Texas State Board of Education confirms irony is dead

By Phil Plait | September 24, 2010 8:30 pm

As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Texas State Board of Education was considering a resolution condemning textbooks they perceived as having a pro-Islam, anti-Christian slant. As I also pointed out, this is the very same BoE that has been removing science from the state standards and replacing it with provably wrong ideas: creationism, anti-evolution, downplaying the Big Bang model of the Universe, and so on.

Friday, they voted to pass the resolution. So this fervently fundamentalist majority on the BoE has said they don’t like it when a religion tries to wedge itself into a textbook. As long as it isn’t their religion, of course.

So congratulations, Texas Board of Education, you have once again managed to make yourselves, and, sadly, the rest of America, look foolish in the eyes of the entire world.

In case you think I’m being unfair, here is what a moderate Board member said:

"This resolution just seems senseless," said board member Rick Agosto, of San Antonio. "It makes this board look like we’re cuckoo, which we are."

By the way, Board member Lawrence Allen, Jr., of Houston, is Muslim.

I will point out once again that two women are running for seats on the Board who are actually qualified in the field of education and understand what is actually needed when it comes to BoE business. The conservative majority on the Texas BoE are hell-bent on destroying the education of the children in that state. Hopefully it’s not too late to stop them. I’ll note this ridiculous resolution passed by a 7-6 vote. If one member — one member — of the Board of Education’s majority had been replaced by someone more moderate, the vote would’ve gone down a far more reality-based path.

Tip o’ the ten gallon hat to Ian Young.

Comments (96)

  1. Scott S

    I feel like education is one of those areas where a direct democracy doesn’t work. It seems almost like a circular argument that prevents progress. If you ask people to vote on their own beliefs they generally will say yes. One of the few things where I think government has to step away from a democracy,slightly and in a limited fashion, to a meritocracy. There is ways to have both even if not both perfectly implemented.

  2. Jesse S

    Where does direct democracy work? Majorities will only vote in their own interest, or for what they think is in their own interest (see: teabaggers who aren’t ultra-rich). As the SCOTUS once said, just because the majority wants to violate the rights of the minority doesn’t mean it can, or should.

  3. You know, if they were kidding, this would be Andy Kaufman level art.

  4. Autumn

    And what’s worse, as I recall, Texas is one of the largest markets for textbooks in the U.S., meaning that textbook publishers tend to bow to their demands. These people aren’t just dictating what their own children are going to learn, they’re dictating what the children of every parent in every state of this country are going to learn. We desperately need some sanity on the Texas Board of Education, because I really don’t know how we’re going to pull back from this if we don’t get it.

  5. The stupid. It burns.

    Have they even cited examples of the bias they’re accusing here?

  6. The saddest part is that Texas is one of the major textbook-buying states, so a lot of the textbook companies print their textbooks to match whatever the TX BoE decides is their Core requirements, & everybody else is stuck trying to work with it.

  7. Tom Strong

    How exactly will downplaying Islam destroy childrens’ education? Please point to a study proving a child’s lack of knowledge about Muhammed will ruin their lives? How about lack of Zen Buddhism and yoga too?

    This “sky is falling” rhetoric is way over the top comical.

  8. CW

    I’m hoping there are a lot of teachers who’ll just come up with enhanced literature for students to study on material that’s been removed from Texas Board of Education’s guidelines.

  9. Karl Silver

    “Astronomy” Where’s the astronomy? It all liberal rants. Who cares. I want astronomy.

  10. Autumn

    @ Karl Silver,
    Since when is, “I would prefer people who aren’t semi-literate liars to be in charge of vetting textbooks that are likely to become widely used to ‘educate’ our children,” a “liberal rant”?

  11. Messier Tidy Upper

    @9. Karl Silver : Haven’t been here long have you? ;-)

    I’d point you to the link the BA always gives for that sort of comment but I’m sure he or someone else will have beaten me to it before it would come through moderation.

    I’ll just note that if you scroll down you’ll find plenty of astronomy posts below & in the older section, frex :

    “Dione and Rhea, sitting in a tree” – Saturn’s moons image from Cassini

    “Setting the bar” – barred spiral galaxy image & discussion

    from earlier today. (BA’s time.)

    &

    “Bad Universe sneak peek” – trailer for Phil Plait’s astronomy show yesterday

    &

    “Pluto at the top of the key” – Mike Brown & the Pluto planethood issue the day before yesterday.

    So yes, there’s *plenty* of astronomy here every day for us all – there’s just a few other things as well.

    Although this is mostly an astronomy (& skeptical) blog it is NOT only about astronomy.

    Get over it. No one forces you to comment or read the items you don’t wish to read or comment on.

    Oh &, as I’m sure you’ll be told, its Phil Plait’s blog not yours. The BA gets to choose what he writes about & most of us here are fine with that & enjoy his take on other skeptical and SF and political issues – even if we don’t always agree with him.

  12. Sarah

    It’s so saddening/frustrating/alarming/disheartening when a kid’s education is hijacked before it can even begin. And as many of the above posters mentioned, Texas IS a huge textbook superpower, so we all have plenty of reason to be sad/frustrated/alarmed/disheartened by their actions.

    Hopefully those two qualified candidates can get in there and stop this crazy train.

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    @1. Scott S Says:

    I feel like education is one of those areas where a direct democracy doesn’t work. It seems almost like a circular argument that prevents progress. If you ask people to vote on their own beliefs they generally will say yes.

    Well, yes and no.

    Certainly, you can’t decide by vote whether an idea in the scientific or mathematical realm is valid or not.

    Even if nine out of ten people vote for it, Pi will NOT equal 3 nor will 2 + 2 = 5. Nor will Anthropogenic Global Warming, the scientifically derived age of the Earth and cosmos or Evolution fail to be true just because a lot of people believe they are false for political, economic or socio-cultural reasons.

    However, some aspects of education *are* based on values & choices that can be selected via democratic community.

    What languages, if any, should we teach our kids as well as English -Spanish? Greek and Latin? Japanese or Russian? Do we teach philosophy and if so which philosophies? Do we teach religious education at all and if so how & what do we teach in it – ditto for sex education? Do we have a compulsory fitness class and, if so, what sports or games or excercises should be covered? What subjects do we make elective and what ones compulsory? If we teach history, do we teach only our history or add courses on the history of other regions and global history generally? What historic events and eras and people do we leave in and out? What plays or books do we use in drama class and english class? Do we offer a special class(es) for the gifted students or the disadvantaged ones and if so what and how do we teach in those ..? So on and on.

    There is – & has to be – a place for democractic choice to some extent and on some aspects here, methinks. Things are, as ever, more complicated than they seem. Politics is sadly inextricable with this to some extent although I would think its best kept out as far as possible.

    In this case though, yeah, the Texas board is probably NOT doing the right thing & their changes to textbooks etc … probably are a bit bad. But it is perhaps arguable. They would argue (playing devils advocate here a lil’) that the curricula and textbooks are already biased a fair bit the other way and it is possible they have a point isn’t it?

    On the positive side, I suspect many students learn a lot more from their own non-school interests and reading – if they have the opportunity of course – than from their set schoolwork. Teachers and curricula and textbooks are one major thing but to a certain extent we’re all self-taught and the student does have a say in what she or he decides to learn and how much thought and effort they put in.

    Individuals can and will overcome the obstacles that a bad education puts in their way – but it does make it harder and does have national and international effects for the future.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh! Missed typo :

    However, some aspects of education *are* based on values & choices that can be selected via democratic community decision making processes.

    Is what I meant & could’ve sworn I had typed there.

    Guess it shows that you see what you think is there rather than what is there all too often.

  15. fred edison

    @9
    Dude, read this blog for a couple of weeks before you make rush judgements and condemnations about it. After that, if it doesn’t work for you then feel free to try another that suits you better. Cool.

    Oprah & company (Waiting for Superman) want enhanced standards for teachers to be met. We need teachers who perform at higher expectations than what we see today. The kids of America need it and deserve it. America needs it because our educational performance is failing. May we PLEASE include education board members (I’m staring at you certain Texas BoE!) in that group of much needed enhancement? We require balance and equality in the educational textbooks of this country, not Christian zealotry that has a goal of promoting one religion over another (their preferred religion). We don’t need an imagined holy war fought over the number of lines in a textbook, we need to give kids a fair chance at a balanced education and hopeful future. Make it so.

    These may be helpful:
    http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer?pagename=TFN_homepage
    http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/SBOE_resolution_9.2010.pdf?docID=2041

  16. Richie

    Not from the United Stupid Area so not sure if this is plausible, but has anyone considered using this against them?

    Kind of show that they’re breaking their own law? “Here’s Intelligent Design in this textbook which was ruled by XYZ in the State of XYZ as being a Religious argument, and as such, needs to be forbidden under the recently passed resolution”

    Just an idea. Feel free to school me on the arcane, inscrutable American Legal System.

