Media Touted Distorted Claims Texas Conservatives Removed Slavery from School Curriculum, Behar Compared to Holocaust Deniers

As the Texas State Board of Education worked to complete its once-every-ten-year revision of the curriculum for the state’s schools in May, much of the mainstream media promoted complaints and distortions from the left – many originating with the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network – about the nature of the changes in the guidelines and how they would effect textbooks that might end up in other states. One of the more incendiary distortions was that the conservative-leaning Texas Board of Education was trying to downplay or ignore the existence of slavery in America’s history as some on the left claimed that the term "slave trade" was being renamed "Atlantic triangular trade" thus removing the word "slave" or "slavery" from the curriculum. Joy Behar of ABC’s The View and of HLN’s Joy Behar Show went the furthest in slamming the board of education as she charged on the May 17 The View that "It's called revisionism. People do it about the Holocaust, and now Texas wants to do it about our country." She soon mockingly declared: "You know what, next they'll be burning books. Next step, burn books."

NBC’s Rehema Ellis mentioned the issue on the NBC Nightly News on two consecutive nights, on the May 22 show charging, "And the expression 'slave trade' would be changed to the 'Atlantic triangular trade.' Some critics see that as a move to deny slavery," while ABC’s Dan Harris on the May 21 World News asserted, "Here are some of the things the conservatives tried and failed to do: Have the President called by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, which some called an attempt to raise questions about his faith, and even rename the 'slave trade' as the 'Atlantic triangular trade.'"

But CNN’s T.J. Holmes deserves credit because he actually took the time to inform viewers of the wording in question, first as he, on the May 22 CNN Saturday Morning, hosted a debate between NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute, with the CNN anchor revealing that the new wording still used the word "slavery" as he posed a question to the NAACP president. Holmes: "I want to make sure, because I read this thing as well and I did see 'Atlantic triangular trade' in there, but then in the next, almost couple of words I saw the word 'slavery' ... Now, what is the issue with that that you call it a 'triangular trade' and then you're still talking about slavery and you used the word ' slavery'? What's the issue?"

The next day, on CNN Sunday Morning, Holmes read out the text more directly: "One of them that got a lot of talk was, quote, 'explain reasons for the development of the plantation system, the Atlantic triangular trade, and the spread of slavery.' That, of course, got a lot of attention because they changed the name from the slave trades to the Atlantic triangular trade. Another one says – this is from the high school curriculum – says, 'explain the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on West Africa and the Americas.'"

The original text had read: "explain reasons for the development of the plantation system, the growth of the slave trade, and the spread of slavery," which was changed to: "explain reasons for the development of the plantation system, the Atlantic triangular trade, and the spread of slavery."

Therefore, the original text had contained two direct references to slavery right next to each other, while the revised version added the term "Atlantic triangular trade" by removing one of the redundant references to slavery. Thus, the term "Atlantic triangular trade" was not meant to be a synonym for the "slave trade," but rather a distinct term that was being added.

Returning to ABC’s The View, on the Monday, May 17 show, Behar misinformed viewers with sarcasm: "Remember that thing called the 'slave trade'? Remember that? Okay, it turns out, what you learned was all wrong. Because it wasn't some evil buying and selling of human beings. It was simply called 'Atlantic triangular trade.' That's what they want to call it now. It's called revisionism. People do it about the Holocaust, and now Texas wants to do it about our country." Whoopi Goldberg declared, "I’m sorry. Slavery was slavery. You can’t recall it." Instead of reading out the actual wording from the curriculum plan, panel members seemed only to refer to third-party accounts of the proposed changes.

On the Monday, May 24, Joy Behar Show on HLN, host Behar again mocked the Texas Board of Education: "And they`re changing the name of 'slave trade' to 'Atlantic triangular trade.' Remember Gone with the Wind? Turns out all those black people weren`t slaves. They were triangles. Who knew? You know, I was a teacher. If I knew I could make up stuff like that I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. I could have taught my students that George Washington didn`t cross the Delaware into New Jersey for freedom, but because he wanted to go clubbing with Snooki. They say history is written by the winners. What they don`t tell you is that it`s rewritten by the Texas board of ed."

On the Friday, May 21, The Ed Show, MSNBC host Ed Schultz charged: "They also overcame a push to leave the word ‘slave’ when it was referring to 'slave trade.' Children in Texas, basically, folks, will be getting a right-wing slant when it comes to education."

He soon interviewed David Chard of Southern Methodist University and voiced agreement when his guest compared the Texas Board of Education to the white minority in South Africa when it was trying to oppress the black majority:

DAVID CHARD, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: It reminds me a little bit of what happened in South Africa when there was domination by a small white majority – minority, excuse me – and what they ended up doing was changing history textbooks and standards there to try to convince the entire population that, in fact, the history there was that whites had arrived first and, I mean, really tried to revisit-

ED SCHULTZ: Yeah.

CHARD: -history, change history.

SCHULTZ: It's unbelievable.

On the Friday, May 21, Hardball on MSNBC, during a one-sided discussion involving Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News and the NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous, host Chris Matthews passed on the misinformation: "I heard that they, they got rid of the word ‘slave trade,’ that phrase, which we all grew up with and learned about it, and replaced it by that sort of commercial term, the ‘triangle trade,’ which, of course, had to do with molasses, and, you know, the slave trade. You know, we were taught how it was done, that sort of three-way trade that went on between, among Europe, Africa, West Africa, and the States. Why would they get the word slave out of there? I mean, that`s a big part of our history, to understand that."

