Not one to give up just because he has been booted from office by the voters, former State Board of Education chair Don McLeroy has proposed new additions to the social studies curriculum, which is up for adoption by the full board later this month. First I’m going to summarize several of proposals that are likely to be controversial, and then I’m going to comment on them. At the end of my comments, I will post all of McLeroy’s proposals in his words with his justifications. I’m going to make some comments after each of the first five. 1. Require high school U.S. history students to “evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.” –Where do folks like McLeroy get these ideas? Do they really believe that the United Nations and the World Court and the Kyoto treaty or the G-20, or who knows what else are scheming to undermine U.S. sovereignty? How are students supposed “evaluate” this? Are the textbooks going to identify the efforts to undermine sovereignty? 2. Add two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to the U.S. history standards. The first is Ricci v. DeStefano, the 2009 case in which white firefighters sued the city of New Haven, Connecticut, after the city invalidated a civil service examination on which the white firefighters had qualified for promotion but no black firefighters had done so. The Supreme Court ruled that the city had engaged in “express, race-based decisionmaking when it declined to certify the examination results because of the statistical disparity based on race.” McLeroy argues that the decision “provides balance to civil rights issues.” The second case was Kelo v. City of New London. This was the eminent domain case that is anathema to property-rights advocates. The Supreme Court, following precedent, ruled that the city could use its power of eminent domain to acquire property for a public purpose–in this instance, for economic development. –These two cases, interesting as they may be, do not belong in social studies texts. Their rulings are not groundbreaking. Ricci simply restates the already well established principle that express race-based decisionmaking will not withstand scrutiny. Kelo likewise broke no new ground; it upheld the ability of a governmental body to exercise its power of eminent domain. What made the cases important were not the legal principles involved, but the facts of the cases, which had political significance to conservatives. Ricci struck down government’s power to tailor an affirmative action remedy. Kelo broadened government’s power to take private property for a vague public purpose. They do not rise to the level of essential knowledge, which is what the standards are supposed to be about. 3. Downplay the positive impact of Progressive Era reforms and suggest instead that the work of the era’s reformers like Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. DuBois created a negative portrayal of America. –I did not realize that there is a conservative revisionist movement aimed at discrediting the achievements of the progressive era until I read about it on the Web. Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism, is in the forefront of this movement. Its thesis is that fascism is really a philosophy of the left, not the right. Glen Beck is another proponent of the revisionism of the progressive era. It is easy to understand why conservatives dislike the progressives (although most of the progressive politicians were Republicans, and most of the ordinary Americans who embraced progressivism were businessmen who fit the profile of Republican voters. (Theodore Roosevelt was the prototype progressive president.) The reason why Republicans have turned against progressivism is that the progressive reformers ushered in the era of big government. They favored government regulation of business and created the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate railroads, the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the food processing industry, passed anti-trust legislation and, under Woodrow Wilson, child labor laws. They passed constitutional amendments for a progressive income tax and to give women the vote. What was progressivism? Richard Hofstadter, an historian whose works (“The Age of Reform,” “Rendezvous with Destiny”) were mandatory reading for history majors when I was in college, described it as “that broader impulse toward criticism and change that was everywhere so conspicuous after 1900, when the already forceful stream of agrarian discontent was enlarged and redirected by the growing enthusiasm of middle-class people for social and economic reform.” It is stunning to think that there is an elected official who regards the reformist impulse as one that brings discredit to America. Would America be better off if Upton Sinclair had not exposed conditions in the meat-packing industry? If Ida Wells had not advocated against lynching? If Susan B. Anthony’s decades of work for women’s suffrage had not borne fruit? If W.E.B. Dubois had not give voice to black aspirations and concerns? If the muckrakers had not exposed the corrupt political machines? American history is not just founding fathers and noble ideals. Yes, reformers presented a negative portrayal of America. But it was an accurate portrayal. That’s why we call it history. 4. Add a standard to high school U.S. history having students “discuss alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, given the decreasing worker to retiree ratio. –I don’t have a problem with students learning about the shaky status of entitlement programs. However, the subject more properly belongs to the study of government than history and doesn’t belong in history texts. 