Textbook Reviewers Wanted

Volunteer to read textbooks

It won’t come as a surprise to those of you who have read my book Who’s Got Dibs on Your Kids? or have been followers of my blog, but our kids’ textbooks are in real trouble. Some concerned people have been taking steps to correct this.

In Florida they formed the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, with the stated focus to “Stop Federal Overreach and Restore Our Individual Rights, Guaranteed Under The Constitution.” They were serious. They encouraged all residents of Collier County to attend a school board meeting in June stating: “THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE. IT IS ABOUT OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE, following  FLORIDA LAWS and  adopting FACTUAL, UNBIASED  TEXTBOOKS that are not used to indoctrinate our children. We need a large turnout and your collective voice to adopt ONLY the highest quality textbooks!”

Their efforts were not in vain. They played a big part in getting the Florida legislature to pass SR 989, requiring school districts to allow “a resident of a county to challenge the use or adoption of instructional materials; revising the requirements relating to the district school board process for objecting to or appealing the use or adoption of instructional materials; requiring a school district to discontinue use of materials under certain circumstances; requiring sufficient procedural protections for a public hearing relating to a challenge to the adoption of instructional materials; requiring a school district to provide access to school library materials upon written request” along with other changes in the existing law.

Similar laws are being passed in other states and The Report Card is looking for volunteers to read and review these textbooks. The Report Card has formed a partnership with Truth in Textbooks (TNT) (formerly known as Truth in Texas Textbooks TTT) founded by Lt. Col. Roy White, USAF Ret.

TNT is made up of volunteers, and has had great success conducting the necessary research and lobbying influence at local and state levels in eliminating or correcting many falsehoods found in the US History, World History, U.S. Government, and Geography textbooks. Publishers of textbooks reviewed by TNT include Pearson, Worldview, McGraw Hill, Discovery Education, Houghton Mifflin, Perfection, and Cengage. You’ll find their report on Social Studies Textbooks, Summary of Proclamation 2015 interesting reading. It is a PDF colored chart that gives the publisher, %TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), their grade, and the criteria used for the evaluation. With only 50 volunteers in 2014, they identified more than 1500 errors in the proposed social studies textbooks. After studying the 469-page report and hearing testimony, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) eliminated or corrected more than 60% of the errors before the books were accepted for use in the classrooms. “As a result, over 5 million children have more accurate textbooks as a result of the work of Truth in Textbooks and their volunteers.”

Learn more about this program at The Report Card article “History, Social Studies Textbook Reviewers Wanted.” You can make a difference!

The First Amendment – Hide and Seek

I know I had it. Did I lose it?

“I know I put that somewhere. Where could it be?”

We’ve all probably said that more than once. We had something. It was important. But now it seems lost—forever? Most things we usually locate again. If you’re like my husband and me, the thing we’re searching for could be in a completely ridiculous place, like airplane glue in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Or right in front of our eyes, and we simply do not see it until someone says, “Is this what you’re looking for? It’s right here!”

It seems our First Amendment has done a disappearing act, too. Oh, everybody knows there is a First Amendment, and many know vaguely that it refers to freedom of speech and religion, but more and more that’s as far as knowledge goes. This is very apparent from what we’re seeing happen on our college campuses. Certain speakers cannot be invited to speak on campus, or their invitation is withdrawn after being accepted. The reason often given now is “a matter of public safety.” Students are rioting if someone with ideas they differ with dares to show up. They claim their riotous behavior is allowed under the First Amendment. Where did these young people learn the meaning of the First Amendment? From their parents? In middle school or high school? Or were they ever taught anything about it at all except what they picked up from the public rhetoric of people with an agenda?

People other than me were wondering about this, too. Brookings Institution published a survey of undergrads designed to find out how they viewed their rights under the First Amendment. You can read all about it here, but let me share a few of the results.

The term “odious” is rightfully used for what is designated as “hate speech,” but Americans can use that type of language to their hearts content, for it is protected speech under the First Amendment. However the study revealed that only 39% of those surveyed knew it was protected—44% said it wasn’t, and 16% simply didn’t know.

A question asked if an on-campus organization hosting an event is legally required to ensure that the event includes not only the speaker some consider offensive, but also a speaker who presents an opposing view—62% said “Yes” and 38% “No.” The First Amendment has no such requirement.