On the Thursday, May 20, American Morning on CNN, anchor Jim Acosta contended: "They're talking about changing references, the slave trade that went on, in some of these textbooks, changing the reference to the slave trade to the trans-Atlantic trade, the issue of whether Thomas Jefferson's role is being minimized in some of these textbooks," although the Monday, May 24, American Morning show included a segment in which Texas Board of Education member Dr. Don McLeroy got to argue his case with former Education Secretary Rod Paige arguing the more liberal side.

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of various shows that discussed the issue over the addition of the "Atlantic triangular trade" term, with critical portions in bold:

#From the Monday, May 17, The View on ABC:

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Well, here’s an interesting story. We’ll see what you think about this. The Texas board of education is under fire for wanting to rewrite school textbooks. Critics say the proposed changes are historically inaccurate and dismissive of contributions of minorities. Now, do you have the list there because there is some, yeah. Why don’t you read some of this? Because I find it interesting.

JOY BEHAR: Well, this one thing is basically the, Thomas Jefferson, they’re saying he was an insignificant, God-hating heathen who made sure that church and state remain separate. They’re changing him into, you know, some kind of anti-religious person and they want to put him aside, you know, basically make him nothing. Then, this one I love. Remember that thing called the "slave trade." Remember that? Okay. It turns out, what you learned was all wrong. Because it wasn’t some evil buying and selling of human beings. It was simply called "Atlantic Triangular Trade." (GOLDBERG LAUGHS) That’s what they want to call it now.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK: The danger, too, is here you can’t-

BEHAR: It’s called revisionism. People do it about the Holocaust, and now Texas wants to do it about our country.

HASSELBECK: People do this about their lives, you know, they try to rewrite things and clean it up. I don’t think you can clean up history. I think it’s a responsibility, though, and this is, again, you know, we talk about Arizona, right, being a reaction to something bigger, greater not being done by the government. I think, in terms of history, there was a feeling, and the reason, this is rooted in the fact that there has been some sort of liberal slant on teaching history in schools.

GOLDBERG: I’m sorry. Slavery was slavery. You can’t recall it.

HASSELBECK: So what happens is people come in and then try to rewrite it, you know, to fight back instead of keeping the kids in mind. I think if you’re educating someone, the idea is keep – open their minds and not indoctrinate them in either way.

BEHAR: I don’t know how you could say it’s a liberal slant-

GOLDBERG: Here’s another suggestion that the anti-communist witch hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s had been justified.

BEHAR: A lot of people’s lives were ruined with that.

HASSELBECK: It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous, I mean-

GOLDBERG: It’s kind of the, and the thing about this is that the Texas textbooks – is it a just a challenge to talk for me today – the Texas textbooks give us a lot of what’s going into other textbooks in the rest of the country, so we have to be really diligent. And, you know, just because you don’t like how stuff went, you’re not allowed to rewrite it, you know, you don’t, I mean, we would love to all rewrite it.

HASSELBECK: Wouldn’t that be nice?

GOLDBERG: Yeah.

BEHAR: I have a question. You say that the textbooks are written by liberals or something, but if that were true-

HASSELBECK: No, I didn’t say they were written by liberals.

BEHAR: What did you say?

HASSELBECK: I said there was a feeling that, like, I’ve talked to a lot of people on the college level who feel like they couldn’t in this past election, for example, challenge a professor based on politics, teachers wearing a political button during an election season in a classroom. They felt as though outside of the textbooks there was an indoctrination going on, okay, there was a-

BEHAR: I think in college it’s acceptable because young people are supposed to think for themselves, so whether the professor is a right-winger or a left-winger I don’t think is relevant here. ... If it’s so liberal, then why did you need black studies to come up, you know, people who are non-white people had to fight to get themselves into history books. So how could it be written in a liberal fashion?

HASSELBECK: I’m not saying that. I’m saying, either way, either way, to try to go in with an arm with one slant and try to rewrite with one kind of brush over another is still, it’s making everything completely irrelevant and false.

GOLDBERG: We made demands that the American history reflect the Americans who were part of history. What this says is students amend standards, they should "amend standards to cast muckrakers and reformers such as Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, and W.E.B. DuBois as figures espousing negative views of America." Are you people out of your mind? Are you out, you know what, it’s enough with y’all. (TEARS UP CARD, AUDIENCE APPLAUDS)

BEHAR: You know what, next they’ll be burning books. Next step, burn books.

HASSELBECK: That’s not education. It’s not education.

GOLDBERG: It’s insane, you know, that a lot of folks got written out of American history, man. People don’t want to fight about America. We don’t want to talk badly about America. But unless America recognizes the things that we did wrong, then we’re not America. America is a country that can stand up and say, "You know what, we [did] this and that wasn’t right, so we’re not going to do it again." Why would you want to take that away? (STICKS OUT TONGUE AND BLOWS RASPBERRY)

(AUDIENCE APPLAUSE)

BEHAR: They only want to say what Obama did wrong.

