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Jan 16 2014

Education in Texas: yet another exposé

Zack Kopplin has a very thorough exposé of the Responsive Ed charter schools in Texas. Charter schools are an alternative to the standard public school system, but they receive public funding, your tax dollars, and are therefore required to follow the same legal strictures as all public schools. And that means no religious indoctrination.

The Responsive Ed schools are simply yet another manifestation of the creationist ideal: they teach creationism flat out, and they also mislead and cast false doubts on evolutionary science. They also use the Christian bible as a source.

Outright creationism appears in Responsive Ed’s section on the origins of life. It’s not subtle. The opening line of the workbook section, just as the opening line of the Bible, declares, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.”

There’s the usual ignorance of how science works, too.

Another Responsive Ed section claims that evolution cannot be tested, something biologists have been doing for decades. It misinforms students by claiming, “How can scientists do experiments on something that takes millions of years to accomplish? It’s impossible.”

The Texas legislature ought to be sitting up in alarm at these gross illegalities…but as it turns out, state senator Dan Patrick, chair of the Texas Senate Education Committee, is also promoting Responsive Ed. Sorry, Texas, you’re doomed. As long as you keep electing these assnuggets to run your educational system, you’re not going to have competent education.

It’s not just evolution, either. Kopplin lists all the lies that are taught about history, other countries, feminism, stem cells, gay rights, sex ed, you name it.

Texas: screwing over another generation. Thanks, guys.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    Lauren Fitzpatrick

    Just another reason to convince my sister to bring my niece and nephew back up to the Northwest!

    The Outernet – Kickstart a documentary about how technology can bring people together

  2. 2
    holytape

    Well, everything in Texas is bigger. So do you think that we should stand for little lies being in our text books, like Betsy Ross designing the American Flag, or that Lantern bugs glow in the dark? I say no. If you’re going to lie and abuse the public education system you must go whole hog. Not only did Jesus make the world in seven days, but he is a white as a lily and is a good American Capitalist. Is feminism about gender equatily? No, it’s about man-hating women trying to impose sharia law by claiming that Global Warming is real. So I say, go big or go home.

  3. 3
    badgersdaughter

    Just another Texan here trying to find a way to leave. Making it easier for UK citizens to bring their non-EEU spouses back home would help us out quite a bit.

  4. 4
    A. R

    I find it tragically amusing that a state that pumps so much money into the top-tier science done at UTMB (I’m interviewing there today and tomorrow) could also do this…

  5. 5
    JJ831

    OT:
    state senator Dan Patrick
    I had to google to make sure that wasn’t the sports caster (Dan Patrick seems like a good guy in all…)

  6. 6
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    So… yeah. Just generating the next wave of conservatives. I hope that plan backfires and a whole generation of these students finally realize they’ve been had. Except we’ll need to fix the higher education exclusivity problem.

    Is there anything the Federal government can do about this? It does seem to be a clear SoC&S issue.

  7. 7
    RFW

    A question to look into: does Dan Patrick have any financial interest in Responsive Ed, directly or indirectly? (The latter including being friends with people who do have a direct interest.)

    Does anyone with a financial interest in Responsive Ed go to the same church that Dan Patrick goes to?

    If either of these questions is answered “yes”, the polite phrase for the situation is “vested interest”, the impolite one is “corruption”.

  8. 8
    raven

    One of my minor critcisms of fundie xians is how they set their kids up to fail.

    They set their kids up to fail with fake education like that illegal charter school. Then the kids fail.

    Texas has the highest percentage of kids growing up in poverty. They don’t care.

  9. 9
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    See, y’all are looking at this the wrong way. Charter schools, and private school charters, and home schooling have never had anything to do with actually educating children. This is a way to (1) kill the teacher’s union, (2) throw a bone to the religious right and, (3) find a way for private industry to profit from education. So a charter school is breaking the law? Big deal. It is still doing what it was designed to do.

  10. 10
    Chie Satonaka

    A Christian voucher school in Milwaukee recently closed without warning, after taking over $2 million in taxpayer dollars. The husband and wife who ran the school are now living in a gated community in Florida. Yeah, easing regulatory rules that govern schools in Wisconsin was such an AWESOME IDEA! They actually allow for teachers that don’t have educator degrees. Obviously, this is a feature and not a bug — the intent is to destroy education in this country, especially among the poors who clearly haven’t “earned” it.

    http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/leaders-of-closed-milwaukee-voucher-school-are-now-in-florida-b99185323z1-240384541.html

  11. 11
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Zack’s article was quite thorough in exposing the lies being taught in Responsive Ed charter schools.
    In closing he says:

    It is clearly past time for Texas to tighten the rules surrounding charters and enforce accountability to prevent any other religious programs from subverting the public education system.

    What are some ways the average citizen can assist in this? Especially those from other states?

  12. 12
    raven

    Ogvorbis:

    (3) find a way for private industry to profit from education.

    Good point.

    One charter school I’m aware of does this. It’s just business, making a profit.

