Friday, October 16, 2009
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – State Board of Education members have stopped short of embracing most of the controversial recommendations of their appointed social studies experts, but three key members want more coverage of religion in U.S. government and history classes.
As teams crafting new social studies standards in Texas schools met in Austin on Thursday to work on their final drafts, they were presented with suggestions from the board, which will adopt the standards early next year.
Just three of the 15 board members submitted recommendations, including Chairwoman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, and former Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station. The other member was Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands. All three are part of the social conservative bloc on the board that typically votes together on major issues.
McLeroy called on the writing team for U.S. government to add a new standard "that describes the Judeo-Christian Bible influence on the founding documents" of the nation.
Cargill and Lowe want coverage in U.S. history of the Great Awakening, a period of heightened religious activity in the American colonies in the mid-1700s. Social conservatives say that period should be credited for unifying the colonies and helping them decide to seek independence from Great Britain.
Cargill and Lowe referred to the earlier recommendation of one of their appointed experts, evangelical minister Peter Marshall, who wrote, "The leveling effect of the Gospel preaching ... created a revulsion against the superior attitudes of British aristocracy and a revolt against British tyranny."
Marshall, who is not a school curriculum expert, is president of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, a group that proclaims to be "dedicated to helping restore America to its Bible-based foundations."
Still, the three board members did not endorse some of the more divisive recommendations of Marshall and another adviser appointed by social conservative members, WallBuilders President David Barton. WallBuilders, based in Aledo, is a group that has challenged the legal separation of church and state.
Both men had initially questioned the inclusion of civil rights activist César Chávez in the history standards, saying he was a poor role model for schoolchildren.
Marshall also said that students in government classes should focus on the historic Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion rights, which he said had more impact on American life than any other court decision.
Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, said students should be required to study "republican" U.S. values and processes rather than "democratic" values.
The social studies requirements will remain in place for the next decade.