#From the Monday, May 24, Joy Behar Show on HLN:

JOY BEHAR: Last week the Texas State board of education led by Christian conservatives voted to rewrite history books to reflect their personal views. For example, they`re going to delete Ralph Nader and Stonewall Jackson, one of the heroes of the Confederacy. And they`re changing the name of slave trade to Atlantic triangular trade. Remember gone with the wind? Turns out all those black people weren`t slaves. They were triangles. Who knew? You know, I was a teacher. If I knew I could make up stuff like that I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. I could have taught my students that George Washington didn`t cross the Delaware into New Jersey for freedom, but because he wanted to go clubbing with Snooki. They say history is written by the winners. What they don`t tell you is that it`s rewritten by the Texas board of ed. ... How would you like it if the New York City board of education changed history and said that Thomas Jefferson was a communist? How would you like that?

#From the Friday, May 21, World News on ABC:

DIANE SAWYER: And good evening. Breaking news out of Austin, Texas tonight, and one of the most closely watched stories by teachers, parents and politicians across the nation. The Texas State Board of Education today made a decision that will make history. By rewriting the books on it for nearly five million Texas school children. But Texas is such a force in the purchase of textbooks, where Texas goes, the nation usually follows. Here's Dan Harris on the big controversy and the big vote tonight.

DAN HARRIS: The Texas State Board of Education opened its meeting this morning with a prayer describing America like this:

 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: -a Christian land, governed by Christian principles-

HARRIS: And then the members went on to pass a new social studies curriculum with a controversy that goes well beyond religion. For example, the new standards require that textbooks mention pillars of the conservative movement, like the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association, and the Contract with America-

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: God Bless America.

HARRIS: -with no liberal counter balance. And they insist that the words of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, be considered alongside those of Abraham Lincoln. What do you say to people who say that you are, in essence, imposing your political and religious views on school children?

DON MCLEROY, TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: We're a political body. We have to make decisions.

HARRIS: One of the leaders in all this is longtime board member Don McLeroy, a suburban dentist and a self-described Christian fundamentalist. If the Founding Fathers really wanted this to be a Christian nation, why is there no mention of Christianity or Jesus in the Constitution?

MCLEROY: They wanted it to be a secular state. However, we can still refer to it as a Christian nation and the fact that the principles on which our country was built are biblical principles.

HARRIS: Here are some of the things the conservatives tried and failed to do: Have the President called by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, which some called an attempt to raise questions about his faith, and even rename the slave trade as the Atlantic Triangular Trade.

SAWYER: So, Dan, now that the decision's been made, how many years will these rules govern textbooks?

HARRIS: For a long time, for a decade. And here’s an interesting twist: Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservatives on the board, he was recently voted out of office. But he gets to keep his office until the end of the year, so his work is going to have a lasting impact.

SAWYER: For this year that he got to vote. Thank you, Dan Harris.

#From the Friday, May 21, NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: In Texas tonight, public education and politics at a crossroads. The state’s board of education has voted to change what school children learn about American history. We get a late report tonight from our education correspondent, Rehema Ellis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE TEACHER: -the Voting Rights Act of 1964-

REHEMA ELLIS: In Texas public schools, this curriculum is headed for a major rewrite. For weeks there have been rallies and heated discussions about how history, geography and social studies should be taught.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I feel that I have let down the students in our state.

ELLIS: Every 10 years, the powerful state board of education votes on a new curriculum. And this time the strong conservative block is pushing to correct what it sees as a liberal bias.

DON MCLEROY, TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: I'm pleased to actually to move it to balance. We have not swung it to the right, we swung it to the middle.

ELLIS: But critics say the board is whitewashing history.

ROD PAIGE, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: We may not be completely proud of all the things that took place in our history, but history is history.

ELLIS: Here are some of the proposed changes. Textbooks must now include mention of the conservative resurgence of the 80s and 90s, the National Rifle Association, the Moral Majority, and include the idea that our Founding Fathers may not have intended a separation of church and state. Even some vocabulary would change. The word "imperialism" would be replaced with "expansionism" in describing America’s land acquisitions. And the expression "slave trade" would be changed to the "Atlantic Triangular Trade." Some critics see that as a move to deny slavery.

BENJAMIN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: This is a radical group that wants your kids to learn what they want to tell them, and not what actually happened. And that should be of concern to all of us regardless of party.

ELLIS: The school board sets the standards for the nearly five million Texas public school children. But traditionally the board's influence has extended far beyond the state because their books are often sold nationwide at an attractive price.

FRITZ FISCHER, NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR HISTORY EDUCATION: The real danger is that these standards will stand regardless of how many textbooks include these standards and will stand as a very potentially dangerous precedent for other states and other school districts to follow.

ELLIS: This evening, the Texas State Board of Education approved the new curriculum. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.

#From the Saturday, May 22, NBC Nightly News :

LESTER HOLT: We're back now with the latest chapter in the culture wars: high school textbooks. You may have seen our report last night that the Texas School Board passed controversial new textbook guidelines. So will the Texas book changes be coming to classrooms across America? Here's NBC's Rehema Ellis.

