Last week, the Texas Board of Education voted 10-5, along party lines, to replace history textbooks with right wing political propaganda. The vote followed a separate, contentious scrum over whether creationism should be taught in science courses.
Would it not have been easier to have simply jettisoned all textbooks and replaced them with episodes of Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club on a continuous loop during school hours?
In defending his bid to jam creationism into the school science curriculum and rewrite history, ultra-conservative board member, Dr. Don McLeroy, said, “Somebody’s gotta stand up to experts.”
One wonders if he has the same negative view on experts when it comes to his own dental profession? Would McLeroy trust his own expertise over a guy off the street that fancied himself a dentist because he owned a pair of rusty pliers?
Of course, many fundamentalists have long disdained experts, such as historians, because they have a tendency to reveal men like McLeroy to be agenda-driven amateurs. The extremism of the Texas School Board is evident by the guidelines they voted for.
For example, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly and the National Rifle Association have replaced Thomas Jefferson. This is in a despicable effort to marginalize the man who coined the phrase, “separation of church and state”, while elevating America as a right wing “Christian Nation.” (Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were also eliminated to make room for these conservatives)
Newt Gingrich’s flash-in-the-pan Contract with America and Rev. Jerry Falwell’s short-lived Moral Majority are elevated as historically important, while the supposed religious roots of the American Revolution will be now be studied.
“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” David Bradley, a conservative school board member from Beaumont, told The New York Times.
Social conservatives have created an entire industry to twist our nation’s history. But, if the founders were fundamentalists who intended America to be a Christian version of Iran, than why do these folks have to work so hard to prove their point?
It seems to me that our founders were quite eloquent and certainly able to convey their desire to be a fundamentalist nation, if that is what they had intended. But, our country is not called “God Land.” Jesus’ name is not in the United States Constitution.
These simple facts are clearly eating up these zealots inside and driving them to distraction. They just do not want to accept that their totalitarian and exclusionary vision of America is a radical and dangerous departure from the ideas of religious freedom embraced by our Founding Fathers.
These bitter fundamentalists are left cobbling together arcane quotes – often out of context – that make a circumstantial case that some of our nation’s founders were religious.
There are millions of Americans who go to church each week, but they don’t want to live in an oppressive theocracy that brainwashes students and undermines democracy. At heart, the conservative members of the board believe they are superior and anyone who does not imbibe on their delusion can be minimized or erased from the historical record.
Furthermore, the new textbook “standards” are not about learning, but a laundry list of southern fundamentalist cultural grievances. For instance, the civil rights movement is downgraded and the peaceful Martin Luther King Jr. will now be “balanced” by lessons on the Black Panthers.
Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society will be degraded for “the unintended consequences” such as affirmative action. The Board rejected attempts to increase the number of Latino figures in history lessons and demands that Republicans get more credit for voting in favor of civil rights legislation. So, even as they demean minorities, the Board is conservatively correct enough to portray social conservatives as supporters of the Civil Rights movement. Nice touch.
There was also approval for an amendment highlighting that Italians and Germans, not just Japanese, were placed in US camps during World War II, to dispute the idea that imprisoning the Japanese was motivated by racism.
The bloc of seven fundamentalists on the Texas Board of Education doesn’t really care about public education. In fact, several members either home school their children or send them to private schools. Their real goal is to infiltrate the system to remake it in their image. There are three things that I hope will come from this controversy:
1) Enough people come forward during the 30 day comment period to reverse the vote.
2) Mainstream textbook makers will take a moral stand and refuse to print propaganda
3) If the standards remain, schools that are able should switch to computer software for lessons, so they are not saddled with Bible-based “history” books for a decade
Is there any doubt that brutally unflattering chapters about these zealous hijackers of history will be written into future social studies textbooks?
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”