Texas Education War: Phase Two

THE madness that recently placed the Texas Board of Education (BOE) in the media spotlight — and revealed to the world that public education in Texas is firmly in the grip of an anti-science, anti-evolution, creationist clique — continues to work its pernicious evil. Now, having mucked up science education as much as possible for the moment, the BOE is moving on to other issues. You see, creationism itself isn’t the problem — it’s merely a symptom of a much more pervasive disorder.

This time the target is social studies (a term we’ve always disliked, preferring the traditional and far-more descriptive label of “history”). But we usually blog only about the evolution-creationism controversy. Why do we suddenly care about social studies? The reason is to show you that the mindset which manifests itself in opposition to science doesn’t stop at a few silly objections to Darwin’s theory.

We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from The Culture Wars’ New Front: U.S. History Classes in Texas , which appears in the Wall Street Journal. The bold font was added by us:

The fight over school curriculum in Texas, recently focused on biology, has entered a new arena, with a brewing debate over how much faith belongs in American history classrooms.

The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state’s social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.

It’s even bigger than that. Back when we first started this blog, we announced our purpose here: Enemies of the Enlightenment. The creationists are literally opposed to the intellectual underpinnings of the whole modern world. Let’s read on:

Three reviewers, appointed by social conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

Your Curmudgeon doesn’t regard those two as being especially central to American history, but that’s a mere quibble. There’s much more going on here. We continue:

We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it,” said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

Isn’t that wonderful? Here’s more:

The reviewers appointed by conservatives include two who run conservative Christian organizations: David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, a group that promotes America’s Christian heritage; and Rev. Marshall, who preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God’s judgments on the nation’s sexual immorality.

Who better to design a social studies curriculum for the kiddies? To learn more about Barton, check out what Barbara Forrest has to say: Governor Jindal’s Friends in Low Places. Okay, on with the Wall Street Journal:

The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America’s founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man’s fall and inherent sinfulness, or “radical depravity,” which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

It’s amazing that not only the Constitution, but also the Federalist Papers, fail to mention the biblical foundation of our government. It’s also a curious fact that no ecclesiastical organization during the long and dreary history of Europe ever produced anything like our Constitution. That didn’t appear until the Enlightenment came along, which definitely wasn’t a church-driven movement.

The article continues:

“America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children,” said Don McLeroy, a leading conservative on the board. “The foundational principles of our country are very biblical…. That needs to come out in the textbooks.”

We’ve written quite a lot about McLeroy, for example, The Mind of a Creationist Dentist. Here’s another excerpt from the Journal:

But the emphasis on Christianity as a driving force is disputed by some historians, who focus on the economic motivation of many colonists and the fractured views of religion among the Founding Fathers. “There appears to me too much politics in some of this,” said Lybeth Hodges, a professor of history at Texas Woman’s University and another of the curriculum reviewers.

[...]

The conservative Christian reviewers, in turn, are skeptical of the professional historians’ emphasis on multiculturalism … . Reaching for examples of achievement by different racial and ethnic groups is divisive, Mr. Barton said, and distorts history.

That’s enough to give you a feel for what’s going on in Texas. So now you see, dear reader, although we usually confine ourselves to blogging about evolution and creationism, the issue is far larger It’s literally about the survival of Western Civilization.

Afterthought: We realized that we’ve encountered David Barton’s name before. He’s mentioned as a “scholarly” source by a creationist, here: The Founders Rejected Evolution?

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Texas Education War: Phase Two

  1. Maybe it’s time to start a new political party – the “Rational Right” – ’cause after you and the rest of the rational intellects leave, these boners are all that will be left of the GOP.

  2. My usual warning to readers (everwhere, not just here), to not confuse a small minority of extremist activists with a much larger group that they have fooled, is not limited to the topic of creationism/evolution.

    In recent years that it has become trendy for consevatives to downplay the Enlightenment in the founding of the US, and to embrace the Biblical aspect. Those who take that approach include very few scientists of course, so it might be in part a C. P. Snow “two cultures” thing. But it does seem that they have been uncritically getting their sound bites from extremist activists hell-bent (pun intended) on discrediting science and peddling their narrow view of the Bible.

    I think that if that larger group of conservatives – just like the analogous majority of evolution-deniers – took the time to really listen to what scientists say – even if they listen only to conservative, religious scientists – they would think twice before parroting the extremists.

  3. Tundra Boy says: “… after you and the rest of the rational intellects leave, these boners are all that will be left of the GOP.”

    How can I leave? Well, I can, but there’s nowhere else to go.

  4. *facepalm* Yes, let’s only teach the historical contributions of dead white guys. Great strategy in a pluralist society…

  5. I have yet to see the regressive religionists come up with even two or three principles/values that are exclusively Christian that were used by the Founders to establish the United States. Their claims about civics are as vacuous as their scientific claims.

  6. …but also the Federalist Papers, fail to mention the biblical foundation of our government.

    Peter Marshall thinks it’s in there:

    Under the tutelage of Dr. Witherspoon, Madison came to accept the Biblical teaching of the sinfulness of man, and quaintly expressed this belief in Federalist Paper # 51: “But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

    I guess you just have to look really hard, I guess.

  7. 386sx says: “I guess you just have to look really hard, I guess.”

    That’s probably as much as there is. Thin gruel.

  8. Pretty amazing when you think about the thought process behind that.

    The best place where people can learn about human nature is the Bible. Madison made an observation about human nature. Therefore, Madison got it from the Bible, even though any idiot in the world can observe that people ain’t perfect.

    Pretty amazing “hubris”, that is. (For lack of a more polite term.)

    Marshall is a complete freakin idiot. (Oops.)

  9. I have yet to see the regressive religionists come up with even two or three principles/values that are exclusively Christian that were used by the Founders to establish the United States.

    That’s the thing about “hubris”. If it’s a principle or value, then it is exclusively Christian. That’s pretty much how it works. The beauty of it lies in its “simplicity” and “hubris”. (I’m using “simplicity” and “hubris” for lack of more polite terms which I can’t think of at the moment.)

  10. 386sx says: “Marshall is a complete freakin idiot.”

    Probably not, just cunning. He knows that his audience will never read the Federalist Papers. All they’ll ever know about anything is what he tells them, so they’ll believe that Madison’s writings were all like that.

  11. Rocket Mike wrote: “I have yet to see the regressive religionists come up with even two or three principles/values that are exclusively Christian that were used by the Founders to establish the United States. Their claims about civics are as vacuous as their scientific claims.”

    I often listen to Michael Medved on the radio. He’s an Orthodox Jew (& Discoveroid) who often peddles the “this is a Christian nation” line. He seems to be fully aware that he’s defining “Christian” to suit the argument.