REHEMA ELLIS: It was an old-fashioned Texas showdown. Liberal board members objected to what they called a whitewashing of history.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We don't want to read these. My gosh. They deal with Hispanics, Hispanic issues, the Alamo, civil rights, you know, just our participation, where we’ve worked together. Oh, no, these are not acceptable.

ELLIS: The Texas state Board of Education's powerful conservative bloc pushed through controversial textbook rewrites which they insist were long overdue.

CYNTHIA DUNBAR, TEXAS BOARD OF EDUCATION: I feel very relieved that we were able to go through that much amount of work and to come up with a very positive majority vote in favor of adopting the document.

ELLIS: Among the changes, textbooks must now include mention of the conservative resurgence of the '80s and '90s, the National Rifle Association, the moral majority, and include the idea that the Founding Fathers may not have intended a separation of church and state. Even some vocabulary has been changed. References to the slave trade would be changed to the "Atlantic triangular trade." Because nearly five million textbooks are purchased by the Texas School Board, for years publishers could offer the same books at a discount nationwide. But today some question whether the controversial textbooks will ever cross state lines. Why? With advances in digital publishing, textbooks now can be tailored for individual states and school districts--such as California, the state with the largest student population. And politicians there have already introduced legislation to block the Texas rewrites from ever reaching a California classroom. Today some educators called the curriculum changes a disservice to children.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We should have common standards on what social studies is, and then allow teachers to do their jobs as opposed to having education so politicized.

ELLIS: But some conservatives applaud what Texas has done.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They're trying to tilt this back to the center from a heavy leftward, liberal bias that is endemic in most history books in this nation.

ELLIS: No matter what happens nationwide, the social studies standards that just passed in Texas will be in place for 10 years, until the school board votes again on curriculum for the Lone Star State. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.

#From the Thursday, May 20, American Morning on CNN:

JIM ACOSTA, INTERVIEWING EDUCATION SECRETARY ARNE DUNCAN: And Secretary Duncan, you know, I want to talk to you about the situation down in Texas, because, as you know, school officials down there are very close to some pretty controversial changes to their curriculum, to the textbooks. And I'm sure you're well aware of some of these changes. They’ve been in the news in your bailiwick for some time now. They’re talking about changing references, the slave trade that went on, in some of these textbooks, changing the reference to the slave trade to the trans-Atlantic trade, the issue of whether Thomas Jefferson's role is being minimized in some of these textbooks. There are some that are arguing that that is going on. What do you make of some of those changes? And what are you doing about it?

#From the Saturday, May 22, CNN Saturday Morning:

BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Let's tell the truth as it was, not as we want to remember it to be.

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Curriculum in our country is always going to be decided at the local level, but what I will say is whatever Texas decides I do not think there will be large ripple effects around the country. People concerned about that, I'm actually much less concerned. Textbook companies today have a real ability to customize textbooks and whatever the Texas board decides, I don't think that's going to impact education in other parts of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE BEHIND PODIUM: The far right faction of the state board has demonstrated their willing in to undermine the quality of our children's education and drag our classrooms into the culture war.

T.J. HOLMES: Welcome back, everybody. Here on this CNN Saturday Morning like we do every Saturday, we take this 9:00 Eastern half hour and we focus in on one topic that's affecting you. We dig deeper into an issue, and today we are talking about the new way the Texas board of education wants students to learn some topics, some subjects, including social studies, political ideology, history and education have collided there, and some say this is all in the name of balance. Some say it's in the name of a conservative slant. You might think you don't live in Texas, your kids don't go to school in Texas. So why should you care about it? Well, Texas has about five million students, about 55 million actually attend schools in this country. But publishers, because Texas is such a large buyer of books, actually the second largest buyer of books in the country, because of that, publishers often tailor their textbooks for Texas, because the state is such a big consumer and then sometimes those books end up in other places, other states. But some argue that point as well. We're going to get into that in a little bit. So Texas, taught in Texas, doesn't always stay in Texas. It's also taught in many other states. So there is a plan now to tweak history and social studies textbooks sparking this national debate you've seen play out. The board actually voted yesterday. We're going to hear from the president of the NAACP and also a supporter of these curriculum changes in just a moment. But first, let's get the update from News 8 Austin's Karina Kling. She has the update on the story.

KARINA KLING, NEWS 8 AUSTIN REPORTER: Yes, T.J., the state board of education voted 9-5 to adopt new social studies and history standards for Texas schoolchildren in all grade levels. It's been a process full of battles over political ideologies and a board split by political parties, but Friday the social conservative majority came out on top. A few smiles from state board of education members early Friday morning as a show choir from the Fort Worth area serenaded them before the anticipated final battle over a final vote on social studies standards began. It didn't take long for that tone to turn around and emotions to run high.

PAT HARDY, SCHOOL BOARD OF EDUCATION: I love kids, and I think when we start doing things that make life more difficult for children (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I think that's where we are.

KLING: After more than an hour debating whether to include Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in high school world history standards dealing with influential philosophers, board members kept Jefferson but not Madison.

RICK AGOSTO, SCHOOL BOARD OF EDUCATION: This is embarrassing. This is totally embarrassing.

KLING: Criticisms over last-minute amendments and nit-picking word changes throughout the curriculum reached late afternoon Friday as the outnumbered Democratic contingent once again called for a delay to let the appointed experts – not the board – make the final decision on a document they say is a completely new piece of work.

