Talk about last minute…

…But the Texas Freedom Network has sent the information for registering to speak at the next Texas SBOE hearings on social studies curriculum standards. So if you are in Austin and wish to speak — and the fundies who simply love the new “it’s all about white Christians!” standards will almost certainly be trying to fill the rolls — you gotta get up pretty early in the morning.

1. You have to register to testify with the Texas Education Agency. TEA will accept registration on Friday, May 14, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it is beneficial to register as early as possible on Friday. You can either register by phone by calling 512-463-9007, download a form by clicking here and fax it to 512-936-4319 or hand deliver the form to the William B. Travis State Office Building. The building address is 1701 N. Congress Ave. Austin, TX. (Click here for a google map).

2. Click here to download the form you will need to register with the TEA. Here is some information to help you fill out your form. The hearing date is May 19. Item to be addressed is Social Studies TEKS, and the grade level you will be testifying about: elementary, middle school, or high school. You will need to bring 35 hard copies of your testimony with you to give to the board members. If you represent an organization or business, please indicate that in the section marked “affiliation”; otherwise indicate “parent” or “self”. Do not mark your affiliation as TFN. TFN will have only one official spokesperson that day.

3. The hearing will take place at the William B. Travis State Office Building, 1701 N. Congress Ave., Austin. The hearing will be on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. (Click here for a google map). The hearing room is 1-104.

4. Parking is limited. There is street parking around the William B. Travis State Office Building that is metered, and we recommend parking at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum garage. (Click here for information on the parking garage).

5. We suggest you also look over the general rules for public testimony and the registration process created by the Texas Education Agency by clicking here.

6. You only have 3 minutes to give your testimony, so it is important to state your main points clearly and quickly.

7. Please click here to read the proposed social studies standards.

The narrow window is to keep the rolls thin so everyone won’t be there till one in the morning, and I’m sure the McLeroy/Leo bloc hopes they can pack it with the church crowd. If you wish to speak, well, I hope this post gets to you in time.

McLEROY IS OUT!

Okay, we had Rethuglican primaries here in Texas yesterday, and there is some good news to report on the SBOE front. What rocks is the upset of Don McLeroy by his opponent, Thomas Ratliff. It was a near thing, only an 800-vote spread, which just goes to show how powerful the extremists among the just-don’t-give-a-shit-what-anyone-thinks right wing still are, despite McLeroy’s shameless track record of turning Texas into a global laughingstock during his tenure. Now I’m sure the Ol’ Boy Network will kick in, and Rick Perry — who, I’m sorry to say, almost certainly will win another term — will find Mac something to do. But at least we won’t have to gawp at this mustachioed moron as he boldly stands up to the experts at SBOE hearings anymore.

Now, other seats look a little dicey. Ken “Piltdown Man” Mercer easily squashed his opponent, Tim Tuggey, which blows. And the vacancy left by überloon Cynthia Dunbar has come down to a runoff between Marsha Farney and Dunbar’s hand-picked mini-me, Brian Russell. So we have to hope things go Farney’s way, because District 10 will go Republican in the general election and any Democratic or progressive indie candidate cannot be expected to have a hope.

There’s more possible not-so-good news in the loss of another incumbent, Geraldine Miller, to her challenger, George Clayton. Clayton, on first blush, doesn’t look bad, with his harsh criticisms of teaching to standardized tests rather than actually engaging students to learn for real. But sadly, he is also on record boasting that he is “an educator” and then promptly pissing that cred away by saying, “It’s an impossibility to talk about evolution without mentioning creationism,” forever branding him an assclown. (Inasmuch as one might say, “Evolution is true and creationism is retarded,” George is essentially right, but I suspect that isn’t what he means.) Sorry, George, but when you’re asked a simple no-DUH question about the age of the Earth, you don’t lapse into mindless spinspeak like “I’m not going to cut [the Earth] in half and count the rings,” not after bragging that you’re supposed to be a fucking “educator,” goddammit. You answer that question by saying, “Between 4-5 billion years…next?” unless you want to be sent to the corner in the pointy hat. The last thing we need on the SBOE is another uneducated “educator.”

So it’s hardly a clean sweep for reason and intelligence in the primaries. Ratliff could turn into the Manchurian Candidate all on his own. Yet it ain’t over till it’s over. Dems and independents could still have a chance to rally voters and cause some upsets down the road in the general election.

But damn!…McLEROY’S OUT! And that alone makes me ready to throw a block party. Hopefully Texas has decided it’s ready to start evolving after all.

Just says it all, don’t it…

(…sigh) Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.

