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Time to send in the clowns

You know that old expression about how no one’s life, liberty, or property are safe when the Legislature is in session? That’s how I feel these days about the State Board of Education. And that means it’s loin-girding time, because here they come again, to finish off the social studies textbook standards that they deferred from January.

A three-day meeting beginning Wednesday is the first since voters in last week’s Republican primary handed defeats to two veteran conservatives, including former board chairman Don McLeroy, who lost to a moderate GOP lobbyist. Two other conservatives — a Republican and a Democrat — did not seek re-election. All four terms end in January.


“I think there’ll be lots of amendments … a lot of media attention, and it’s important,” McLeroy said of the meeting, adding that his lame-duck status won’t affect his approach. “Our country is divided on how we see things and these things really come into sharp focus, especially with history and how you present it to your children.”

The 15-member board is expected this week to finish debating social studies, history and economics curriculum before taking a preliminary vote. The final vote is expected in May. Aside from the Founding Fathers’ beliefs, debate could flare over issues such as border security and how much children will study the impact of government regulation on the free enterprise system.

Unfortunately, the board has repeatedly proven that like the song says, they don’t know much about history.

Among the choices the board has made this year:

• The board voted to pull a popular children’s book author after confusing him with the author of a book about Marxism.

• At the urging of a Dallas board member, the panel rejected a nationally known migrant labor leader because she was a member of a socialist group. Instead, the sponsoring member extolled the virtues of Helen Keller, unaware that Keller advocated for socialism.

• The board changed a section on McCarthyism after a member said research had “basically vindicated” the senator’s 1950s hunt for communists.

“This goes to the fundamental issue. The board is not made up of educators, yet alone historians. They look very ignorant when they don’t know that Helen Keller herself was a socialist,” said Julio Noboa, a history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, one of the board’s socials studies experts offering recommendations. “It really makes them look stupid. These people are making education decisions for one of the largest states in the union.”

It’s stuff like this that really makes you proud to be a Texan, doesn’t it? Get ready for three more days of wince-inducing headlines and stories, followed by the usual barrage of bemused and outraged national coverage. The Trib has an annotated list of what the SBOE will be discussing, and I’m sure that the Texas Freedom Network will be there to liveblog it.

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