Texas Board of Education to Target Church-State Separation
May 17, 2010
They're at it again. Earlier this year the religious conservative-dominated Texas Board of Education mandated a bizarrely warped US history curriculum for Texas school children - and, because of Texas's enormous influence on the nation's textbook market, most non-Texan students as well. Recall that the Christian fundamentalists on the board included a plank to ensure that students learn about "the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association." They didn't care much for Thomas Jefferson, who coined the evil term "wall of separation between church and state," so they erased him from the history books and replaced him with the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas. (Sadly this is no joke; read all about it here .)
Not content with scrubbing Jefferson's name from history, the fundamentalists have now set their sights on his life's work as well. The Dallas Morning News reports that Don McLeroy, a Christian fundamentalist dentist who leads the board's social conservative faction, has proposed several amendments that he wants added before the board's final vote this week on education standards. Among the proposals is a call for students to "contrast the Founders' intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term 'Separation of church and state.'" This reflects conservative religious historical revisionists' false contention that the doctrine of separation of church and state was fabricated by judges and was not part of the original intent of the Constitution's drafters.
How tragic that the nation's school children remain subject to the whims of Texas's increasingly unhinged board of education. What's next? Astronomy textbooks extolling the virtues of the geocentric model?
#1 Mark (Guest) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 at 12:27am
must when i thought i was the exclusive indent attempted here….
i was just daydream Bella cool and I séance projects also read a great stories, nicely terminated! Native siesta.
#2 Steve Thomas (Guest) on Friday May 21, 2010 at 1:14pm
I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of frustration and disgust to have learned that the Texas Board of Education has set in motion a plan to expunge any mention of the late, great Thomas Jefferson from US history texts. Surely, for every American, this has to be inconceivable; to even consider such an absurd notion is to reject everything that America is. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson is, quite arguably, the Aristotle of the Enlightenment, and certainly one of the central figures of the founding of this nation (And a man that I hold in the highest regard). With his masterful prose and skill, he penned the beautiful and eloquent “Declaration of Independence,” and he was highly educated, a lawyer, and, most importantly, he was our third president. So I ask you Texas, “How dare you!?” To this end, I cannot and will not sit idly by while some insular neo-conservatives amend our history in order to ensure that it corresponds to their version of “reality.” According to the NY Times, when Dr. Don McLeroy, a conservative member on the board, was asked about the reasoning behind these changes, he stated, “We are adding balance.” Yet, anymore, this sort of political language – idioms and jingoism – in all their tiring immensity is the best we can hope for; ergo, “Brand America.” I need to understand how deleting someone from history “adds balance.”
In 1945, George Orwell began writing “London Letters” for the “Partisan Review” and during one of these correspondences, Orwell wrote a poignant and extremely intuitive remark: “All political thinking for years past has been vitiated [corrupted] in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.” To this end, 65-years before, the exceedingly brilliant Orwell hits the nail squarely on its head. We have to be honest here; this isn’t about “adding balance” to education – it’s about ideology. What this proposal does do, however, is to illuminate our so-called educators’ ignorance and their inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Dr. McLeroy is a dentist – not an educator (this is all too evident), nevertheless, it is astonishing that someone with a doctorate degree can exhibit such profound ignorance. In effect, Dr. McLeroy is attempting to shape the way your children think and the way in which they understand the world; indeed, to limit the scope of their understanding and knowledge. Jefferson – like Aristotle before him – understood that democracy was impossible with an ignorant electorate, and, under these conditions, he also understood that democracy is merely “mob rule.” This demonstrates the brilliance of our Founders; they understood this and this is why America is a republic.
As such, it is obvious to see that only someone who has failed to understand the complexities and dynamism of history would propose such blatant and dishonest absurdities. Cicero, the great Roman orator, once noted, “Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge.” Indeed, anyone familiar with the flow of history would surely recognize that this tactic of “washing history” has been tried before. By whom, do you ask? None other than the despicable Josef Stalin; to be sure, he had all known photographs and the history books washed clean of any mention of Leon Trotsky…for millions of Russians, he simply vanished from history. Fortunately, in “Animal Farm,” George Orwell brought Trotsky back to life in the character “Snow Ball”.
For fear of sounding overly dramatic, this has to be a call to action, for even our Educators lack the requisite knowledge and information to educate our children properly. Recently, a friend asked whether I could help her child with a book report on Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” When I inquired whether he understood that the book was an allegory, he stared blankly and said, “What’s that?” I then pressed him further, asking, “Well, surely your teacher must have made reference to the Bolshevik Revolution, right?”, and yet again I was treated to the same blank stare. To him, this important little book would have been merely rendered a “cute little animal story.” And herein lays the problem: our educators lack the ability to understand the vast scope of history and all its enormous implications, so they simply dumb it down and then teach it without the important historical context. Put simply, either the teachers are not allowed to teach this content, or they simply don’t understand it themselves. Onetime, I recall perusing my daughter’s high school history text (she was studying the Second World War), and I was amazed at its lack of content and context. Sadly, Hitler’s campaign on the Eastern front received a whopping one paragraph mention. In all seriousness, how can we expect our children to compete in an increasingly complex world when we allow people like Dr. McLeroy to inject their ridiculous ideologies – religious or otherwise – into our children’s textbooks?
These are indeed important considerations in which we need to mull over. In the novel “1984”, the protagonist, Winston Smith, is employed by the Ministry of Truth, and it is his job to ensure that Big Brother is never wrong. Ergo, it’s his job to ensure that history is rewritten in such a manner that Big Brother is always vindicated. Anymore, I admit that it is cliché to say this-or-that proposition is Orwellian, yet, in this sense, what Dr. McLeroy is proposing is indeed Orwellian. Remember the party line: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.” Let me ask you; why are we allowing a blinkered, ultra-conservative dentist from Texas – who has probably never even been outside of the United States – tell us what our children will learn? Whether we like it or not, our children should be taught historical fact (they will learn to interpret), and not someone’s manufactured version of history. As citizens, we have to demand more from our educators, or this nation is going to turn into the political backwater it is fast becoming. Admittedly, history is a “slippery subject,” but proposing the obliteration of one of the greatest heroes of American history is akin to treason. Dr. McLeroy should be embarrassed by this proposal, but, as we have seen, “Ignorance is Strength!”