Friday, May 01, 2009

Good and bad news for Texas education: which do you want first?

Few school boards are as patently idiotic and genuinely incompetent as the Texas State Board of Education, which has the terrible power of controlling all Texan educational facilities and sanctioning what can or cannot happen. It's especially bad considering their chairman is the idiotic Don McLeroy – you know, that Creationist dentist who lies out of both sides of his mouth?

Fact is, he's just the worst of the equation; the rest is also pretty scary, considering the rest of the board is also composed of witless ideologues, hypocritical theologians and regular old incompetent fools. Really, whatever few voices of reason the Board still retains have been outshined and silenced long ago.

The Board, particularly McLeroy, are also known for constantly trying to push their religious bullshit through into Texan schools and facilities and trying to discredit Darwinian evolution through one manner or another. Their aim is to present Creationism – repackaged as "Intelligent Design" (which the Dover trial clearly proved was basically "Creationism from a lawyer's ass", as I like to think of it) – as a "second viewpoint", an "alternative", to evolution. This, of course, could only work if evolution wasn't a rock-solid theory that's been as "proven" as any theory can possibly be, years and years ago, time and time (and time) again, and has more grounding evidence than gravity for Christ's sake. There are no other viewpoints, no more than there are other viewpoints to heliocentrism or to the existence of DNA. It just "is", it's a fact of nature, and the only way anyone can deny it is either through ignorance, delusion (aka indoctrination), or plain utter stupidity.

They tried it again just last March, although thankfully this was once again repealed. Unfortunately, they were able to introduce plenty of bullshit policies and rules and whatnot that really screwed up scientific education in Texan school classrooms, notably by forcing teachers to present the "pros & cons" of most or all theories and established facts. I wonder how they'll manage to find fault with the theory of gravity. How clouds stay in the air, perhaps? (Don't laugh, it's been used before.)

There is some good news, though. Texas Legislature is now cracking down on these Board morons in a long-awaited and (very) much-needed revamp of the Texas education department:

The legislative session so far has not been kind to the State Board of Education.

Senate confirmation of Board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, is dead in the water, the Nominations Committee chairman said Thursday.

The House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment Monday that would move the investment decisions about the $17.5 billion Permanent School Fund away from the board to an appointed council of financial professionals.

And a bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill to take away the elected board's authority over curriculum and textbooks.

What? The government is putting people who actually have brains in charge of schooling children? What a novel idea!

So McLeroy's out the window along with the rest of his Board's powers ... Oooh, this is fantastic.

And yes, as per this post's title, that was actually the good news. The bad news, however ... well, it's pretty damn bad. If you thought that was the last of the Texas State Board of Education's idiocy, prepare for a rude awakening.

Indeed, the TSBE is now moving away from screwing up scientific classes to ... screwing up social studies classes as well. You know, the courses in which students actually learn about the world around them. (What they don't know from videogames and the Internet, at least.)

The Texas State Board of Education is set to appoint a social studies curriculum "expert" panel that includes absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education and argue that laws and public policies should be based on their narrow interpretations of the Bible.

Holy mother of Mary, that sounds bad enough as it is without any details. But just who are some of these "absurdly unqualified idealogues" being appointed to direct social studies in Texas?

The answer: the worst kinds possible.

TFN [Texas Freedom Network] has obtained the names of "experts" appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.

The two have argued that the Constitution doesn't protect separation of church and state and hold a variety of other extreme views related to religion, education and government, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

"It's absurd to suggest that Texas universities don't have accomplished scholars in the field who are more qualified than ideologues who share a narrow political agenda," Miller said. "What's next? Rush Limbaugh on the 'expert' panel? It's clear now that just appointing a new chairman won't end this board's outrageous efforts to politicize the education of our schoolchildren. It's time for the Legislature to make sweeping changes to the board and its control over what our kids learn in public schools."

"With Don McLeroy's confirmation hanging in the balance in the Senate and lawmakers considering 15 bills that would strip the state board of its authority, these board members continue trying to push extremist politics into Texas classrooms," she said. "It's as if they're daring the Legislature to call them on it."

Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is a self-styled "historian" without any formal training in the field. He argues that separation of church and state is a "myth" and that the nation's laws should be based on Scripture. He says, for example, that the Bible forbids taxes on income and capital gains. Yet even such groups as Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist Joint Committee have sharply criticized Barton's interpretations of the Constitution and history.

Oh my God, I've just had my skull crushed in via an anvil of Stoopid and Christofascism. Who would'a thunk it? Texas is screwed. Again.

Just to fulfill my self-flagellistic needs, here are some quotes from Reverend Peter Marshall:

[On why Christian parents should send their kids to Christian schools rather than public schools:]

Wouldn't it be far better for them to have a consistent and Biblical worldview that will enable them to grow, not only in knowledge and learning but in moral and spiritual stature, to the point that even before they finish their education they will be committed to being "salt and light" in our society, and helping to bring America back to God?

I find it utterly beyond belief that any person who calls himself or herself a Christian could under any circumstances vote for a candidate (Obama) that supports abortion on demand and special rights for homosexuals (beyond those already in the Constitution)! How, in the name of all that is holy, can a Christian vote for someone that takes a position directly contrary to the explicit Word of God?

If, as I suspect, the financial meltdown is part of His judgment on us because of our growing moral and spiritual rejection of His standards, then He may very well let us sink into severe straits in order to bring us back to Himself. Perhaps we will not come to repentance about abortion and homosexuality and pornography and gambling and greed and sexual immorality and all the rest of it until the economy is so bad that we cry out for mercy.



And it doesn't even get any better with David Barton, propagandist.

There truly is a difference between Congressional Republicans and Democrats, and nowhere is this difference more evident than on traditional moral values. The Democrats' cry of ‘partisanship’ is simply a smokescreen to divert attention from the lack of a moral compass that permeates their Party.

However, in the wake of the impeachment vote, the Democrats are finally clamoring for something that America actually does need: bi-partisanship. America does need two parties standing up for what is morally right-America does need two parties demanding accountability for the acts of all individuals regardless of their social position-America does need two parties seeking to preserve the moral foundations of the nation. Up to now, the only thing preventing this bi-partisanship is the Democrats.

The current partisanship exists only because the overwhelming majority of Democrats demand on the defense of what is morally indefensible and refuse to join with the overwhelming majority of Republicans who continue to defend what is morally right. It is time for Democrats to heed their own call and become bi-partisan, joining with the Republicans in defending America's great moral values.

And the mystery of why there isn't more bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats continues.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars and Pharyngula)


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