CA to TX: we've got our eye on you

By Phil Plait | May 18, 2010 11:52 am

Speaking of Texas political goofballery…

I’ve written extensively about the maniacal practices of the Texas State Board of Education: promoting creationism, twisting reality, and most recently engaging in ridiculous historical revisionism. Because, after all, Joseph McCarthy was simply a misunderstood patriot.

<insert rolleyes here>

texasandallofus_doomedWell, there’s been an update to this insanity. Two actually: one is that the Texas BoE is now an international embarrassment, since the UK paper The Guardian has picked up on this story. I’d like to think that the more publicity this story gets, the more pressure there will be on Texas citizens to throw those antireality bums out of the BoE. However, I suspect that the people who voted them in in the first place will consider stories like this a badge of honor.

The second bit of news sounds good at first, but I don’t think will make much difference: a California legislator is introducing a bill that will make sure that any Texas nonsense introduced into textbooks will be reviewed by the California BoE, and the results reported both to the Legislature and the secretary of education.

Personally, I don’t see much use for this bill. The concern behind it is that the decisions made by the Texas BoE have national ramifications, since they have such a huge educational system that it’s easier for textbook publishers to simply use the Texas standards in their books that they sell in the national market. That’s not strictly the case; in reality there are four very large markets that influence textbooks (California is bigger than Texas, in fact, and the other two are Florida and New York). It is true, though, to the best of my knowledge, that Texas does unduly influence the way education is presented in textbooks in national markets, however. I used to work in this business, and talked to quite a few teachers, educational experts, and people who helped create national education standards, so I have some experience in this.

Be that as it may, the California bill doesn’t really do much. It just says that the California BoE has to report any problems they see, but it’s vague on the next step. Even a staff member of Leland Yee, who introduced the bill, says it’s just a precautionary measure. It strikes me that the California BoE should be doing stuff like this anyway, so I’m unsure of the efficacy of a bill like this.

I’ll note that in 2005, Yee passed bills making it illegal to sell video games rated M to minors. I’m a bit of a libertarian when it comes to such things; while I don’t think young kids should be playing violent video games, I don’t think it’s the government’s place to be making it illegal. It strikes me as the government being in loco parentis, as well as just being a bandaid on a much larger issue.

This new BoE bill appears to me to be more of the same thing. We’ll see. I will add one thing: despite my admonitions above, I’m very glad that the government of a big state sees right through the snake oil the Texas BoE is peddling. While I don’t think California needs legislation to make sure the Texas BoE silliness doesn’t infect other states, they certainly need to keep a jaundiced eye on it.

Tip o’ the mortarboard to Slashdot.


Comments (62)

  1. Have you actually read the proposed standards? When you have (and I know more than 100 pages will tax you), then come back and tell me — who has read the standards — how it is revisionist history, other than it’s no longer a far-left revisionist history.

  2. Steve: Of course I read the standards. Did you read the links I put in here? The standards, as they were, were not revisionist, they were accurate. What the neocons on the Texas BoE are doing is at best spin and revisionism.

  3. this probably has the same effect as somebody from Europe, which the Texas BoE might not know is not in California, criticizing their madness methods.

  4. Andrew

    Just to bring a little local perspective into the mix, I’m a teacher in Texas, and most science and social studies teachers use textbooks very little. In science we mostly do hands on labs and investigations. In social studies they do a lot of projects and research online. Also, very few social studies teachers that I know of are politically conservative. I do not think the change in “standards” will have much affect on what is actually taught in the classrooms in my area. Most of us are slightly egotistical and think we know better than the guys who wrote the standards. Most teachers are going to teach what they know in the way they want to.

    I’m not saying that to mean none of this matters, I’m just saying I don’t think it will have much direct impact on what teachers actually teach in the schools I’ve been in. I am concerned about the impact on other states, but hopefully teachers there aren’t teaching straight out of the textbooks either. I could be very very wrong, but I hope I’m not.

  5. Tobin Dax

    Andrew said: “Most of us are slightly egotistical and think we know better than the guys who wrote the standards.”

    The saying “you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you” comes to mind here. I don’t think you guys are all that egotistical.

  6. rocket

    I am a conservative Texan and can agree that the Texas BOE gets off the tracks from time to time. However to suggest that TX has cornered the market on “political Goofballery” stuns me. I never cease to be amazed at the drivel that CA pols espouse. I don’t for a moment want to put the education of my children in the hands of CA.

  7. Andrew, will it give ideologically motivated parents ways to attack or influence teachers who they consider are teaching the wrong things?

