I'm running for the Texas State Board of Education in District 5 against Ken Mercer, a right-wing extremist. My goal is to restore common sense to the board in Texas. Everyone should care about this because it's a problem that could spread to a town near you, if it hasn't already. Effacement of history continues apace in the United States, and it is our collective responsibility to prevent this from happening. As a professor of English and film at Texas State University, I see firsthand the effects of a broken system, and my message is that help is on the way.
Texas State Board of Education: 2010 or 1950?
Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Candidate for Texas State Board of Education, District 5
Extremist members of the elected, non-paid Texas State Board of Education have hijacked textbook selection and curriculum requirements for future generations of Texas school children, censoring the information they receive in both subtle and blatant ways. In addition to violating the constitutional separation of church and state, extremists on the State Board have systematically censored other types of information as well, refusing to include significant minority figures. Extremist board members complained that the review committee’s proposed curriculum included too many minorities and women.
In spite of testimony from hundreds of citizens from all over the state requesting greater representation of Mexican Americans, Czechs, Sikhs, etc., in the curriculum, extremists systematically rejected their inclusion with flimsy justifications. For example, the far right-wing members of the board thwarted efforts of the Mexican American community to include Dolores Huerta in the curriculum, arguing that she was a bad role model because she was a socialist. Instead, extremist board members substituted Helen Keller, either unaware that she was also a socialist or convinced that an Anglo socialist was not as objectionable as a Chicana socialist.
The board censored common words recommended by the review committees that they, themselves, had selected. For example, the right-wing ideologues eliminated any references to the word “democracy,” referring to the United States instead as a “representative republic” throughout the document. I have no objection to “representative republic,” but I have a big objection to systematic censorship of the word “democracy.” It seems so, well, undemocratic. In addition, the right-wing majority voted to delete distinctions between sex and gender, because they feared it might lead students to think about transvestites and transsexuals.
This 2010 controversy over social studies comes on the heels of the board’s earlier consideration of the science curriculum. In editing the requirements recommended by the review committee of teachers and scholars, extremists insisted on inserting language that depicted the theory of evolution as an inferior alternative to what they call the theory of “intelligent design.” Everyone likes intelligence, right? And “design” sounds like a good idea as well. Dr. David Hillis and other distinguished scientists testified before the board, arguing for real science, both for higher education and for science careers that fuel the economy, but to no avail.
In considering the English curriculum, conservatives on the board threw out two years of review committee work on the night before the final vote, substituting a hastily crafted document designed to emphasize phonics, a method popular during the 1950s. This new curriculum also reduced the number of women and minority authors. The extremists were able to pass these last-minute changes, a move that prompted protests from board and audience members. District 5 incumbent Don Mercer later bragged in a San Antonio Express editorial that the teachers had received a “well deserved spanking.”
This kind of disrespect for teachers and education must stop. We must resist extreme partisan and ideological efforts to rewrite history, weaken the curriculum, and brainwash our children. Such a huge number of sweeping changes and omissions can't be justified by saying this is simply a response to excessive liberal influence on the curriculum. There is nothing "conservative" about excluding Thomas Jefferson and democracy from a discussion of our history.
Let's hear more from the voices of reason, from people all over Texas and the nation who respect education, research, teachers, and common sense. I call on readers to pay attention to what is happening to education in Texas, because it may spread to the entire United States in the near future. It’s not too late to turn this trend around, but we must act now to marginalize political and ideological extremists and return the Texas State Board of Education to its proper mission of educating students for the 21st century, not the 1950s.
Candidate for Texas State Board of Education District 5