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Texas Textbook Crusaders Want to Rewrite History

Texas Textbook Crusaders Want to Rewrite History

“Few, if any, instruments shape national culture more powerfully than the materials used in schools,” states a recent article about textbooks around the world in The Economist. It is not just that textbooks are the first books that people in many places encounter; they are also “along with religious texts, almost the only books they encounter.”

All the more reason to want to laugh, cry, snort and/or throw your hands up in the air in hearing about how the ongoing textbook battles in Texas.

As Andrew O’Hehir writes on Alternet, fundamentalist Christian/Tea Party-affiliated/creationist Texans have not been content to limit their crusade to insert discussion of “intelligent design” into science textbooks. Now, they’re extending the battle lines to social science textbooks, a fight which is,

…arguably worse, since opinions and analyses in that field can’t be subjected to the same scientific rigor. Culture-war amendments were added fast and furious to the academic standards in that area: removing references to the slave trade from the texts and praising leaders of the Confederacy; substituting “country music” for “hip-hop” in a discussion of pop culture; adding, preposterously, religious figures like Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin as inspirations for the American Revolution, while deleting the word “Enlightenment.” (One board member even suggested that every reference to Barack Obama should include his middle name.)

Despite the arguments of apologists, Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers were not inspired by Thomas Aquinas. Jefferson himself can be said to embody the notion of a “man of the Enlightenment,” with beliefs in the principles of science and the role of reason and rational inquiry. The architect of the Declaration of Independence was a Deist (not a Christian — of course, the 4th-century B.C.E. Greek philosopher Aristotle was not Christian either).

O’Hehir describes a former chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, a dentist in the Texas suburbs, as “the most famous” figure of the textbook wars, though not necessarily the most powerful or influential according to a low-budget documentary by Scott Thurman, aptly titled The Revisionaries.

That title is reserved for former Austin School Board member Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer who teaches at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia, and “was evidently groomed for her position on the Texas board by political activists on the Christian right.” While McLeroy’s zealotry is unabashedly evidence in the documentary (he harangues “his dental patients and Sunday-school students about Noah’s ark”), Dunbar is a blander but ultimately more sinister soldier in the culture battles. In The Revisionaries, she offers platitudes about community service but look her up and you’ll see she is on the record for referring to public education as unconstitutional and a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”

It is exasperating (and then some) to hear about what some American school children are reading, and not reading, in their textbooks. “Lower rates of citizenship and voting among minorities” are keeping the state “reliably red,” for now. Noting that “non-whites are already a minority in Texas – and a rapidly shrinking minority among those under 18″ — O’Hehir suggests that demographic and social change is already, inevitably, changing things in Texas.

McLeroy and Dunbar may see themselves as soldiers, if not prophets, in something like a religious war, but in reality they are the last to hold up the standards of a crusade that is based on Christian fundamentalist beliefs, a strong whiff of racism and ideology.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

GOP Doctor Says Evolution is a Lie “From the Pit of Hell’

Texas BOE Demotes Jefferson, Omits Separation of Church and State from Textbook Standards

Kony2012 Tied to Secretive Fundamentalist Organization

 

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162 comments

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7:36PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

How is this legal?

7:24PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Can't trust Texans. Can't trust Texan textbooks. Worst in customer service. Worst in treating outsiders as they treat themselves. Best in wearing big smiles and acting super-friendly.

11:56AM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Ok why is it that all 50 states seem to use textbooks that TEXAS writes, why can't we have some other "group" write textbooks. For instance why not have retired teachers,educators, scientist get together to write and update textbooks, include all things that happened GOOD BAD or OTHERWISE.

6:39PM PST on Nov 18, 2012

How is it that these people are being allowed to have any influence over this in the first place? If they wish to fill their children's heads with fairy tale, that is their right, but they cannot be allowed to brainwash the children of others.

6:11PM PST on Nov 18, 2012

Annmari L.
Your posts on the illogical fairy tales in the Bible are so dead-on
THANK YOU!

11:56AM PST on Nov 18, 2012

Please, no explanations like; god works in mysterious ways or likewise. Hope to hear from you soon!

11:55AM PST on Nov 18, 2012

I don't think I've ever given out so many Green Stars on a discussion before, but you all recipients deserve more than I can give. So many of you have entered intelligent, factbased and funny postings.
There aren't much more to say but I will only add a few things:
First: The bible. I've read it. From page one to the last. I was 13-14 or so and a little weird. I read a lot of philosophy at the time and mixed it with religion to try and find out what I believed in. Turns out, I rejected all.
What I find fascinating about the bible is that after the apple thingee in Eden, Ask and Embla were thrown out and went and lived in another land. Since there were only Eden, where did they go?
How about Cain? After he offed his brother, he went and married some woman in yet another land. How could he have married someone? There were only 3 humans at the time. Did he get hitched to a monkey?
And later in the book, there's that story about Noah. He collected two of every thing. OK. That's one thing. But what about humans? It was him and his wife(s) and Larry, Curly and Moe and who knows how many wifes they had. And the whole world was drowned, besides those on the boat. So, when they eventually went back to live on Terra Firma, who did their kids marry? There sisters/brothers/cousins/aunts/uncles? Little incestous, don't ya think?
Well, after all these years I'm still confused. Can some of you bible thumpers set me straight on these important issues? Please, no explanations like; god

2:47AM PST on Nov 8, 2012

@ Harley W.
You need to stop twisting what people says, specially when my original post is still up for people to see

I NEVER said I wanted to keep religious people out of government. I said I wanted RELIGION out of government.

It would be impossible to keep religious people out of government, as uber-religious people LOVE telling people what to do--Hall Monitors for life. Therefore, government jobs are perfect for them. Most MODERN atheists have more of a "Laissez les bons temps rouler" approach to life, and therefore abhor authoritarianism.

And though I agree with you that most Americans know so little about history that they will believe anything a preacher or politician tells them, and therefore think we really have a Democracy, I can assure you that I am NOT one of them.

Question Authority has been my motto even since a nun slapped my face in third grade for asking if the Holy Trinity meant god had a Multiple Personality. No, I wasn't being a smart aleck then, it was a sincere question from a kid born into a family of scientists and physicians.

I have friends who are Christians and Jews, but they DO believe in evolution and their definition of a good person is someone who acts humanely, not whether they pray or not.

1:52AM PST on Nov 8, 2012

there are some people who want to write history to suit what they want to believe in, and some who try to paint a better light of a certain religion or race. so its up to the discerning public to know the lies from the truth.

7:39PM PST on Nov 7, 2012

Well Marta I do not want all atheists out of Goverment because that would be discriminzation based on what a person believes. As a Seventh day Adventist we fight to help keep church and State sperate. But that does not mean I want to keep people from believing or not as they wish.

I am a Creationist but I want only evolution taught in schools since it is not a relgious theory like Creatonism. But I would like the fact that there are serious problems with the theory of evolution to be taught. I do not want Intellgient design taught either.

I am alos upset that the Hstory of the United States has so been watered down that many children do not even know the basics of history. Even many College students do not know the United States was invaded and the Capitol set on fire.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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