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A divided State Board of Education in Texas last week approved new landmark curriculum standards for U.S. history and other social studies courses that mandates what will be taught in all of the state’s elementary, middle and high schools. The new standards will change the way history, government and economics are taught, while also encouraging high school students to question the concept of the separation of church and state.
The 9-5 vote – with Republicans prevailing – angered Democrats, who complained that political and religious views have been injected into new curricula that could end up being taught nationally, with textbook publishers traditionally using the large state of Texas as a template for the U.S. market.
David Bradley, a Republican member of the state board from Beaumont, Texas and a self-employed businessman, spoke with The Hechinger Report about the new curriculum standards, which he voted for. Bradley rejects the notion of a constitutional separation of church and state and believes the new standards will add needed “balance.” He made headlines when he offered “$1,000 to the charity of your choice if you can find it [separation of church and state] in the Constitution.” Bradley also unsuccessfully pushed a motion to change references in the curriculum to President Barack Obama by adding his middle name “Hussein,” but ultimately withdrew the motion after opposition by Democrats. The following are excerpts from The Hechinger Report’s conversation with Bradley.
HECHINGER REPORT: The Texas Board of Education has received both praise and criticism for setting the new curriculum standards. How would you characterize the results of the 9-5 vote?
BRADLEY: The majority got their way and the minority got their say. Everyone would like a unanimous vote, but in a public forum in a democratic society, that is not going to happen. There were a lot of criticisms of the politics, but that is the way the system works. If you don’t like it, find yourself a benevolent dictator. I think we did a great job. We were able to instill a curriculum that was reflective of our community and our state. Each member represents a constituency of about 1.4 million people, and each ran through an election process where we represented our constituencies.
HECHINGER REPORT: Critics call the new standards a gross distortion of historical facts and say students deserve an education free of ideology. How do your new standards guarantee that?
BRADLEY: Ideology? There are different kinds of ideologies. Let’s talk about global warming and the word “government.” It’s disingenuous. If you are going to criticize us, let’s criticize efforts to indoctrinate kids with global warming, which is not a proven science. It’s okay when the Left has an agenda, but if the Right has an initiative, suddenly it’s all wrong. It’s a double standard by the education community. We were always going to have critics. The curriculum we have adopted is but a floor, not a ceiling. It’s the minimum standards to be included … teachers have the discretion to use it.
HECHINGER REPORT: What are you most proud of and what are you disappointed by in the final result?
BRADLEY: [I’m most proud of the] fact that we have restored the curriculum to a more traditional one, and the fact that there is more focus on the Founding Fathers – and that we are going to require students to use the actual language from the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. What we have seen is textbooks that have been very selective in their quotations, when using the actual language is more accurate … my favorite quote from Benjamin Franklin is … [when Franklin was asked…what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy and he said, ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’]
We did something to keep [the Republic]. The Founding Fathers would be proud.
We have also challenged that false statement [that the constitution guarantees separation of church and state]. We are all for discussion and debate in public education, except for when it comes to [the concept of separating church and state] and evolution vs. creationism. They seem to be sacred cows, but they [the students] need both sides of the argument so they can come to their own conclusions. They can do that now.
I am disappointed that I didn’t get in [a change in reference] to Barack “Hussein” Obama. [Bradley had pushed to change references to the nation’s 44th president to include Obama’s middle name.
I was trying to introduce some levity into a long day, but I was surprised by the outrage of Democrats and their reaction to the proper name of their party leader. His mother should be proud of it – she gave that name to him. Absent that, I was going to ask for a birth certificate.