5. McLeroy would add a standard to the eighth-grade U.S. history course that maintains separation of church and state was not the intent of the Founders who drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Students would be asked to “Contrast the Founders’ intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term ‘Separation of church and state.’” –This is just pure political advocacy. Conservatives insist that the modern view that there is a wall of separation between church and state is misguided and argue that the founders’ intent regarding separation of church and state should be narrowly interpreted according to the language of the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Scholars who reject this position point to Thomas Jefferson’s view, expressed in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, that the First Amendment does erect a wall of separation between church and state: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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.” Conservatives like McLeroy reject the idea that the founders believed in separation of church and state. * * * * What follows is the text of McLeroy’s proposals. I am not going to comment on these, except to make on point at the beginning. The biggest problem with the new social studies standards is not that they are politically inspired, though they are that. It is that the sheer volume of the things that students must learn has grown so large that memorization will inevitably squeeze out critical thinking. “Drill and kill” is the wrong path toward better education. On second thought, I reserve the right to make a comment or two. My comments appear in italics. SOCIAL STUDIES – GRADE 8 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (4) History. The student understands significant political and economic issues of the revolutionary era. The student is expected to: (A) analyze causes of the American Revolution, including the Proclamation of 1763, the Intolerable Acts, the Stamp Act, mercantilism, lack of representation in Parliament, and British economic policies following the French and Indian War; (B) explain the roles played by significant individuals during the American Revolution, including Abigail Adams, John Adams, Wentworth Cheswell, Samuel Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, James Armistead, Benjamin Franklin, Bernardo de Gálvez, Crispus Attucks, King George III, Haym Salomon, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Paine, and George Washington; (C) explain the issues surrounding important events of the American Revolution, including declaring independence; writing the Articles of Confederation; fighting the battles of Lexington, Concord, Saratoga, and Yorktown; enduring the winter at Valley Forge; and signing the Treaty of Paris of 1783; (D) analyze the issues of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, including the Great Compromise and the Three-Fifths Compromise; (E) analyze the arguments for and against ratification. RECOMMENDED CHANGE Add new (4F) (F) Contrast the Founders’ intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term “Separation of church and state.” This is another attempt by McLeroy to inflict his interpretation of the First Amendment and American history, which is decidedly revisionist. JUSTIFICATION Stimulates critical thinking relating to the actual wording in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This does not stimulate critical thinking. This standard tries to settle an argument that cannot be settled. SOCIAL STUDIES – GRADE 8 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (15) Government. The student understands the American beliefs and principles reflected in the U.S. Constitution and other important historic documents. The student is expected to: (A) identify the influence of ideas from historic documents, including Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, The Wealth of Nations, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and selected anti-federalist writings, on the U.S. system of government; RECOMMENDED CHANGE (15) Government. The student understands the American beliefs and principles reflected in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and other important historic documents. The student is expected to: (A) identify the influence of ideas from historic documents, including Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, The Wealth of Nations, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and selected anti-federalist writings, on the U.S. system of government; JUSTIFICATION The SBOE has indicated that it desires major emphasis on the Founding principles and Founding documents. The Declaration of Independence certainly fits in this category, and should be studied at the same level as the Constitution, rather than at the level of other important, but lesser, documents. I have no problem with elevating the Declaration to the same level as the Constitution. U. S. HISTORY SINCE 1877 (junior year American history) RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (5) History. The student understands the effects of reform and third-party movements in the early 20th century The student is expected to: (B) evaluate the impact of muckrakers and reform leaders such as Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, andW. E. B. DuBois on American society; and RECOMMENDED CHANGE B) evaluate contrast the impact tone of muckrakers and reform leaders such as Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. DuBois on American society; and versus the optimism of immigrants including Jean Pierre Godet as told in Thomas Kinkade’s The Spirit of America. JUSTIFICATION Diversity of opinion and balanced presentation. The words of Godet and immigrants like him were, “I love America for giving so many of us the right to dream a new dream”. Such words were as lost on the muckrakers as they are on many modern historians obsessed by oppression. Yet they have never been lost on those who lead: “An American”, John F. Kennedy said decades later, “by nature is an optimist. He is experimental, an inventor and builder, who builds best when called upon to build greatly.” – A Patriot’s History of the United States, L. Schweikart and M. Allen, Page 462 U. S. HISTORY SINCE 1877 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (6) History. The student understands significant events, social issues, and individuals of the 1920s. The student is expected to: (A) analyze causes and effects of events and social issues , such as immigration, Social Darwinism, race relations, nativism, the Red Scare, Prohibition, and the changing role of women; and (B) analyze the impact of significant individuals such as Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, Henry Ford, Glenn Curtiss, Marcus Garvey,and Charles A. Lindbergh. RECOMMENDED CHANGE A) analyze causes and effects of events and social issues , such as immigration, Social Darwinism, eugenics, race relations, nativism, the Red Scare, Prohibition, and the changing role of women; and JUSTIFICATION from War Against the Weak, by Edward Black, 2003: In the first three decades of the 20th Century, American corporate philanthropy combined with prestigious academic fraud to create the pseudoscience eugenics that institutionalized race politics