  8. I’ll note that I lived in California for six years, and left in part because the education system there was collapsing. I didn’t want my daughter to be educated there.

  9. Pete

    If my kid’s classes are any indication, high-school-level textbooks are being replaced by web searches. The best way to fight this crap is to keep the real science high up in the Google rankings.

    Oh, and by the way, Steve, it’s OK to think that smart people can be wrong. But when you assume that people are wrong because they’re stupid, that’s wrong. And stupid.

  10. Plastic Jesus

    I think the school board has a point. Two examples: The idea of not giving Ronald Reagan credit for ending the Cold War is absurd.
    Also, why shouldn’t kids learn that the same culture that gave birth to Martin Luther King also produced the Black Panthers?
    We’ve become way too politically correct IMO.

  11. Sir Craig

    Okay, I took Steve’s challenge and read the proposed changes for myself, and it is without a doubt a very bald effort to put a right-wing spin on history. To remove Jefferson’s contributions as one of the great revolutionary philosophers is bad enough, but to take that ignorant little-known footnote of history known as Phyllis Schlafly and her Eagle Forum and try to spin some kind of positive contribution on her part plunges headlong into idiocy.

    Sorry, Steve, but when these pinheads go so far as to remove all references to the universally accepted “BCE” and “CE” and replace them with the Judeo-Christian-centric “BC” and “AD”, it speaks volumes to their true motives, as well as yours. I can only hope that, as Andrew states, most teachers ignore the new guidelines and continue to treat McCarthy as the dickless worm he was.

  12. rob

    i think it is obvious that the oil spill in the gulf was caused by god because he is displeased with the texas BOE and their textbook standards.

  13. Pete

    I didn’t realize their was any place in Texas so isolated that they wouldn’t think that Regan’s contribution to the end of the cold war was at least debatable. And I’m including Fort Stockton in that statement.

  14. James H.

    I also teach in Texas, and I agree with Andrew. I don’t use the book very much, if at all. They really aren’t written that well for true physics understanding (except Conceptual Physics, which is readable, but leaves off the math). Students that are trying to read pretty much any other science book will not come away with true understanding of the topics. That is where the class discussion, emphasizing critical thinking skills and a healthy dose of skepticism, and lots of hands on labs come in to really make the topic something they can understand and relate to their world.

    And Andrew is right, we are slightly egotistical, and why shouldn’t we be? We went to school for this and have taught our subject matter for quite a while, in my case over two decades. We know this better than they do! Now on matters of dentistry, I will defer….

    @ Andrew: Have you EVER had anyone from TEA or the state board come into your classroom? I haven’t.

  15. James H.

    @ Pete: Fort Stockton isn’t THAT isolated! :-) Lajitas now…thats out there…

  16. BmoreKarl

    >Plastic Jesus Says:
    >I think the school board has a point. Two examples: The idea of not giving Ronald Reagan credit >for ending the Cold War is absurd.
    >Also, why shouldn’t kids learn that the same culture that gave birth to Martin Luther King also >produced the Black Panthers?
    >We’ve become way too politically correct IMO.

    The Pope deserves as much credit as Reagan – it was his repeated visits to his homeland that gave the Polish people hope that they could take their country back – that gave spark to the Solidarity movement. All of a sudden the Communist Machine couldn’t hide the believers anymore. They came out of the woodwork, and they were young and energetic and filled with the spirit, not the dry husks the commies tried to portray to the world.

    And if you lump all black people into the same culture – you totally miss the point of MLK Jr. He was not part of the same culture that birthed Malcolm X or the Black Panthers. He was 180 degrees different. He believed that God would honor non-violent resistance, not that black people should take up arms against the white devil.

  17. ND

    Saying Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War over simplifies history. The soviet union’s demise was set into motion before Reagan took office. And it takes away credit from all the presidents that came before Reagan who took a firm stand with the SU and passed to baton to the next president. Reagan deserves credit for how he handled US-SU relations when Gorbachev came into power. Frankly Gorbachev deserves a lot of credit too.

  18. kirk

    This is to Andrew and James H. – Thanks for being teachers, way to go.
    But the SBOE board meeting this week is about curriculum standards. It’s great that you use lab experience and the google to teach science. But especially for social studies, history and government how does a teacher cover the TAKS objectives with or without a textbook and blunt the offense of Phyllis Schaffley in the classroom? As someone else brought up here – what about the motivated lacrosse-mom from the megachurch that demands to see your lesson plan?

  19. Ed Culver

    I’m not going to get into the arguments about more or less current events, like the Reagan administration.