AGOSTO: This thing, in the trash.

MARY HELEN BERLANGA, SCHOOL BOARD OF EDUCATION: These books, oh, we don't want to read these. My gosh. They deal with Hispanics, Hispanics issues-

KLING: The debate surrounding religious freedom surfaced yet again as some Democrats tried to add the wording barring the government from favoring one religion over another, in reference to separation of church and state. It failed. And one by one -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to finish. We're done today.

KLING: The seven social conservatives and one other shot down any vote to delay. And shortly thereafter, an exhausted and divided board made their own history in voting to approve what will be in Texas kids' history books for the next 10 years. New economic standards were also approved Friday, but with a unanimous vote over two days of board debate, more than 200 new amendments were offered up by board members. Those who wanted to delay say they will try and take up this issue again in January when a new board is in place. Back to you, T.J..

HOLMES: All right. And the Education secretary Arne Duncan has weighed in on this as well, and we read a statement we're getting from Arne Duncan. It says, "setting curriculum is a local issue and we should keep politics out of it. Curricula should be written by educators who know the subject matter, know the standards and know what it takes to prepare our children for college and careers in the global economy. We do a disservice to children when we shield them from the truth just because some people think it is painful or doesn't fit with their particular views." Again, that coming to us from the Education secretary. I want to bring in two sides of this debate. I want to bring in Ben Jealous, who is the head of, the present CEO of the NAACP. Good morning to you. And also from Austin, Texas-

BEN JEALOUS, CEO, NAACP: Good morning to you, T.J.

HOLMES: Jonathan Signs is a director of legislative affairs for the Liberty Institute, which is in support of these, some of these changes, at least. Gentleman, thank you both for being here. This is an important discussion to have and that a lot of people are concerned about. There’s been some misinformation out there as well. So let’s please try to clear some things up. Let me start with you, you, Ben. Just tell me, there were so many things that were talked about leading up to the vote yesterday, but as you have examined what actually was voted on and approved, tell me specifically what you have a problem with that the board did yesterday?

JEALOUS: Sure. This group wants the Tea Party to teach our kids, you know, they want to defend Joe McCarthy, as if that is up for debate. They want to say, you know, have kids think about whether the U.N. is a threat to human freedom. There's a slant that the U.N. is a threat to human freedom. They want to lift up Phyllis Schlafly as if she's one of the great heroes, on a very shortlist of heroes in our country. That's the concern here. You know, they want to take the word "slavery" out of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and so there's this weird kind of slant where they lift up people who hate, and they take some of the hardest parts of our history out. They don't want kids to know why Texas joined the South to fight in the Civil War. So, I mean, it's-

HOLMES: Let me get Jonathan in here. Now, Jonathan, I know you're going to take issue with several of those things. And again, this is law and I encourage, and we need a way to post this for everybody to read, but there's so much in these amendments to read, but I will let you take up and just go ahead and respond initially to what Ben just said, but then also a couple of particular points I want to hit at as well. But you go ahead, Jon.

JONATHAN SAENZ, LIBERTY INSTITUTE: Sure, thank you for having me on. You know, this is interesting because we see this a lot and a lot of other issues. You heard the Education Secretary weigh in, who I'm sure probably hasn't read our standards. A lot of people that haven't read the standards. A lot of people haven't read what was approved yesterday. That's unfortunate and that's how misinformation is spread. And the reality is, you know, we have strong standards that parents, teachers, experts and professors from across the state are supporting. And, you know, talk about balance, what's not talked about is yesterday they've been absolutely involved in this from every step of the way.

JEALOUS: You threw out everything that-

HOLMES: Hold on one second, Ben. Hold on one second, Ben. Jonathan, you finish up, and Ben, I'll let you get back in there. Jonathan, finish up.

SAENZ: Earlier this week Wallace Jefferson, the first African-American chief justice of the Texas Supreme court was added. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic female justice of the United States Supreme Court was put into our standards. And there's some misinformation about the slave trade that Mr. Jealous brought up. That issue was dealt with yesterday and the day before. It seems there was some confusion on how it was worded. And so the board voted unanimously to have it listed as a Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

HOLMES: Now, Ben, Ben, you tell me what you were taking issue with there.

JEALOUS: Sure. Right up until yesterday they had sought to rename the slave trade, the Trans-Atlantic triangular trade and take the people out of it, and take slavery out of it. That's part of why we flew down, so I'm glad to hear that last night they moved on that point. This process -

SAENZ: That's incorrect-

HOLMES: Now on that point, you know what, let me get in here, I want to make sure, because I read this thing as well and I did see Atlantic triangular trade in there, but then in the next, almost couple of words I saw the word "slavery" and there are other points where you-

JEALOUS: Right, it says "and slavery."

HOLMES: And slavery, but go ahead. Now, what is the issue with that that you call it a triangular trade and then you're still talking about slavery and you used the word "slavery." What's the issue?

JEALOUS: It's a euphemism. It’s a euphemism. The reality is that slaves were central to that trade. There's a reason why it's called the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And you take them out, you call it the triangular trade and all of a sudden people are put on the same level as rum and sugarcane and everything else. There's a reason why you call it the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

HOLMES: Now Jonathan, is that a point there? Jonathan, is that at least a point? Why even change that name? I think we all came up calling this the slave trade. So why was it important, even though you got "slavery" in the curriculum, the word, why make that type of a change?

