Civil rights leaders César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall – whose names appear on schools, libraries, streets and parks across the U.S. – are given too much attention in Texas social studies classes, conservatives advising the state on curriculum standards say.
"To have César Chávez listed next to Ben Franklin" – as in the current standards – "is ludicrous," wrote evangelical minister Peter Marshall, one of six experts advising the state as it develops new curriculum standards for social studies classes and textbooks. David Barton, president of Aledo-based WallBuilders, said in his review that Chávez, a Hispanic labor leader, "lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others."
Marshall also questioned whether Thurgood Marshall, who argued the landmark case that resulted in school desegregation and was the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, should be presented to Texas students as an important historical figure. He wrote that the late justice is "not a strong enough example" of such a figure.
Should it come as any surprise that Peter Marshall, a white, fundamentalist Christian, would be opposed to recognizing the historical prominence of an Hispanic and an African-American? Don McLeroy, a creationist and former chair of the Texas State Board of Education, says this in the defense of the picks:
State board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, took issue with the criticism of Barton and Marshall, saying they are "very qualified" to consider social studies standards.
"There is no doubt they have the experience and expertise to advise the writing teams and the board on the standards," he said, noting he has not yet read the experts' recommendations.
"No doubt"? Well, Vince Leibowitz has something to say about that in three must-read posts at Capital Annex. In this one, we get a sampling of Barton's selective quoting (or plain mis-quoting) of important historical figures to make his right-wing points. In this post, we see Barton quoting from a chain e-mail debunked by Snopes. And here we see Barton blaming Hurricane Katrina on the decadence of residents of New Orleans, bashing Muslims as enemies of the state, denying evolution, and criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down anti-sodomy laws. These are fairly typical beliefs...for a right-wing extremist. And this is the man that McLeroy and other right-wingers on the State Board of Education believe is qualified to advise a panel of experts on what Texas children should be learning in their social studies class. One more excerpt from the Dallas Morning News article:
Both Barton and Marshall also singled out as overrated Anne Hutchinson, a New England pioneer and early advocate of women's rights and religious freedom, who was tried and banished from her Puritan colony in Massachusetts because of her nontraditional views.
"She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn't accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble," Marshall wrote.
"Anne Hutchinson does not belong in the company of these eminent gentlemen," he said, referring to colonial leaders William Penn, Roger Williams and others. Williams later invited Hutchinson to help establish a colony in what became Rhode Island.
So Barton and Marshall are opposed to recognizing a women's rights advocate...from the 15th century. That's "family values" for you I guess.
Speaking of the State Board of Eduction, Texas Cloverleaf points out that prominent nut Cynthia Dunbar is in the running to replace aforementioned nut McLeroy as chair of the State Board of Education. This is the woman who has called public schools "a tool of perversion", accused Obama of being sympathetic towards Islamic terrorists, and who believes that Obama is not a citizen of the United States. Again, also not mainstream beliefs.
Remember, these are the people who conservatives in the State Legislature (and right-wing Christian voters) believe are most qualified to determine what our children should be learning in Texas schools. And they're doing all of this right under our noses, sneaking their stealth candidates onto these boards so they can game our education standards and what's in our children's textbooks. The best remedy is to out them and their ridiculous beliefs, and let Texans (many of whom, including many Republicans, don't hold these wacky beliefs) have a say about their shenanigans.