Opinion

Commentary: Hey Texas Board of Education, don't mess with Susan B. Anthony

Leave Susan B. Anthony alone.

In his latest effort to rid Texas schoolrooms of any lessons that don't promote religious conservatism, the former chairman of the State Board of Education has picked on the wrong woman.

Ninety years after women finally won the right to vote in America — and 104 years after Anthony's death — exiting board member Don McLeroy is arguing that Anthony's progressive-era-reformer "tone" needs to be "balanced" against other more optimistic and less critical voices of her time.

Gosh.

I guess nobody back then should have been complaining about America.

When Anthony grew up, slaves were private property and women had no right to vote, assemble or speak freely.

Yet McLeroy, a Bryan dentist and a Gov. Rick Perry appointee as chairman who also thinks the world is only 6,000 years old, has included Anthony with other critical "muckrakers and reform leaders" who should be studied only in contrast with contemporaries who worshipped the status quo and glorified what was then a very limited American dream.

In a long list of suggested changes for Texas social studies lessons -- many going before the board for a vote this week in Austin -- McLeroy also wants to uphold the honor of Commie-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, add lessons about the "threats of global government" and have students discuss whether the Founders really meant what Thomas Jefferson wrote about a "wall of separation" between religion and government.

Fine. That's all part of the religious brand of right-wing political correctness that dominates Texas these days, where Perry appears as a special guest on Glenn Beck shows and politicians race to pass immigration laws that would make Texas more like Arizona or Oklahoma.

And before this goes any further -- no, the board didn't take Thomas Jefferson out of lessons. Members only took him out of world history.

The Jefferson I'm worried about is Davis.

The board decreed that Texas students would study the Confederate States president in balance as an equal to Abraham Lincoln.

And now, Anthony was negative and needs balance?

"Susan B. Anthony was very devoted to America and very optimistic about the American lifestyle," said Sally Winn, director of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum opening this month in Adams, Mass.

"It's not negative to hold a view just because it might be contrary to society."

Conservatives are warming to Anthony these days. Some historians now describe her as being anti-abortion and a "lifelong Republican voter" back when that meant support for abolishing slavery.

"She was not about being popular," Winn said.

"She was about doing what's right."

Our state school board could use that lesson.

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