SAENZ: Sure. And that's the point I'm making. I think there was some confusion on the part of some of the board makers, and that's why there's an opportunity on Thursday to talk about that, and that's when they talked about this issue. Everyone got on the same page, voted unanimously, the process worked. And so that was before-

JEALOUS: No, it didn't work.

SAENZ: -the standards were final. Yes, it did work. All the people were onboard. And listen, I want to address this, because-

JEALOUS: The process was flawed and you know it. You threw out the whole process. You threw out the whole process. Hundreds of teachers were supposed to weigh in on the agreed upon facts, and you threw them all out. You brought in a right-wing think tank to rewrite the books. That’s the problem, and you know that.

HOLMES: All right, Jonathan, on that point, though, I will let you answer, but on that point, some argue that none of the people on the board who were doing the actual voting are educators. They got these recommendations from committees full of educators-

SAENZ: That's false.

JEALOUS: They threw out the educators.

SAENZ: That's false.

HOLMES: That’s false? Okay, you go ahead, Jonathan.

SAENZ: Mr. Jealous, if you would allow me, please, okay. There are numerous members of the state board of education that have years and years of teaching experience. One of the members, Pat Hardy, has over 30 years of social studies teaching. Barbara Cargill is a former teacher. Terry Leo has teaching experience.

JEALOUS: But that’s not the point.

SAENZ: So let me make the point. Let me make the point.

JEALOUS: You threw out hundreds of teachers' recommendations.

HOLMES: Let him finish. Go ahead, Jonathan. Go ahead, Jonathan.

SAENZ: And let me also say this, Mr. Jealous came to the last meeting. This issue has been going on for years-

JEALOUS: (INAUDIBLE) you threw out their advice, that's why I came down because this got completely out of hand.

HOLMES: Go ahead.

SAENZ: I'm going to make my point here, okay, because this is misinformation. All right. For 18 months teachers, professors, educators from across the state had been going to public-

JEALOUS: And they threw it out.

SAENZ: -hearings, have been visiting personally-

JEALOUS: And they threw it out.

SAENZ: No, they didn't, they adopted many of those changes like-

HOLMES: So tell us about the world of the right-wing think tank.

SAENZ: And let me remind you what teachers did-

HOLMES: Jonathan, hold that point. Jonathan, no, hold that point, Jonathan. I'm going to let you have it. I need to take a quick break. Guys, I want to continue this conversation because it's important. Both of you have points, and we need to hear them both. If you will just hold on one second, I've got to get a break in. We're coming right back. Stay with us.

HOLMES: And we want to continue our conversation. Again, this half hour we are focusing on what we saw happen in Texas. The state board changing some of the curriculum for students there and their textbooks. A lot of people fear this could have impacts across the rest of the country. Others saying that's not the case. Some saying this is taking too much of a conservative lean in education, others saying it's just about balance. I want to rejoin NAACP president Ben Jealous who’s joining us and also Jonathan Saenz, director of legislative affairs for Liberty Institute. Gentlemen, this is a very important and passionate debate on so many sides, and I appreciate you all sticking around and continuing to talk about it. Jonathan, I told you I was going to let you finish up on the point that you were making. So you go right ahead. And Ben, I promise I'll let you get back in there.

SAENZ: Well, what's interesting is there are some people that want to give the misinformation and the impression that teachers and professors and so on aren't supporting this, and many of them are. Teachers and professors from across the state have been talking with us. They've been talking with state board of education members. And let me tell you what our state historian, Jesus De la Teja who is a history professor, at one of our fine state universities talked about. And he was one of the hand-picked six experts that got to work on this. He told me and other members of the committee that minorities, that women and religion are covered fairly in these standards. And so, you know, people say, talk to the experts. There's one expert right there that talked about that. And so, and here's what happened during these hearings. You know, the 1957 Civil Rights Act was brought up for a vote to put in the standards and the Democrats opposed it. And so, you know, it ended up passing. It's in there. And so, you know, I think that there's some people that have an effort, an agenda, to make this seem like there's something going on that's not. And part of that is because there's 10 Republicans on the board and there's five democrats. They have a political agenda and they wanted to delay this vote until after our next elections so they could have an impact on the political nature of our board and then write the standards that way.

HOLMES: We're beyond that now. So the vote has taken place. Ben, I'll let you respond, but is there some point to be made there-

JEALOUS: This is not about Republicans and Democrats. The Republican secretary of education flew in from Houston to oppose things. This is about a proc, this is not about whether you got some teachers to agree with you. And it's funny that you talk about yourself as if you're equal to the school board members. That's the whole point. You have a spokesperson here from a far-right, right-wing think tank who's talking about how happy they are and how essential they were to the process, and, yes, there are some teachers who agree with you, but the hundreds of teachers who were impaneled to come up with the agreed upon facts, you threw out the facts and you took the stuff from the think tank. The way that we teach our kids in this country is we take people from the left and the right. People like me and Rod Paige. You know, the historian equivalent and they get together and say what do we agree on? What are the agreed upon facts and then we teach those to our kids. We don't teach our kids to defend Joe McCarthy. We know that's wrong. We don't teach our kids that, you know, Susan, you know, not that much about Susan B. Anthony, a whole lot about Phyllis Schlafly? You know, look, this is-

HOLMES: Is there a point, Ben, let me ask, and I’m going to wrap this up here in a second, but a point also that so many people are concerned that because Texas buys so many textbooks that these could end up in other places around the country but-

SAENZ: 40 percent of all states.