    There’s always been a tendency to sanitize US history. For an example, try to find any high school textbook that mentions events like the Pequod War, King Philip’s War, or any of the chronic, and frequently violent frictions between the British settlers and the Native Americans.

    In many ways, the TEA is behaving towards US history in the same way that Japanese nationalists have been behaving towards Japanese war crimes during the period from the 20s to the end of WW2: mentioning them is unpatriotic, evil, etc.

    The truth has no ideology, but ideologies are rarely interested in the truth.

  20. AK

    You were wise to get your kids out of CA and not let them be educated here. The CA public education system is falling apart. Funding is beyond abysmal and what little money they have goes to standardized test preparation. Without enrichment activities like art, music, science, PE, etc. classroom behavior deteriorates and teachers spend more time on discipline issues and less time on teaching. Not to mention the kids getting packed in like sardines and no $$$ of teacher’s assistants.

    I have two very intelligent children with a strong interest in science, and the schools here offer them nothing. A couple of years ago our son’s teacher told us we should take him out of public school and find an academically oriented private school for him. Great, except we can’t afford it. Right after that, the gifted education program was completely eliminated and all the teacher’s aids were laid off. And the next year class size went from 20 to 27.

    So I have a hard time being anything but angry and cynical about our pols efforts to re-arrange the deck chairs on the CA public education Titanic. If the state will not adequately fund public k12 schools, if the brightest young minds in our state are being asked to sit in the back of the class and read comic books while the rest of the class catches up (I am not exaggerating here), well then I don’t really give a flying carp about the textbooks. The anger and sense of betrayal are just too great.

  21. Charles

    I recall the Kansas idiocy of a few years ago, after which the NSF withdrew their endorsement of the Kansas curriculum. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that universities started telling Kansas that they wouldn’t accept their curriculum as requisite for acceptance.

    Maybe the same needs to occur, where departments of history, law, science, etc. of major universities state that the Texas curriculum isn’t good enough. When mommy and daddy realize that Junior can’t go to Harvard because of Cynthia Dunbar’s idiocy, she’ll get voted out pretty quickly.

  22. dlanod

    From what I understand of this tale (mainly from /. and people posting comments on the various stories there) a lot of this Board, specifically the revisionists pushing their agenda as seen here, have already been voted out including the chairman driving the changes. However it doesn’t take effect until later in the year, after this final round of revisions. So in this case the people of Texas have stood up and said “We don’t want this crap”… and the Board majority are going “Too bad, you’re getting it anyway.”

  23. Pete

    I know the difference between “their” and “there,” that “Cold War” should be capitalized, and even how to spell President Reagan’s name. What the heck is it with this place and my writing?

  24. Phil I remember when you were not a hackneyed political blogger. There is so much cool science you could cover, yet you beat this horse to death.

    Anti-Science has, ironically, made you anti-science as you obsess over it rather than showing the brilliance of science itself.

  25. Neon Sequitur

    Phil, I think this bill might be more effective than you’re expecting. Sure, it’s pointless to call out the state of Texas — I doubt the TX State Bored of Education really cares what anyone in CA thinks. They might even consider complaints from the “Left Coast” a bonus.

    However, the CA bill sends a strong message to the textbook publishers: CA doesn’t want schoolbooks written to the skewed standards of TX. Let’s hope the publishers take notice.

  26. Kirk

    @24 — I hope you’re not trying to imply that education standards have nothing to do with the science you want Phil to restrict himself to talking about. And, as Phil has pointed out repeatedly since his blog began, he has always discussed a range of issues that are important to him, including skepticism and education.

    Personally, I think advocating for education systems that create strong, critical thinkers with a grasp of basic facts is a good thing and the only thing that can fuel more of the fantastic scientific discoveries you wish Phil would restrict himself to discussing.

  27. Daffy

    As an aside:

    Reagan did NOT end the Cold War…that is the worst bit of Republican nonsense there is. The Soviet Union’s corrupt, bloated government did it all on its own. The only Reagan did (and he does deserve credit for this) was stand back and let it happen.

    Reagan’s main legacy was skyrocketing deficits and ill-advised deregulation that helped cause many of the problems we now face. If there was a worse president in the 20th century, I can’t think who it was.

  28. Plutonian

    I’m a bit of a libertarian when it comes to such things; while I don’t think young kids should be playing violent video games, I don’t think it’s the government’s place to be making it illegal.

