Meet the 'Experts' Shaping New Social Studies Curriculum in Texas
Dan Quinn printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 05:36:48 PM EST
We are delighted to welcome Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network back for another eye opening guest post about the role of the Religious Right in Texas public education. -- FC

Rumors began circulating earlier this spring that the faction of social conservatives controlling the Texas State Board of Education was moving to pack a key “expert” review panel for the social studies curriculum revision with like-minded ideologues (as reported in previous posts here and at TFNInsider). At last, the names of all the “expert” panelists are finally public. As with the panel of science “experts” the board appointed last year (a list that included several "intelligent design" proponents affiliated with the Discovery Institute), it appears that the social studies panel will be evenly split between mainstream academics and ideologues who advocate a "Christian nation" agenda.

The three mainstream academics on the panel are Jesus Francisco de la Teja of Texas State University, Jim Kracht of Texas A&M, and Lybeth Hodges of Texas Woman’s University. The three ideologues aligned with the board’s religious right faction are David Barton, the Rev. Peter Marshall, and Daniel Dreisbach.

Even a casual look at the vita for each of these “experts” makes clear grossly unequal qualifications. That examination also reveals the agenda of the board’s Christian right faction: use the social studies curriculum to promote a political argument against separation of church and state.

So let’s look at each of the so-called “experts” who will guide the revision of social studies standards for an entire generation of children in Texas public schools.

Mainstream Academics
Jim Kracht is a professor of teaching, learning and culture and a professor of geography at Texas A&M University. He holds a master’s in geography and a doctorate in social studies education. He currently serves as associate dean for academic affairs in the university’s College of Education and is a senior fellow for the Gilbert Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education (Texas State University).

Jesus Francisco de la Teja is a professor and chairman of the history department at Texas State University-San Marcos. De la Teja has a master’s in Latin American history and a doctorate in colonial Latin American history. He served a two-year term as Texas State Historian until May of this year. The distinguished professor has authored three books (including high school and college textbooks), has edited seven books, and has written chapters for nine others. He has also written 11 journal articles, nine articles for encyclopedias and other reference resources, and scores of reviews, scripts and translations in other publications.  His list of lectures, awards and professional associations is similarly lengthy.

Lybeth Hodges is a professor of history and government at Texas Woman’s University, where she teaches in an honors scholars program and the College of Professional Education. Hodges has a master’s in history from TWU and a doctorate in history from Texas Tech University.

The first of the “experts” will be a name that is very familiar to Talk2Action readers: David Barton. Barton, of course, founded and heads WallBuilders, a Christian advocacy group based near Fort Worth that calls separation of church and state a myth and argues that the United States is a Christian nation that should be governed on Christian biblical principles. Barton earned a bachelor’s degree in religious education and has two honorary doctorates from two small Christian colleges. He has authored 14 books, all self-published by his WallBuilder Press, and has written one article each for the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy and the Regent University Law Review (Pat Robertson’s university).

The Rev. Peter Marshall is a Presbyterian minister who runs Peter Marshall Ministries, which seeks “to restore America to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America’s Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival.”  Marshall was apparently John the Baptist to Barton’s Jesus -- his revisionist history of America’s founding paved the way for a genre Barton later popularized. Marshall has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s of divinity degree and has co-authored three books ostensibly on American history — all three from Christian book publisher Revell and marketed as part of an “America’s Christian Heritage Package” on his Web site. According to the biographical sketch he provided to the Texas Education Agency, Marshall has “done extensive research on historical periods to inspire interest by youth through fictional depictions utilizing historically accurate elements and issues.” Like Barton, Marshall believes that the U.S. Constitution does not protect separation of church and state, and he seeks to restore “America’s Christian heritage.”

The third appointee, Daniel Dreisbach, actually brings some legitimate academic credentials to the panel, although his work and interests are very narrowly focused. Dreisbach is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C., and has earned a law degree  and a doctorate of philosophy in politics. He also serves on the faculty of the James Madison Fellowship Foundation in Washington. Dreisbach has authored seven books and written 16 chapters in other books, seven reference articles, and nearly two dozen reviews. His extremely conservative view of the role of religion in American history, society and law have made Dreisbach a darling of the religious right. Like Barton and Marshall, he argues that the Constitution does not protect separation of church and state.

(As an aside, the list of “experts” would have been even stranger if recently deposed board chairman and proud Young Earth Creationist Don McLeroy had gotten his way. McLeroy sought to appoint Minnesotan Allen Quist to the panel but could not find a partner on the board to second his nomination. Quist, who suffered a landslide defeat when he sought the 1994 Republican nomination for Minnesota governor, is an anti-abortion and anti-gay crusader with no academic credentials in social studies. More on Quist here. By contrast, SBOE board member Tincy Miller nominated Edward Countryman, a distinguished and award-winning professor of history at Southern Methodist University. Countryman is an accomplished historian and writer, having authored at least a half-dozen books and numerous other publications. But since neither McLeroy nor Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, would join Miller in appointing Countryman to the panel, his nomination failed as well.)

The state board has charged the “expert” panelists with reviewing the state’s current social standards and reporting back by June 29. The panelists will also review and help guide the work of writing teams made up of teachers and others who are already working on the standards revision. The state board is scheduled to adopt the revised social studies standards in March 2010. Publishers will use those standards to write new history, geography and other social studies textbooks up for adoption in Texas two years later. Publishers often sell those same textbooks to schools in smaller states across the country. You can read more about the Texas social studies revision process here.

I still don't understand the social studies curriculum. Even they update it again seems to be same. I do web design and write web content also gives seo services to my clients.

by kate on Wed Aug 05, 2009 at 06:37:58 AM EST

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