HOLMES: But at the same time, some are saying that the ripple effects including Arne Duncan saying those ripple effects aren't really going to be met. We have technological advances in printing. So they can really specify what's in several different districts, different districts in one state actually can have different books. Is this really going to have the ripple effect that some say it is?

JEALOUS: The answer is yes and yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: You know what, Jonathan. I'm sorry. Jonathan, you go ahead and finish and Ben, I'll let you wrap it up. Jonathan, go ahead.

JEALOUS: -the technology has changed.

SAENZ: Now, Mr. Jealous, you had your opportunity, okay, so let me ... some of the things you said here. You attacked our group but then you put yourself on the same level as Rod Paige. You're not an education expert either. As a matter of fact-

JEALOUS: No, I said he and I agree that your district, he and I agree, as different as we are- (INAUDIBLE)

HOLMES: Go ahead, Jonathan.

SAENZ: Mr. Jealous, your group, the NAACP is mentioned specifically in our standards. You're in our standards.

JEALOUS: That's not why I as there. I'm there for the truth.

HOLMES: Let him finish, Ben. Ben, let him finish, Ben. Let him finish, Ben.

SAENZ: So not only is the NAACP in the standards, but so is Oprah Winfrey. So are many other minorities that have been added. Hillary Clinton is in there. You’ve got Barbara Jordan, a black congressional-

JEALOUS: This is about the quality of education.

SAENZ: No, it's about letting people know what's actually in the standards, and that's what you don't want to do.

JEALOUS: It's about quality of education.

SAENZ: And that's interesting about this.

JEALOUS: You guys violated your own process.

HOLMES: Guys, guys, guys, gentlemen, gentlemen, gentlemen.

SAENZ: But some of the other standards that were talked about was accurately talking about the separation of the church and state and giving students a chance to read the actual words of the Constitution and hearing from constitutional law experts about how that should be written and so that's what's in the standards now. It's accurate historical information, and it's people like Mr. Jealous that want to just get into this issue and make it political.

JEALOUS: No, sir, and I’m not-

HOLMES: You know, gentlemen, gentlemen, we wanted to hear from both sides of this. But I think a lot of people will come walking away from this thinking that there's no way our education should be politicized in such a way. We have Democrats and Republicans on a school board and everything went along a party line vote. Quite frankly, there's something just wrong, a lot of people would say, about that. There should be up to educators and professionals.

JEALOUS: I agree.

HOLMES: And I think both of you all would agree, but I think at the end of this conversation, I think what we need to tell everybody is go to the web site and read those standards for yourself. Everybody out there, we recommend doing that. I'll try to get that up on Twitter and Facebook here shortly. A link to it. But that's going to be so important, because this thing has been spun, quite frankly, out of control, and just about everybody is a little guilty in this thing. Gentlemen, I appreciate you both being here. Jonathan Saenz and also Ben Jealous, good to have you as well. I wish I could keep you both for the whole half hour, and we went over a little bit because we wanted to talk about this some more. But gentlemen, thank you so much and we will see you next time.

#From the May 23 CNN Sunday Morning:

T.J. HOLMES: Well, good morning, everybody. And welcome to this CNN Sunday Morning. Glad you could be with us. I'm T.J. Holmes. ... Also, the Texas textbook controversy continues. We told you about it yesterday. The vote was on Friday. The changes have now been approved. School leaders approved changes to the school textbooks that critics say eventually rewrite history. Well, today, we're taking a closer look at some of those changes. We're going to let you see the exact text of what's in some of those changes and let you decide and also respond this morning.

...

I want to get back this morning to the story we've been talking about the past several days, weeks, even months, Texas, the textbook controversy that's taking place there. Well, now, another state is getting involved. You remember, a lot of folks thought because Texas buys so many textbooks, a lot of companies manufacture what Texas wants and then they just fan them out and sell them to other states. Well, California wants to make sure that doesn't happen to them. A new bill has been introduced in the senate – the state senate in California – to try to prevent any Texas standards from making their way into the classrooms in California. We're going to talk more about that in just a moment. But I want to tell you now about the Texas state board of education. They're accused of imposing their own political beliefs into history. Now, let's take a look at some of these controversial changes. And what I did was pull some of the text from these very changes that you've been hearing about, hearing people talk about in the media, but I'm reading them directly to you and let you decide for yourself. One of them that got a lot of talk was, quote, "explain reasons for the development of the plantation system, the Atlantic triangular trade, and the spread of slavery." That, of course, got a lot of attention because they changed the name from the slave trades to the Atlantic triangular trade.

Another one says – this is from the high school curriculum – says, "explain the impact of the Atlantic slave trade on West Africa and the Americas."