    Well that’s a start – now you just need to see the good sense that Libertarians make on everything else! 😉

    @10. Plastic Jesus Says:

    I think the school board has a point. Two examples: The idea of not giving Ronald Reagan credit for ending the Cold War is absurd. Also, why shouldn’t kids learn that the same culture that gave birth to Martin Luther King also produced the Black Panthers?
    We’ve become way too politically correct IMO.

    Blazes yes! We are absolutely becoming far too Politically Correct – & it is causing us no end of harm and even leading to possible deaths.

    It used to be that the saying was “the truth hurts!” And that the painful truth could and would be told & faced not glossed over and ignored at risk of causing offence to minorities or individuals.

    These days the truth is NOT allowed to be said because it may hurt the feelings of the people to whoem it is painful.

    Reality is NOT Politically Correct.

    Most terrorists are Muslims, Islam was founded by a pedophile, murderer, theif and all round creep. Mohammad is a man who had sexual intercourse with a 9 uyear old girl who couldn’t consent and probably didn’t. See : &

    Fat people, drug addicts and drunks are responsible for their own problems.

    See :

    Thanks Bernie – great blog you’ve got! :-)

    @Daffy :

    If there was a worse president in the 20th century, I can’t think who it was.

    Have you forgotten Jimmy Carter? He would be a contender for worst President in all American history although Obama may soon have that dubious honour.

    See :

  29. Plutonian

    Political Correctness actually kills too – see :


    & for more on how PC means not saying painful truths – and thus not forcing people to face the often very uncomfortable reality and then perhaps do something about their mistakes :

    BTW. This is NOT my blog but an excellent & well written one that I stumbled upon recently. It is scathingly honest and outspoken which used to be seen as a virtue but nowdays being honest rather than “tolerantly” PC is seen as offensive and a bad thing by all too many clueless liberals. If you go there you will read painful un-PC home truths -you will also hopefully learn lots if you can bear to face reality & not run in “offense” at the un PC content.

  30. Astrofiend

    Since The Guardian has picked up the story, so has my local newspaper the Sydney Herald. It certainly seems to be doing the rounds now…

  31. John Keller

    Sir Craig,

    I really doubt you took Steve’s Challenge, a sample from your own link (I left out the parts that have been deleted)

    (1) History. The student understands how constitutional government, as developed in America and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution, has been influenced by ideas, people, and historical documents. The student is expected to:

    (A) explain major political ideas in history, including the laws of nature and nature’s God, unalienable rights, divine right of kings, social contract theory, and the rights of resistance to illegitimate government;

    (B) identify major intellectual, philosophical, political, and religious traditions that informed the American founding, including Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law), English common law and constitutionalism, Enlightenment, and republicanism, as they address issues of liberty, rights, and responsibilities of individuals.

    (C) identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu;

    (D) identify the contributions of the political philosophies of the Founding Fathers, including John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay, George Mason, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson, on the development of the U.S. government;

    (E) examine debates and compromises that impacted the creation of the founding documents; and

    (F) identify significant individuals in the field of government and politics, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

    By name, Jefferson is mentioned twice and Part D clearly mentions his contributions on the US politcal system are to be studied. The Declaration of Independence (Jefferson) and its development from the ideas of the time and several of his other ideas are mentioned dozens of times in plan. Just because “Thomas Jefferson” is only mentioned twice in the plan, doesn’t mean he’s barely covered. His works and ideas are studied. That’s like saying if the Gettysburg Address is to be studied, were not going to study its author Lincoln.

  32. If there was a worse president in the 20th century, I can’t think who it was.

    I think Warren Harding would probably rank up there.

  33. Plutonian

    I know my comments were a bit of an off-topic rant but, yegods, Political Correctness .. er .. gets my goat. I’ll just post one more thing & link here because I think it really does need to be said & heard :


    Excerpts from a speech by Geert Wilders, controversial film producer & leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, ( ) following several elections where the European Socialist Left wing suffered massive losses :

    Why is it good news that the socialists lost by such a margin?

    Let me answer this myself. It’s good news because socialists are the most inveterate cultural relativists in Europe. They regard the Islamic culture of backwardness and violence as equal to our Western culture of freedom, democracy and human rights. In fact, it is the socialists who are responsible for mass immigration, Islamization and general decay of our cities and societies. It are the socialists who are responsible for the fact that cities such as Rotterdam, Marseille and Malmö seem to be situated in Eurabia rather than in Europe. And they are even proud of it.

    Our Western elite, whether it are politicians, journalists or judges, have lost their way completely. All sense of reality has vanished. All common sense has been thrown to the wind. They take all efforts to deny the things that take place in front of our eyes, and deny everything that is so obviously seen by everyone else.

