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Jul 12 2013

Why School Boards Matter

In 2007 I gave a talk that aired on C-SPAN about the need for scientifically literate people to run for school boards to counter the influence of the religious right, which has focused on dominating local elected bodies for the last couple decades. I could have specified constitutionally literate as well. Americans United tells the story of what is going on in Springboro, Ohio:

In the wake of elections last year, a three-member Tea Party faction now controls the school board. They’re up to no good.

In May, the board majority, all of whom ran on a fiscal conservative platform, suddenly began talking about finding a way to work creationism into the science curriculum. One of the board members, Jim Rigano, told the Dayton Daily News that he believes introducing creationism would help the district “ensure we’re not indoctrinating one point of view or another.”…

On the heels of that controversy, the board struck again. This time, members proposed offering a special course this summer on the Constitution – well, the far right’s interpretation of the Constitution.

The plan was to offer the courses to adults in the community this summer and then consider integrating the material into the school curriculum this fall.

The classes were offered by two groups called the Institute on the Constitution and the National Center for Constitutional Studies. The names sound innocuous, but they cloak an extreme agenda.

Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, pointed out on his blog that the Institute on the Constitution was founded and is directed by Michael Peroutka, the 2004 presidential candidate for the Constitution Party. The Institute leans heavily on material produced by “Christian nation” advocates John Eidsmoe and David Barton.

Worse yet, Throckmorton noted that the Institute has ties to the League of the South, a radical outfit that seeks to preserve the “Anglo-Celtic culture” of the South. The League, which can’t seem to accept that the Civil War is over, is actually working toward secession. It has been labeled a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wrote Throckmorton, “As it stands, the Springboro School District is offering to the public a course in the Constitution developed by members of an organization who desire to promote the dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people, the secession of Southern states from the nation, and align themselves with the pro-slavery fire-eaters of the Confederate South.”

Peroutka is an unabashed theocrat with close ties to Christian Reconstructionism as well. This is a good example of why we can’t let the far right control school boards, city councils, county commissions and other local governing bodies.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    If there were a sane contingent on the board, I’d hope they set aside enough money for the inevitable loss in court. And spell out, based on the Dover decision, how much they’re going to be in for.

  2. 2
    John Pieret

    The Teabagger board tried before to get creationism in the schools back in 2011:

    http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/local/a-push-for-creationism-gains-in-springboro/nMs9D/

    Fortunately there appears to be a vocal group of parents who keep objecting. The board backed down in 2011 and have backed down again, tabling the creationism proposal and canceling the constitutional courses.

    http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/springboro-cancels-controversial-classes/nYdb6/

    But I have no doubt they will try again.

  3. 3
    Jordan Genso

    I live in Howell, MI. And my local school board has seven members, 3 extreme conservatives and 4 moderates. Two of the four moderates are a husband and wife whose sister is a teacher in the district. So one of the conservatives (that works for a Tea Party Republican State Senator) worked to get legislation passed in Lansing recently that would prohibit school board members from being able to vote if they have a “conflict of interest”, and they explicitly stated in the legislation that having a relative work for the school is a conflict of interest.

    So while the sane people have a majority, the minority were able to take away the ability of two of the others to vote on issues. And so currently, there is a health plan proposal that has the support of the teachers, the administrators, and pretty much everyone as it wouldn’t cost the district any money but it would help the teachers get better health insurance. But the three conservatives are blocking it because the teachers like it. Their “reasoning” is that they don’t agree with the cost estimates provided by the people whose job it is to evaluate these things, and they have their own estimates based on… their own opinion.

    It’s really a sad thing to watch, especially as someone who is about to become a father, as I’m concerned about how lasting their impact will be on the school district.

  4. 4
    coragyps

    “Anglo-Celtic culture” ??!!

    What are they thinking? Those nassy Irish would fit under that description!! Let them into the US of A and they’ll take away all our jobs!

  5. 5
    Modusoperandi

    Wow. I don’t know how they do it. Even way down at the school board level, the Tea Party still manage to stay focused on economic issues.

  6. 6
    Chiroptera

    In May, the board majority, all of whom ran on a fiscal conservative platform, suddenly began talking about finding a way to work creationism into the science curriculum.

    Well, wasting money on sure-lose lawsuits is what fiscal conservatism is all about –like wasting money to root out almost non-existent drug addicts among welfare recipients and going out of your way to pay extra for less efficient light bulbs.

  7. 7
    steve84

    Elected school boards are just a terrible, terrible idea.

  8. 8
    steve84

    Also, I’ve never understood why local school boards have even the authority to muck around with the curriculum. Some local authority makes some sense with a certain part of the budget than can be spent to cover specific needs at some school. But it’s just absurd that you can have a different curriculum from district to district.

  9. 9
    exdrone

    I think I remember seeing “Anglo-Celtic culture of the South” on a map of Middle Earth.

  10. 10
    pocketnerd

    If they can’t captain the ship, they’ll settle for drilling holes in the hull.

  11. 11
    caseloweraz

    Worse yet, Throckmorton noted that the Institute has ties to the League of the South, a radical outfit that seeks to preserve the “Anglo-Celtic culture” of the South.

    Do they smear themselves with blue paint and run around waving spears? Or do they just dress like Druids and build miniature Stonehenges in their back yards for purposes of worship?

  12. 12
    Michael Heath

    Jordan Genso writes:

    I live in Howell, MI. And my local school board has seven members, 3 extreme conservatives and 4 moderates. Two of the four moderates are a husband and wife whose sister is a teacher in the district. So one of the conservatives (that works for a Tea Party Republican State Senator) worked to get legislation passed in Lansing recently that would prohibit school board members from being able to vote if they have a “conflict of interest”, and they explicitly stated in the legislation that having a relative work for the school is a conflict of interest.

    So while the sane people have a majority, the minority were able to take away the ability of two of the others to vote on issues. And so currently, there is a health plan proposal that has the support of the teachers, the administrators, and pretty much everyone as it wouldn’t cost the district any money but it would help the teachers get better health insurance. But the three conservatives are blocking it because the teachers like it. Their “reasoning” is that they don’t agree with the cost estimates provided by the people whose job it is to evaluate these things, and they have their own estimates based on… their own opinion.

    It’s really a sad thing to watch, especially as someone who is about to become a father, as I’m concerned about how lasting their impact will be on the school district.

    The types of conservatives who depend on false premises to influence education policy practice a particularly vile and insidious form of child abuse. And I think we need to be more vocal in describing what they do as child abuse.

    I was a victim of this type of abuse; in spite of going to public school. Precisely because the local school board had conservative Christians who prioritized our not learning those facts which falsifies what they believe that they get from the Bible. This clear violation of the establishment clause, and clear violation of each student’s religious freedom rights, keeps us a long ways from being constitutionally compliant in far too many of our public schools.

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