  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Richie : You may wish to rethink the insulting acronymn spelt-out used in your first sentence there, mate.

    Given the BA is an American and so are most of the readers incl. the smart ones & all. I don’t find it funny and don’t think it will be appreciated by too many folks here. Of course, I could be wrong on this ..but I doubt it.

    PS. FWIW, Australian speaking here who has only once briefly visited the United States.

  18. Stuart

    I find it strange that a country that allegedly believes in equality and free speech can ban books and prohibit discussion. There’s something fundamentally wrong here.

  19. Graey

    @Messier No, he’s right on. Most of us call the rest of us stupid all the time, especially when it deals with the masses. :)

    Most individuals aren’t stupid. They’re just misinformed. People as a group, though, can be stupid to the point of crying.

  20. Merijn

    @MTU: I find united silly area (or substitute whatever you like in that s-position) rather humorous, but I am from Europe and I like self-deprecation with a touch of humor as much as anybody should. Don’t take life too seriously :)

  21. John Paradox

    Messier: I think it depends on how secure one is as an American (born Illinois, currently Arizona – about 100 miles from MX). I don’t really mind, if they are making a valid point, and having the rest of the world see people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage (banned from the U.K.), or even Jerry Springer makes me wonder what other countries think of us.. which means, basically, what they would think of ME.. even though I prefer skepticism over fanaticism.
    Most of what I know about non-USA is secondhand, via TV, Internet, radio or whatever, there’s no personal ‘connection’ with other countries, but I have had some ‘exposure’, especially with some of the videos on the Internet, produced and distributed so anyone can see them. The Internet Archive, which I have on my RSS along with BA, has dozens of videos each day that are Muslim, German, San Francisco GTV, videoblogs, movies, TV series….
    Anyhow, I usually consider most terms ‘self-defining’, “Ground Zero Mosque” is totally wrong, it’s 2 blocks away, and it’s the equivalent of a YMCA.. so one who uses GZM is one of “the stupids”, and is unaware there was a ‘mini-mosque’ IN the WTC (S. bldg, 17th floor, see NYTimes for 9/11/2010)
    So, I see the acronym as appropriate for SOME in the USA, but not all.. and it shows something of how the poster sees the US.

    J/P=?

  22. John Paradox

    Most individuals aren’t stupid. They’re just misinformed. People as a group, though, can be stupid to the point of crying.

    I always think of that quote from Men In Black: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

    J/P=?

  23. As a Humanist, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I would observe that I find these kinds of posts distracting and destructive of this kind of blog. It’s not why I come here. Aside from that, I heard a talking head assert that Texas came across a general history textbook that indexed Islam 17 time and Christianity only 4 times. That seems a bit out of balance to this neutral observer. Islamophilia seems to be at least as big a problem as Islamophobia.

    Hairy

  24. Kris

    Re: the subject of the post, a quick Google search pointed me to this website, when you can read the arguments of the resolution proponents and decide for yourself: www. historytextbooks. org/ islam.htm . Thumbs down for BA for writing a one-sided post without bothering to familiarize himself with the claims (not even saying that he should actually analyze them first).

    @7, Tom Strong: “Please point to a study proving a child’s lack of knowledge about Muhammed will ruin their lives? How about lack of Zen Buddhism and yoga too?”

    For starters, if the American public had any understanding of the basic concepts related to Islam, such as Dar-al Islam, Dar al-Kufr, jihad or hajj (and rest of the Five Pillars), and last but not least, where exactly you would land in the Islamic Hell, then maybe the U.S. Middle Eastern policy would be less suicidal then it currently is. As for other religions, yes, children should have mandatory comparative religion studies. In today’s globalized world, you will not get far without understanding other cultures.

    @18, John Paradox: “makes me wonder what other countries think of us”

    Tom Strong above fits the stereotype pretty well.

  25. Dave

    Karl Silver @ 9:

    The BA frequently posts about astronomy, but it’s all liberal astronomy. You wouldn’t like it.

  26. Grand Lunar

    So, in a nutshell, the situation appears as this: Texas BoE condemns what they see as pro-Islam/anti-Christian, while at the same time promoting pro-Christian/anti-science.

    Things like this make me fear for the future.
    When will the powers that be realize that if stuff like this keeps happening, the US will find itself in an intellectual Dark Age?

    Reminds me of what Neil Tyson once said; he’s not worried about kids; he’s worried about grown-ups. And this situation shows why.

  27. strahlungsamt

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0913/breaking61.html

    Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Minister for Science (no less) was recently forced to back down from endorsing an anti-evolution book “The Origin of Specious Nonsense”.

    Be warned. Ireland is also ruled by religious crackpots who take their marching orders from the Catholic Church.

  28. Ronan

    Kris: Considering the contents of the site you linked to…is there really that much to analyze? I mean, the American textbook council is stated on their site as being the operating arm of the Center for Education Studies, which (as far as I can tell); is this organization: http://www.manta.com/c/mm7t23n/american-textbook-council

    …It’s probably a very hard-working staff of 1-4. And no doubt their bread/cakes/cookies are very nice. Still, as sources go, I don’t quite see why one would bother to give them all that much credence.

    Also, speaking as an atheist…what Muslims think will happen to me after my death, while no doubt highly unpleasant, is probably not that much different from what most of the Christians I know think will happen to me after my death. I’m toast, afterlife-wise, no matter what.

  29. mike burkhart

    If you think this is dumb .Let me off topic I was wacthing the History chanels ancient aliens show ,And the UFO crowd is at it again ,rewriting history .The latest claim:ALEINS ARE RESPONABLE FOR THE BUBONIC PLAGE (AKA BLACK DEATH)OUT BRAKE IN THE MIDDLE AGES.the evidence:the plage spred to fast ,there are reports of sightings of mysterious beings spraying vapor in the air at night before an otubraek in a village ,and of course lights in the sky. I read the plage was caused by flies ,as for the beings many people in the middle ages claimed to see vampire,ghosts,many blamed lots of things for the plage:punishment form God,bad air,and Jews were blamed and many were killed in anti semitic rages,but I doubt Aliens did it.

  30. Messier Tidy Upper

    @^ Grand Lunar :

    So, in a nutshell, the situation appears as this: Texas BoE condemns what they see as pro-Islam/anti-Christian, while at the same time promoting pro-Christian/anti-science. Things like this make me fear for the future.

    So, serious question here, you’d be fine with a curriculum that was slanted pro-Islam and anti-Christian then?

    Because many people (myself incl.) would argue has been the case for far too long with an academia excessively dominated by left wing views and lecturers.

    I don’t think that all cultures are equal (individuals are a different story – people have human rights, ideas do not.) as the Politically Correct Cultural Relativists and post-modernists do – and have preached academically for decades now.

    I do feel that Western civilisation is demonstrably superior to others. That our values – which include science and tolerance, treating people fairly whatever their gender or creed, Capitalism over Communism, secularism over theocracy – are better than Islamic values. Islamic values like koranically & tyrannically sanctioned misogyny and homophobia, forcing women to wear burkas, “honour killing”, suppressing and genitally mutilating them, denying homosexuals even exist as Iran’s dictator did, imposing religion by the sword, calling for holy wars over cartoons, satirical books and teddy bears named Mohammad and irrationally opposing to the death the idea of allowing the Jewish people to live on one tiny slip of land (their ancestral homeland for millennia) in a region jam-packed full of Jihadistans.

    Islam, generally speaking, has (arguably – but there is a good evidence & reality based case to say so) harmed its believers, warping their mindset and prevented them for achieving their full potential. Islamic leaders and cultures have been pretty much throughout history, an obstacle to be overcome, a threat to fight and not a source of much good for the civilised Western world created by the past centry of Pax Americana.

    That’s subjective and necessarily generalised natch. I could write an essy or fifty on the matter but I have’t time and you probably wouldn’t read them anyhow.

    Point is, history is a subjective area & one with different and competing schools of thought. There are factual names and key dates and events. For Americans the 4th of July 1776 is critical and linked to the stories of the founding fathers. The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus is important. They were key moments and influences. The American history is, obviously important to Americans – and through their current dominence and superpower status the world.

    In influencing and helping form Western civilisation that has culminated in our modern world the Jewish people, the ancient Greeks, Romans and English empires and the people and ideas that built them are major factors. Islam, not-so-much.

    So why play-up and unduly emphaisise Islamic culture & history when it is really more a side issue; far less significant to making us who we are and has contributed so little in the way of new ideas and scientific progress?

    We have been in a situation here – in Oz as well as the US – lately of so-called “Culture Wars” where competing “black armband” and traditional values have clashed. For a long time the Politically Correct Culturally Relativist forces have been swinging the Pendulum their way. Some people opposed to those ideologies now wish to correct the existing imbalance & swing it back some. What’s the problem?