Another one got a lot of attention because of Joseph McCarthy and it says directly, "describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the arms race, the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration into the U.S." That got attention because those papers that it mentioned were later shown to prove that there was some communist infiltration into the country. Many people took that to think that Joseph McCarthy was then being vindicated. Another one we can show you that got a lot of attention, quote, "explain how Arab rejection of Israel has led to ongoing conflict."

And one more I'll share with you says, quote, "describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association."

Now, all those changes I just shared with you were, in fact, approved earlier this year. And then some debate, not all of that stuff got in there in the final vote, but all of that stuff was originally at least earlier in the year approved for a vote. Yesterday, I spoke with two prominent voices in this debate about one of the most contentious changes and that was about slavery.

[SHOWS CLIP FROM PREVIOUS DAY WITH BENJAMIN JEALOUS AND JONATHAN SAENZ]

#From the Friday, May 21, The Ed Show, on MSNBC:

ED SCHULTZ: The overwhelmingly conservative Board of Education in Texas has just voted moments ago on a new social studies curriculum, and it sounds something right out of the Tea Party talking points. Separation of church and state is called into question. Joe McCarthy`s communist witch hunts are shown in a more positive light. Confederate leader Jefferson Davis is put on par with former President Abraham Lincoln.

Meanwhile, Martin Luther King`s letter from a Birmingham jail was removed from the reading lists. One board member wanted to use President Obama`s full name, "Barack Hussein Obama," even though other Presidents’ middle names were not used. The Democrats defeated that portion of the proposal. They also overcame a push to leave the word "slave" when it was referring to slave trade. Children in Texas, basically, folks, will be getting a right-wing slant when it comes to education.

[INTERVIEWS DAVID CHARD OF SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY]

DAVID CHARD, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY: It reminds me a little bit of what happened in South Africa when there was domination by a small white majority – minority, excuse me – and what they ended up doing was changing history textbooks and standards there to try to convince the entire population that, in fact, the history there was that whites had arrived first and, I mean, really tried to revisit-

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

CHARD: -history, change history.

SCHULTZ: It’s unbelievable. Dean Chard, thank you for your time tonight, I appreciate, it, thanks so much.

#From the Friday, May 21, Hardball on MSNBC:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: What was that true, I heard that they, they got rid of the word slave trade, that phrase, which we all grew up with and learned about it, and replaced it by that sort of commercial term, the triangle trade, which, of course, had to do with molasses, and, you know, the slave trade.

BENJAMIN JEALOUS, NAACP: Right.

MATTHEWS: You know, we were taught how it was done, that sort of three-way trade that went on between, among Europe, Africa, West Africa, and the States. Why would they get the word slave out of there? I mean, that`s a big part of our history, to understand that.

JEALOUS: You know, when you see it, when you kind of add it all up, you know, and they want to change the name to the Triangle Trade. So, all of a sudden, like, you know, rum and cash and sugar cane are part of the same plain as people, you know. When they don`t want to teach you that slavery was a cause for the Civil War, then what you end up with is just sort of a much prettier bucolic view of history, that`s also dead wrong. They also want to defend Joe McCarthy. These people really can`t tell the difference between fact and just opinion. They think every fact has a counter-fact, like every opinion has a counter-opinion. No, it`s just a fact. It was the slave trade. It`s just a fact that Joe McCarthy was wrong. There`s no counter-opinion to that, no counter-fact.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about that issue because a lot of us grew up in the aftermath of that, in the late `50s. Wayne, are they saying Joe McCarthy, who, I mean, he was drunk most of the time, were they saying that he was right about something? I thought he never actually caught a real-live Communist. I`m not saying there weren`t some buried in the bowels of some bureaucracy. Certainly Alger Hiss was one, Elizabeth Bentley, a few others. But certainly he got the proportions out of whack, and he was going after dentists and military people in the Army, and the secretary of the Army, and he had these guys working for him and their crazy relationships and their draft deferments and everything, special assignments. It got completely crazy. Are they saying in these textbooks that Joe McCarthy had it right, that he was a straight shooter?

SLATER: In effect, that is what they`re saying. The specific provision regarding McCarthyism talks about students understanding and learning about the infiltration of Communists in the government during the Cold War. So, it really is an effort to redeem McCarthy, who has been much maligned in the eyes of many social conservatives.

JEALOUS: Simply because he was wrong. I mean, he was just wrong. We need to teach our kids that he was wrong, you know. That`s a fact and that`s the part that drives you crazy, you know? There was the guy who`s leading the fight on the school board is a dentist. There was a big sign down there that said "Pull Teeth, Not Facts," and, you know, that`s, you know

MATTHEWS: Okay, gentlemen, thanks for being on. I hope we keep this straight. The left has been guilty of some of this in the past, too, of using history to turn it into a preaching operation, a recruitment of a point of view. I think history ought to be pretty square, and it ought to have the bad and the good.

JEALOUS: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: One thing great about American history is we, at our best, will teach the facts, and that we are getting to be a better country than we were, and to deny that is to deny the better part of this country. We do try to get better. Slavery was back there and it was an original sin. Anyway, thank you, Wayne Slater. Thank you, Ben Jealous. And, by the way, McCarthy, when he had that list of names, he didn`t know anything. He was drunk. He didn`t know any of those names. Nixon got one guy right, Alger Hiss. The rest of the McCarthy stuff was nonsense and drunken foolery.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters