Black Voices Matter

White allies may feel uneasy speaking with authority on the the spate of unjust decisions involving a mix of racist cops and unarmed black people. It is a difficult thing to do and hard to do well. One thing is for sure is that a black person can do a better job of speaking to the issue. It may be difficult to take everything on board, but this piece by Briana Urena-Ravelo outlines many good reasons even people who mean well get it wrong. Worse than that, some white writers may make things worse no matter if they label progressive or not

[Read more…]

Whodathunkit? Moses the actual inspiration for American government

Although climate change denial was removed from textbooks, our school board has stubbornly stuck to it’s guns on including Christianity and Judeo-Christian values (Moses specifically) as the inspiration for America’s form of government.

All right all right don’t rush me, I’m-a-thinkin’ … and my head hurts”

All right all right don’t rush me, I’m-a-thinkin’ … and my head hurts”

[Read more…]

Tune in live: Texas Textbook Wars with Zack Kopplin

Zack Kopplin, wonderkind  of the creationism textbook wars, is livetweeting the the Social Studies textbook hearings. He is enduring the inanity like a champ, so you don’t have to.

Is this a McCarthy witch hunt?

Is this a McCarthy witch hunt?

Aron couldn’t make it as he is on the last leg of his journey on his motorcycle across the deserts of West Texas.  This part in particular would get his goat if he was there…

I don't understand the founding of our government, and I don't want kids to either.

I don’t understand the founding of our government, and I don’t want kids to either.

It would be funny if they weren’t serious about teaching this to millions of students as fact. If you would like to watch the shenanigans yourself  there is a livestream.

Interstellar and the dangers of anti-intellectualism.(Minor Spoilers)

Although Interstellar is set in a dystopian future, one of the scenes is an all too familiar page borrowed from the present. The setting takes place in the future where crops are dying from a plant pandemic of some sort of blight. With plants gone, all life will become extinct as the atmosphere becomes unbreathable. And of course, the extinction of plants or the producers at the base of the energy pyramid will cause irreparable harm to the biosphere.

Terrifying as it is beautiful.

Gargantua: Terrifying as it is beautiful.

[Read more…]

Texas: Not ready for a progressive woman Governor

During the election coverage and Republican acceptance speeches there was a real element of attributing the takeover of Congress to President Obama even though he wasn’t on the ballot. There are already congressmen who pledge to prosecute him for abusing executive orders even though he issued less of these than George W. Bush. As a black president, he is a very easy scapegoat for Republicans to bash. In fact, a third of Louisiana Republicans, blame him for the government response to Katrina, even though G.W. Bush was president at the time. Why don’t they blame Bush? He is given no credit for gains in employment and the economy, scapegoated for things he didn’t do. America doesn’t appear to be ready for a black president.

For the same reasons, I don’t believe that Texas is ready for a progressive woman to be Governor. Her opponent Greg Abbott ran a campaign of publicly shaming her for attending Harvard and allowing her then husband to be the primary caregiver of her children after he filed for divorce.

No one would ever have thought to criticize a man’s private career and family decisions on their way to success  in this way. There is a well established history of men’s political careers surviving adultery allegations and worse.  Newt Gingrich’s wife put him through college, and he left her for his mistress when she had cancer.  He had no significant political fallout from this. The shaming of Davis for her private career decisions that men commonly make worked well here in Texas. Despite Davis being well known for heroically filibustering draconian abortion over-regulation, Abbott got the majority of the women’s vote.

Had Davis gotten more progressive turnout and won; she would have then been faced with an obstructionist legislature. Much like Obama’s problems with Republicans in Congress refusing to work with him. It is remarkably easier to punch down on minorities from established positions in the dominant white male hierarchy. Unfortunately, it wins points and plays on deeply rooted biases like with Republicans wanting to believe that Obama was responsible for Katrina.

She quoted Teddy Roosevelt, ""It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming"

She quoted Teddy Roosevelt, “”It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming”

Aron and I were there for Davis’s concession speech, and I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my cheeks as she urged us to support Abbott. After everything he did to her in the campaign, and everything he has already done and will do to hurt Texas. Even though I knew going in that most likely she would lose, there is a knot in my stomach that I don’t want to digest. Four more years of regressive policies punching down on women and minorities with heavy handed immigration and abortion laws. And a majority of the people here in Texas will say Amen! to that.

This!