    They save a lot by not having many teachers or paying them. They are all independent contractors. All part time. No retirement plan, health care plan, or any other benefits and perks. If there was a corner, they cut it.

    It’s not just the kids who get a substandard education. The employees get a substandard pay package. It’s just business in our (once and always future) Gibbertarian paradise.

  13. 13
    erichoug

    Charter Schools were big in Texas a few years back. I remember back in the 90′s they were going to catapult the state to the top of the national academic rankings. Then either the Houston Chronicle or the Houston Press did a story on several of them. They found a few that did quite a good job of educating kids, not much better than an average public school but no worse.

    But, they found a WHOLE LOT of them that were way worse than a public school. Including one in a poorer neighborhood that was basically an abandoned building that the kids could hang out in most of the day. No desks, no chalkboards some of the classrooms had the windows boarded.

    Charter schools are all about Republican priorities, namely a) sticking it to teachers unions, b) siphoning money from the public trust into the private til, c) diminishing the educational potential of minority students.

    Not that all public schools are perfect but they are a damn site better than the crap that right is pushing?

  14. 14
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Hang in there, Texans. Demography is on your side. The Rethuglicans are bound and determined to alienate the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. Already some of the bigger cities are starting to turn bluer–even Dallas. 2020 isn’t that far away.

  15. 15
    Pteryxx

    What are some ways the average citizen can assist in this? Especially those from other states?

    Tony!: many of the big charter school organizations (and homeschooling orgs with similar christian-right-wing infestations) are national or multi-state. You can probably find local charters that need challenging, too. For Texas specifically, the main watchdog organization (cited in Kopplin’s article, too) is the Texas Freedom Network, http://www.tfn.org .

    They have a call out for Texas locals to sign up for an upcoming social studies text review: link

    The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has begun the process of appointing individuals to review new social studies textbooks the State Board of Education (SBOE) will adopt in 2014.

    The deadline to sign up is January 24.

    It’s critical that truly qualified individuals serve on the review teams and counter far-right efforts to politicize the textbooks. That’s especially important because the new textbooks must cover controversial curriculum standards that distort the history of slavery, civil rights, separation of church and state and other sensitive topics.

  16. 16
    marcus

    Ogvorbis @ 9 So you’re saying that actual education would be a bug, not a feature.

  17. 17
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Pteryxx:
    Thanks.
    After a little checking around, I found
    http://creationistvouchers.com/2012/11/30/creationist-voucher-schools-in-florida/

    There are a *lot* creationist voucher schools in Florida.

  18. 18
    gussnarp

    That young man is continuing to do good work after standing up for science in his own school, instead of just quietly moving on. Keep it up, Zack, we need more like you.

  19. 19
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Marcus: Yes.

  20. 20
    Lynna, OM

    More on Senator Dan Patrick:

    It’s high time for Patrick to give some legislative scrutiny to Responsive Ed. But in reality, he is a big fan of the program, which he “lauded in particular” at the Responsive Ed Charter Conference. It’s no wonder; he’s also a creationist. In a recent debate, Patrick said that he would help pass a law to allow creationism to be taught in public schools because, “We need to stand for what this nation was founded upon, which is the word of God.”

    The quote is from Zack’s article.

    […]instructional materials for social studies present politically biased talking points as fact, such as:

    - The New Deal failed to help the economy during the Great Depression.
    - Feminism has led women “to turn to the state as a surrogate husband.”
    - The legitimacy of Purple Hearts awarded John Kerry – the current U.S. Secretary of State and the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 – during the Vietnam War was “suspect at best.”
    - President Carter’s pardon of Vietnam War-era draft dodgers was the result of “a misguided sense of compassion.”

    TFN Insider link. Yep, all delusions with which Patrick agrees.

    And then there’s this: http://www.texasmonthly.com/lists/worst-senator-dan-patrick

    His declared religion is “Baptist.” <blockquote[…]State Senator Dan Patrick served as the special guest speaker for the event. Patrick said it was a blessing to be back at Mims Baptist Church to speak again, and praised the congregation for their devotion to their faith and their country.
    Patrick addressed what he saw as a strong connection between the founding fathers of the US and their faith.
    “There is no separation of church and state,” Patrick said to cheers and applause. “It was not in the constitution.”
    Patrick said he believes the founders used faith to define the nation’s identity. […] The Courier link.

  21. 21
    Lynna, OM

    http://feministjusticeleague.com/hall-of-shame-dan-patrick/

    So, who is Dan Patrick? Maybe you thought he was a sports broadcaster. Turns out, he’s practically the Pope of the Texas Senate* and kind of a big deal. Texas Senator Dan Patrick is the leading conservative in the Texas Senate […]

    DAN PATRICK’S “GREATEST HITS”:
    [..]
    In Dan Patrick’s universe, the Church is peanut butter and the State is chocolate. He just loves to put the two together. Of his many pieces of legislation passed, Dan Patrick has said he is most proud of placing “In God We Trust” permanently in the Senate chamber for the first time in history, and of placing “Under God” in the state pledge.