    If the Texas Board or anyone else wants factual inaccuracies being taught – like Ahmadinejad’s idea that there was no Holocaust & 9-11 was an inside job done by G. W. Bush and the Zionists not Osma bin laden’s terrorist group then that would be utterly wrong and I’d oppose it.

    However, I don’t think that’s what they’re doing. This is about emphasis and subjective interpretation – which are unavoidable in this magisteria. Its about perspectives on culture and history which are fuzzy areas open to debate without much clearly quantifiable hard data.

    So, no, I’m not too fussed. You may not agree with their perspective or interpretation, you may prefer a history text book and course that ignored the explorers and inventors in favour of bitter feminist man-bashing or indigneous tribe “noble savage” worshipping. You may want a slanted history that downplays Christians and plays up the influence of Islam. But that’s all subjective value judgement, personal preference and open for discussion.

    I, for one, would rather history taught in Western classrooms was more balanced and less left-wing trendiness. Its not like those who really want tostudy islam for whatever reason are prevented from doing so if the rest of tehclas sarent getting it rammed down their throats is it?

    Different historical perspectives are out there for folks to find and see for themselves. If somone wishes to learn what the Islamic version of history is, the Texas Board of Education isn’t going to stop them finding out for themselves. If the Texas board adds a little balance and restore some clearer focus on what matters most to our Western, largely Judaeo-Christian history and heritage then how is that a bad thing?

  31. @ Messier Tidy Upper

    First, I don’t really know jack about Islam. All I know is that the crap thrown at me by the media can’t be trusted so I take it all with a grain of salt.

    That said, I agree with you in that I believe western culture is superior to theirs for most of the reasons you mentioned. But I don’t think Christianity is superior to any other religion and in fact, Christianity is almost as misogynist as Islam (as Islam has been described to me). The fact that Christianity hates women less than Islam does doesn’t put Christianity in the rainbows and unicorns category (although unicorns have a better chance for existence than the christian god).

    All religion that I know of claims that their nonsense is “truth” and they inflict it on all whom they can – particularly children. So in that sense all religion is equally despicable and dangerous.

    If I had my way, religion would be wiped out like any other disease.

    Spirituality is a good thing and far different from religion.

    As far as public schools go, I don’t think any religion should be taught as being “correct”.

    I do believe that children should be exposed to the basics of the more mainstream religions in the context of, “Religion X exists and these are their basic beliefs and tenets. Tomorrow we’ll discuss Religion Y.” And that’s about it.

  32. Going a little farther with my last post as far as having my way.

    Here’s how I would go about the education thing. I’m not going to trust some hick teacher to explain any religion accurately. Kids are going to have questions.

    So I would ask that the Pope or Grand Poobah or whomever for each religion write say, 2,500 words on the basics of their religion. There will be rules attached. They don’t get to say their religion is right and all others are wrong or use any kind of indoctrination.

    They should stick to the basics , “God created the heavens and the earth in seven days, made the first man from dirt and later maimed him for some flesh to make a woman that he wasn’t supposed to be sexually attracted to. Being an evil female, she tricked the good man into eating the fruit of knowledge and that’s why the world you’re growing up in sucks.”

  33. Tribeca Mike

    CafeenMan — I do believe that children should be exposed to the basics of the more mainstream religions in the context of, “Religion X exists and these are their basic beliefs and tenets. Tomorrow we’ll discuss Religion Y.”

    They can get that information from bookstores and libraries. I don’t want my tax money spent on teaching religion in the schools.

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    I’m not talking religious education here but history class.

    Nor I am necessarily in favour of having a particularly pro-Christian slant & emphasis here so much as a pro-& focused-on-Western one.

    The Texas Board interfering on science and trying to change basic facts there because they disagree with reality? Dead wrong & to be strongly opposed.

    The Texas Board trying to push one interpretation and shift emphasis and focus in a fuzzy subjective area like history? Meh, [shrug] not such a biggie.

    History has always been a lot more political and culturally oriented and a lot more open to interpretation.

    I favour teaching kids how to think critically and research for themselves. I’d like to see us teach them logic and philosophy and dissecting arguments & also other languages early. (You pick up languages so much easier when you’re younger ..sigh.)

    Personally, I love history and reading about different places and cultures, adventures, explorations, inventions, ideas, civilisations, battles and the wonders of the world that was. I studied Modern European History and Classics and Australian History in high school and it touched on some of what I did at uni. too. But honestly, it is a lot more subjective and debatable and less of a problem than interfering with science would be.
    – IMHON.

    @ 29. CafeenMan :

    But I don’t think Christianity is superior to any other religion and in fact, Christianity is almost as misogynist as Islam ..

    Hmm … I’m agnostic and no fan of any organised religion myself. Still that’s a debatable relative claim. Christians may get nuns wearing habits but that’s a very far cry from forcing all women into hijabs and burkas. Christians may be anti-choice, even anti-contraceptive pills and masturbation for the extreme Catholics, Mormons etc .. but they don’t go around thinking “Honour-Killings” and FGM are great and necessary things.

    There’s bad and there’s worse and there’s a lo-ong spectrum of attitudes there not just between Christians but between diferent sub-groups of both Christians and Muslims.

    unicorns have a better chance for existence than the christian god

    Not so sure of that.

    Something weird and hard to explain seems to have happened after Christ was crucified. His religion should have ended then or shortly afterwards and yet it didn’t. I know many people that have talked of personal encounters with Christ that have made huge differences in their lives.

    Not so many talk of that re : unicorns! ;-)

    OTOH, we have samples of unicorn horns from rhinos and narwhals and so on too .. ;-)

    Unicorns certainly exist in mythology and in art – as does God. :-)

    We could get down to arguing what is meant by “existence” here! ;-)

  35. Pepijn

    @Messier Tidy Upper: according to a T-shirt I own, 2 + 2 = 5 for extremely large values of 2…

  36. Jason

    Alright, first, I will say I do not have a comprehensive knowledge of Islam, but wow, some of the ideas spouted about what “Christians” Believe is so far out there I can only assume your knowledge comes from people that really really hate religion.
    It sounds like you are talking about some sort of caricature of a Christian that roles every possible bad stereotype into one sentence.

    Comparative religion courses?
    Good Idea I think

  37. SD Joe

    We just moved out of Texas , in good part due to the increasing christian fundamentalist attitudes in the state (I’m a Catholic turning Buddhist for full disclosure). As for ruining the level of education in the state, that has already occurred. My daughter just graduated from a Texas Blue Ribbon high school and she is now suffering in college because of her lackadaisical high school education. She did get good grades in high school but it was apparent that her teachers were doing all they could to not have homework and not give difficult college preparatory assignments. For example, in English class they watched more movies than wrote papers. And when I say movies, I’m not talking educational movies or great performances of literary plays, I mean Jurassic Park etc. My wife and I griped to teachers constantly about critical thinking skills and the need for more homework to no avail. Statistics show that 50% of Texas high school grads need to take remedial courses to get caught up with kids from the rest of the country!

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-college_06tex.ART.State.Edition1.41c303c.html

    The Commissioner of the State Bo E for years was Don McLeroy. He was noted for both not believing in the Geological age of the earth and home schooling his kids. I personally disagree with home schooling but that is a parents choice. However, when the Commissioner of the State BoE lacks the confidence in his own school system and school policies to send his own kids there, that seems to me to be an indictment of the Texas education system in itself.

  38. @Messier Tidy Upper

    Ok, I’ll give you that people have had “religious experiences” that have changed their lives.

    Almost everyone has had an epiphany or three. That doesn’t make any god “real”.

    And I will also give you that if someone believes something is real then it is – to them.

    Which is why religion is bad. It convinces people that things are real that aren’t real. And people do all kinds of irrational and evil things because of the “real” that they believe.

    People used to (and some still do) believe that witches are “real”.

    Real people who were not witches suffered terribly because of that belief.

    Religion is evil and it’s not a zero-sum game. Its bad is much worse than its good.

  39. Bob_In_Wales

    Here is a thought. Christianity was founded about 0BC or should that be AD0 or should that be AD1BC or 4BC or AD31. Well, whatever. Islam in the mid AD600s, i.e. around 600 years later. Pretend that religions develop at around the same pace. Now compare the values and behaviour of Islam now with Christianity in around AD1400. Say late crusades period. Any comments?

    Re western values being better than Islam’s. Look at the crusades and consider the levels of civilisation of Christendom and Islam at the time. This really was the barbarians attacking civilisation. Huge chunks of what we consider our civilisation and values were lifted from Islam during this period. We owe them a MASSIVE cultural debt in just about any field you care to name. Especially astronomy. Part of ending the current west vs east conflict is going to have to be the west stopping being so horrid about arabic/islamic culture and history and accept, acknowledge and celebrate the phenomenal, high, wide and deep culture that existed in the middle east during our dark ages and which continues to endure as elemnts of our own (baths anyone?).

