March 13, 2010 in Nation/World

Far-right views win day on Texas ed panel

Curriculum standards can affect nation’s texts
April Castro Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

State Board of Education member Mary Helen Berlanga listens to debate during a meeting in Austin, Texas, on Friday. A Democrat, she staged a walkout on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

AUSTIN, Texas – A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.

Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a “constitutional republic,” rather than “democratic,” and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.

“We have been about conservatism versus liberalism,” said Democrat Mavis Knight, of Dallas, explaining her vote against the standards. “We have manipulated strands to insert what we want it to be in the document, regardless as to whether or not it’s appropriate.”

Following three days of impassioned and acrimonious debate, the board gave preliminary approval to the new standards with a 10-5 party line vote. A final vote is expected in May, after a public comment period that could produce additional amendments and arguments.

Decisions by the board can affect textbook content nationwide because Texas is one of publishers’ biggest clients.

Hostilities flared and prompted a walkout Thursday by one of the board’s most prominent Democrats, Mary Helen Berlanga, of Corpus Christi, who accused her colleagues of “whitewashing” curriculum standards. Late Thursday night, three other Democrats left, leaving Republicans to easily push through amendments heralding “American exceptionalism” and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best absent excessive government intervention.

Republican Terri Leo, a member of the powerful Christian conservative voting bloc, called the standards “world class” and “exceptional.”

Board members argued about the classification of historic periods (still B.C. and A.D., rather than B.C.E. and C.E.). Numerous attempts to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history were denied, inducing one amendment that would specify that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

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