Bible Belt Texans crusade against Obama education policy

By Muriel Kane
Thursday, April 1, 2010 13:03 EDT
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Recent attempts by the Texas State Board of Education to rewrite standards for the teaching of American history to suggest this country was founded on Biblical principles have drawn widespread criticism. The board member most responsible for promoting the new standards, Don McLeroy, is not even universally esteemed in Texas, having lost to a moderate in last month’s Republican primary.

But among the Tea Partiers of the small town of Madisonville, Texas, McLeroy is something of a hero, especially when he assures them that Texas has no intention of accepting President Obama’s proposed educational reforms.

According to the Washington Post, McLeroy was in Madisonville recently to tell a Tea Party gathering that “there would be no bid for Obama’s Race to the Top grant program, no endorsement of new math and English standards that Obama backs. And the state school board, under McLeroy’s prodding, would continue its push to adopt social studies standards that set Texas apart from other states.”

“Officials in other states, including Virginia and Alaska, have expressed concern about elements of Obama’s ambitious education policy,” the Post explains. “But here in this Bible Belt town of 4,200, where Washington is seen not as the solution to problems but their cause, Texans are pushing back. Hard.”

Obama’s educational initiatives would actually reduce some federal mandates but would also put pressure on states to adopt common academic standards. And that may be the real problem, even for local educators who are far from being Tea Partiers themselves.

Madisonville’s school superintendent, for example, doesn’t much like rigid federal standards, but he isn’t any happier with the degree of state control put into place in the 1990′s by then-Governor George W. Bush.

“The Tea Party people, they seem angry and disenfranchised. You see that in educators, too,” Superintendent Keith Smith told the Post. “It’s somewhat insulting as an educator to have someone write your curriculum for you.”

The Madisonville school district has already rejected a state-approved reading curriculum in favor of one it believes is more appropriate for its students, half of whom are minorities and two-thirds of whom are economically disadvantaged. And with just one high school serving a few hundred students and no private or charter schools, Obama’s attempts to introduce more competition among both schools and teachers strikes Smith as wildly out of keeping with Madisonville’s educational needs.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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