    They won’t stand firm on any issue. Their cultural relativism affects absolutely everything up to the point where they no longer see the difference between good and evil, or between nonsense and logical common sense. Everything is pushed into a grey area, a foggy marsh without beginning or end. The only moral standard they still seem to apply is the question whether or not it is approved by Muslims. Everything Muslims disapprove, they disapprove too.

    And so, the voters have had enough. Because they of course realise that Europe is going in the wrong direction. They know that there are enormous problems with Islam in Europe. They are well aware of the identity of those who are taking them for a ride, namely, the Shariah socialists.

    As for those present here today, I’m sure everyone knows how intractable the problems with Islam are in Europe, given that Muslims are over-represented in crime rate figures as well as in social benefit statistics. Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t many Muslims of good will who are decent, law-abiding citizens. But facts are facts. …

    .. ladies and gentlemen, allow me to very briefly discuss the essence of Islam, and let me come straight to the point: Islam is not so much a religion as, first and foremost, an ideology; to be precise, like communism and fascism, a political, totalitarian ideology, with worldwide aspirations.

    Of course, there are many moderate Muslims. However, there is no such a thing as a moderate Islam. Islam’s heart lies in the Koran. The Koran is an evil book that calls for violence, murder, terrorism, war and submission. The Koran describes Jews as monkeys and pigs. The Koran calls upon Muslims to kill the Kaffirs, the non-Muslims.

    The problem is that the injunctions in the Koran are not restricted to time or place. Rather, they apply to all Muslims, in any period. Another problem is that Muslims also regard the Koran as the word of Allah. Which means that the Koran is immune from criticism.

    … we will have to end all forms of cultural relativism. For this purpose we will need an amendment to our constitutions stating that our European cultural foundation is Judeo-Christian and Humanistic in nature. To the cultural relativists, the Shariah-socialists, I would proudly say, “Our Western culture is superior to Islamic culture.” Or to quote Wafa Sultan when she compared the Western culture with Islam: “It’s not a clash of civilizations, it’s a clash between barbarity and reason”. I fully agree with her. …

    [Emphasis added.]

    The whole speech is well worth reading and can be found here :

    via the superb Planck’s Constant blog.

  34. James H

    @ Kirk. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I think that history teachers could do things the same as we do. Not much focus on the book, but more on teacher presentations and discussions, assignment via the net that can also be discussed, and various projects. As for the overzealous moms, I have never had one come in and question the curriculum in over 20 years. Parents tend to drop off after elementary and trust you are teaching their children well. And we are! If a mom asks about say ms schafly, a good response is “we haven’t gotten to that yet!”.

  35. James H

    @ phil. You mentioned that you moved out of California because of the education system. What has been your experience of the colorado system? I really don’t know much about school systems in other states, so I am curious.

  36. ccpetersen

    Plutonian, missed your Prozac dose did you?

    As far as the TEA goes, the poster who said that when major universities refuse to take the ill-educated darlings of Tex-ass because they won’t qualify for anything but remedial English, then maybe the Texans will do something. All it takes is one Texas-American Princess howling to daddy that she didn’t get into Harvard or Yale or something and that’ll be it.

  37. Gonzo

    I think the school board has a point. Two examples: The idea of not giving Ronald Reagan credit for ending the Cold War is absurd

    Lay off the neo-con revisionist history. Reagan did not end the Cold War. This nonsense doesn’t even deserve to be heard. Are you serious? How did Reagan end the Cold War? Exactly. It wasn’t some speech, I can tell you that. The CIA’s covert ops in Afghanistan had about absolutely zero to do with Reagan, and had key members of Congress to thank for its effectivenesss. Other factors include, NATO containment policy, which effectively worked over the long-term, and more open policies by Soviet-bloc nations themselves (Glasnost).

    The end of Cold War had precious little to do with St. Ronnie the Actor I am afraid. And if you actually knew the reality of the Reagan administration and its actual real-life policies (not Sarah Palin fantasized history) you wouldn’t be so quick to toss your wingnut idolatry in with the likes of one of the most aloof and terrible presidents this nation has ever had.

  38. Mcphja

    I hate to be the one who will be seen as defending Joseph McCarthy, but there does need to be a little balance added to the “history” we are teaching in schools. I grew up durring a time when we were all taught that the Rosenbergs were framed and Alger Hiss was defamed. We know now that the Rosenbergs were guilty and Hiss was a communist.

    People should also know who some of McCarthy’s supporters were. Bobby Kennedy was on his investigation staff, and defended McCarthy’s actions, and considered him a patriot until the day he (RFK) died.