    That isn’t to deny that currently much fundamentalist Islamic teaching is pretty backward. But are fundamentalist Xians really much better? Like has to be compared with like. Remember Iran may have a president who denies the holocaust. But the US had a president who thought atheists couldn’t be real citizens/Americans. And when will the US have its first atheist president?

    Also, re the differences in attitude between the US and Europe. A couple of comments. The US hasn’t had serious blood shed inside its borders in a proper religious war. Europe’s soils are soaked in it. This may contribute to the difference in attitude. Some of this blood is quite fresh. My old school R.E. teacher has taken friends home in several different bags. He used to be in the RUC reserve (yes I’m from Northern Ireland originally). In England interestingly after all the religious arguments and general unpleasentness the attitude which has developed seems to be that religion is a private thing. Talking about it in public or making too much of a fuss about it is, well, Just Not Done Old Chap. I think the best word for it is it is just considered to be a bit gauche.

    Secondly the US has been mercifully free of terrorist activity inside its borders as well. The US has al-Qaeda. Since WWII we’ve had The Red Brigades, The Bader-Meinhof Gang, The IRA, ETA, …… ! Terrorism is old hat. It was notable that after 11/09/01 the US media referred to the day that changed the world. The British media referred to the day that changed America!

    We’ve had different pasts and experiences. We have different attitudes.

  40. I don’t know to whom you are referring, Jason, but my ideas about Christianity come from growing up in a Christian household and having it inflicted on me until the day I moved out.

    I don’t miss it a bit. I never believed a word of it from when I was a tot. It made no sense then and it makes no sense now. And back then I had no idea of the evil it brought into the world. All I knew was that it was just another name for irrational magical ideas that had no basis in reality or evidence to support it. None of that has changed.

  41. Messier Tidy Upper

    @33. ^ Jason :

    wow, some of the ideas spouted about what “Christians” Believe is so far out there I can only assume your knowledge comes from people that really really hate religion.

    Examples please?

    @35. Bob_In_Wales :

    Pretend that religions develop at around the same pace. Now compare the values and behaviour of Islam now with Christianity in around AD1400.

    Why? Why not compare Christianity now with Islam now or Islam then with Christianity then?

    Are you saying the Muslims will just “grow out of it?” Well, maybe they will – but maybe won’t and maybe they need criticism from us tohelp them do it. Can we just count on it & put up with silly jihads and brutal sexist Islamic dictatorships oppressing woemna and their own people and generally holding back the world in the meanwhile?

    Part of ending the current west vs east conflict is going to have to be the west stopping being so horrid about arabic/islamic culture

    But are we being horrid or honest about them? Are you really saying we shouldn’t criticise sexism, racism, oppression, cruelty and harm when we see it?

    Also while that might be part of it, don’t they need to stop being nasty about us too? Can we maybe can their notion that Israel is Satan and America is the Great Satan and Westerners are all imperialistic colonialist bad guys who are just out to destroy them for no reason when we’re just not?

    (baths anyone?).

    Not right now! ;-)
    Umm … seriously?
    You are claiming the Arabs invented bathing? What the ..!?

    Remember Iran may have a president who denies the holocaust. But the US had a president who thought atheists couldn’t be real citizens/Americans.

    Well one of those is totally wrong in fact and one is a personal opinion.
    I’m not saying what G.W. Bush said was good but is it really on a level with Holocaust denial? I don’t think so.

    We’ve had different pasts and experiences. We have different attitudes.

    That much I agree with entirely.

  42. Tribeca Mike

    Messier Tidy Upper — I could get behind the idea of teaching religion as history in public schools, but who’s going to decide how the subject would be taught? I can imagine all the controversy from churches, teachers, the media and the public that would entail. Lord knows more time should be spent on teaching history. I’ve met far too many people over the years who have no idea who Churchill or FDR were or where the Vietnam War took place, and couldn’t care less if they did.

  43. Bob in Wales – Just addressing the religious bloodshed.

    We haven’t had anything like Europe has but look at our landscape. Many of our states are larger than many European countries. I don’t think our experience would be much different than Europe’s if each states was it’s own country.

    And we have had plenty of religious bloodshed. Lately it’s just isolated incidents perpetrated by fox fans such and murdering doctors. But that would be far multiplied if we were in closer proximity to other countries and we were about the same size as the average European country.

  44. Bob in Wales (again) –

    “It was notable that after 11/09/01 the US media referred to the day that changed the world. The British media referred to the day that changed America!”

    Out of good sense and compassion I didn’t say anything for a few years after 9/11. But that’s exactly what I thought not long after the dust settled.

    Other countries have put up with terrorist attacks for years. But when it happened to us all of the sudden we expected the whole world to help us do something about it as if it had never happened to anyone else.

    And we’re still milking it. Other countries deal with it and move on. Apparently we’re the guy who doesn’t mind punching everyone else but when somebody punches us it’s the end of the world or something.

  45. TheBlackCat

    Here is a refutation of the Board’s claims:

    http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/Islam_Resolution_Brief_LH.pdf

    I am reading a liveblog of the meeting, this is an important point:

    11:18 – Board member Pat Hardy: The board hasn’t asked academic experts to even review this resolution. She says it would be dangerous for the board to vote for a resolution that makes claims that may simply not be true. (Of course, we absolutely agree.)

    The group behind this, of course, don’t want to do this. I think this proves beyond any doubt that they are concerned with pushing a political and religious agenda, not with the truth.

    And this would be funny if it wasn’t so sad:

    11:52 – Sherry Wyatt (spelling?) is testifying in favor of the resolution. She complains about her children’s middle school social studies textbook. She says a unit on the Eastern Hemisphere from A.D. 500 to 1500 is dominated by discussions of religions other than Christianity. Well, perhaps that’s because religions other than Christianity dominated that part of the world during that period. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions were dominant in that part of the world during that time. The year 1500 was at the beginning of the age of European exploration, when Europeans began to spread Christianity to other parts of the world.

  46. All religions are equal, some are just apparently more equal than others…

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    Yeah, I this is the sort of thing that makes me feel ashamed and downright disgusted to be an American if the world is going to see this and think I in any way resemble these fools. I spent 20 years of my life defending the constitution from being rode roughshod over by zealots and irrational fearmongers. Sadly, I am starting to wonder if my time was wasted…

  47. Floyd

    On epiphanies:

    When I was young I was raised as Catholic. However, after the eighth grade I went to a public high school, but still considered myself Catholic.
    In college, after an Ash Wednesday ceremony at my church, I suddenly realized that I really didn’t believe in Catholicism, or any other Christian religions. That was my epiphany.

    I do think that comparative religions are worth studying at the college level, to understand the effects on their adherents which are often not good.

  48. Tribeca Mike

    If the ultimate goal of the slim majority of this Board is to teach Christianity specifically in Texas schools, I would hope they include the more salacious side of the subject, like the church scandal de jour involving Bishop Eddie L. Long, not to member the innumerable other scandals. And would the Mormons really want non-member students to learn about their bizarre rites and often violent and extremely right-wing history? I doubt the Rev. Moon (who not only labels himself a Christian, but a better Christ than the original) would want his church’s story told. And will those “God Hates Fags” morons get their own textbook chapter?

    If they want to teach that Christianity is somehow superior to other religions, or teach it at all, they’ve got to play fair.

  49. Dan

    You seem a bit biased and, well, screechy on this topic…

    I’m not a believer, but if the schools of Texas are going to teach any sort of comparative religion (aka informing them about nonsense when they should be learning math and science) to their students then it certainly should be done in an even handed way. And given the multi-cultural nature of American society, we should no longer assume that students are well-versed in christian folklore (which might legitimately account for why there is less christian nonsense in our textbooks).

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/img/09-10/0924sboe.pdf

    That “refutation” above is kind of a joke.

    I’m not sure why we are having this conversation – except that you seem to be infected with the same irrational love for islam as other liberals – it’s all nonsense and fundamentalist muslims hate your ilk as much or more then fundamentalist christians.