It should be noted that this level of illiterate paste-eating chowderheadedness is not always indicated in home schooling situations. In fact, you’ll hear from a number of progressive, atheist parents on the TFN blog who have chosen, wisely, to homeschool because Texas is doing is damnedest to turn public schools here into little Christian houses of indoctrination. If I were a parent, I’d homeschool, absolutely. How else could I be sure my kid was getting a sound grounding in history and science, free from right-wing ideological revisionism? But it’s true that a significant amount of homeschooling is done by fundamentalist Christian parents seeking to destroy their kids’ minds and future opportunities by entrenching that very ideology. And I think that’s what we’re seeing the hilarious after-effects of here.

HT: TFN Insider

Ill-educated fools in charge of education

Yes, it’s another Don McLeroy post. This Washington Monthly piece is currently making the rounds. If you haven’t seen it, you aren’t aware of just how bad things are in Texas.

Seriously, this will make you ill. Is there no depth to the ideological delusions cretins like this want to enshrine in our schools? Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical.

In honor of McLeroy, and inspired by one of PZ’s headlines today, I thought I’d create a little article of anticreowear, for all your scientifically sartorial needs. I plan to wear mine proudly. Those of you obsessed with the whole “civility” thing will clutch your pearls and admonish me sternly about it, I’m sure. Go ahead and take your concern as noted in advance. Read the attached article — shit, just read the first two paragraphs — and you’ll understand, I hope, why I’m beyond any pretense of civility with the likes of McLeroy.

This just in: Dunbar not running for another SBOE term

From a TFN email I just got:

We wanted TFN members and supporters to be among the first to learn about developing news at the State Board of Education. News reports today revealed that Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has decided not to run for re-election to her seat on the Texas State Board of Education. As TFN members know full well, Dunbar has been an outspoken leader of the far-right faction on the board, repeatedly using the state’s public school classrooms to wage her own personal culture war.

While Dunbar has not yet revealed the reason for her decision, her extremist track record has clearly made her a damaged brand in next year’s election — and TFN has been the leader in exposing that record.

  • TFN introduced the world to Dunbar’s 2008 book, One Nation Under God, in which she called public education a “tool of perversion,” “tyrannical” and unconstitutional.
  • TFN broke the story about Dunbar’s attacks against then-candidate Barack Obama, authoring an opinion column that labeled him a terrorist sympathizer who wanted another attack on America so that he could declare martial law and throw out the Constitution.
  • TFN exposed her efforts to politicize our children’s social studies classrooms and to promote creationist arguments against evolution in science classrooms.

Unfortunately, the candidate Dunbar has handpicked to be her successor shares many of her anti-science and extremist views. A blog post today at TFN Insider reveals some troubling information about Brian Russell, whom Dunbar has apparently recruited to fill her shoes on the board. So our work is not done.

Dealing with right-wing creationist d-bags is like playing Whack-A-Mole. But you gotta keep whacking.

Texas SBOE: The beatings continue

Don McLeroy may no longer be in charge, but the State Board of Education in our poor beleaguered state is no less risible and contemptible. Just how many scathing editorials must these idiots receive before they start getting the message? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t bother answering it, because it answers itself: They will never be humbled, because it is in the nature of fundamentalist ideologues to embrace the martyrdom of criticism, and the more abuse they take from the fallen secular world, the more proof that is to them that they’re doing right by their Lord. These are people who take Jesus’s line that “if the world hates you, remember it hated me first” to heart, and no mistake.

Anyway, the latest thrashing has been administered by the Corpus Christi Caller:

…The State Board of Education has rarely failed in its efforts to look ridiculous, as when it voted, some time back, not to require biology textbooks to include the theory of evolution. Or, more recently, when a panel of “experts” chosen by Republican members of the board urged the removal from the standards of [Cesar] Chávez, who greatly improved conditions for Hispanic farm workers, and [Thurgood] Marshall, who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education that resulted in racial desegregation.

The state board is an embarrassment and will continue to be an embarrassment so long as narrow-minded ideologues and culture warriors dominate the agenda. You can argue that “education” is the least of their priorities.

That’ll leave a mark! Or it would, if these people had any sense of humility or decency whatsoever.

Hey, wasn’t the Institute for Creation “Research” suing Texas or something?

Yeah, they were, weren’t they? So what’s become of that? Well, it would appear that, like all lawsuits, it’s becoming the usual drawn-out exercise in paperwork-generating tedium. But the ICR did, amusingly, recently file a motion for summary judgment, before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board even managed to complete discovery for their defense. Basically the ICR’s argument is a variant on the tried-and-true “Waah we’re Christians and rules don’t apply to us!” whine creationists typically rely on. You can read the motion, the burden of which is that, because the ICR doesn’t take state money, the THECB has no jurisdiction over them. The THECB responds by saying, well, yes we do. Ah, it’s never a dull moment dealing with entitled creationists who feel they can “educate” without any oversight.

Wait, what am I saying? It’s nothing but dull moments! Criminy.


