Former Bush Education Secretary: Kids don't need 'somebody's political ideas'

Without actually doing any polling, it's probably safe to assume that far less than one in five dentists believe that the best way to teach children is to make sure school textbooks "tone down criticisms of the Red Scare and Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-communist hearings of the 1950s and portray programs like the United Nations General Assembly, funding for global humanitarian relief and global environmental initiatives as threats to individual freedom."

Dr. Don McLeroy, outgoing member of the Texas State Board of Education, told CNN's Kiran Chetry that he is "proud" of the changes made to textbooks.

I think we've really done a really good job. We've gotten so much input that we really have got strong standards.

I think one of the - one standard that I'm most proud of and one that I'm really glad to see is actually - and so actually (ph) compare and contrast the language of the first amendment, religious protections, the establishment and free exercise clause, with the phrase separation of church and state.

The second thing that I really am proud of our new standards is they've given emphasis on the founders, the founding documents on the principles on which America was great, and then that follows and led to what we would referred to in the new standard called American exceptionalism.

We have a standard that has the students evaluate the mottos of "In God We Trust", "E Pluribus Unum," "Out of Many, One". I believe we - our students deserve to know the original course on which this country was founded that led to such an exceptional country that we live in and they would be taught that. That's why I'm so excited and proud to put my name on the standards.

On the other side is someone from roughly the same ideological side, but at odds with the Texas school board.

Former Secretary of Education for President Bush, Rod Paige, told Chetry, "The core issue is political ideology filtering down in what we teach our children. And our children deserve an authentic expression of history, not somebody's political ideas."

While reporting on "10 of the conservative, reactionary, or just plain bizarre changes the board is likely to adopt," Newsweek's Barrett Sheridan recently noted, "Many of the proposed changes come from Don McLeroy, a creationist, former school board member, and dentist from Bryan, Texas. One of his gems: students must learn to 'evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.' To clarify, he's referring to the United Nations, not Goldman Sachs."

The rest of the top five of Sheridan's top ten:

2. You've got to give McLeroy credit for long-term thinking, though. He also expects students to be able to "discuss alternatives regarding long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, given the decreasing worker-to-retiree ratio." Presumably the favored alternatives will not include national health care or raising taxes.

Religion, of course, makes its way into the curriculum. McLeroy wants students to "contrast the Founders' intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term, 'Separation of Church and State.'" It's a veiled way of asserting that America is, indeed, a Christian nation.

Currently, Texan students are expected to learn about "the impact of muckrakers and reform leaders" such as Upton Sinclair and W.E.B. DuBois. McLeroy instead wants students to "contrast the tone" of such people "versus the optimism of immigrants including Jean Pierre Godet as told in Thomas Kinkade's The Spirit of America." Kinkade is the schlocky, sentimental painter popular in malls everywhere.

5. McLeroy also wants to clear the name of Joseph McCarthy. In sections of history books that deal with McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee, McLeroy wants to emphasize first and foremost "the extent and danger of Soviet agent infiltration of the U.S. government as revealed in Alger Hiss' guilt and confirmed later by the Venona Papers."

The AP recently noted:

Dentist Don McLeroy helped make the State Board of Education a lightning rod this year with his ideological approach to rewriting social studies standards for Texas schools.

McLeroy, the most outspoken member of the board's conservative wing, has pushed for standards that reflect conservative Christian values. Although he lost his bid for re-election in the March primary, he has refused to go quietly and still hopes to leave his stamp on the state's social studies curriculum with a series of amendments he'll offer this week.

On CNN, Chetry asked Paige, "Why do you believe, though, as you said, that this puts Texas students at a competitive disadvantage once they move on to higher education or a job market?"

"Right," Paige responded. "I wouldn't argue that there aren't some good things in the current standards. That's not the point at all. The point is, we've allowed our educational system to become captive to political thinking, both this particular current board and the one in 1999 that this board is responding to."

So it's the concept of we are letting politics take over our education. And it doesn't matter which spectrum and where that spectrum falls, to the right or left. We want - want it to be free as possible, our political ideologies, depending on who got elected to the state board at that particular time.

This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast May 24, 2010.

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