  50. oldebabe

    40. Exactly my experience, too.

    46. Your time is not and has not been wasted, if you’re talking about defending the Constitution, and especially the First Amendment, so don’t stop. All critical thinkers are still needed and perhaps will always be needed. And what others think of `us’ is not as worthwhile as what one thinks of one’s self……

  51. JJ

    The main commentary here is politically spun as well. These wackos never “condemned” all textbooks containing Islam, they only noted that Islam was mentioned over Christianity 2 to 1 in the majority of textbooks. They saw this as unfair, so they’re moving to make the coverage equal in respect to both religions. Once again, they’re not planning on banning ALL notes of Islam. The sky is not falling, religion is not replacing science in textbooks, Islam is not being eradicated or condemned…

    “The resolution cites world history books no longer used in Texas schools that it says devoted more lines of text to Islamic beliefs and practices than Christian ones. Chairwoman Gail Lowe said the resolution cites old books because board rules prohibit them from discussing current books more than 90 days after their adoption. ”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/09/24/national/main6896993.shtml

    Whether the majority is composed of Conservative or Liberals, there will ALWAYS be bickering of political bias, it’s a never ending cycle. Doesn’t anyone remember Pelosi and Obama after the election saying “we won, we’re doing it our way”?

  52. TheBlackCat

    @ Tribeca Mike: That would only work if they aren’t members of the anti-catholic branch of evangelical Christianity. Some evangelical Christians don’t even consider Catholics to be Christian at all (although they don’t seem to have any trouble counting them when asserting the U.S. is a “Christian nation”).

  53. Kver

    As a middle school science teacher in Texas, it never ceases to amaze me the utter stupidity that the SBOE keeps dredging up. Texas is almost a lost cause to scientific enlightenment. My last few parent/teacher conferences have been to remind me that science is a belief and that Christian beliefs are fact. Each weekly “star party” I point out M31 and discuss, at length, the time it took for the light to get here – much to the impotent rage of the locals, some of which have published stories in our local paper equating science to “hitlerism” (whatever the h*ll THAT means). I’ve learned to never leave my teacher’s textbook out as it will soon have a pocket edition of the New Testament placed upon it. A couple of teachers here went to great lengths to send me the latest Christian emails disproving this or that part of (take your pick: astronomy, evolution, archaeology, common sense, etc.) until I returned fire with a couple of logic volleys. Each day I remind myself that I have only 7 years left until retirement when I can pack up and leave my native state for good.

  54. Andy

    Those religious nut jobs give the Republicans a bad name, it’s about time they kick that demographic to the curb.

  55. amphiox

    And just how much “pro”-islam, (or even “about” islam) material is there in the Texas curriculum anyways? Because American students don’t get taught squat about other cultures and religions as it is.

    This is just another example of the Texas BoE making stuff up out of whole cloth. These jokers wouldn’t be able to provide a coherent 5 sentence description of islam, let alone recognize a “pro”-islam statement if one hit them over the head. It’s just another attempt at finding an excuse to get rid of stuff that they don’t like by calling it “pro”-islam (even if it probably has nothing to do with islam at all).

  56. Tribeca Mike

    TheBlackCat — I was just thinking along the same lines as you. I was also (admittedly somewhat lazily) wondering why so many comments here concentrate on the Catholic Church, when I suspect most of the majority of the Texas Board are from Protestant denominations. Are former Catholics just more vocal? Not to let the Catholic Church off the hook, being myself the atheist child of lapsed Irish Catholics (thanks for doing the dirty work for me, mom and pop!).

    Oh, this being Caturday, here’s a question: What do you get when the felines of Rome’s famous Prenestina “cat alley” district vehemently disagree with the Vatican?

    A Cat-a-schism!

  57. Elmar_M

    The really silly part is that even if you are not a fan of Islam, you should be in favor of your kids being educated about it. You have to know your enemies, no?
    When I was a kid, my atheist parents educated me on the dangers of religious cults and sects like scientology, jehovas vitnesses, hare krishna, etc, etc. They explained to me what methods they use to brainwash you into their cults. I knew about this early on and so I never even got close to anyone of them without being highly alert and careful.
    Teach the kids ABOUT religion, but dont teach them religion. Does that make sense?
    Anyway, so even if the Texans dont like muslims, this ruling is counter productive. How can you defend yourself (provided this is ncessary) against something that you dont even know anything about?

  58. Chris Winter

    Here’s a masterpiece of a video which skewers the conservatives on the TBOE pretty thoroughly:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWop2lj0UgU

  59. Darth Robo

    unicorns have a better chance for existence than the christian god

    Not so sure of that.

    Something weird and hard to explain seems to have happened after Christ was crucified

    Um, yeah, some guys invented Christianity, made some rather far fetched claims. And the weird part is that people took those claims at face value.

    Well take it from me (at face value) unicorns have a better chance of existence than the Christian God.

  60. TheBlackCat

    Something weird and hard to explain seems to have happened after Christ was crucified.

    There is no evidence he was crucified, if he existed at all. Certainly there are no contemporary records of the events that supposedly surrounded his death, even though similar, and much more mundane, events were normally recorded in the area at the time. In fact there are no contemporary records of Jesus at all, even though we have records of numerous other, less popular would-be Messiahs and religious leaders (including John the Baptist).

    His religion should have ended then or shortly afterwards and yet it didn’t.

    Why would it? Even assuming Christianity was, founded by a single person as described in the Bible, and assuming the person in question was killed by the authorirites, lots of religions that start that way have no trouble surviving the death of their leader. In fact a violent end to the leader often serves to strengthen the resolve of the followers (unless the followers are wiped out at the same time, which obviously wasn’t the case).

    I know many people that have talked of personal encounters with Christ that have made huge differences in their lives.

    Technically they had an emotional and/or psychological event that they attribute to Jesus. That is not the same as a “personal encounters with Christ” any more than an episode of sleep paralysis is a “personal encounter with aliens”.

    Yes, people have profound spiritual events in all religions (and even non-religious people have them). They can also be triggered by certain drugs and magnetic stimulation of certain parts of the brain. These tend to be interpreted in a way that conforms to the person’s social conventions, but that is just how it is interpreted. It is a mistake to say that because someone interprets it as being related to Jesus or Allah or Brahma, then it necessarily is related to that being.

  61. amphiox

    The really silly part is that even if you are not a fan of Islam, you should be in favor of your kids being educated about it. You have to know your enemies, no?

    Ah, but that’s Sun Tzu, which I’m sure has also been excised from the textbooks.

  62. Lyr

    They probably think math textbooks are pro-Islam, because they use Arabic numerals!

  63. Joe W.

    I totally support this Texas Board of Education. I really do think this is a great idea.

    But it needs to be improved, we need to kick it up to the next level, by teaching homeopathy and crystal healing in health classes. Once Texas is improved and the people are getting their true education, we can step it up to a national level, and appoint Kirk Cameron as the President of the United States! Ray Comfort will be the VP, and Ken Ham will be the science adviser. The American people can just look at bananas and jars of peanut butter, and will be shown that the whole Universe is 6,000 years old. America will now know the truth, and we will be saved!!!

    P.S: In case you didn’t get the sarcasm in that, I will say that I am a devout Christian, and my political views lean to the right. I do, however, plan to pursue a career in science, and I do not support the antics of the young-earther cult and the Texas Board of Education. Keep up the de-bunking, Phil!

  64. Tribeca Mike

    Something weird and hard to explain seems to have happened after Christ was crucified.

    Not to belabor the point, but something weird and hard to explain seems to have happened when nobody during Mr. Christ’s lifetime ever noted his various miracles, including the not so easy to avoid reviving of the dead. According to at least one of the gospels, hundreds of the deceased arose from their crypts and wandered around Jerusalem after the expiration of said Jesus, yet nobody at the time thought enough about it to mention it. And the people of the area in that time loved to jot down any old gossip.

  65. TheBlackCat

    @ Tribeca Mike: If we are going to go that route it worth pointing out that there was also no record of the solar eclipse or the massive earthquake (large enough to split the temple) that supposedly occurred when Jesus died, not to mention the massive crowds that came to meet him when he arrived at Jerusalem.

  66. Omorka

    As a Texan transplant from somewhere that was even worse (Mississippi), I would like to point out that the resolution in question passed 7-6 – that is, approximately half of the SBoE knows that this is pernicious nonsense. Unfortunately, no supermajority is required. I can’t stand Lawrence Allen personally, but the rest of the SBoE makes him look like a brilliant man and a hero an uncomfortable amount of the time.

    This is sort of where the entire state is, honestly – not quite half of us are perfectly sane and reasonable people, but we get shouted down over and over again by 50%+1’s worth of morons.

    It all makes me glad I teach math – right up until the day one of my Young Republican students challenges the half-life example in the exponential decay unit . . . .

  67. Tess Wigginton

    The most disturbing thing about this school board’s out-of-control behavior – from a *myriad* of disturbing things about this school board – is that Texas purchases more school books than any state in the Union. Thus, their insane standards are forced upon the rest of the country, as textbook publishers will print whatever their biggest client wants. Can nothing stop these wing nuts?

  68. Dan (#49): You said, "you seem to be infected with the same irrational love for islam as other liberals".

    Heh. Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Do you have any idea about the blog you’re reading? Heh. Wow.

