Policy Brief

Children's Author Snared in Mix-Up

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In their rush to make sure that the author of a book on Marxism didn’t make it into the state’s new lineup of social studies standards, members of the Texas board of education ended up targeting a similarly named children’s author, Bill Martin Jr., who wrote the iconic read-aloud favorite Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

It seems the board meant to keep Bill Martin, a DePaul University philosophy professor and the author of Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation, out of the new social studies curriculum.

But Bill Martin Jr., the children’s author who died in 2004, was slated to be listed in the state’s 3rd grade social studies curriculum standards along with writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder as major contributors to American culture.

Because of a mix-up that one board member blamed on information from another, the board wound up barring the inclusion of both, at least for now.

For some, the mix-up is an indication of a larger problem with the way the elected board members have approached the update of state curriculum standards, also known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

Board members will take up social studies standards again in March. They plan to take a final vote on updates in May.

The banning motion is “a new low in terms of the group that’s supposed to represent education having such faulty research and making such a false leap without substantiating what they’re doing,” said Michael Sampson, Mr. Martin’s co-author on 30 children’s books and a professor of early childhood education at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg.

The philosophy professor whose book was on the list, meanwhile, expressed surprise in an e-mail that “the Texas state board of education would even be aware” of his books.

"But I imagine this trustee applied the same level of care in her inquiry on this question as she brings to the idea that young people cannot be exposed to criticisms of the capitalist system," he wrote. "So, a fine example for our youth."

Vol. 29, Issue 20, Page 17

Published in Print: February 3, 2010, as Children's Author Snared in Mix-Up
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