Texas’ education system is beyond help

Derek Poludniak

After last Tuesday’s primary results, the Texas education system is heading straight for disaster. In the State Board of Education’s very conservative ninth district, two Republican candidates are going to a runoff with the victor guaranteed to win in November. In the running are Keven Ellis, a chiropractor, and Mary Lou Bruner, a retired schoolteacher.

Bruner, who lists 36 years of teaching experience and a masters degree in special education as  qualifications for the job, seems like the ideal candidate on paper. That could not be further from the truth.

Bruner first demonstrated her ineptitude when she appeared before the state board in 2010 to complain about the Middle-Eastern influence on textbooks. Since then, she has turned to Facebook to share her views. In one post, she strongly correlates the emergence of certain teachings with the emergence of widespread school shootings. In another, she claimed outright that Obama was a gay prostitute and used earnings from that to pay for drugs.

Her unfounded and shocking personal beliefs aside, Bruner’s take on history is questionable at best. In her infamous Facebook posts, she argues that the Democratic party was behind the JFK assassination. She continues to enlighten us with a science lesson stating that it was not the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs but the great flood combined with a lack of reproductive dinosaurs on the ark.

Putting Bruner on the State Board of Education would have severe repercussions. The board sets the guidelines for state-wide curriculum and chooses the textbooks for distribution. Giving them that power alone has already led to serious consequences. A 2013 effort to remove “liberal bias” in social studies classrooms replaced it with an obvious shift towards conservatism. Textbooksnow refer to slaves as workers and say McCarthyism worked even though historians disagree.

But the board doesn’t want to hear from historians. They rejected the creation of a panel of academic experts to review textbooks, instead selecting a plan that would let average citizens check the books for standards, not accuracy. Their solitary benefit was to hold textbook publishers more accountable. Despite that, it does not make up for the rest of their poor decisions. Texas students are still receiving an unsatisfactory education that ranks 43rd out of 50 states for achievement.

Electing Mary Lou Bruner to the State Board of Education will only enhance their ability to make the wrong decisions for schools, harming teachers and students alike. By giving Bruner an influential soapbox, Texas will have rightfully earned a last place achievement ranking for education.

Poludniak is an international relations and global studies freshman from Austin. Follow him on Twitter @DerekPoludniak.