From the ICR motion:

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (“THECB”), to the extent that it claims any jurisdictional or regulatory authority over ICRGS’s academic liberties under the Texas Education Code (e.g., under its Chapter 61 or otherwise), does so improperly, because ICRGS is statutorily exempt from the Texas Education Code’s application, as the fairly simple text of said §1.001(a) clearly shows.

From the THECB’s response:

Plaintiff’s contention purposefully and improperly ignores the remainder of the Texas Education Code…. Chapter 61 of the Texas Education Code — the Higher Education Coordinating Act of 1965 — includes a subchapter which expressly authorizes the Higher Education Coordinating Board to regulate private postsecondary educational institutions.

Wow. Quote-mining the law now? How very creationist of them.

TFN beginning SBOE candidate training

I’m not exactly sure what such training entails, but anything that helps worthy candidates — as opposed to fanatical religious right ideologues — get elected to the Texas State Board of Education is all right by me. The “militant Darwinists,” to borrow Terri Leo’s immortal phrase, running the Texas Freedom Network will be doing said training at St. Edwards University here in Austin on July 22. Interested parties can go here for registration information, as well as here to remind yourselves that, just because Don “Stand Up to the Experts and Fail!” McLeroy is no longer SBOE chair, it doesn’t mean the work of those who support quality education free from extremist lunacy is done.

Toodles, Mac!

From a TFN email alert:

Senate Sends Message to State Board of Education: No More Culture Wars

Moments ago, the Texas Senate voted to reject Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education. The 19-11 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is releasing the following statement:

“Watching the state board the last two years has been like watching one train wreck after another. We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas.”

Thanks to all of you who made calls and wrote letters about this important nomination. The Senate clearly heard your demands for responsible, common-sense leadership on the state board.

Regardless of the governor’s selection for the next chair of the board, our work is not done. With your support, TFN will continue leading the charge for sound education standards, ideology-free textbooks and the best interests of Texas school children.

Whew.

Now watch. Perry will get his revenge and appoint Cynthia Dunbar now.

Bang bang shoot shoot!

One state senator I suspect will not be voting today against Don McLeroy is my own, Republican Jeff Wentworth. And it’s not simply because he’s Republican, but because he’s so far to the right that he’s actually sponsored a bill here in Texas no one but the NRA wants: SB 1164, which would allow people to carry concealed handguns into buildings on college campuses.

I’m no reactionary anti-gun lefty (no, really, I’m not, so this isn’t going to be the equivalent to those arguments you hear from right-wingers railing against sex and porn by starting “I’m no prude, but…” who then go on to illustrate in detail how big a prude they really are). But anyone sensible ought to see the flaw in Wentworth’s logic. He begins by cynically exploiting fears of another Virginia Tech massacre, where hapless students were “picked off like sitting ducks” because the law left them defenseless. In the Hollywood fantasies of Wentworth, such massacres would be stopped dead in their tracks by courageous, armed law-abiding heroes ready to leap into action like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, busting caps and saving lives.

Setting aside obvious objections to this scenario — like the extreme rarity of such shootings overall, and the presumed readiness of regular people to respond to such a crisis with the cool head of a trained police officer or Navy SEAL simply because they took a 10-hour gun safety course — you’ll notice that Wentworth immediately kneecaps his own fantasy by assuring skeptics that, for one thing, the proposed law would only apply to those legally able to own guns in Texas in the first place: people over 21. So there’s no need to worry about hordes of hormonally distressed 18 and 19 year olds walking around campus packing. It’ll just be the older and wiser seniors, grad students, and staff, all of whom can be counted on for rational level-headedness every time.

So we should support the law because, we’re told, it’ll save lives, and we shouldn’t worry about its possible negatives, because most people on a college campus wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it anyway.

Bwuh? So, excuse me, how will lives be saved here? I mean, what’s to stop our hypothetical armed psycho from simply wandering into a large class packed with freshmen and sophomores, led by a professor who has chosen not to exercise her concealed carry rights (which will be most of them), and opening up? If the nearest legally-packing senior is up on the third floor, or, say, six buildings away, how many lives will be lost in the time it takes him to sprint to the scene and do his Keanu bit?

And what of other concerns that seem not to have occurred to Wentworth at all? Like, what if a legally armed senior has his registered piece stowed in his backpack? And then he ducks out of class to go to the bathroom? And in that time, his backpack is stolen?

And as anyone who’s ever been to college knows, no one in campus dorms ever gets drunk…

It’s one thing to want to find ways to protect people from those in our society who would harm us. We all want that. But in a perfect world, while we could easily prevent all crimes simply by passing law after law to head the bad guys off at the pass every time, the truth is we don’t live in that world. If college students in Texas didn’t need the passage of a concealed carry law after Charles Whitman’s rampage (and yes, I know that sportsmen with their hunting rifles helped hold Whitman at bay during all that, but that was still after he’d mowed down a number of innocents), then what exactly has changed since 1966? Other than the NRA’s lobbying power and hold over the GOP?