  69. TheBlackCat

    @ Dan: “That “refutation” above is kind of a joke. ”

    Then I am sure you can explain exactly what the flaws are with it. Or are we just supposed to take your word for it?

  70. TheBlackCat

    The most disturbing thing about this school board’s out-of-control behavior – from a *myriad* of disturbing things about this school board – is that Texas purchases more school books than any state in the Union.

    Are you sure? I was under the impression California bought more.

  71. davem

    Messier@30

    So why play-up and unduly emphaisise Islamic culture & history

    It’s called education. The kids already know about Christianity – there’s no need to teach them. They know nothing of Islam (or, indeed, anything that comes from outside of the US). The entire planet would be better off if the people living in the most powerful nation on it knew something of the outside world.

    irrationally opposing to the death the idea of allowing the Jewish people to live on one tiny slip of land (their ancestral homeland for millennia)

    You need to look at a 1947 map. By your reasoning, the Romans should be able to take up residence in Great Britain.
    Joe W@63:

    I am a devout Christian, and my political views lean to the right.

    In a nation where the more right-wing party is almost fascist, and the left one is merely right-wing, I reckon Jesus (if he existed) would be called a ‘pinko commie liberal’, or sumfin’. Jeez (sic) have you ever actually read that holy book of yours?

    As to comparative religion, I think it should be taught everywhere. I especially favour teaching ancient religions, too. A comparison of Mithraism and Zoroastrianism vs Christianity should open a few eyes. All those miracles, repeated from one religion to another…

  72. TheBlackCat

    So why play-up and unduly emphaisise Islamic culture & history

    What makes you think they “unduly emphaisise Islamic culture & history”? You readily admit that their decision to downplay evolution, and therefore their reasons for doing so, were baloney. Why are you so quick to trust the same peoples’ word on this? Is it because one goes against your biases and one supports your biases? Since they used such terrible reasoning and arguments before, I am disinclined to trust them now.

    If I thought they were right, I would be all for what they are doing. I am totally opposed to a decision to “play-up and unduly emphaisise Islamic culture & history”, and in fact the liberal and moderate conservative members of the boards took the same position. However, I am also opposed to the decision to “play-down and unduly exclude Islamic culture & history”.

    These people are known to be dishonest, manipulative, and pushing a particular religious agenda. Given that, I am not going to accept their claims at face value.

    when it is really more a side issue; far less significant to making us who we are and has contributed so little in the way of new ideas and scientific progress?

    Islam had an immense impact on our culture and had a huge amount of new ideas and scientific progress. They were the dominant power in Europe and the Near East, politically and scientifically, from around the end of the Roman empire to the Renaissance. They also had huge cultural impacts on the West. After the Renaissance Europe took over, both because Europe moved forward and the Muslim world regressed, and in the last 60 years or so America did, but from around 500-1500 A.D. Europe was a backwards, theocratic, fragmented, totalitarian, misogynistic society while the Muslim world was the primary scientific, artistic, and cultural center in the West and Near East. They were far from an ideal society, but they were in much better shape than Europe at the time or shortly thereafter.

    What is more, the entire Age of Exploration happened due to competition with Muslims. That was the primary motivating factor for the exploration of Africa and the discovery of the Americas.

    If we were to exclude the role of Islam in the world, there would be a 1000-year hole in a history classes were relatively little happened besides a plague and a bunch of in-fighting between small feudal kingdoms. The Crusades would just be a Holy War with no understanding of the underlying political reasons for it. The biggest change in military technology since the development of cavalry, the gun, would just magically appear out of thin air, as would a huge amount of other Renaissance thinking, technology, and architectural techniques. The age of exploration would just be done on a whim, without an understanding of the desire to overcome a then-superior competitor that drove much of it.

    The fact that you are not aware of this is exactly the reason why this sort of education is needed.

    you may prefer a history text book and course that ignored the explorers and inventors in favour of bitter feminist man-bashing or indigneous tribe “noble savage” worshipping.

    Yeah, keep beating that strawman! It’s almost down!

    Its not like those who really want tostudy islam for whatever reason are prevented from doing so if the rest of tehclas sarent getting it rammed down their throats is it?

    If they are taught other cultures aren’t important, why would they waste time learning about them? By your logic, why should we have history class, or any other class, at all? People can just learn on their own.

  73. TheBlackCat

    I should add that the fact that the SBOE members pushing this shot down efforts to make the resolution neutral, that is to say that no religion and culture should get disproportionate attention, and instead wanted to exclusively target Islam, shows that this is not just an effort to make the textbooks more balanced.

  74. JoW

    As far as I can tell, this resolution could have been defeated. Two probable opponents left before the vote was taken. Perhaps the resolution was allowed to pass to show how apesh*t the TX SBOE has become. Time will tell if this will be used against Rick Perry in his try to be the longest serving governor of TX since he seems to support this kind of nonsense.

  75. Pernille

    I live in Texas and I recently saw an article that listed some of the examples that the BoE were concerned with.

    This is from The Houston Chronicle

    This is from the side bar (so readers don’t have to read the entire article).

    HE ASSERTIONS

    The resolution asserts that in some social studies textbooks nationwide there are, in its words:

    Patterns of pejoratives toward Christians and superlatives toward Muslims, calling Crusaders aggressors, “violent attackers,” or “invaders” while euphemizing Muslim conquest of Christian lands as “migrations” by “empire builders.”

    Politically correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization, indicting Christianity for the same practices (e.g., sexism, slavery, persecution of out-groups) that they treat non-judgmentally, minimize, sugarcoat, or censor in Islam.

    Sanitized definitions of “jihad” that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims … which undergirds worldwide Muslim terrorism.

    These are some lines from the article itself

    The resolution contends that current textbooks glorify Islam with “superlatives” while downsizing Christianity with “pejoratives.”

    Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said the resolution is needed “to ensure that all religious groups are treated equally and fairly .”

    “For example,” she said, “many textbooks devote line after line to the massacre of Muslims, but censor Muslim massacres of other religious groups.”

    This is what I found most interesting

    The books cited in the resolution currently are not used in Texas schools, Diskey said.

    Apparently, because the books (from 1999) could still be used, then they are “dangerous.”

    For the full article

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7203033.html

  76. Seamonkey

    Seriously?

    Does anyone really think that public schools in Texas were spending ANY time teaching about Islam? This is Texas people… earlier this year the SBoE took Thomas Jefferson out of the curriculum because he was too liberal. I’d love to see the data showing that anything involving Islam or Mid-East studies was ever mentioned in a Texas classroom, unless it involved how scary the terrorists are.

    Every day I get a little more embarrassed about being from Texas, and a little more embarrassed about being from the United States.

  77. Katharine

    Are these people still the same species as we are?

  78. Gary Ansorge

    77. Katharine

    “Are these people still the same species as we are?”

    Don’t know about you, but I mutated a long time ago,so, at least as far as I’m concerned the answer would be,,,NO!

    Gary 7

  79. MadScientist

    Yet another good reason for a more unified nationwide primary and secondary education system with involvement from university professors in developing the scope of what’s to be learned. 200+ years ago the current system was OK because such collaboration would have been incredibly expensive and changes would have been very slow. Modern communications, especially the internet, make the necessary collaboration cheaper and far more achievable. We need free public textbooks in electronic format. School boards can then concern themselves primarily with who will give them the best price+quality tradeoff for a print run.

  80. Mekhong Kurt

    Tom Strong (#7), let me turn the question around: how will not knowing much about Christianity destroy a child’s education? It appears you are confusing religious indoctrination with secular education. I pay heft taxes to support the public schools in Texas, and I resent every cent that goes towards *promoting* religious principles, as distinct from religious history. For example, the Alamo was a Catholic mission. I have no problem with identifying it as such when discussing the story of the battle at the Alamo. However, were that same lesson expanded to include the teaching of Catholic doctrine, I would object — vehemently and vociferously. As I would the promotion of ANY denomination’s and ANY religion’s. For historical context — fine. For indoctrination — not so fine. As in utterly unacceptable.

    I hope every member of the SBOE who voted for this resolution, though it’s non-binding, is thrashed in the next election.

  81. katwagner

    I doubt the other states’ education departments pay attention to the goings on at the Texas DoE. I read somewhere – Time or Newsweek maybe – that all the information is on the internet anyway and why do other states need to do what Texas does? No one needs to listen to the whackadoos who make up the Texas education department; they’ve proved over and over again how irrelevant they are and their rulings can’t influence textbooks like they used to. There’s just too much information out there. I don’t think Idaho listens to Texas and Idaho is practically to the right of everything.

  82. Scott B

    From #1:

    “I feel like education is one of those areas where a direct democracy doesn’t work.”