  39. TheVirginian

    Wait, Reagan ended the Cold War and brought down the Soviet Union?
    That’s utter nonsense, spewed out by the Personality Cult of Reagan that right-wingers invented as part of their war on “liberalism” (which basically means a war on the U.S.).
    The Soviet Union was falling apart when Reagan took office. It was obviously going down, and the real issue was whether its collapse would result in a civil war, one with nuclear weapons.
    It did not matter whom we elected in 1980. Nothing was going to stop the USSR’s collapse! Had Carter won, and Mondale followed him, the USSR would still have ended.
    First, you cannot run a modern economy from a control center. All that did was create corruption and shortages. Things got so bad that, under Carter, the U.S. sold grain to the Soviets to keep them from suffering a major famine!
    Second, the Soviet Union was a basketcase of ethnic, racial and religious turmoil. Ethnic and religious minorities were bitterly anti-USSR while many young people were indifferent to it at best.
    Heck, you can make a stronger case that Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson had a much stronger influence in the Soviet collapse than Reagan. Blues begat rock, and rock appealed to young Russians, but they faced strong opposition from the reactionaries in the Kremlin. It was the generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, when the West underwent an incredible cultural revolution, that abandoned the Soviet system at the same time that the generations of the Bolshevik Revolution and the “Great Patriotic War” were dying out or fading into senescence. Rock n roll was not a communist conspiracy as Western right-wingers loved to claim; rather it was the symbol of freedom to lots of young Russians and a colorful lure to a better world beyond Russia’s borders.

  40. Travis D

    I’m saddened so many think the proper response to the issues California’s schools face is to just jump ship.

    I plan to send my own kids, should I be lucky enough to get any, to a public school even if I can afford better. If it looks deficient I plan to work to try and make it better.

  41. Plutonian said “The Koran is an evil book that calls for violence, murder, terrorism, war and submission”

    Just like the Christian Bible, then?

  42. trapper

    Plutonian: it seems on every thread you post (unrelated) scrolls of text. Have you thought about making your own blog, since you seem to be so prolific? (And so those of us who don’t want to read your very long comments can ignore you?) Then those that *are* interested can just click on your URL and you can chat about whatever you want without distracting heavily from the on-topic commentary here.

  43. dave from manchester England, No the Christian Bible is a religious text and Christ said “Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” Which, if you do not know how to parse speech, means that Christianity is not a political system. Islam, since you do not know, let me inform you, is a all-encompassing political, economic, social system that rules all of life. So even if the Bible says, children who disobey parents should be killed, Christians in modern society do not do that because the political system does not support Biblical injunctions.

    For Muslims, however, the political systems of 47 Muslim majority countries support the Quran, therefore when a child disobeys her parents or a wife her husband, they are Honor-killed and the political system says, OK, no problem.

    Islam is politics or it is nothing. I didn’t say that, it was the religious leader of hundreds of millions of Muslims. Who are you to argue differently?

    So, no, not like the Christian Bible at all, you poor misinformed person.

    BTW, I am a life-long Atheist and no apologist for Christianity but I do know the difference between the two. One is a religion and the other is a political ideology bent on world domination.

  44. SC-Pulsar

    It is so strange how different America is from UK. Our deputy Prime Minister here in the UK is an atheist, something I doubt would ever come to be in America.

    Given how Obama continues to publicly state how highly he regards science, he is letting your country down here, it is time for him to step in on this nonsense.

  45. Daffy

    Plutonium, Carter was a lousy at inspiring people, definitely. But he hung tough against the Iranians, and refused to negotiate with them—sacrificing his career and reputation in the process. The first thing Reagan did when he took office was give the Iranians exactly what they wanted—weapons.

    The national debt under Carter was a fraction of what it ballooned up to under Reagan.

    Cater was tough but appeared weak. Reagan was a wimp who talked tough. People will choose the illusion of toughness over the reality every single time. Being tough requires tough decisions.

  46. GKTeach

    I don’t know anyone more frustrated with Texas BoE than Texas teachers. Maybe we have a “liberal bias” because we actually work for a living. Just a thought. I agree with the other teachers, although physics doesn’t have much spin (not in high school, anyway, HA). My students don’t use their textbooks, even if I want them to. We do not teach creationism here, and our history classes do not follow state curricula at all. The only state assessments that matter (AT ALL) are TAKS (state test) scores, and we have figured out how to deal with that. The BoE is sort of that racist uncle we all have. We cut our eyes when he talks and blush to our more enlightened friends, but we just try to ignore him until he stops talking and laugh about him after drinks later. He’s an idiot, but he’s someone we have to respect because he’s a family patriarch. It’s ok, though. We don’t follow his advice.

