The Texas State Board of Education handed right-wing extremists a landmark victory in advancing its political agenda this month. Only this time, the board’s decision applied not just to the oft-attacked science of evolution or global warming, but rather to a much broader target: history. To combat its perceptions of liberal bias in the field of education, the board mandated a list of specific changes to social studies textbooks–changes that will likely transform the curriculum of all states due to Texas’ large share of the textbook market.
In making these major changes, the school board felt no need to consult a single historian, economist or sociologist, relying instead on their own self-appointed “expertise.” For Cynthia Dunbar, one member of the board, this consisted of penning a book entitled “One Nation Under God,” that called public education “clearly tyrannical” and “a deceptive tool of perversion.” In further open scorn of scholarship, a fellow board member, Don McLeroy, proclaimed, “Somebody’s got to stand up to the experts.”
With such defiant opposition to expertise, the flabbergasting historical inaccuracy of their prescriptions comes as no surprise. From the implication that unregulated free markets never fail–not even in 1929 or 2008–to a positive portrayal of Joseph McCarthy as a defender of American liberty, the Editorial Board could literally fill this newspaper from front to back with criticisms of this absurd version of history.
In the interest of conciseness, we limit ourselves to our personal favorite example: removing Thomas Jefferson from the list of thinkers that influenced the nation’s origins. Those of us with the faintest background in education might recall that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. But since Jefferson’s deism does not fit in with the conservative narrative of a nation founded on Christian beliefs, Texas textbooks must replace him with religious figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. Jefferson’s term, “separation of church and state,” on which the Supreme Court has ruled more than 25 times, will not be mentioned. And the author of our nation’s independence will no longer be considered a Founding Father.
This revisionist attempt to exclude Jefferson is only the beginning of the school board’s discrimination. After unsuccessful attempts to remove mention of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice, the board decided to call Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson role models of “effective leadership.” The board diminished Hispanics by eliminating the Tejanos who died alongside Davey Crockett at the Alamo, and showed contempt for gays and feminists by elevating the historical role of Phyllis Schafly, whose anti-gay and anti-feminist rhetoric could well be considered hate speech. One member confirmed the intentions of the board by complaining about the “overrepresentation of minorities” in the traditional portrayal of American history. These amendments were not even sincere attempts to represent an alternate version of events, but rather a blatant, racially-motivated power-grab.
The pettiness in the changes went even further. Country and western music were added to the nation’s list of important cultural movements while hip-hop were removed from the same list. The term “democratic” republic got changed to “constitutional” republic just to avoid the term democrat.
The hypocrisy of these conservative activists is astounding in this massive intrusion of government. Teaching history will no longer be up to teachers. Writing history will no longer be up to academics. Instead, the whole process will be controlled by the same type of politically-motivated government bureaucrats these small-government activists claim to deplore. And in their unilateral, amateurishly conceived decrees on what exactly constitutes the truth, the brainwashing this school board seeks to impose on the American population is downright Orwellian. The Editorial Board hopes that the American people will not swallow this bitter pill from Texas without a fight.