This so much this is why your vote matters!

Thanks to Media Matters for America

Thanks to Media Matters for America

Fortunately, you don’t have to give blood anymore. At least not in the U.S., just some of your time. Vote for those whose votes have been suppressed. The polls are open here until 7:00 PM. We completely understand what it feels like here in Texas not to be heard. Aron and me testify to the smug school board here in hopes that more than just them will hear us. They want to censor the struggle for civil rights, and instead glorify America’s war history, and have students believe Moses founded our government.  Seven of them are up for re-election.  Your vote will send a message if we don’t get them this time let them know we are coming for them next time.

Is Texas doomed to another theocratic governor?

“Texas has been red since dinosaurs roamed the state 6,000 years ago. At least that is what the Texas history books say.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been filming from Austin, TX. this week.  After, a clip of the stupid ass things that our elected officials do and say, Stewart made the humorous observation that Texas would vote for a drunk guy in a bar hitting on a lesbian.

Texas is saying goodbye to Rick Perry, whose “austerity” measures included cutting 5 billion dollars from the state’s education budget. The cuts resulted in 25,000 teachers and also tax payers losing their jobs. Meanwhile, Perry and the GOP including Governor hopeful Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor hopeful Dan Patrick, funneled 200 million dollars taxpayer money into the Texas Enterprise Fund.

The fund is being audited, and is widely being called a slush fund. Four companies were given 42 million dollars without even submitting an application. Abbott is our current attorney general, and he issued rulings that suppressed this information from the public. He also received 1.4 million dollars in quid pro quo campaign contributions from these companies.

Stewart was joking about what a lot of Texans will elect here, but it is funny because it isn’t that far off the mark.  Abbott is leading so far in the early voting polls in double digits.  Wendy Davis is the best thing for Texas right now. She filibustered twice to try to stop draconian educations cuts and abortion over-regulation. But even people like some of the very teachers, who lost their jobs, won’t take a minute to think about it. There are teachers right now in this state, who will still vote red regardless, sitting in overcrowded classrooms trying to teach a tenth of the America’s often poorest students.

It’s not an exaggeration, or Abbott wouldn’t be leading after messing this state over for his own gain. A Davis campaigner came to our door, and told us that people are telling them, “I vote life.” When the GOP is not lining their pockets with tax payer money here, they are spending millions of dollars for extra sessions to pass draconian abortion restrictions that have reduced the state’s abortion clinics from 43 to 8. They have already demonstrated how little they care about educating the children that are already born.

In reality why should they? An uniformed populace keeps electing them, because they think stopping poor women from choosing when or if they will be a parent is what their God wants. Realistically, many Christian women with the means will continue to get abortions.

The beauty of it for the GOP here is that it is self serving because rich Christian values voters are their greatest campaign contributors. They don’t have to fix the real problems this state has, like repeat teen pregnancy, unprepared college students, the shrinking middle class, the loss of living wage revenue generating jobs, storage of hazardous materials, the burgeoning prison population, etc. The solution has always been to refer people to God rather than actually do something about the problems here.

Top all that off with immigration issues exacerbated by a humanitarian crisis caused by the drug war that has been raging in Mexico that has already claimed thousands of lives. Civilians are being beheaded, tortured, raped, and terrorized by drug cartels and members of their own government. Will there be a war on terror there? No. The victims there are frankly not white enough. The United States is the largest consumer of drugs from Mexico. Here on the Texas border our response has been to be Mexico’s largest gun suppliers.

 According to the US Government Accountability Office, 87% of firearms seized by Mexico over the previous five years were traced to the US. Texas was the single largest source. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, told Congress last month that of 94,000 weapons captured from drug traffickers by the Mexican authorities, over 64,000 originated in the US.

So not only do we help make a humanitarian crises, by being the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we also supply the guns to Mexico and we still think Iraq is our greatest foreign policy problem. On the borders of Texas, California, and Arizona; people have fought to keep immigrant children from getting asylum from the problem we are complicit in creating in Mexico and Central America.

Another recipient of our education  system here, or another Republican constituent.

Another recipient of our education system here, or another Republican constituent.

The problems here in Texas, and the problems we are causing our neighbors are not getting better touting Republican values and pandering to Christians on the taxpayer’s dime in lieu of actual solutions like a sane decriminalized drug policy. Yet we stand here in Texas ready to elect a successor to Perry, who has already shown that he will make things worse. Both GOP candidates are avid creationists.

