Local State Board of Education candidate Rebecca Bell-Metereau. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
San Marcos resident and Texas State professor Rebecca Bell-Metereau said the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is missing the point about education, so she’s running for a seat on the board.
Rebecca Bell-Metereau is running as a Democrat for the District 5 seat in the SBOE, which includes Hays, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Comal, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Kendall, Llano Counties, and parts of Bell, Bexar, and Travis Counties. She has taught English and film at Texas State for 26 years, and has also taught in Africa while in the Peace Corps and as a Fulbright Scholar.
Bell-Metereau said she disagrees with the approach the SBOE has taken on education for Texas public school students. She said the SBOE members have appointed cronies into the review committees that formulate and make revisions to school curricula, while disregarding qualified and merit-based individuals who have experience addressing issues in education.
“We need to return to a process that is based on data and scholarship and research and science,” Bell-Metereau said. “We need to return some respect for education to the board.”
Bell-Metereau said her interest in the seat came after several colleagues, friends, political consultants, but specifically her daughter, appealed to her to run for office. She said the SBOE is a circus that needs to be restored to integrity.
“I’m the most qualified person (running for the SBOE District 5 seat),” Bell-Metereau said. “I’m a teacher, the only teacher (still practicing). And I’m a mother.”
Bell-Metereau said she has the advantage of currently being in the classroom with students, which affords her first-hand knowledge on what works and what doesn’t. She said men do have an interest in the education of children, though, she said, being a mother implements the “traditional” setting of nurturing that allows for a child’s education to come first.
Bell-Metereau said health education needs to be addressed the most in public schools. She said Texas has the third highest pregnancy rate in the U.S. Therefore, she said, a stronger emphasis on sexual education is necessary, as well as a more robust discussion on drugs.
Bell-Metereau said sexual education should include dealing frankly with homosexuality and rape, “so to deal with real-life issues students bring to classrooms.”
Said Bell-Metereau, “If you just give people a just ‘say no’ message (such as sexual abstinence or a generic drug free slogan), students can’t differentiate between kinds of behavior, so they just ignore everything. If people are armed with facts, they’re gonna make better decisions.”
Bell-Metereau said that specifically addressing each sexually transmitted infection or drug, and discussing the health and social consequences of each, will allow students to “better grasp the dangers” involved, as opposed to generalizing all drugs under an umbrella and just say “don’t do them.” She said that when students are told not to do drugs because they are dangerous, and then they try marijuana and no immediate harm to their body is done, it doesn’t deter students from experimenting with “harsher” drugs.
Bell-Metereau said students should be exposed to pictures and research and education of drugs and their abusers instead of just implementing “empty slogans.” She said teachers, counselors, and school nurses “are all on-board with this.”
Bell-Metereau said an emphasis on “proper diet and exercise” is also essential within health education.
Bell-Metereau also takes issue with the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test and its infiltration into the school curricula. She said she would be in support of doing away with the TAKS test, as it only measures performance in the Texas public school system and doesn’t prepare students for institutions of higher learning. Bell-Metereau said she would like to substitute a “nationally normed test” for the TAKS.
“We need to get away from teaching to the (TAKS) test,” Bell-Metereau said. “It’s one thing to track and measure performance, but it’s another to punish teachers for low scores. We should use (the TAKS test) to identify problems and fix them.”
Bell-Metereau said the TAKS test over-emphasizes memorization of lists, names and events, adding that “micromanaging the curriculum destroys creative teaching.”
Bell-Metereau said that incumbent SBOE District 5 representative Ken Mercer, Republican, is “an extreme partisan with a set agenda.” She said the SBOE would make “big mistakes” if they remove minorities and women from social studies textbooks in Texas, or if they implement religion into the readings. Bell-Metereau said there is a difference between teaching religion in the classroom and teaching about religion. She said that if religion is to be taught, included should be the religious persecutions in America’s early history, as well as other “religious traditions that aren’t covered in textbooks.”
Bell-Metereau went on to say that the early American leadership wanted separation from church and state, which has been supported in the courts.
“They (SBOE) think that there are too many women and minorities in the text books and that’s just not true,” Bell-Metereau said in reference to recent headlines uncovering recommendations to the SBOE that remove historical key minority figures from the social studies curriculum.
Bell-Metereau said “content really matters” and that diversity should be encouraged from a student’s early age. She said the notion of “American Exceptionalism” disallows diversity, because unity is emphasized, adding that it also provides an account that “America can do no wrong” and that “we’re always on the right side of things.” As an example, she said tailoring of the historical facts colors the public school accounts of how the United States obtained its lands.
“I want to return the rational process that respects the community, respects teachers, real education, real scholarship, and returns civility and data driven decisions to the board,” Bell-Metereau said. ” … We don’t need to politicize everything.”
Bell-Metereau said Texas students need to be more cosmopolitan and the curriculum should range beyond Texas history and regionalism. She said Texas is one of the only states in the union that teaches its state history for more than one year, adding that it disables students from understanding international links, politics, economies, and culture.
“We can’t afford to be ignorant of what is going on in Afghanistan, or China, or India,” Bell-Metereau said. “All of those things are affecting our life, and we need to prepare our students to understand them.”
Bell-Metereau said she is an experienced candidate. She served three years on the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). She has worked in the university president’s cabinet, and dealt with issues involving student retention and the transitions of students from public schools to universities.
On the Democratic ballot against Bell-Metereau are Robert M. Bohmfalk, Josiah James Ingalls and Daniel Boone. The San Marcian said she is the only Democratic candidate who could beat Mercer in the November general election.
Bell-Metereau said she would work to improve the process of selecting review committees and experts who provide revisions to the curriculum. She also said she would encourage citizen input and push the SBOE to be more responsive to educators, legislators, and the mainstream public.Email | Print