Month: <span>September 2016</span>

Who needs education when facts are optional?


At first glance, you would think there is little connection between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and a proposed Texas textbook, Mexican American Heritage, which misrepresents and demeans the important contributions of the Hispanic culture to the state and the country that we know today.

But in an era in which a growing number of people are motivated more by fear and ideology than they are by truth, the separate furors created by Trump and the textbook share some common ground.

First, there are the wall that Trump vows to build along the Mexican border and his proposed roundup of undocumented immigrants. They would be expensive, divisive attempts to deny the inevitable fact that within the next generation or so Hispanics will constitute a majority of the Texas population and, sooner or later, control the centers of Texas political power. The proposed textbook, meanwhile, tries to rewrite the history of the Hispanic culture already represented by more than half of Texas’ 5.2 million public school students.

Trump’s campaign has been built on bluster, misrepresentations of the truth, outright lies, bigotry and an appeal to fear.

Trump is outrageous, not ideological. But Cynthia Dunbar, the publisher of the offensive textbook, is very ideological. In an interview with the Texas Tribune before the State Board of Education hearing on the book, she said she had “no hidden agenda” in publishing the text and offering it for use in high school Mexican American studies classes.

The book, however, is riddled with inaccuracies and racial stereotypes, according to many scholars who have reviewed it. And as a member of the State Board of Education several years ago, Dunbar certainly had an agenda to impose her own right-wing ideology on Texas’ public schools, including an effort to remove the separation of church and state principle under which the United States was founded from the Texas curriculum. She also has called public education a “tool of perversion.”

Trump and Dunbar, in their own separate ways, are part of what Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. calls a “post-factual nation,” an America, under attack from cable TV, social media and other ideological platforms, “where untruth is gospel, reality is multiple choice and ‘facts’ are whatever you have testes enough to say and somebody is dumb enough to believe.”

The school children of Texas deserve better, and so do their parents.



You can be optimistic about pre-K, but…


Recent news articles about the Texas Education Agency report recommending limited class sizes for pre-K generated a lot of positive buzz, as it should have, but here is a belated spoiler alert. The TEA’s consultants don’t reflect the short-sighted attitudes of many Texas legislators and may not even have the support of Gov. Greg Abbott, who gives himself more credit as a pre-K advocate than he deserves.

The governor and the Legislature will decide the fate of the recommendations, which include limiting class sizes to 22 students and limiting student-to-teacher ratios to 11-to-1 for classes that have more than 15 students. The recommendations follow research that repeatedly has demonstrated the value of small class sizes in improving the educational environment for young children. TSTA also has long advocated for smaller classes and the funding to pay for them.

Strangely enough, the state’s 22-1 limit on class sizes for grades K-4 – which is widely circumvented anyway — doesn’t apply to pre-K, and it is no sure thing that this report will change that. The Dallas Morning News story linked below explains some of the political obstacles, but it may be behind a pay wall for many readers.

Smaller class sizes will require more funding, and Gov. Abbott and the legislative majority have a history of opposing adequate funding for public schools, preferring instead to over-test kids and experiment with privatization.

Gov. Abbott allegedly made “quality” pre-K a “priority” during the 2015 legislative session, but his real priority was cutting taxes. Abbott signed tax cuts worth $3.8 billion (with a b), while his pre-K “priority” limped out of the legislative session with a $116 million appropriation that didn’t even replace all the pre-K funding that had been lost during the 2011 education budget cuts. Many districts found the individual grants so small for their needs that they didn’t even bother to apply for one.

As the Dallas News’ article points out, some members of the Senate Education Committee are openly hostile to pre-K, and some of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s tea party supporters consider the program “Godless.”

Meanwhile, the same senators will eagerly entertain a discussion at next week’s Education Committee meeting about how to drain tax dollars from public schools for vouchers and other privatization schemes – not invest them in pre-K classrooms, where they can actually do some good.




Teacher’s “crazy” choice for president


People don’t always vote for their own professional or economic best interests in elections, and they are entitled to do that. That includes educators who often don’t vote for what is best for their profession or their students. If they always voted for what’s best for education, Texas would have a different governor, a different lieutenant governor and a legislative majority that does not shortchange and over-test school kids.

Even so, I am amazed by the San Antonio teacher who, in a recent AP news article, called Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a “crazy person” but still planned to vote a straight Republican ticket anyway.

“I’m maybe going to have to accept some of his….,” the teacher said, before trailing off and shrugging.

Accept what? Trump’s bigotry, xenophobia, fear-mongering, juvenile temperament, complete unpreparedness and incompetence for the most crucial job in the free world?

If this person likes Republican candidates for other offices, he could vote for them individually without voting for Trump for president. He could even vote a straight Republican ticket and “de-select” his vote for Trump.

Trump has bragged about loving “under-educated” people. He also loves educated people who know better than to vote for a “crazy person” for president of the United States but plan to do so anyway.