  47. Way

    Reagan’s main legacy was skyrocketing deficits…

    You know Congress spends the money, right? Reagan got his tax cuts through and the feds had far more revenue in 1988 than they did in 1980. Congress at the time still mamanged to outspend the increased revenues and- oh, what’s the point. People like you are immune to facts and reality. Go wallow in your little ideoloigcal reality bubble. There is no point to you.

  48. Steve in Dublin

    Every Plutonium post gets the same treatment from me. A quick glance to determine the smiley/actual content ratio tells me it’s from Plutonium, and then it’s: tldr :-O

  49. mike burkhart

    Lets clam down hear , I think just because Texas adopts this dose not mean every state in the U.S.will . Saying were doomed is overreacting. You know one thing Phill you sound like those end of the world fanatics that stand on the street coner and yell the world will end the next day . Now if all 50 states adopts this then were doomed About video games yes some are violent but there are some that are educational and could help.

  50. Daffy


    During his presidency Reagan asked for 16 Billion dollars more than Congress gave him. Look it up. Yet another Republican lie that has become accepted as unchallenged truth.

  51. Charles

    Way, George W. Bush asked Congress to give him authority to violate half of the Bill of Rights and numerous clauses of the Constitution proper, and he got it. He also asked for trillion dollars to fund a war (arguably a war of choice). He got that too. If the president asks, and Congress approves, the blame does not lie entirely on the shoulders of Congress.

  52. Charles

    Way, George W. Bush asked Congress to give him authority to violate half of the Bill of Rights and numerous clauses of the Constitution proper, and he got it. He also asked for trillion dollars to fund a war (arguably a war of choice). He got that too. If the president asks, and Congress approves, the blame does not lie entirely on the shoulders of Congress.

  53. DataJack

    Bernie @43 I know it’s probably too late to post here and hope anyone would see it, but your tirade has been bugging me, so I respond anyway.

    Christianity is EXACTLY the same as Islam when it comes to scope. Christianity does want the bible to be the “political, economical and social system” of all of its adherents, and for hundreds of years, it was. Dark Ages Europe was the same or worse than modern Islamic theocracies.

    Modern liberal democracies pulled the teeth out of Christianity’s grip on society. We who live in “Christian nations” today aren’t burned for witchcraft or imprisoned for suggesting a heliocentric model because our governments don’t allow themselves to be controlled by churches anymore. However, this is because of legislation, not because Christianity gave up their power willingly.

  54. Plastic Jesus

    I’m not a Republican – I’m decidedly a Libertarian, and I take shots at both sides.

    However, stating that Jimmy Carter stood tough against Iran is a f*cking joke. He seems like a nice man, but a “nice man” is not what I want as a leader of the most powerful country on the planet – a man who might have to make decisions based on more than his faith in some supposed God.

    It may well be that the Soviet Union was bound to fall all on its own. It may also be a fact that Ronald Reagan gets the nod simply by being in the right place at the right moment in history. Bill Clinton certainly was the beneficiary of the internet’s coming of age.

    It is a mistake to think Reagan just passively stood by, however. He spent the Soviets into the ground and ended the cold war much sooner than a more passive approach would have.

    As a child, I clearly remember doing “duck-and-cover” drills in elementary school in the 70s – supposedly to save us from a nuclear strike. I’m so glad my kids don’t have that particular nightmare to think about – at least not right now.

  55. Daffy

    Plastic Jesus,

    Then you explain why Reagan IMMEDIATELY gave Iran the arms they were demanding and Carter had refused to give them—or even discuss it. You just proved my point: Reagan talked tough and then grabbed his ankles for Iran without a struggle…and everyone (you included) thinks he was the tough guy.

    Carter’s main problem was he didn’t speak worth a dime.

    And giving Reagan credit for the Soviet’s idiotic military spending would be EXACTLY like saying Osama bin Laden is directly responsible for our own idiotic military spending.

  56. ND

    Wait, didn’t the soviet union fall during George Bush senior’s watch? 1991 right? 3 years after Reagan’s presidency?

    And again, giving Reagan the credit ignores the contribution of all the presidents that preceded him.

  57. Plastic Jesus

    Certainly it’s not to give Reagan all the credit. Much of the credit is certainly due to many of the presidents who went before, and GHWB.