as national policy. The goal: create a superior, white, Nordic race and obliterate the viability of everyone else. How? By identifying so-called “defective” family trees and subjecting them to legislated segregation and sterilization programs. The victims: poor people, brownhaired white people, African Americans, immigrants, Indians, Eastern European Jews, the infirm and really anyone classified outside the superior genetic lines drawn up by American raceologists. The main culprits were the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune, in league with America’s most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, operating out of a complex at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island. The eugenic network worked in tandem with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the State Department and numerous state governmental bodies and legislatures throughout the country, and even the U.S. Supreme Court. They were all bent on breeding a eugenically superior race, just as agronomists would breed better strains of corn. The plan was to wipe away the reproductive capability of the weak and inferior. Ultimately, 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilized — legally and extra-legally. Many never discovered the truth until decades later. Those who actively supported eugenics include America’s most progressive figures: Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Sanger and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Why does this belong in history texts? It was an aberration. Far better to include something on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. U. S. HISTORY SINCE 1877 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (8) History. The student understands the impact of significant national and international decisions and conflicts in the Cold War on the United States. The student is expected to: (B) describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government RECOMMENDED CHANGE (B) describe how the extent and danger of Soviet agent infiltration of the U.S. government as revealed in Alger Hiss’ guilt and confirmed later by the Venona Papers, McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race affected/reflected increased Cold War tensions, and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government. JUSTIFICATION The issue of Soviet spies in the U. S. government during the 1940s deserves focus. The U.S. and other nations were targeted in major espionage campaigns by the Soviet Union as early as 1942. Among those U. S. government officials identified were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; Alger Hiss; Harry Dexter White, the second-highest official in the Treasury Department; Lauchlin Currie, a personal aide to Franklin Roosevelt; and Maurice Halperin, a section head in the Office of Strategic Services. Others included John Abt, Lee Pressman, Harold Ware, Laurence Duggan, and Michael Straight. Give it up. Quit trying to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy. U. S. HISTORY SINCE 1877 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (11) History. The student understands the emerging political, economic, and social issues of the United States from the 1990s into the 21st century. The student is expected to: (B) identify significant social and political advocacy organizations and leaders across the political spectrum; (E) describe significant societal issues of this time period. RECOMMENDED CHANGE (A) identify significant social and political advocacy organizations, and leaders, and issues across the political spectrum; (C)Evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U. S. sovereignty. Idiocy! JUSTIFICATION Combine old (E) with (B). Threats of global government to individual freedom and liberty include the votes of the U. N. General Assembly, the International Criminal Court, the U. N. Gun Ban proposal, forced redistribution of American wealth to third world countries, and global environmental initiatives. U. S. HISTORY SINCE 1877 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (11) History. The student understands the emerging political, economic, and social issues of the United States from the 1990s into the 21st century. The student is expected to: (A) describe U.S. involvement in world affairs, including the end of the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, the Balkans Crisis, 9/11, and the global War on Terror; (B) identify significant social and political advocacy organizations and leaders across the political spectrum; (C) analyze the impact of third parties; (D) discuss the historical significance of the 2008 presidential election; and (E) describe significant societal issues of this time period. RECOMMENDED CHANGE Add new 11F (F) discuss alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, given the decreasing worker to retiree ratio, JUSTIFICATION This is a critical thinking skills item, and it is also relevant to assessing the policies of the various ideologies that have shaped where we are as Americans. Again McLeroy wants to impose his view of history on students. U. S. HISTORY SINCE 1877 RECOMMENDED CHANGE CURRENT ITEM / STUDENT EXPECTATION (21)Government. The student understands the impact of constitutional issues on merican society in the 20th century. The student is expected to: (A) analyze the effects of 20th-century landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and other U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson, Hernandez v. Texas, and Tinker v. Des Moines; and RECOMMENDED CHANGE (A) analyze the effects of 20th-century landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and other U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson, Hernandez v. Texas; Kelo v. New London, Ricci v. DeStefano, and Tinker v. Des Moines; JUSTIFICATION Added two key recent decisions. Kelo gives rise to key states rights and property rights issues. Ricci provides balance to civil rights issues. Kelo redefined 5th amendment property rights. Many states, including Texas, have passed state constitutional amendments protecting their citizens from this Supreme Court decision. The issue with Ricci was whether a municipality (New Haven, CT) may decline to certify results of an exam that would make disproportionately more white applicants eligible for promotion than minority applicants, due to fears that certifying the results would lead to charges of racial discrimination.
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