Texas SBOE Does Something Right?

A very interesting development in Texas, where the State Board of Education has voted unanimously to change the textbook selection process to make it less likely that the Christian right will be able to rig the process in their favor. And at least one board member voted for it despite knowing that would result.

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…

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 it drew national headlines. Those members pushed for deemphasizing climate change in science classes, and in social studies classes requiring students 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.

More likely it’s embarrassing when deluded ideologues step forth and invent inaccuracies because they don’t fit with their warped ideas about history. My friends at the Texas Freedom Network call this a “a modest but necessary step toward ensuring that decisions about textbook adoptions for Texas public schools are based on facts and sound scholarship, not politics.”

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  • Chiroptera

    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.

    Only in conservative religious communities could this possibly seem controversial.

    Hell, I suspect that only in conservative religious communities would this be something not already being done. But maybe not. In other communities, do they not need to explicitly mandate the inclusion of relevant experts since they relevant experts are not being drowned out by loud mouthed ignoramuses?

    The problem for the conservatives is that they don’t like experts, they don’t trust experts, they don’t believe experts. They are basically children who are offended when grown ups who know better about these things tell them how they are wrong.

    But he said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

    No, from what I see in the process (admittedly, though, just based on the exerpts in this posting), Christians and conservatives have plenty of opportunity to have a voice. They just aren’t being alllowed to be the only voice being heard, and people who actually know something are being allowed to inform them that they are wrong.

    Once again, an open, fair, equitable, and democratic process (meaning one that respects the rights of the minority over the tyranny of the majority, or even the tyranny of the loudest mouths) is being labeled as “persecution of Christians.”

  • Wylann

    Texas SBOE Does Something Right?

    …they’ll try not to let it happen again. Jeeze, you liberalprogrezzivenazifascists are sooooo picky!

  • iknklast

    liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education

    Based on what the wording of the rules say, this seems to be admitting that Christians and conservatives do not have their ideas based in fact. The specific wording that it is based on fact, not ideology, could as easily prevent liberals from writing new age woo into the curriculum.

    No one should object to school textbooks being based in fact. When your most important ideas are based solely in faith, however, you tend to overlook the irony.

  • naturalcynic

    “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.

    Cynical translation: Even when the wingnuts are wrong, they’re right.

  • peterh

    “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with Christians having a voice, only in Christians having a specifically Christian voice. Their beliefs and public education have little or nothing to do with one another; it’s the refreshing phrase “areas of expertise” that hopefully will rule the day. And anyone who views the board’s change as “intimidation” is paranoid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1263615255 Joshua

    “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

    It should be equally easy under these rules for Christians, conservatives, and liberals to have a voice in public education. All the Christians and conservatives have to do is educate themselves and become “experts” in relevant fields. The same thing liberals have to do.

    He is tacitly suggesting that there are no Christian or conservative “experts” to be on these panels. However I think his real problem is that he knows that anybody educated enough to be considered an expert is unlikely to believe the BS he wants pushed in public school.

    Of course, being educated doesn’t necessarily mean being ethical, so all the Christians and conservatives need to do is rally the “expert” liars for Jesus and get them on those panels. So, David, there is hope for you yet!

  • http://kamakanui.zenfolio.com Kamaka

    These people who claim to know what god thinks are bullies and abusers, the lot of them. And every abuser who ever lived plays the victim card.

    But he said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

    But to try and silence them with intimidation I think is wrong and that’s what this is all about.

  • Taz

    You kids and your newfangled “facts”. If dogma was good enough for my pappy it’s good enough for me.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    GODDAMNED activist SBOE members!

  • caseloweraz

    But [David Bradley] said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

    Allow me to fix that for you, Mr. Bradley:

    But he said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to dominate public education.”

    You’re welcome.

  • eric

    But he said “liberals are really trying to make it difficult for Christians and conservatives to have a voice in public education.”

    Only the unqualified ones. If that means you can’t find supporters who can be your voice, that says there’s a problem with your support base, not a problem with the process.

    Chiroptera:

    Only in conservative religious communities could this possibly seem controversial.

    Well it was only one-two years ago that the Texas GOP put out their statement opposing the teaching of critical thinking, becaues it might change student’s minds away from what their parents had taught them. So we should not be surprised that they see “let qualified experts review the texts” as controversial.