Texas SBOE members clash over racial balance in history

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The State Board of Education's Hispanic and African-American members clashed with its Anglo majority for hours Thursday over how to present history to the state's 4.7 million public school children.

Much of the conflict centered on the racial balance of the historical figures to be included in textbooks starting in the 2011-2012 school year. Tempers boiled over when sex or religion were added to the mix.

Members grew increasingly distraught over the process as they moved toward a preliminary adoption of new social studies curriculum standards, set for today....

Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, was unable to attract any Republican support for her motion to teach students that government is not supposed to favor any religion. Knight's proposed amendment: “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from protecting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others,” was defeated.

Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, a Liberty College law professor, called Knight's proposal inaccurate.

“We don't want our religious history to be drawn from a viewpoint that is not historically accurate,” Dunbar said.

Later, she said the nation's Founding Founders were not antagonistic toward religion: “They did not have a ‘barring' ideology.”...

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, called the vote on Knight's amendment “stunning.”

Religious wars in Europe pushed the Founding Fathers to guarantee religious liberty to ensure a strong and united country, said Miller, whose liberal-leaning organization monitors the board.

“Clearly, this board doesn't understand how critical that was to America's founding,” she said.

David Bradley, R-Beaumont, said Republicans generally distrust their liberal colleagues.

“There's a hostility toward faith, specifically Christianity,” Bradley said, calling Knight's motion “one more attempt to muddy the waters.”

The board also rejected experts who recommended a sociology standard for high school students to “differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how gender and socialization interact.”...

Berlanga attached copies of old signs on her desk: “This park was given for White people only. Mexicans and Negroes stay out,” read one. But she failed to muster any Republican support for her amendment identifying minority Medal of Honor recipients....

Earlier in the day, Berlanga said her board colleagues are not being realistic.

“They want to believe that things were as they remember them when they were children — protected and thinking everything is fine across the world,” she said. “It's all ideology. Let's not talk about the bad things that have happened in the past. Let's just talk about the great things.”

Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, said he felt frustrated because Hispanic children are entitled to more examples of contributions by Hispanics.

Agosto, Rene Nuñez, D-El Paso and Lawrence Allen Jr., D-Houston, quietly left 90 minutes before the meeting ended, leaving Knight as the lone Democratic member.

Republicans then got their way, including removing hip-hop as an example of a “significant cultural movement” in American society for high school history. Country music survived.

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