The State Board of Ed’s Final Exam

The State Board of Education— the fifteen-member elected body that decides the curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS—has been no stranger to controversy in recent years. The board revises the existing standards within each subject once a decade, changing slightly (or not so slightly) the requirements for what must be covered in a “conforming” textbook. Fierce ideological debates over abstinence education and evolution have brought the board a predictable amount of statewide infamy over the years, but nothing has yet compared with the circus surrounding the board’s current effort to revise the social studies curriculum. Since last fall, protesters from the left and the right, along with the national media, have descended on Austin to decry the board’s politicization of history. (“In the battle over education, victory for conservatives should mean depoliticizing the textbooks, not politicizing them along conservative lines,” editorialized the National Review in April.) This month, the board will meet for a final vote on the standards that have caused all the fuss. If approved, they will remain for the next decade. To make sure you’ve been paying attention to this all-important debate—which will affect millions of public school children in Texas—we’ve prepared a pop quiz covering some of the board’s more outstanding moments. You may begin . . . now!
— Katy Vine

1. In a motion that did not pass, Cynthia Dunbar (R-Richmond) requested that a reference to Clarence Darrow, the defense attorney in the world-famous Scopes “Monkey Trial,” be removed from the standards on the grounds that he “can be a very controversial person.” Which of the following controversial statements can be attributed to Dunbar herself?

A. “Liberals sneeze more than conservatives because liberals drink fluoridated water and have their hair cut by gays.”

B. “What institution is so entangled with civil authority as to make its extrication practically impossible, since it would seal the doom of its very existence? It is the public education system. One need not wonder long why the enemy chose such a subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”

C. “Where in the Scriptures is homework mentioned? I will tell you that it is nowhere to be found. It is therefore an abomination before God and should be abolished.”

D. “All male children should wear their hair like Ronald Reagan. Maybe a few girls too. Why not?”

2. What author’s name was temporarily removed from the social studies standards because Patricia Hardy (R-Weatherford) mistakenly thought he had once written a book about Marxism?

A. Barack Obama, author of Dreams From My Father.

B. Groucho Marx, author of Groucho and Me.

C. Patrick Lennon, author of Steel Witches and Corn Dolls.

D. Bill Martin Jr., author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

3. Which landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision did Dunbar argue ought to be downgraded from a requirement to a suggestion, meaning that teachers could decide not to cover it?

A. Bush v. Gore.

B. Brown v. Board of Education.

C. Spy v. Spy.

D. Mike Leach v. Texas Tech.

4. In March, David Bradley (R-Beaumont) declared, “I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state. I have one thousand dollars for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.” According to Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, this notion can be found in the First Amendment. (“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State,” he once wrote.) Were Bradley to concede the point, to what charity would Jefferson direct his $1,000?

A. Left-wing Radicals R Us.

B. The Sweet Potato Enthusiasts’ Guild.

C. The Houston Texans.

D. If you think Bradley would concede the point to Jefferson, I have some beachfront property in Loving County that might interest you.

5. One of Barbara Cargill’s (R-The Woodlands) suggestions, shot down 7—6, requested that students look at “pro-free market factors contributing to European technological progress during the rise and decline of the medieval system.” True or false: Free markets existed in the medieval era.

A. True

B. False

6. In an interview with the Associated Press, board chair Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas) was quoted as saying that Thurgood Marshall was “not particularly known for [his] citizenship.” What was he known for?

A. Being the first African American to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

B. Successfully arguing the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education , which ended public-school segregation in the United States.

C. Rising to great heights due in part to an abiding respect for the U.S. Constitution instilled in him by his father, a railroad porter in Baltimore.

D. All of the above.

7. Dunbar successfully revised language that read “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” The new language does what?

A. Puts the “men” back in Enlightenment.

B. Removes the reference to the Enlightenment and replaces Thomas Jefferson, who is regarded as a deist, with the Christian philosophers Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.

C. Provides yet another example of the powerful influence of the Hobbes and Locke lobby.

D. Makes a clumsy attempt to rhyme “Montesquieu” with “barbecue.”

8. What argument did Terri Leo (R-Spring) make on behalf of an amendment that would strike all references to “capitalism” in favor of “free enterprise”?

A. Using the term “capitalism” would amount to a “compromise with liberal professors from academia.”

B. “Kids love things that are free.”

C. “The term ‘capitalism’ appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution.”

D. Rebranding can keep an old idea fresh, “like when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC.”

9. At a March 11 meeting, Bradley proposed an amendment stipulating that students learn about “unintended consequences”

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