Just a few moments ago, at the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus hearings on the Texas State Board of Education, Dr. Michael Soto managed to shock a group of people who thought they'd heard it all when it comes to the SBOE's ridiculous overreach into Texas public education. Soto, a Trinity University professor and the Democratic candidate for SBOE district 3 (that's most of us in SA, and much of the Valley to the South), claims one of the TEKS social studies standards the SBOE is considering is plagiarized from a UCLA Graduate School of Education web site and wikipedia.com. Of course, this isn't just any boring old TEKS, this happens to be about American exceptionalism, a standard submitted by outgoing SBOE member and former chairman Don McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan and one of the most active ultra-conservatives on the Board. The concept as presented by McLeroy would be taught in U.S. History since 1877, offered during high school, and focuses mainly on American values compared to those of other nations (no comment in the standards as to what those other values may be) and how U.S. citizens abroad represent these values abroad (perhaps during a military campaign for other peoples' hearts and minds?). What initially caught Soto's eye was the assertion that these values are described by Alexis de Tocqueville, which didn't sound right to the English professor and self-proclaimed cultural historian (backed up by his extensive writings on American modernism). He claims to not have found three of the five values listed by McLeroy anywhere in Tocqueville's Democracy In America. His digging to find the sources attributing the values of "laissez-faire," "egalitarianism" and "populism" brought him to the obscure UCLA web page which also draws on American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword by Seymour Martin Lipset, leading him to notice word-for-word lifting from that website, and more embarrassingly, from wikipedia.com.
Specifically in the High School Social Studies TEKS draft, standard 22 reads:
(B) describe U.S. citizens as people from numerous places throughout the world who hold a common bond in standing for certain self-evident truths;
(C) discuss Alexis de Tocqueville's five values crucial to America's success as a constitutional republic: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire.
(ed. note: see wikipedia page between citations 17 and 18, see UCLA American Exceptionalism page, see item 2)
Granted, the entire standard is 69 words long, so we're not talking about a lawsuit. It's just, as Soto said, "shoddy scholarship," for which most Texas students would be swiftly punished.
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