concerned when I read the literature about the last review process. In particular, I was disconcerted by the fact that the Enlightenment seemed to have been written out as an influence on American history and that religious thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin had been included instead in order, I assume, to more thoroughly ground our history in theology."

Quinn says the politicization of social studies textbooks promotes the personal political opinions of State Board members. "So the issue here is can we trust that the review process, put in place by state, is going to give an accurate reflection of facts and scholarship, or will it give us a political agenda?"

A politically motivated review committee could have ramifications that last the next decade. The last social studies textbook review was in 2002. The books that were adopted by that committee are still in use in most Texas classrooms.

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noblefurrtexas topcommenter

Having actually been involved on the periphery of selecting some textbooks, I find disturbing articles like this that seem to place blame on conservatives for wanting balance in the critical presentation of history, politics, government, economics, and social trend. 

One of the most shocking -- not to mention outrage-promoting -- was a textbook that afforded one entire chapter to Dr. King, and one chapter to Cesar Chavez, but only gave scant coverage of the founding of America, why, how, when, and to what end.

This is the effort by the Far Left to rewrite history, discount American exceptionalism from its design as a new nation to its successes in the Space Program, and paint Americans in a fairly negative tone. 

Constitutional scholars have spent years researching the Founders and those active in the creation of our constitution. Their writings at the time, and opinions, are important to determine "original intent", as well as to trace many feature of our constitution back to the Old Country and even to Greek and Roman scholars. 

I want our students to know about Martin Luther King, and be familiar with the name of Cesar Chavez.  But, Chavez has almost no association with Texas or the U.S. as a whole, and doesn't deserve an entire chapter in either a Social Studies or American History text.

bmarvel topcommenter

@noblefurrtexas "American exceptionalism"

I keep reading that phrase and I have no idea what it means.. And I doubt if you do, either, noble. 

Every country on earth thinks it's exceptional. Yet self-identified conservatives keep whining that we've lost all our rights to big government. Those who imagne they are liberals complain that we're under the thumbs of the plutocrats and that the poor and middle class are being left behind. By either measure, we're not exceptional at all.
So called American "exceptionalism" is really only a attempt to elevate fake patriotism into a kind of religion (idolatry or sacrilege or blasphemy, take your pick, to anybody who really is religious).

We won't be exceptional until we somehow make ourselves exceptional, as Ben Franklin once pointed out. And so far we seem to be doing a miserable job at that.

What are YOU doing to make America exceptional, noble? Besides substituting odious propaganda for education?

noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@bmarvel "American Exceptionalism" refers not only to the unique way and means by which were founded, but also our incredible progress as a nation that has become a beacon of freedom, accelerated success in sciences and space exploration, and the workings of a nation of laws and not men. 

Never before in world history had remote colonies rebelled against the mother country and formed their own nation of states.

Never before had any country been formed that allowed its citizens our degree of freedom, and reinforced it in a written document that we call "The Constitution". 

Never before, in world history, had a nation been started from the ground up, and architecturally designed so that government was servant and not master. 

Never before had a ragtag group of colonists defeated the most powerful military on the globe, and especially as outnumbered as we were. 

Never before had the governed in a nation put so many constraints on government, and guaranteed so many individual liberties from government intrusion or meddling.  (The Magna Charta was a good start, but in intent and application breadth was dramatically short of our Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. 

And....the list goes on and on. 

In fact, America's journey through history has often been called, "The Great Experiment".  Some 229 years later, we are still an experiment but never so close to failing since the Civil War.   But, we remain exceptional in too many other ways to list here.

bmarvel topcommenter

@noblefurrtexas @bmarvel  "refers not only to the unique way and means by which were founded"

You mean the invasion of a foreign land and the subjugation of its native peoples? Nothing exceptional about that, furrtexas. It's pretty much standard procedure.

England abolished slavery long before us, without firing a shot or spilling a drop of blood. So scratch that. Mexico abolished slavery a half century before we got around to doing it (Look up the real reasons Texans revolted against Mexico, furrtexas. Put THAT in your textbook..

You write so smugly about how we've put so many constraints on government. Really? Which parts of government you have in mind? The NSA? Homeland Security? Our constraints in fact are highly selective, and have always been so. In the meantime we've allowed wealth to accumulate unlimited power over our individual liberties and consciences -- talk about meddling -- so that we are arguably less free today in real terms than we were when that Constitution was passed. Our forefathers never imagined anything like the concentration of power in the modern corporate state.

Ah, yes, and our Civil War, which has turned once again distinctly uncivil, so that we even have certain public idiots -- traitors, really -- muttering about secession. How's that working out?  Got that in your textbook?

Our "experiment" in liberty, justice and sound government  whose outcome is still very much in doubt, is under attack from all directions, especially by ourselves, can scarcely be declared a success. It is, in fact, tenuously balanced on a knife's edge between success and abject failure. 

