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T H E A U S T I N C H R O N I C L E
JULY 25, 2014
a u s t
i n c h r o n
i c
l e
. c om
NEWS
CAn A $7 BiLLion pEnALTy BE A good dEAL?
THE HIGHTOWER REPORT
b y j i m
h i g h t o w e r
Media outlets across the country trumpet-
ed the stunning news with headlines like
this: “Citigroup Punished.”
At last, went the storyline, the
Justice
Department
brought down the hammer on
one of the greedheaded Wall Street giants
that are guilty of massive mortgage frauds
which crashed our economy six years ago.
While millions of ordinary Americans lost
homes, jobs, and businesses – and still
haven’t recovered – the finagling bankers
were promptly bailed out by Washington and
continue to get multimillion-dollar bonuses.
So, hitting
Citigroup
with
$7 billion
in pen-
SBOE: No Scholars Need Apply
The
State Board of Education
, nation-
ally lampooned for continually dragging
the Lone Star State into the culture wars, is
at it again. According to a recent analysis
by education watchdog the
Texas Freedom
Network
, instead of degreed historians
and other academic scholars, SBOE mem-
bers nominated several unqualified panel-
ists to a social studies textbook review
committee. The committee recommends
books to the board, which then votes to
provide a small group of book options for
local school districts.
“This is just the latest
example of how a flawed
process opens the door to
ideologues who can have
enormous influence on
textbook adoptions and,
ultimately, what students
learn in our public
schools,”
said
TFN
President
Kathy Miller
in
a statement. “It’s espe-
cially stunning that so
few faculty members at
our state’s institutions of
higher education got
appointments to the
review panels.”
The dearth of scholars
and experts on review
committees is a time-
honored SBOE tradition – for instance, in
2013, the board stacked a biology textbook
review group with evolution deniers, intel-
ligent design proponents, and religious
activists. To rectify that persistent problem
– in theory – the board passed tighter rules
earlier this year, giving priority to experts
volunteering to serve on the textbook
review committees. However, considering
the few well-qualified scholars appointed to
the social studies panel, the SBOE is fol-
lowing its new rule mostly by omission.
While many on the social studies panel
are at least legitimate teachers or educators
(a promising sign), of more than 140 people
selected to the panels overseeing geogra-
phy, history, and economics, only three are
faculty members at Texas colleges or uni-
versities; a “shockingly” low figure, says
TFN. In fact, the group discovered the
SBOE failed to accept applications from
more than a dozen Texas academics, includ-
ing facultywho had applied from
UT-Austin
,
Huston-Tillotson University
, as well as the
chair of the history department at
Southern
Methodist University
.
“To bypass those of us who are are spe-
cialists in these fields and have devoted
our lives to education is really unfortu-
nate,”
Hina Azam
, assistant professor of
Middle Eastern studies
at UT-Austin, tells the
Chronicle
. Azam, who
holds a master’s degree
in religion and a doctor-
ate in Islamic studies
from Duke University, is
one of those academics
who hoped to contribute
her time to overseeing
the textbook adoption
process as a public ser-
vice, but said she never
received the green light.
“I’m not sure who they’re
going to for information
about the Muslim world,
culture, and religion but
it’s likely someone with
less education.”
District 10 board mem-
ber
Tom Maynard
, R-Georgetown, who
represents part of Travis County, says it’s
important to include both non-scholars
and academic experts: “In general, when
we take a look at [the panels] we try to
find a balance between folks that have
expertise in an area and classroom teach-
ers,” he said, “because you have to have
folks involved in how it plays out in
the classroom.”
That argument would be easier to swal-
low had the board not opted for “experts”
like
Mark Keough
, a GOP candidate for
House District 15 (The Woodlands), pastor,
and former car salesman. Appointed by
District 8 rep and board Chair
Barbara
Cargill
, R-The Woodlands, Keough told the
Montgomery County Tea Party he “doesn’t
believe the separation of church and state is
part of the Constitution,” as TFN notes.
(Keough echoes board member
David
Bradley
, who once offered $1,000 to anyone
who could find the separation of church and
state in the Constitution.)
“You have to wonder if Ms. Cargill identi-
fied the nomination as an in-kind donation
to his campaign since she’s giving him this
free platform to promote his own political
beliefs as he runs for office,” said TFN’s
Dan Quinn
.
For quality control, TFN is making sure
experts review the textbooks. Sponsoring
its own review panel independent of the
Texas Education Agency
, TFN hired
scholars from a variety of universities,
including UT, SMU, and the University of
Mary Washington; the TFN committee
plans to release their findings by
September. Early analysis indicates seri-
ous problems – publishers appear to have
struggled to write the textbooks to con-
form with the standards set by the SBOE
while also teaching factual history, says
Quinn. That’s because the curriculum
standard guidelines that publishers must
adhere to, drafted amid controversy by the
SBOE in 2009-10, are poorly constructed,
biased, and factually inaccurate.
The 11th-hour revisions to U.S. history
were so extreme, they drew censure from
conservative think tank the
Thomas B.
Fordham Institute
, which slapped the
board with a “D” grade and deemed the
standards “unteachable hodgepodge” and a
“politicized distortion of history.” Some
lowlights: a vindication of McCarthyism;
downplaying slavery’s role as a cause of the
Civil War; exaggerating biblical and reli-
gious influences on America’s founding;
the emphases on conservative leaders and
movements (like the “Moral Majority”); and
only a passing reference to segregation.
In hoping to sell their books to the huge
Texas public school market, publishers find
themselves stuck between an ideological rock
and a hard place. “That is the core problem
we face – we have highly politicized curricu-
lum standards in place for our public schools
and publishers have to meet those standards
when they write their textbooks,” said Quinn.
“So those political biases are almost certainly
going to be seen in the textbooks if publishers
want to get board [approval].”
The SBOE panel met in Austin earlier
this month to review the social studies
books, and the board will hold public hear-
ings on the textbooks in September and
November, with a final vote scheduled for
November. The books, to be adopted in the
fall of 2015, would be used in Texas class-
rooms for the next decade.
– Mary Tuma
alties for its role in the calamitous scandal is
a real blow for justice!
Well, sort of. Actually … not so much.
While 7 billion bucks is more than a slap on
the wrist, it pales in contrast to the egregious
nature of Citigroup’s crime and the extent of
the horrendous damage done by the bankers.
In fact, when it announced the settlement,
the Justice Department itself pointed out that
Citigroup’s fraudulent acts “shattered lives.”
For most of us, paying billions is impossi-
ble to imagine, much less do. But this is a
Wall Street colossus with
$76 billion
in reve-
nue last year alone. It rakes in enough profit
in six months to more than cover this “pun-
ishment.” Also, the bank will get to deduct
40% of the penalty from its income tax. Then
there’s this little number that the prosecutors
failed to mention when they announced the
settlement: Citigroup’s
taxpayer bailout
in
2008 was
$45 billion
– six times more than
it is now having to pay back!
Even by Wall Street standards, pulling a
600% profit
from grand larceny is a pretty
sweet deal. One clear indicator that this
“punishment” is way too light is that on the
same day it was announced, jubilant
Wall
Street
investors jacked up Citigroup’s stock
price by
3.6%
.
For more information on Jim Hightower’s work – and
to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter,
“The Hightower Lowdown” – visit
www.jimhightower.com.
You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio
91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.
Mark Keough, “academic expert,”
pastor, and former car salesman
Austin, tx