SBOE: Still debating the “Two Rs”

As expected, much of the public testimony this morning over the State Board of Education’s proposed changes to the social studies curriculum standards revolved around the two volatile Rs – race and religion.

Early in the hearing, former U.S. Education Secretary (and former Houston ISD Superintendent) Rod Paige urged the board to delay final action on the standards because he believes they don’t adequately deal with the nation’s history of slavery and civil rights. Paige is African American.

If they had their way, the arch conservative members of the board who have worked mightily to interject their own political and religious viewpoints into the standards would have everyone believe that liberal groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Freedom Network, are behind all the criticism of the standards.

Explaining away criticism from Paige, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, will be more difficult for rightwingers to do, not that they won’t try. Paige urged the board to reexamine the history of slavery and civil rights, which were “dominant elements” of the nation’s history and helped shape who we are today.

Rep. Wayne Christian, one of the arch conservatives from the Texas House, argued that the board needed to be “racially blind” and not give preferential treatment to anyone because of race. That argument, however, ignores the fact that history wasn’t “racially blind” and that key events and personalities from history demand preferential treatment in public school classrooms. And that includes putting President Barack Obama’s name in the curriculum standards, something the board so far has declined to do. So far, Obama is an unnamed “first black president.”

Reacting, perhaps, to the prolonged debate over the board’s effort to deny the separation of church and state principle, one conservative parent bemoaned what she characterized as an effort among the board’s critics to promote a “freedom from religion” instead of a “freedom of religion.”

She was upset that her daughter, when in kindergarten, wasn’t allowed to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in class. I wonder how upset she would have been if another student had been prohibited from reciting portions of the Koran.


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