Tag Archives: Texas State Board of Education

They call it ‘cursive writing’; I’ll call it ‘penmanship’ … it’s back!

They’re bringing penmanship back to public school curricula, to which I say: woo hoo!

The Texas State Board of Education voted in 2017 to bring back what they call “cursive writing.” Beginning with the new school year that begins on Aug. 15, all schools will be teaching it to students.

While working on a story for KETR-FM radio, I was touring a brand new school in Princeton with the principal, Jeff Coburn, who confirmed what I knew already, that cursive writing was staging a comeback in Texas public school classrooms.

I am delighted to see this trend. A Houston Chronicle story referred to cursive writing as a “lost art” that is being rediscovered. The advent of computers, tablets, I-pads, smart phones, gadgets, gizmos and various electronic doo-hickeys have helped bury the lost art. Many of us thought it would be lost forever.

It’s not.

I used to get good elementary grade marks for my penmanship. My parents both wrote with exquisite precision. My two sisters have managed to maintain their handwriting skills. Me? I lost ’em long ago when I took up the craft of journalism, a vocation that required me to take copious notes at a furious pace. These days I can barely sign my name without stopping and thinking — if only for an instant — about the next letter I need to form.

But … I digress.

Youngsters have been educated without learning that particular skill.

Fox News reported: Diane Schallert, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, compared learning cursive to learning a new language. Schallert, who studies how language and learning coincide, told WCNC that requiring students to learn cursive can help children grow their comprehension skills.

“With language comprehension, there’s this reciprocity between producing and comprehending,” Schallert said. “By seeing the letter being formed slowly at your control, you’re considering its sound-symbol correspondence.”

That’s a pretty clinical explanation. I am just thrilled that we are about to resurrect one of the “3 Rs” that had been all but abandoned in our public school classrooms.

I wonder if they’ll let this old man sit in so I can re-learn the lost skill for myself.

SBOE inches toward a coming to its senses

It’s difficult for me to refer to the Texas State Board of Education as a 15-member gang of nincompoops. The SBOE, though, is showing troubling signs of seriously dunce-like behavior.

It had decided to remove two pioneer women from public school curricula: Helen Keller, a disability rights advocate and (get a load of this!) Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nation’s first female ever nominated for president by a major political party.

Then the board thought better of it. It restored Keller to the state’s third-grade history curriculum.

Clinton’s restoration isn’t yet final; the SBOE will decide the issue on Friday. I do hope the SBOE makes the right call.

For the ever-lovin’ life of me I don’t understand what the SBOE — an elected board of partisan politicians who set academic curriculum standards for the state’s public schools — is thinking.

It’s the decision to remove Clinton from study in our public classrooms that baffles me in the extreme. She is a contemporary figure who’s still active in the nation’s political discourse.

It looks as though the SBOE is going to restore the former first lady, former U.S. senator, former secretary of state and former 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee to our public school textbooks.

As the Texas Tribune reports: In response to a motion by board member Erika Beltran, D-Fort Worth, to reinsert Clinton into the standards, fellow board member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, referenced “tons of public comment” that he’d received before Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t agree, obviously, with her politics,” Rowley said. “I just think she qualifies as significant.”

Do ya think?

Someone’s politics shouldn’t matter one damn bit when determining one’s significance to state or national history. I’m sure Rowley knows that. And, yeah, she “qualifies as significant.”

Indeed, Clinton and Keller both are hugely significant historical figures. So help me, I don’t understand why the SBOE considered dropping them in the first place.

It now appears the SBOE has come to its senses. I also want to offer a good word to Marty Rowley for responding to the “tons of public comment” that stood up for Hillary Clinton’s role as a historic American public figure.

Evolution, creationism? Why not both?


Polls occasionally drive me a bit crazy.

Take the one discussed in a Slate.com article that says young Americans favor Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution over the belief that God created the world in six calendar days.

May we hit the pause button for a moment?

I am a Christian. I’ve read the Bible many times in my life. I know what the Bible says about how the world came to be.

I also believe that the world was populated by dinosaurs and other creatures for zillions of years before human beings made themselves known.

Thus, I believe that the two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Is it possible that God created the world and allowed it to evolve into what it has become? I believe that is precisely what occurred.

The Slate article was written by Rachel E. Gross, who it is clear to me believes exclusively in Darwin’s theory. She writes: “Now, at long last, there seems to be hope: National polls show that creationism is beginning to falter, and Americans are finally starting to move in favor of evolution. After decades of legal battles, resistance to science education, and a deeply rooted cultural divide, evolution may be poised to win out once and for all.”

She adds: “The people responsible for this shift are the young. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 73 percent of American adults younger than 30 expressed some sort of belief in evolution, a jump from 61 percent in 2009, the first year in which the question was asked. The number who believed in purely secular evolution (that is, not directed by any divine power) jumped from 40 percent to a majority of 51 percent. In other words, if you ask a younger American how humans arose, you’re likely to get an answer that has nothing to do with God.”

Read the whole story here

I get the divide over how to teach science in classrooms. Fundamentalists want to teach creationism as it is written in the Bible. They also want to present evolution as just as much of a theory as creationism. This issue has been kicked around at the highest level of public education governance in many states, none more so arguably than in Texas, where we elect State Board of Education members who run for the office as politicians.

Creationism, though, is a religious doctrine. Evolution is a secular one. That doesn’t mean — to my way of thinking — that one of them is invalid.

What it means to me is that the biblical version of creation was written as a metaphor. “Days” can’t be measured in 24-hour increments; for that matter, it might be possible that every element of time takes on meanings that we cannot comprehend.

Does any of this discount the role that God played in creating our world? Not in the least.

As for whether we should teach creationism in our public schools alongside evolution, well, I do not believe that’s appropriate.

Creationism should be taught in places of worship, which I also believe also is part of God’s plan.

Politics invades textbook selection

Do you want to know what happens when politicians are given the authority to select textbooks for public school students?

You get texts that are meant to appease voters, not necessarily provide a balanced approach to studying certain subject matter.

It’s happening yet again in Texas, which is served by 15 elected politicians who sit on the State Board of Education.


The latest kerfuffle involves climate change. A science textbook is drawing fire from those who contend it sells short what scientists are saying about Earth’s changing climate, that human beings are the culprit.

The National Center for Science Education is critical of a sixth-grade textbook that says this in its introduction to a section on global warming: “Scientists agree that Earth’s climate is changing. They do not agree on what is causing the change.”

Politico reports further: “The text goes on to present students with excerpts from two articles on climate change, one written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the other by the Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy group. ‘This misleads students as to good sources of information, pitting an ideologically driven advocacy group … against a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientific body,’ the NCSE reviewers write.”

Texas is full of climate-change deniers. Politicians at the highest level of government have gone on the record essentially denying that Earth’s climate is changing.

Of course, the State Board of Education has developed a national reputation for politicizing almost every academic discipline under the sun. It’s the “social conservatives” vs. the shrinking “moderate” wing of the SBOE. The conservatives keep winning these battles. My favorite fight has been the one that involves whether to teach evolution in public schools. The social conservatives keep arguing that the biblical theory of creation deserves equal treatment alongside the notion that Earth evolved over billions of years.

I won’t engage in that debate here, except to reiterate that biblical teachings belong in church, not in public schools.

As for the climate change debate, Texas public school students need to be taught scientific fact, not dragged into the middle of a political argument.