The majority of students (51%) also believed it was acceptable to shout and be disruptive when opposed to the ideas of a speaker, even to the point that the audience cannot hear the speaker. A FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) website article says that while a heckling shout is permissible, “Make no mistake: When a heckler thinks he or she has the right to forcibly prevent others from hearing a speaker and uses heckling as a blunt instrument to silence speech, heckling cannot be condoned as free expression.”

It gets worse. When asked if they agreed or disagreed that it is acceptable to use violence to prevent the speaker from speaking, 19% said that was acceptable behavior. John Villasenor, who conducted the survey, wrote:

These results are notable for several reasons. First, the fraction of students who view the use of violence as acceptable is extremely high. While percentages in the high teens and 20s are “low” relative to what they could be, it’s important to remember that this question is asking about the acceptability of committing violence in order to silence speech. Any number significantly above zero is concerning. (Emphasis added.)

Please, parents, if your kids are starting college, warn them about their rights under our Constitution. Don’t let them get misled and in trouble with the law because “everybody’s doing it.” If your kids are younger, teach them now to respect our Constitution, and honor the Bill of Rights. If you don’t, they may never learn about that in school.

And another suggestion: let them know that obscenity may not be protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has a lot to say about that. If more of the public, including high-profile entertainers and TV opinion shows, knew they could be prosecuted for foul language, maybe we wouldn’t have to listen to all the bleep-outs in the evening news.

Let me know if your kids are learning about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in school.

“I Feel Humbled”

Watching the news about Hurricane Harvey yesterday, I saw a reporter question a woman who had left her home, now flooded. He asked for her reactions to what had happened and what was still happening. She turned her somber face up to him and said with deep emotion, “I feel humbled.” No “why me” or “how will I survive.” Just, “I feel humbled.” And she added, as best as I can remember her words, “Anyone who doesn’t feel humbled . . . there’s something wrong.”

I don’t know that woman’s name, but I want to thank her. She has made me, sitting in my comfortable and dry home, feel humbled. May God continue to bless her.

Texas Hurricane Harvey and Floods

Rescue in Harvey Flood (Photographer unknown)

Anyone living in Texas right now is probably not spending time reading this blog. So this is for the rest of the country who will have questions from their kids. This amount of rain following a hurricane is called “unprecedented,” but is it the result of climate change? Your kids will probably be told in school that this should shut up the “climate change deniers.” Let’s look at it objectively.

Hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Harvey is a major disaster. But there have been many weather-caused disasters before this one. Why is this different? Houston has grown tremendously. It’s now called a “metroplex” rather than just a city. That means what used to be soil, is now streets, roads, parking lots, and buildings both residential and commercial. Much of the soil that previously acted like a sponge, helping to soak up the excess rain, is now impenetrable. And I read that  the water drainage, for some reason, is mostly in the direction of downtown Houston.

But, you still have this “unprecedented” rainfall. Did you know that in December, 1935, Houston’s downtown was flooded, and at Buffalo Bayou in Houston the water level measured 54.4 feet at its peak? Of course, that might have been a bit easier to deal with because you didn’t have a metroplex population of just under seven million. Another way to compare 1935 with 2017 is that the level in the same location is, at least at this time, 38 feet, which is 16 feet less than it reached in 1935. Although the rain doesn’t seem to be over yet, and the level reached this year will undoubtedly rise, give thanks for small favors.

Downtown Houston: Flood of 1935

But there is so much rain this time. Again, “unprecedented.” It must be because of global warming. Maybe not. In 1979 Tropical Storm Claudette  dumped 43” of rain on Houston in only 24 hours. In this case, Harvey has a high pressure area that is keeping it from moving on and weakening. Climate change doesn’t cause a storm to get stuck in place, high pressure above it does.

But this was a hurricane, not a tropical storm! Keep in mind that there have been only four hurricanes hitting the United States that were Category 4 or stronger since 1970,  (47 years) but in the 47 years preceding 1970 there were fourteen of them! Don’t forget that it has been 12 years, a long time—an “unprecedented” long time—without a hurricane that was Category 3 or stronger. Meteorologically speaking, we were probably due for one.

A CNN news anchor asked Bill Read, a former director of the National Hurricane Center, if he thought Harvey was as bad as it is because of global warming. You can read his full answer here, but basically he said, “No.”

Tell your kids about this so if their teachers try to lay the Harvey disaster on climate change, they can say they have some additional information to contribute. But tell them to do that as we read in Colossians 3:12:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Malice Toward None . . . Charity For All

What are we teaching our children? Would that the words of Abraham Lincoln in his 1863 2nd Inaugural Address guide us today:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. Abraham Lincoln, 1863 Inaugural Address.