There is a small hope for the Texas and the rest of the nation. Texas is rapidly browning. It is an irreversible trend that started in 2005 when Texas became one of five majority minority states. Unfortunately, minority voters are disadvantaged in this state by gerrymandering, and SCOTUS overturning the Voting Rights Act which gave the justice department oversight in how districts are drawn. So we do have Texas carved up like a Christmas turkey with as much advantages as can be given to creating Republican districts.

Imagine this for a brief shining moment. All of Texas’s electoral votes going to a blue presidential candidate. The GOP would have to actually stop their pandering and fear mongering and actually do something to maintain their standing, or never have a Republican president ever again. A side note for the secular community, diversity is critical to ensuring a secular government. We don’t want to trade one theocracy for another by not making inroads into minority communities.

But how about the hope for Wendy Davis for governor on November 4th? It is probably no coincidence that hope was included by the Greeks in Pandora’s box.  It can be the cruelest emotion.  For reasons l already outlined and Stewart joked about, many Texans vote with their gut rather than their brains. The GOP cultivates that here with their insistence on Christian values that are often immoral like forced pregnancy.

However, most religious minorities still vote blue, and they are catching up. The problem with this is they have a more difficult time voting both because of restrictive Republican backed voting laws, and financial reasons like not having a car or not being to get off work to vote. There has been increased minority early voting. This shows that despite obstacles that if there is something to vote for they will turn out.

Davis can still win, but it will require turnout from dissatisfied GOP and Independent women and teachers. The greatest factor will be how apathetic the progressive voters are here.  Aron and I often encounter resistance to voting even by secularists here. The response sometimes range from…

  • I don’t vote. The lesser of 2 evils is often invoked.

This shows they haven’t put much thought into who is running this cycle even after many years of Rick Perry. The best thing to remind people here, who don’t go beyond disgust at politics,  is that if you vote the most reasonable candidate that the votes for unreasonable candidates like Abbott will dry up. This has happened in the past when staunch segregationists jumped party lines when they saw the writing on the wall. Better yet, it would make more progressive parties like the Green Party viable, because voters would migrate to the Democratic Party. This would open up more room for a more Progressive party than the Democrats.

  • Texas should secede! That is the smug liberal or inhumane libertarian hipsters in the larger communities response. It is also the response of people who haven’t done the glaringly obvious math.

Even if they could set aside the millions of human beings that are under the thumb of regressive policies here. They would be okay with having a jingoistic country on their border that would then have almost half of America’s oil reserves. A better dystopian idea would be to set aside a state like maybe Kansas (just joking Kansas) with fewer natural resources, and ship every morally undeveloped, empathy impaired, and therefore stunted human being there. We would ship all the progressives out. Then the citizens of that country could do as they please. They could run freely with scissors till their hearts content, not give a damn about anyone, poke each other’s eyes out, pray to god to make them richer and destroy their enemies… Imagine the possibilities, but we don’t have to unfortunately because we have Texas politics. More or less.

People need to vote. There are other states where the tea party has done a better job of organizing than progressives. That is the one thing they have going for them they don’t sit on their asses hoping for a more god soaked government. They are slowly and maniacally making that a reality all over the country. Progressives take note and provided you don’t have a condition that disenfranchises you like a disability, vote Nov 4th. Even if I wake up to another Tea Party Governor, (Ye non-existent gods noooo!!!!!!) at least I can say I am not part of the problem.

Colorado students could teach their school board a thing or two about history

Students from seven suburban Denver high schools walked out yesterday to protest changes to history curriculum proposed by the majority conservative Jefferson County school board. We aren’t just seeing known culture warriors like the Texas Board of Education attempting to promote American Exceptionalism at the expense of accurate history.

How about that engaged students, who get the point?

How about that engaged students, who get the point?

So, the comments to the effect of, “Meh, why doesn’t Texas just secede?” These comments are missing the point on several levels.

What is so refreshing about this demonstration is that these students have been taught the history of civil disobedience so well that they are standing up to bigoted authorities.  Their teachers also staged a sick out that shut down two schools.  The problem isn’t that they don’t understand politics as usual. They don’t shrug their shoulders in response to injustice; they do something about it.

Why don't the authorities get this?

Why don’t the authorities get this?

Here are some of the social media parodying some of what the adults in authority would like students to learn about the good ole U.S.A.

Jen Caltrider@caltrider  "This woman is really, really happy. " #VacuumingInHeelsRocks #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory #copolitics

Jen Caltrider@caltrider
“This woman is really, really happy. ” #VacuumingInHeelsRocks #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory #copolitics

If you know history, the protesters of the Civil Rights era would have said, “Right on!” Only this school board doesn’t want you to read about that, because it would destroy the American Exceptionalism myth they want to sell to kids.

If only Rosa Parks followed orders & sat where she was supposed to, Bengazi never would have happened#JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory#copolitics

 

Rewriting Texas history books to instill American (Judeo-Christian) Exceptionalism

When I first started studying for the Texas Social Studies Textbook hearings last week to testify with Aron on Tuesday, I expected to find the most egregious historical misrepresentations by non-mainstream publishers like Worldview Software. And of course they didn’t fail to disappoint. Here is a quote from a Texas Freedom Network briefing to give you the flavor of the worldview  they are promoting…

“The spread of international terrorism is an
outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western
political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”

Is that a fact? Are Islamic fundamentalists the only terrorists? Just in case you aren’t sure whether this publisher is being incidentally bigoted, their worldview on the origin of the inhabitants of Africa is straight out of 19th Century racist theories. I quote from here on out from the Washington Post‘s article on the hearing.

WorldView Software – World History A: Early Civilizations to the Mid-1800s

The text states: “South of the Sahara Desert most of the people before the Age of Explorations were black Africans of the Negro race.”

 Elsewhere, the text states: “The first known inhabitants of Africa north of the Sahara in prehistory were Caucasoid Hamitic people of uncertain origin.”

“Hamitic” pseudo-scientific theories of the origins of Africans originated in the 19th century’s attempt to explain  white supremacist assumptions. They believed that Northern Africans like Egyptians originated from the Biblical story of Noah’s cursed son Ham. They thought that the “Negroid” race as they called it was incapable of building civilizations such as Egypt. They sought to misappropriate their accomplishments to “Caucasoids” such as themselves.

As a teacher, I know that non-mainstream publishers don’t normally make their way into classrooms. No matter how much a crank publisher matches the ideas the right wing ideologues on the State Board of Education want to promote. So at first I wasn’t as worried.

Now that I have reviewed more of what is being published, it is worse than I thought. I am genuinely surprised and disappointed. Even mainstream publishers already on the bookshelves in many Texas classrooms are submitting new texts for adoption that revise history in such a way to emphasize Judeo-Christian influence over the Enlightenment secular ideals that our government is founded on.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government
Text mentions Moses and claims that the “biblical idea of a
covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of
agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and contributed to our constitutional structure.”

Let me get this straight our government is based on the covenant god gave to Moses in The Torah? The one most American’s break when they have pork ribs at Chili’s or shellfish at Red Lobster? We’re all going to Hell then for breaking the covenant  kiddos!

But wait there is more, I feel like a sadist for the face-palming that results from reading quotes from proposed history books in 2014!  Just a little break here to make you feel better.

You can still register to testify until Monday at 5:ooPM.  Instructions on how to testify and register are at the bottom of this briefing.

Join Texas Freedom Networks “Just Educate!” campaign to reform the Texas Board of Education.

Sign TFN’s petition for accurate textbooks.

Vote for reality based education in the school board. Voter’s Guide

Are you ready for more totally serious inanity from our national publishers?

This publisher goes even further than Biblical times with revising out the Enlightenment…

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – United States Government: Principles in Practice

Text has a section on “Judeo-Christian Influences” that reads: “The Framers’ political thinking was influenced by a Judeo-Christian religious heritage, which includes traditions common to both Judaism and Christianity. These religions see the law and individual rights as being of divine origin. Moreover, the Framers benefited from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century Christian reform movement whose leaders developed ideas about individual responsibility, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and self-government.”

Cuz yeah Protestant settlers like the Puritans were all about the “freedom to worship as one chooses”. As long as you agreed with them, and conformed to their ideas of how to worship. If you were a Quaker though, not so much! Quakers were banished, branded, and had their ears cropped.

But what about separation of church and state you say? According to this national publisher…

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”

Fixed your wagon didn’t they?

If you think it can’t get more ridiculous, I have barely scratched the surface of what these textbooks are counterfeiting as history. Read the entire Washington Post article if you have a high pain threshold.