Come back in a hundred years, furr. Hell, come back in twenty, and let us know how exceptional we are.  In the meantime, arrogant boasts of our exceptionalism remind me of similarly empty boasts by other nations throughout history (I don't need to remind you of who they were). Spare us and our text books from this nonsense.


noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@bmarvel @noblefurrtexas 

We won two world wars, kept no territory, and freed hundred of millions of people. 

By 1950, the U.S. supplied over half the goods to the entire world.  Virtually all were manufacture here. 

We developed the healthiest and best medicated population on Earth.  

We did NOT invade America's shores.  Welcome to exploration, discovery, and colonization done all over the world -- including Mexico and Central and South America. 

Our military, to date, NEVER takes other territory for our own.  We do liberate people more than any nation in history. 


America has been the only remaining super power on Earth.  But, we also do more to promote the UN than any other country I know. 

** I totally agree that Obama is destroying America faster than any enemy, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised in just 50 years to see the U.S. turned into a socialist and fascist failed state.

noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @noblefurrtexas @bmarvel I was asked about American Exceptionalism, and I did my best to answer the question accurately. 

At no time did President Reagan or any of his speeches enter my body. 

Reagan has, btw, be voted a number of times our best president since the Kennedy Assassination.

noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @noblefurrtexas Why would I try?  I think Reagan was an excellent president, he won the Cold War, And, he certainly strengthened our relationship with the Soviets/Russians, the other powerful country with nukes. 

I also recognize mistakes he made; not mistakes for his own riches or aggrandizement, but for moving important issues off of "dead center". One of those was the mistake of giving amnesty to millions of illegal aliens who trespassed into our country, but without first securing and sealing our border with Democrats promised as part of their agreement.  Never happened; the Democrats reneged on their agreement. 

I was also dead-set against Iran-Contra, even though I understand the urgency of the deal, and the humantarian benefits.  But, I am NEVER in favor of rewarding terrorists or paying blackmail. However, it wasn't illegal. 

However, compared to Obama, he was - hands down - a better President, a better speaker, a better human being, and a better American.  Never once did Reagan apologize for America, and he and Nancy never violated protocol like Obama and Michelle did with the Queen in London.



@noblefurrtexas @bmarvel Nobelfurr   ever hear of a place called Switzerland  1500  they allowed anybody to Practice what ever religion they wanted 


@noblefurrtexas @bmarvel Vermont banned it before they became a state  when they were a Separate Country   Massachusetts banned Slavery in 1782  remember one condition that Austin and others agreed to with the Mexican was Learn Spanish  Pledge Loyalty to Mexico  give up your slaves and convert to Catholicism  All but the last one  I could accept.

bmarvel topcommenter

@noblefurrtexas @bmarvel 

furrtexas -- "The phrase "American exceptionalism" originates from the American Communist Party. The term comes from an English translation of a condemnation made in 1929 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin criticizing Communist supporters of Jay Lovestone for the heretical belief that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions" -- Wikipedia 


"We've seen time and again the State Board politicize these subjects. Science, language, even math..." Republicans suck at math. They should avoid, like talking about rape.


Doesn't this only matter if the kids can actually read the book?  When I taught eighth grade the students were reading on a 6th grade level at best and the book was written at a tenth grade level.  We just used that text book to keep the door open.

RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul I am a bit surprised, not by the general theme of SBOE textbook panels, but by the specifics presented in this article.  The SBOE has been the subject of scholarly ridicule for as long as I've been in TX.  I think it might be the place where TX mega churches ship off those who are too connected to piss off, but too embarrassing to have on the church board.

But, if the article is accurate, to write out the Enlightenment and write in Calvin and Hobbes is stultifying in the extreme. (yes, I did that on purpose, can't stand Aquinas' writings)  I'd have to verify it was, in fact, the case, but to do so is a step I thought too far even for our textbook selection panels.


@RTGolden1 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul Ironically, It was Hobbes' Leviathan that helped to spark the Enlightenment.

   I still remember the parody of a Calvin and Hobbes strip that replaced the two main characters with John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

The SBOE elections are held at different times than the general elections.  As a result it is very easy for a well coordinated group to dominate the elections.

A while back, commenters on the State Schoolbook selection program could only say what was wrong with the books; i.e., only negative comments were allowed into the record.  The thought was to reduce the length of the record by only including objections.

The wingnuts in the state got a hold of this and completely perverted the process.  I can't remember their names, but there was a couple from Longview that started the religious based objectives sometime in the 80's.

I would say that one does not necessarily need to be an educator in order to be effective on the SBOE, but being well educated and possessing critical thinking are very important.

Personally, I am appalled at what the SBOE does, but as I stated in my original comment about the article: "And you are surprised at this because ... ?".

bmarvel topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @bmarvel Be interesting, former Paul,  to give a little test --the kind Father Klocker used to give us in his course on  "Thomism and Modern Thought" -- to some of these eager textbookers. How many, I wonder, could pass? 

How many, for that matter, have done one-thousandth of the serious reading of a Thomas Jefferson? 

bmarvel topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul The real irony is that few of the textbook choosers have read or understood Aquinas. Aquinas is not for sissies.

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