    And for his efforts, Patrick was given the Servant of God Award from The Liberty Institute, a conservative organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to those they believe are suffering Christian-targeted “religious persecution” in the United States.

  22. 22
    watry

    @Ogbvorbis

    Have you read Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error? I’m about 85 percent done with it and she spends a good chunky chapter arguing the exact same thing you are, and a lot of the rest showing how many school reform movements (testing, teacher merit pay, charter schools online schools, etc.) are intended to make money and are implemented largely through right-wing ideologies.

  23. 23
    Desert Son, OM

    As has been observed, part of the cultural change that needs to happen is a social-studies-driven emphasis on more accurate narratives related to history as part of comprehensive education reform in the state.

    Texas is so steeped in myth: cowboys, land as far as the eye can see, rugged individualism, “Everything’s bigger in Texas!”, southern hospitality, southern pride, independence, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!, and so on. It permeates the culture on so many levels and is reinforced to the extent that it self-perpetuates.

    Consider immigration alone (to take just one super-critical issue). The very history of Texas cannot — cannot — be separated from the history of Mexico, and the other nations that have been here and are still here today, such as the Comanche, the Mescalero and the Lipan Apache, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa, and more. Efforts to legislate immigration issues based on exclusion, rather than inclusion, are ridiculous by nature. Hell, even many of the whites that claim to be long-time Texan are ultimately descended largely from areas like Tennessee and the Carolinas, not to mention a significant immigration from Germany, Bohemia (the modern-day Czech Republic), England, Scotland, Spain, and France. But the culture of Texas continues to reinforce an idea of Texas as though it were still the independent republic it was from 1836-1846 (slave-holding, of course, and no voting rights for women, naturally).

    How often do you think the story of the Battle of the Alamo gets taught in a way to incorporate the vast socio-cultural and historical complexity of the geography that today we call Texas and Mexico? How much Texas history class time do you imagine is spent covering not only pre-Columbian nations in this region, but contemporary narratives and issues of indigenous people? How much attention gets devoted to Black history in Texas, both ante- and post-bellum? Perhaps one of the few areas that Texas social-studies and socio-cultural education does with some degree of success is second-language learning. I used to be fluent in Spanish, but I lost fluency when I lived for fifteen years in other parts of the country (and world). Since being back in pursuit of a graduate degree I’ve had more opportunity to work on my Spanish, but still fall very short of fluency, I’m sorry to report.

    Although, for a swath of geography that was once positively inundated in the Spanish language, there remains a huge portion of white Texas that insists on pronouncing names like Manchaca and Guadalupe as “Man-shack” and “Goo-ada-loop.”

    The current Texas myth is just one of the contributing factors that periodically results in some government official in this state calling for secession, imagining themselves to be some kind of patriot and revolutionary all the while illustrating more starkly their exaggerated foolishness. The cultural myth of Texas is so overblown, and so pervasive, that it clouds more complex, nuanced, and information-rich understanding of the history of this region, and that’s unfortunate because the history of this region is fascinating, impressive, vast, multi-faceted, engaging, challenging, tragic, astonishing, diverse, and powerful. It’s all the more unfortunate because a richer, more complex understanding of the history of this area would actually benefit its students and future citizen-leaders.

    In addition to shuffling off the pernicious influence of the religious zealots in science education, Texas will need to take the rug of its narrative out to the line and beat it long to shake free the dust of myth such that the fine weave of history can be more truly appreciated and understood as future legislative decisions are made about immigration, education, social safety nets, marriage and adoption equality, civil rights for marginalized persons, employment, health care, voting rights, agriculture and energy, justice system reform, the death penalty (Texas is the killin’-est state in the nation), and the abject failure that is the cruel and malign War on Drugs. It will also help Texas — as a culture — to realize more fully that it is part of something bigger.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  24. 24
    robro

    Ogbvorbis @#9

    Charter schools…have never had anything to do with actually educating children…

    While I understand that there’s a lot of abuse of charter schools, particularly by religious nuts, that’s an unfair generalization. The charter elementary school my son attended here in San Francisco was very dedicated to education, as were the parents, using the Reggio Emilia approach. The staff was generally good, the school was small but had a diverse student body, and there was a lot of family involvement. There was no religious BS. It was clearly a project of a bunch of aging hippies who didn’t want their kids in SF public schools, many of which are bad, or the expensive monocultural private schools, many of which are Catholic and very white.

    Its mission was somewhat overpowered by well meaning parents who wanted their kids to have a conventional education, but the school is still in operation and I gather still using the arts as a way to engage kids in learning.

  25. 25
    amethal

    #3 Badgersdaughter

    Unfortunately, it is government policy to make it as hard as possible for British citizens to bring non-EU spouses to live in the UK.

    The government has self-imposed immigration targets to meet, and since the two major elements are completely outside its control – the number of British people who decide to move abroad, and the number of EU citizens who decide to move to the UK – they have to crack down hard on everybody else.

    It is several orders of magnitude easier for a Texan married to a German (say) to move to the UK than it is for a Texan married to a Brit. That’s a disgraceful state of affairs, but it keeps the Daily Mail readers happy.

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