This week should determine Texas’ nationally influential U.S. history textbook standards, as the conservative-dominated State Board of Education prepares to vote on the new standards Friday amid intense interest from activists on both sides.
These are the standards that publishers seeking to sell textbooks in Texas will have to use as a guide. TPMmuckraker started covering the story back in September, and it has since attracted national attention for what critics see as the board’s outlandish right-wing recasting of U.S. history. Given the makeup of the board, look for a big win for conservatives Friday.
For example, according to the current draft, students must “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.”
A group of Texas history professors has sent a letter to the board arguing the standards weaken “the study of constitutional protections for religious liberty that keep government out of matters of faith” and minimize “the struggle of women and ethnic minorities for equal and civil rights.”
And former Bush Administration Secretary of Education Rod Paige today urged the board not to let “ideology” drive the process.
But Christian Right members of the Texas legislature are praising the process, and calling on the board to OK the standards. On Thursday, the board will debate and consider amendments — including one requiring students to discuss “alternatives” to social security and how the U.N. undermines U.S. sovereignty. And on Friday, the board is scheduled to take a final vote on the standards.
The current draft of the standards is here (.pdf). Here’s a look back at the highlights of the process so far, and how we got to this point:
- Board members got a chance to comment on proposed standards last September:
A bullet point on “women and minority employment” as an economic effect of World War II caused “one member” to gripe “there is too much emphasis on multiculturalism.”
- We took a look at the panel of experts appointed by the Board of Education:
Take the Rev. Peter Marshall. His Peter Marshall Ministries … seeks “to restore America to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America’s Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival.”
Marshall’s books include “The Light and the Glory for Children: Discovering God’s Plan for America from Christopher Columbus to George Washington,” from Christian publisher Revell.
In his review of the proposed textbook standards, Marshall denounces Anne Hutchinson as “a favorite of modern feminists” but “not sufficiently ‘significant’” to include with Roger Williams, John Smith, and William Bradford. (Read an excerpt of Marshall’s comments here.)
- Arch-conservative board member Don McLeroy, later responsible for an amendment on history’s vindication of Joseph McCarthy, weighed in on civil rights during a hearing last September:
First up, board member Don McLeroy explains the importance of recognizing how “the majority” has helped “minorities” like African-Americans and women. “For instance, the women’s right to vote. … The men passed it for the women.”
- McLeroy explained his philosophy to the Washington Monthly earlier this year:
“The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation. But we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.”
- In March, the board pushed Austrian economics:
The board added a requirement that economics students “analyze the decline of the U.S. dollar including abandonment of the gold standard.” Students must also learn about Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, author of libertarian urtext The Road to Serfdom.