    Be careful what you wish for. If you don’t like this system where people we’ve elected are screwing things up I’m sure you won’t like when people you have no control over screw things up. At least in the current system the people have a way to correct it.

  83. Gary Ansorge

    “Direct democracy” only works when everyone votes. When 70 % are more or less satisfied with the way things are going, they don’t go to the poles as much as the minority that are really pissed off, which allows that minority to have a disproportionate effect on elections.

    Be angry and VOTE.

    Gary 7

  84. mike burkhart

    I just would like to state the resion I am a faithfull Catholic , the main resons are: When I was in high school I was bullyed and was not accepted by not only the other students but also by some of the teachers when I got out I was angry , hateful and suffering form depesion I got help for the depersion but I stilol looked for acceptes . and I was still angry and hatefull .Now at the time I was not attending church and had little conern for religon untill I wacthed movie about the Bible ,I started to read the Bible and eventuly returned to church ,this did not make me into a teroist,zelot or any of the things that many who bash religon say religon will turn you into no I found the acceptince I was looking for In fact I would say that Christ and his church has accepted me better then this secular society that claims to be diverse and tolerent because I was accepted for who I am not for what others want me to be. My anger begain to leve and I lerned to love others even thoses who bullied me in fact I have recently sent them E-mails saying I forgive them . this is what the Catholic Church has done for me it has made me more tolerent ,loveing, and understanding, and furthermore it has helped in my intrest in astronomy for I find that astornomy and science is the best way to understand Gods universe . This has been my experence with faith I would ask those who hate religon .Is this so bad what you have just read?

  85. Lawrence

    Mike – there is a huge difference between distrust of religion at-large & those individuals who hold religious beliefs (regardless of the religion in question). I wonder how many of those bullies also went to church on Sunday? Probably a good many – so that’s not exactly a good argument against “secular” society.

    Also, how do you reconcile the beliefs that hold that people of other religions are somehow inferior (at best) or “going to hell” at worst?

    People can find strength and acceptance in lots of different ways and places. To say that this has to be done under the auspices of some “religious” guidance is just plain wrong.

    Your personal beliefs are your own. If everyone respected the beliefs of others, things would be much different today. Instead, we have a very small minority of fundamentalist morons who ruin it for the rest of us.

  86. Messier Tidy Upper

    @72. TheBlackCat :

    Yeah, keep beating that strawman! It’s almost down!

    You calling this a strawman doesn’t make it so. :roll:

    It is common knowledge – and I have experienced it personally in my days at schooland uni – that there is a strong bias towards the left wing, towards trendy Post Modernism, Cultural Relativism and Political Correctness.

    I do think we need to redress this issue and return education especially in the Humanities and history area to a more balanced focus on the people and events that really mattered. Those dead old white guys – the explorers, the inventors, the kings and leaders, may be uncool but they are (with a few notable exceptions like Queen Elizabeth & Madame Curie) the one’s who had the most significance for making our modern Western civilisation what it is.

    In the USA I think kids should focus mainly on what made the USA the USA it is today. ;-)

    This does not really include the Muslim world to any large extent.

    Here’s a challenge for you : name three Muslims who have had a major beneficial affect on our Western civilisation in the past 300 years. Who invented or dicovered or led their nation or military well and wisely in constructive allience with the Western world. I bet you can’t do it!

    OTOH, When children are studying history in Muslim nations I have no problem with them focusing on Islam and how it has affected their societies.

    In both cases, an overview of world history should cover the rise of the Western & European civilisations at the expense of the regressing, stagnant Islamic world.

    They were the dominant power in Europe and the Near East, politically and scientifically, from around the end of the Roman empire to the Renaissance.

    The Renaissance was four centuries ago.

    Even then while Islam was a threat to European civilisation it wasn’t exactly a dominant power although they did control parts of Spain and menace the gates of Vienna. Essentially, they were antagonists to civilisation and not bringers of it; a large threat but not quite as severe as the Mongol hordes or the barbarians who brought down Rome. On the positive side, I’ll grant you they managed to keep some of the Greek records and philosophies alive and pass them along to Europe – but the Arabs themselves did precious little with them. Science as we know it today was a western idea.

    If we were to exclude the role of Islam in the world,

    This is NOT what I’m arguing for! Talk of strawmen, sheesh. :roll:

    Teach Islam briefly where necessary and where it touches on our civilisation, sure. But let’s not focus too much on it and let’s keep it in perspective. Oh and especially let’s not overlook Islam’s negatives such as jihads, burkas, “honour killings” and terrorism for the sake of being Politically Correct.

  87. flip

    Is it me or does MTU think the whole world is only in the West?

    Does it not occur to you that issues in one part of the world affect the rest of it? Or did the Chinese cultural revolution happen on its own, without influence from Western ideas?

    The problem with your idea of ‘teach the Western point of view’ is that it is much like ‘teach the creation myth’ fallacy of creationism. If you want to teach one, you have to teach the others too. Whether or not you think the Western world is the greatest thing since sliced atoms, it’s no more or less equal – in the cultural/historical sense – than the view that ‘Eastern’ societies are better than yours. The entire point of this post is *balance*, not “lots of one, and some of the other, because one side seems to be more prosperous/scientific/democratic/whatever MTU defines as progress, than the other”.

    “Teach Islam briefly where necessary and where it touches on our civilisation, sure. But let’s not focus too much on it and let’s keep it in perspective.”

    Why not leave the perspective up to graduate students, and not primary or high school students? I’d rather balance given to everything, since we’re living on a globe, not two mountains with an abyss in between. We can come and go from all areas, and in a society which is globalised, a more general perspective will aid in solving future problems. A course or two in ‘Eastern’ culture for US presidents might actually get something done; people who can see Russia from their backyard – when it’s Alaska – are more likely to screw things up. The very fact that Islam is left out of the discussion only serves to create more frustration from those who believe Islamic POVs are not being heard; and encourage non-Muslims to ostracize those who are.

    MTU might want to go read a piece (I had written a short article for my ex-employer, but it seems they’ve removed the site… if I find the link again I’ll post it. It was from a Family First senator. – I know, I know, but the essay and links are worth reading. It was posted around election time and the site/name of person eludes me) which shows stats that state that Muslim immigrants and those from Middle Eastern countries – legal migrants mind you – have faced increasing prejudice, including harassment, rape, etc in Australia. I’ll add a number of people who have been harrassed aren’t Muslim; some weren’t even migrants, but second-generation or third. Perhaps if *more* education about Islam were happening, other people wouldn’t be dealing with that sort of thing. If we’re comparing Western society with Muslim countries and how they treat people, then Australia should be in the firing line just as much.

    (And I wish that were the end of your high horse, but I know I’m wasting my breath. I’ll gladly agree that the West has some good things to offer, but it’s not perfect. I can see some good in the ‘East’ – wherever that is, and I’m on the same side of the world as you – along with some bad. Do we have a ruler around here, anyone? Anyone?)

  88. flip

    Found it…

    Whatever the guy’s opinions on other issues (and I’m on the extreme opposite side of his), this makes some interesting reading:
    gordonmoyes dot com/2010/09/02/is-islamophobia-the-new-white-australia/

    I will gladly admit to being a lazy skeptic and not having done any fact checking of the research quoted in the piece, so if there are any problems with it I am prepared to get an earful (er, eyeful).

    EDIT: My previous comment I mentioned that some harassed are not Muslim or migrants, but I can’t see that in the article. Either I’m skimming too fast to find that reference, or my memory was faulty. Anyway, my point is the same.

  89. @87. flip Says:

    Is it me or does MTU think the whole world is only in the West?

    Of course, I don’t think that. :roll:
    I am very well aware that the West isn’t all there is to the world.
    Of course, I know cultures interact and we pick up things from other cultures.

    But when we’re teaching our kids history doesn’t it seem reasonable to teach them our own history – where we came from and how our culture came to be what it is – first and foremost?

    Isn’t that what is most relevant – & isn’t it also true to note that the world is increasingly Westernised or, put more plainly, Americanised?

    Western culture is superior to other cultures – I feel this is demonstrably true. The USA is a superpower. Russia was but isn’t, China is trying to be but still isn’t .. India ..can’t even run a sporting festival judging by the current Commonwealth Games fiasco, Iran & the rest of the Muslim world .. don’t make me laugh!

    I am not a Cultural Relativist, I am not PC. The heck with that!

    The West is number one and deservedly so. Our way of life is better – that’s why refugees are fleeing from there to here & why they are trying to reach our standard of living and not vice-versa. Why we are leading the world and they aren’t. Our economic system is better than others – that’s why Capitalism won over Communism in the Cold War. Our values and lifestyle are what other nations and cultures are measured by and what they are trying to acheive. That’s the un-PC reality for y’all.

