A longtime State Board of Education member accused her colleagues of "whitewashing" curriculum standards Thursday and walked out of the panel's meeting in frustration amid heated debates about race and the inclusion of Hispanics in lesson plans.
The board had rejected an effort to include the names of two Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients and one black recipient in lessons for a world history class, but agreed to revisit the amendment for an American history class. It also approved an amendment that deletes a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."
"I mean we've already been whitewashing all of social studies up to this point and now we're doing it in sociology?" Democratic board member Mary Helen Berlanga said after Republican Barbara Cargill's amendment was proposed. "You've got to leave some integrity in this."
The amendment was adopted on a 10-5 party line vote.
Decisions by the board -- long led by social conservatives who have advocated ideas such as teaching more about the weaknesses of evolutionary theory -- affects textbook content nationwide because Texas is one of publishers' biggest clients.
Berlanga, who has served on the board since 1982, walked out of the meeting after reviewing upcoming amendments involving the inclusion of Hispanic names in the standards.
"I've had it, this is it," she said. "I'm leaving. We can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don't exist."
Debate on the social studies standards has been marked by ideological squabbles over religion and reflection of political viewpoints. Several people have asked the board during previous meetings to include more examples of prominent Hispanics.
Berlanga said race relations in the U.S. have progressed, but Hispanics "are still going through discrimination if we can't even put two names as recipients of the Medal of Honor."
But Republican board members argued that pinpointing three war heroes out of the thousands that have been honored "diminishes the accomplishment of other recipients."
"I would rather give teachers the academic freedom to possibly pull a winner from that school, that those children can relate to and emulate," said Terri Leo of Spring.
Republican Geraldine Miller, who was defeated in last week's primary election, took offense to claims of discrimination.
"You talk about discrimination, there are a lot of stories and it hurts," Miller said. "But we keep going and we learn tolerance. And the tolerance, in my opinion, in all of this discussion, is you don't leave anybody out ... we either list them all or put an asterisk."
Conservative members scored a string of victories in a burst of activity on the second day of a three-day meeting.
A party-line vote defeated an amendment by Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas that would have required students to study the reasons "the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others."
The board agreed to strengthen nods to Christianity by adding references to "laws of nature and nature's God" to a section in U.S. history that requires students to explain major political ideas.
They also agreed to strike the word "democratic" in references to the form of U.S. government, opting instead to call it a "constitutional republic."
The board added a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class and agreed to require economics students to "analyze the decline of the U.S. dollar including abandonment of the gold standard."
An approved amendment introduced by former board chairman Don McLeroy, one of the board's most prominent social conservatives, deleted a reference to hip-hop as an example of a significant cultural movement; McLeroy said hip-hop music is nihilistic and replaced it with country music.