    However… Daffy just wound my clock a bit. Jimmy Carter had MANY other problems than his speaking ability.

    First, you could tell what a tough guy Jimmy Carter was. The Iranian thugs didn’t send the hostages back till the day Reagan got inaugurated.

    Jimmy Carter was a disaster in many other areas as well as being unable to garner even the grudging respect of rogue nations.

    To name just a few of his debacles:
    – 55 mph speed limit
    – 24 percent interest
    – Gave Panama canal to the Chinese (yes the Chinese)
    – Offered to remove US forces from South Korea
    – Gave support to Marxists in Nicaragua
    – Stopped recognition of Taiwan and recognized Beijing in its place
    – Reduced the CIA to a remnant of what it was, basically gutting our human intelligence network
    – Completely misunderstood the situation in Iran, right up to the point the Shah was deposed

    I won’t even get started on the way he has continued to meddle with the affairs of every president since he was voted out of office.

    Jimmy Carter – worst president of the twentieth century.

  58. Daffy

    OMG, Plastic Jesus, are you serious?!?!?!

    The Iranians handed over the hostages, because your slimy hero Reagan had already made a back room deal to give them the weapons they had wanted all along!!!!!!!!!!! God, Republicans are idiots.

    As far as Carter, he was hardly a great president (and although several of your points are utterly bogus, some are not) and I never said he was.

    Reagan on the other hand was an unmitigated disaster. Many (most?) of the problems we face today are a direct result of his favor-the-rich-at-all-costs policies. Check out David Stockman sometime. Unhappy with your declining buying power? Thank Reagan and his diabolical “Trickle Down” economics; anyone with a 3rd grade education in arithmetic could have predicted the result we are now living with.

  59. Plastic Jesus

    I’m not a Republican, so you can save the ad hominum sh1t for someone who cares. Regardless of how he got it done, I think you just admitted that Reagan did at least “get it done” – you just have a problem with “how” he got it done.

    I do however own my own engineering business, and I guess I do support policy decisions which favor those of us who have been successful and make money.

    I can tell you with certainty that my employees enjoy better, and more numerous “trickle-down” benefits the more my government keeps their hands out of my business. Guess I must of skipped that particular third grade arithmetic class, because it works great for me.

  60. Daffy

    Wow. I can only imagine what you say about Carter if he had given the Iranians weapons.

    As far as trickle down economics, let me explain for you:

    Fact: a smaller and smaller percentage of Americans control an ever greater percentage of the wealth.

    Fact: If a lake loses more water than it receives it will eventually dry up.

    See? Very easy to understand. It won’t be too long before the US ends up like Mexico with a very few extremely wealthy people and a whole lot of poor. With people like you leading the charge.

  61. Skywatch80

    Wow, intresting how this has turned into a massive flame war (Who was Worse: Carter v Reagan just for one example).

    Trying to get back the Phil’s topic at hand… I have to agree with about the 3 or 4 other Texas Educators who posted on here. I am a high school chemistry and astronomy teacher. The majority of my co-workers are genuinely not supportive of a lot of these changes. However, in the end we know they will not effect the education of our students as much as some of you think. The reality in Texas is, at the end of the day, all the BOE cares about is how well the school did on its Standardized Tests (TAKS…soon to be replaced at the high school level, hurray!) and how high our student attendance was for the school district. (Yes, I know how aweful this is, don’t get me started on this one).

    Every teacher I know of, not just in my own district but across several, does not use the textbook all that often. We try to get away from teaching strait from the book because we know how horrible they are. In science we try to use lab experiments, demonstrations, and teacher lead interactive lectures. Many of my good friends who are history teachers prefer to use guided research based upon the internet and other sources than textbook learning. I had two history teachers over at my house just last night complaining about how stupid some of the changes are. (I am surprised no one has mentioned the change to the way the slave-trade is being portrayed yet, it was a hot topic with us). But at the end of the day, I must agree what my fellow teachers have posted, we who are on the front line everyday. The Texas BOE is like the old image of a big lumbering dinosaur that stamps its feet and roars really loud, but is essentially so fat and slothful, it can barely move under its own weight and will never effectively enforce a political agenda. Have faith in the teachers, they are fighting for their subject matters and actively want their students to understand ALL aspects of what they are being taught.

    If you need further proof that you should have faith in us: I always recommend “Bad Astronomy” (the book) and this blog at the beginning of the year to my astronomy students . Both are popular.

  62. me

    plastic jesus – “why shouldn’t kids learn that the same culture that gave birth to Martin Luther King also produced the Black Panthers?”

    do you mean white america? ;p


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