    Western civilisation is the dominant one. It is our one and I think it is the best. it is something I beleive in and think is worth supporting and arguing for. Don’t you?

    What, Flip, do have against the Western civilisation? Why do you wish to downgrade and downplay the importance of it? Why would you rather Western kids were taught with less emphasi on who they are and how they have come to be themselves annd more emphasis on irrelevant, arguably backwards cultures?

    What’s with so many CR PC Left-Wingers and their hatred for their own kind and own culture? Where’s their pride in their ancestors and their culture?

  90. TheBlackCat

    It is common knowledge – and I have experienced it personally in my days at schooland uni – that there is a strong bias towards the left wing, towards trendy Post Modernism, Cultural Relativism and Political Correctness.

    Fascinating. But you were accusing us, or at least one of us, of holding that position. Where has anyone here said anything even remotely similar to this? It is a strawman because neither the person you were addressing nor anyone else here has said anything even remotely similar to this. Pointing out that some people somewhere hold a position is not the same of accusing a specific person of holding that position with no basis whatsoever.

    Those dead old white guys – the explorers, the inventors, the kings and leaders, may be uncool but they are (with a few notable exceptions like Queen Elizabeth & Madame Curie) the one’s who had the most significance for making our modern Western civilisation what it is.

    Your ignorance of the contributions of other cultures to our modern western society is staggering.

    In the USA I think kids should focus mainly on what made the USA the USA it is today. ;-)

    So in other words, in the modern, global era, we should just ignore influences that have a major role on societies that have massive influences on our economy and global political position?

    This does not really include the Muslim world to any large extent.

    That is because you are not familiar with the role the Muslim world played in shaping our modern society. You are a poster child for why this education is necessary.

    Here’s a challenge for you : name three Muslims who have had a major beneficial affect on our Western civilisation in the past 300 years. Who invented or dicovered or led their nation or military well and wisely in constructive allience with the Western world. I bet you can’t do it!

    Why are you suddenly talking about the last 300 years? I specifically explained that the major Muslim influence on our society lasted until around A.D. 1500. Now you are expecting me to defend their role at least 200 years after I said it became much less?

    In both cases, an overview of world history should cover the rise of the Western & European civilisations at the expense of the regressing, stagnant Islamic world.

    But I take it you think they shouldn’t include the rise of Muslim and Eastern civilizations at the expense of the regressing, stagnant Western & European world that happened prior.

    The Renaissance was four centuries ago.

    So…? Are you saying we should ignore the Renaissance, or anything that came before? Otherwise I don’t understand the relevance of this point.

    Even then while Islam was a threat to European civilisation it wasn’t exactly a dominant power although they did control parts of Spain and menace the gates of Vienna. Essentially, they were antagonists to civilisation and not bringers of it;

    That is only true if you define “civilization” as “Europe”. At the time, Muslims were the civilized ones, Europe was the backward, regressive area.

    And even if they were just antagonists, they were still a key driving force for a lot of major events in European history, so it is important to understand them from that regard.

    a large threat but not quite as severe as the Mongol hordes or the barbarians who brought down Rome.

    The “barbarians” that brought down Rome were Europeans themselves, not an external threat. And Muslims were a major threat, if they hadn’t been defeated at the Battle of Tours it is possible (although still debated) that Europe would have been conquered.

    On the positive side, I’ll grant you they managed to keep some of the Greek records and philosophies alive and pass them along to Europe – but the Arabs themselves did precious little with them.

    That is simply false. They made a great deal of progress.

    This is NOT what I’m arguing for! Talk of strawmen, sheesh. :roll:

    Teach Islam briefly where necessary and where it touches on our civilisation, sure. But let’s not focus too much on it and let’s keep it in perspective. Oh and especially let’s not overlook Islam’s negatives such as jihads, burkas, “honour killings” and terrorism for the sake of being Politically Correct.

    First, although you claim this, the specifics you provide explicitly downplay the real role the Muslims had in shaping modern Western society. Second, as I keep pointing out but you keep ignoring, that is exactly what I and the members of the board who voted against the resolution wanted. The side you are agreeing with wanted to downplay the role of anyone other then Christian Europeans in shaping modern society.

  91. TheBlackCat

    What, Flip, do have against the Western civilisation? Why do you wish to downgrade and downplay the importance of it? Why would you rather Western kids were taught with less emphasi on who they are and how they have come to be themselves annd more emphasis on irrelevant, arguably backwards cultures?

    Once again, where has Flip, or anyone else here, said anything remotely similar to this?

  92. Dan

    @69 TheBlackCat

    >Then I am sure you can explain exactly what the flaws are with it. Or are we just supposed to take your word for it?

    No, you are supposed to look at both the complaint – which I linked to – and the refutation that you linked to a couple posts above mine. One is reasonably specific, one cherry picks and tries to refute the other – and in the process pretty much reinforces the validity of the complaint.

    e.g., the complaint mentions that women’s rights issues aren’t covered very well – the refutation says, “oh no – they said right here that it might be harder for women to get a divorce and they inherit less property.” Would you really sum up women’ s rights issues in the islamic world as, “it is harder to get a divorce and you might inherit less property”?

  93. Tom Nevers

    “the same irrational love for islam as other liberals”

    If you honestly think that liberals ‘love Islam’ you really need to get out more.

    What I find remarkable in this is being reminded, once again, just how frightened and INSECURE conservatives are. They seem to feel like if American schoolchildren are *allowed* to learn about Islam, somehow they’ll all ‘catch Islam’ or something. If Western Christian culture is as superior as conservatives claim, shouldn’t exposing children to other cultures just further CONVINCE American children of the superiority of American Christian Conservatism? It’s amazing how conservatives are always so certain that Americans must be kept ignorant for conservatism to be ‘safe’.

  94. Andy

    @16

    Putting for the Landru argument I see?

  95. flip

    @89

    But when we’re teaching our kids history doesn’t it seem reasonable to teach them our own history – where we came from and how our culture came to be what it is – first and foremost?

    Here’s your first problem. In our multi-cultural society, ‘where we come from’ is pretty much meaningless. Yes, let’s teach kids the history of our own country: but for many kids, to only do this would leave out much of their own past. Should we only teach about White settlement in Australia, and leave out Indigenous culture? Should we leave out the importance of Asian countries, which were very much a big part of the gold rush era? Should we really pretend that the only successful people in Australia are white males?

    The point being that if we leave nothing out, then everyone gets to learn about everything. (Oh, I guess you missed the bit about “balance”)

    Western culture is superior to other cultures – I feel this is demonstrably true. The USA is a superpower. Russia was but isn’t, China is trying to be but still isn’t .. India ..can’t even run a sporting festival judging by the current Commonwealth Games fiasco, Iran & the rest of the Muslim world .. don’t make me laugh!

    Once again, I see plenty of opinion, but no evidence to back it up. I think you’re trying to put a modern/future POV on historical issues. Just because China isn’t the superpower yet doesn’t mean we have to downplay their role in past issues or ‘progress’. Just because the games are a joke (oh yeah, cause we never ever hear about how the games are going to fail in the weeks before they happen!) doesn’t say much about a country which is technologically competing with the US. Not to mention the fact that ‘West’ itself is not really definitive, since everything is west of something. Would India be called ‘West’ if it were still part of the British empire?

    Frankly, I have no opinion over which way is better. I really don’t care that much. What I take issue with is this: you haven’t convinced me, because all you have given me is opinion. Where are the stats? Where’s the proof? Or as it is oft said: the burden is on you to prove that the West is the best. And I don’t see anything but your say so here.

    What, Flip, do have against the Western civilisation? Why do you wish to downgrade and downplay the importance of it? Why would you rather Western kids were taught with less emphasi on who they are and how they have come to be themselves annd more emphasis on irrelevant, arguably backwards cultures?

    Hmm, yep, you *did* miss my bit about balance. Thanks for creating that nice burning strawman on a cold night. Irrelevant is in the eye of the beholder, and very much dependent on which part of the world you reside in, and what happened before. I’d particularly love to hear you say that last sentence to someone of Indigenous background in Australia. But then I suppose, that’s only a PC response, not one based on rationality, like I dunno… teaching kids about who they are and where they come from in the context of their own country, history and culture.

    For the record, I never had studies on Aboriginal culture at my Australian schools, outside of the extremely brief comparitive religion class – about 20 min. worth. I would have liked to have learned about every culture, not just the White European one that was so loftily taught in all my history classes which lasted many semesters over many years. It’s like nothing happened before Cook got here. That’s *not* balance. That’s exactly the type of bias that is referred to in this post.

    (You also didn’t reply to that most interesting link I posted)

    … Also, what Black Cat said.

  96. greg

    Next the Texas Board of Education should ban the use of Arabic numerals, as found in so many of their math books, especially algebra.

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