American History Revised in Texas

One Nation Under God by Jon McNaughton

One Nation Under God by Jon McNaughton

It’s almost creepy how prescient we were when we first started writing about the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) and their crusade to reform the teaching of American history. But it’s quite understandable, really. We’re dealing with creationists, so we know their thinking is likely to be messed up in virtually all things.

It was six months ago that we wrote Texas Creationists Battle Over Teaching History, where we said:

It’s intriguing to watch the SBOE deal with these things. Bear in mind that to a creationist, history is simple — it all happened in just a few thousand years. There’s the six days of creation, Noah’s Flood, and then the events described in the New Testament. Nothing else is terribly important. The founding of America was entirely a scriptural affair. Anyway, we’re probably in the Final Days, so the whole purpose of education is merely to get ready for the end.

A month later we wrote Creationist American History in Texas Schools, where we first used the picture which adorns this post. Credit to the artist with a link to his website are to be found there. In that post we said:

It’s difficult to express our reaction to the ideologically-driven madness we’re reading about. According to the creationists on the SBOE, American history went from the theocratic, bible-communist pilgrims disembarking from the Mayflower directly to the Revolution and the Constitutional Convention. However, there was quite a bit of history between 1620 and 1776. For a hint, see: Salem and Philadelphia: A Tale of Two Cities.

In January of this year we wrote: Texas Education: Creationism & Theocracy, in which we gave what we thought was the Texas creationists’ version of American history. This is a slightly updated version:

It was shortly after Creation Week and the Flood. Christopher Columbus, carrying a precious cargo consisting of pilgrims, the Ten Commandments and the Holy Grail, and guided by the perfect geographical and navigational truth of the King James Bible, landed on Plymouth Rock. Shortly thereafter, the pilgrims — after hanging a few pesky witches in Salem — drafted the Constitution (using only scriptural resources) to create a shining city on hill where the clergy would rule until the End Times — which are fast approaching.

You disagree? How do you know — were you there?

And that brings us to yesterday’s post, Embracing the Dark Ages, in which we learned that the SBOE had tossed out Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment.

So where are we now? In the New York Times we read Texas Approves Curriculum Revised by Conservatives. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas School Board on Friday voted to approve a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the role of Christianity in American history and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

The vote was 11 to 4, with 10 Republicans and one Democrat voting for the curriculum, and four Democrats voting against.

[…]

The curriculum standards will now be published in a state register, opening them up for 30 days of public comment. A final vote will be taken in May, but given the Republican dominance of the board, it is unlikely many changes will be made.

Okay, what did they do? Let’s read on:

The conservative members maintain that they are trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

Brilliant. You can’t find the specific phrases “separation of powers,” “limited government,” or “popular sovereignty” either. But that’s what the Constitution provides for. Oh, it also permits secular oaths and prohibits all religious tests for holding office, but let’s not worry about that. We continue:

Mr. Bradley won approval for an amendment saying students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. He also won approval for an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians were interned in the United States as well as the Japanese during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.

We don’t object to that. Here’s more:

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”

That’s okay too. Moving along:

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among the conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”) “The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

Classic creationist theocracy. And one more excerpt:

Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students 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.”

It was defeated on a party-line vote.

So there you are. Isn’t creationist theocracy fun?

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

7 responses to “American History Revised in Texas

  1. Nothing like education and history based on partisan vote. Of course, history is written by the victors, so I guess we shouldn’t complain.

  2. “You can’t find the specific phrases … “limited government,” … either. But that’s what the Constitution provides for. ”

    Apparently not, judging from the government we have and the direction it’s been taking.

    BTW, here in the liberal Mecca of Texas, there’s agreement that Jefferson should be pushed out, too- but not because of insufficient Christianity. Rather, for being a slaveholder and “using” his female slaves for sexual purposes.

    Ahhh, the dogmas of Left and Right.

  3. SY says:

    … Jefferson should be pushed out, too- but not because of insufficient Christianity. Rather, for being a slaveholder and “using” his female slaves for sexual purposes.

    Okay, but that’s a harsh test. Probably all the notable Greeks, all the noble Romans, all the kings of Europe — they all had slaves, or in later days, serfs. That was, after all, the way agricultural work got done before the industrial revolution. I think all the Founders, even those who were slaveholders, should get credit for creating the country that eventually abolished slavery.

  4. Well, they’re all a bunch of Dead White Males, those Greeks and Romans, unworthy of our respect. In school, my son never hears about Greek mathematicians, he learns about Native American philosophers. Now, nothing wrong with Native American philosophers, but instead of Archimedes?

    The blind spot toward Enlightenment culture and values is shared by Left and Right. Neither one wants kids to learn about Adam Smith or Spinoza or Laplace or Darwin- Sacajawea is far more important.

  5. There’s a reason they’re called “reactionaries.” It’s not hard to document, in recent decades, leftist revisionism of history; the rightist reaction is every bit as dishonest and reprehensible.

    Just as teaching science should be teaching how to do science (but too often isn’t, when the issue is foolishly politicised), so too should school history cover how to do history: how to use primary and secondary sources, standards of historiography, &c. in place of this political nonsense.

    The Right, it would seem, wants to tell a “feel good” national story, the Left wants to push an activist “malleability of mankind” Whigish chronicle; both are deeply ahistorical and worthless.

    For my money, Gibbon hits the mark: history is “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”

  6. Eeek again — “too often isn’t” in place of the wayward grammar of “too often don’t”.

    Mea culpa, peccavi, Pater Curmudgeon…

    [All is well, my son. Go and mistype no more.]

  7. Groan. I need a vacation.