Williamson County Religious Liberty & Protection Resolution by Beth Burgos

Tonight is the school board work session. On deck for discussion are spot rezoning, board ethics and social media use, which was added after the agenda went out. Social studies and world religion are also on the agenda tonight. Keep in mind the following: There is zero evidence that WCS seventh graders are being indoctrinated – i.e. pushed to believe and adhere – to Islam. ZERO. We have not heard of a single parent with a WCS seventh grade student who has said there was any religious indoctrination. Given that the basic standards have been in place since 2000, tens of thousands of WCS kids have been taught under the current curriculum standards. This whole issue of alleged Muslim indoctrination is being driven by political activists. It appears that this is about politics, NOT kids. Organizations are even fundraising off it! We think our school board should keep its focus on actual issues in our schools. To think that WCS’s (mostly Christian) teachers are knowingly or unknowingly indoctrinating their (primarily Christian) students into Islam strikes us as both laughable and offensive. You may have seen elsewhere a draft resolution that Beth Burgos is proposing for board discussion tonight. Burgos’ resolution proposes both local changes and state changes: textbooks and terrorists, verifying “theological truthfulness,” changing history standards to reflect “Tennessee values,” and excluding an understanding of world religions from tests. We urge you to read the proposed resolution for yourself. We will wait and take a closer look at the specifics of the resolution based on what the board members say tonight. We want to emphasize that this is Beth Burgos’ proposal. If you communicate...

Textbooks, Part 3: Check out the “experts”

A couple handfuls of textbook activists have successfully changed state law to make sure that non-educators have a greater say on textbooks at both the local and state level.  Several WCS board members are quite connected to these activists. Both Candy Emerson and Beth Burgos said they ran because of the textbook issue. Now, some school board members are indicating they want to be ON the local review committee and also approve the work of the committee. At least one board member has indicated she wants to be able to determine specifically who isn’t on the committee. Several also seem to be looking for an official role for the textbook activists. The board will talk more about this at the 11/17 School Board Meeting when they plan to vote on how the local review committees will be formed. So who are these leading textbook activists (who will likely be called “experts who just want the truth”)? Laurie Cardoza-Moore: Ms. Moore has her own organization called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations. She was featured on a Daily Show segment about the anti-Muslim activists who fought against the Murfreesboro mosque. (See here.) Note that the mosque has existed peacefully in Murfreesboro for thirty years. LCM: “Islam is a political system of global domination… 30%, based on the numbers that were done, are terrorists…..We know we have a huge terrorist network here in Tennessee. The Nashville Islamic Center appears to be the mothership.”   Host (joking): “You know about the mothership?”   LCM: “Everybody knows about the Mothership.”   Host: (joking, again) “How do you know so much?”   LCM: “Internet. All you have to do, I mean,...

Textbooks, Part 2: Socialism, Islam, and Pornography

“…an insidious action was at work to brainwash our children to be anti-free market, anti-capitalism, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro socialism, pro Islam, pro big government, anti-innovation, anti-fossil fuels, pro renewable energy.” – 912 Project TN president, J. Lee Douglas, 10/8/13 It would be great if textbook development and selection were a process divorced from politics, a place where serious educators could wrestle with complex questions: which facts are most relevant? How do we present information in an unbiased way? What are the best tools to teach the facts and help students engage in critical thinking? Sorry, folks. That’s not the way it works. While textbook activism is nothing new, some of the particulars have morphed over the past few years. The same issues that have been raised in Tennessee are the subject of fights elsewhere too: how pro-capitalism are the textbooks? How do they present creationism/evolution? What kind of health information do they include? How is Christianity portrayed and, increasingly, how is Islam portrayed? From Texas… In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education (including extreme right wing activists and non-educators) heavily revised the standards and guidelines created by professional educators. The board changed a standard to downplay the role of slavery in the Civil War, added a new standard which includes far-right conservative icons, and added a new standard that suggests that separation of church and state is not a key principle of the Constitution. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute called the standards a “politicized distortion of history” which include “misrepresentations at every turn.” “Volunteer scholars” mobilized by a group called Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT) recently conducted...

Textbooks, Part 1: Nuts and Bolts

Wake up and smell the textbooks, ladies and gentlemen! Do you think about textbooks every day and twice a day on Sundays? No? We don’t either. We assume some of them are better than others, but we tend to leave the intense textbook focus to professional educators. But there are some activists here in Williamson County who are very, very, very interested in textbooks. They think some textbooks are dangerous tools of indoctrination. (See Textbooks, Part 2: Islam, Socialism, and Pornography) But first, nuts and bolts: Why are we talking about textbooks and how to choose them now?  The school board will consider a new policy on textbook selection at its work session on Thursday, 11/13. The state law governing textbook selection was changed this year, and the new rules go into effect for 2015. Back up. How does textbook selection work? Under state law, the Tennessee Textbook Commission selects a range of options for textbooks in each particular subject. Different subjects are reviewed each year. Local school boards then pick their selections from among those approved by the state commission. Okay. So what’s new and different?  In 2013, the state legislature (spurred on by Williamson County’s own textbook activists, among others) changed the way state and local textbook adoption works. At the state level, the new state law (TCA 49-235-47) added “bias” as a criterion for selection. The law also added three layperson slots to the TN Textbook Commission itself. The new state law also changed the requirements for local textbook review and selection. In particular, it changed the guidelines for who is eligible to serve on the...