In an article I wrote two years ago, I expressed my concerns about worldwide religious and political fanatics trying to rewrite history and science books in order to model them after their own narrow agendas. Much of my expressed unease was scoffed at. Apparently those fears however are now coming to fruition in Texas.
Being one of the largest purchasers of kindergarten through 12th grade textbooks in the country, the Texas State Board of Education with its nearly five million students has a large influence on what is published in not only its own state, but nationwide as well.
Where that becomes a problem for the rest of us, is when a lame-duck session of the BOE has now succeeded in twisting history, science and social studies primers in order to conform to their right-wing notions, knowing full well that they’re about to be booted out of office and that the soon-to-be-published texts will be used for at least ten years down the road.
In a move toward the GOP’s political center, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist and leader of the board's far-right conservative faction, was voted out of office during Texas’ Republican primaries. Seeing the end of his considerable influence drawing to a close soon, he seems determined to turn socio-political studies in his state into a training ground for Southern Christian thinking with possible overtones of racism.
Maybe he and his seven ultra-conservative associates can explain the following questions:
Obviously Texans don’t know nearly a century and a half after the event, that the South lost the Civil War. Why else would a demand be introduced that defeated Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s leadership skills be taught alongside and in contrast to President Abraham Lincoln’s?
Why would his committee push for an amendment to remove all mention of such men as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, and then demand that in their place such people as Phyllis Schlafly, and influences such as The Contract with America, the Moral Majority, the right-wing Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association be taught in their place? Others at the meeting also insisted that even though their very first “convention” was held just recently, that the Tea Party’s influence on American History be included in the new schoolbooks?
In a move that seemed to try to eliminate or minimize any mention of the civil rights movement’s influence on U.S. History, they proposed removing any references to the contributions of race in our national identity. On the second day of meetings it was proposed and rejected that the names of two Hispanic and one Black Medal of Honor winner be included in a World History book.
Member Barbara Cargill tried to minimize their influence by declaring them historically insignificant. When several other members bristled at the notion, she used the typical “some of my best friends are negroes” argument by relating how a dear black friend of hers in Memphis suffered from the effects of segregation, but that now things were much better for her.
African American member Mavis Knight of Dallas was quoted as saying, “I really regret that no member of this board who is not African American has not lived 64 years in this country as I have and with my education and experience to know how African-Americans are still treated today," Knight said. "Yes, we have come a long way, but we have not arrived."
Why would his committee turn away requests to include Hispanic heroes such as Juan Abamillo, Andres Nava and Jose Navarro (a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence) who were some of the Tejanos who gallantly fought and died at the Alamo along side comrades such as Davey Crockett? Why are they considering proposals that lessons about being American Indians be cut or diminished?
McLeroy’s allies are also pushing for the teaching of biblical “science” and emphasizing the weakness of Evolution as an “unproven” theory. One of the reasons that America's rankings in worldwide scientific knowledge and research has slipped so low is that in the last 10 years teachers nationwide have been told to instruct their students to believe their bibles rather than, or outside of scientific facts.
We must teach our children that our founding fathers were all devout Christians and that their faith formed our great nation as assigned by God. In the same vein, McLeroy’s minions are pushing to teach children that the forefathers of the United States were just as determined as he apparently is to forge our nation into a Christian society, ignoring quotes from such founding fathers as:
Thomas Paine, who said, "Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity.”
Thomas Jefferson infamously said, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
George Washington: Near the end of George Washington’s term on November, 4, 1796, the Treaty of Tripoli was written under his supervision. In Article 11 we read: "As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." In 1797 the Senate ratified the treaty with no public objections, despite it being published for all to read, and Washington’s successor John Adams signed it without reservation.
Of Washington’s thousands of collected letters the name of Jesus Christ is not mentioned even once. In fact, when it was proposed that reference to Christ be inserted into the preamble of the Constitution, the vast majority of the founding fathers voted against it because that would infer that our forefathers meant to exclude protections of “…the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindu and Infidel of every denomination."
I do, however completely agree with one thing McLeroy said. "Our country is divided on how we see things and these things really come into sharp focus, especially with history and how you present it to your children." …I just don't agree with his "version" of it.
Perhaps it would be best (in my humble opinion) to suggest strongly that, like the Bible, there be different and separate “versions” printed of the Texas texts… the Texas Version and the American Version. Hopefully someone will come to their senses on the new school board and stop to revise and undo the changes before that becomes necessary.