Confused Texas Education Board bans kids' author from curriculum
What do the authors of the children's book 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?' and a 2008 book called 'Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation' have in common?
Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks.
In its haste to sort out the state's social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children's author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system."
Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.
Bill Martin Jr.'s name would have been included on a list with author Laura Ingalls Wilder and artist Carmen Lomas Garza as examples of individuals who would be studied for their cultural contributions.
Hardy said she was trusting the research of another board member, Terri Leo, R-Spring, when she made her motion and comments about Martin's writing. Leo had sent her an e-mail alerting her to Bill Martin Jr.'s listing on the Borders .com Web site as the author of Ethical Marxism. Leo's note also said she hadn't read the book.
"She said that that was what he wrote, and I said: ' ... It's a good enough reason for me to get rid of someone,' " said Hardy, who has complained vehemently about the volume of names being added to the curriculum standards.
In an e-mail exchange, Leo said she planned to make a motion to replace Bill Martin and sent Hardy a list of possible alternatives. Hardy said she thought she was doing what Leo wanted when she made the motion.
Leo, however, said she wasn't asking Hardy to make any motions. She said she didn't do any "research."
"Since I didn't check it out, I wasn't about to make the motion," Leo said, adding that she never meant for her "FYI" e-mail to Hardy to be spoken about in a public forum.
Hardy said that her interest was in paring down that list and she didn't mean to offend anyone.
For some, however, the mix-up is an indicator of a larger problem with the way the elected board members have approached the update of state curriculum standards.
Board members will take up social studies standards again in March. They plan a final vote on updates in May.
Hardy's motion is "a new low in terms of the group that's supposed to represent education having such faulty research and making such a false leap without substantiating what they're doing," said Michael Sampson, Martin's co-author on 30 children's books.
The social studies standards update, which started last spring when groups of educators met to suggest revisions, has brought criticism from the right and the left about politicizing the process. As trustees worked their way through a draft this month, political ideas like imperialism, communism and free enterprise were at the heart of some of the changes.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram