The conservative bloc on the Texas State Board of Education won a string of victories Friday, obtaining approval for an amendment requiring high school U.S. history students to know about Phyllis Schlafly and the Contract with America as well as inserting a clause that aims to justify McCarthyism.
Outspoken conservative board member Don McLeroy, who reportedly spent over three hours personally proposing changes to the textbook standards, even wanted to cut “hip-hop” in favor of “country” in a section about the impact of cultural movements. That amendment failed.
The board also voted to delay further debate on the nationally influential standards until March, with a final adoption vote now scheduled for May.
But the current working draft of the standards has gotten a whole lot more conservative. Here are some of the key happenings from the Friday session in Austin:
McLeroy proposed a clause in the civil rights section that read (emphasis ours): “Evaluate changes and events in the United States that have resulted from the civil rights movement, including increased participation of minorities in the political process and unrealistic expectations for equal outcomes.” McLeroy plans to ask for a vote on this measure at a later meeting.
Complaining that the standards were “rife with leftist political periods and events: the populists, the progressives, the New Deal, and the Great Society,” McLeroy offered this amendment:
“Describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association.”
It was approved. The standards do not include a progressive counterpart clause for the same period.
On the issue of Joseph McCarthy that we flagged last week, another McLeroy amendment was approved requiring textbooks to explain in discussions of McCarthyism “how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government.”
“Venona Papers” refers to decrypted Soviet intel messages, the significance of which is the subject of longtime debate. McLeroy previously told curriculum writers that McCarthy had been “basically vindicated.” As liberal watchdog group Texas Freedom Network points out, Emory University professor and Venona expert Harvey Klehr, who has argued that McCarthy was right about “some of the large issues,” said in a 2005 speech, “Many of his claims were wildly inaccurate; his charges filled with errors of fact, misjudgments of organizations and innuendoes disguised as evidence.”
Republican board member Cynthia Dunbar unsuccessfully tried to strike the names of Scopes monkey trial attorney Clarence Darrow and Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey from the standards. Asked by another member about her opposition to Garvey, Dunbar explained, according to the Texas Tribune: “My concern is that he was born in Jamaica and was deported.”