Monday, March 15, 2010

Texas Textbook Chainsaw Massacre: Texas Follies, Part II

Texas has done it again! Over the weekend the Texas Board of Education unveiled its new U.S. History curriculum. Amazingly, this new curriculum virtually ignores the contributions of ... are you ready for this... Thomas Jefferson!

Yes, the third President of the United States! And yes, the same Thomas Jefferson, the principal architect of the Declaration of Independence and one of the framers of our Constitution, one of the greatest documents ever crafted!

The board has replaced Jefferson with religious right darling John Calvin, who had absolutely nothing to do with American independence, but with theological reformation in the 16th century.

The new curriculum also downplays the Constitution's amendments detailing the separation of church and state by not requiring students to learn the Constitution bars the government from favoring one religion over another... or that religion is barred from interacting with our government.

Gone are scientists Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, both who made great strides in science. Gone (or diminished) are civil rights leaders' place in American history. In their place, emphasis has been afforded to right wing organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Phyllis Schlafly. Even Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who has long been demonized (and rightfully so) for his draconian actions in the 1950s, has now been written in a more favorable light.

Clearly the culture war has heated up with conservative leaders working feverishly to present a purely conservative point of view to our children. In other words, the good ole white boys club is back in town.

It has been a rough year on Texas citizens. Last year, their governor suggested the state should secede from the Union in disagreement with some of President Obama's policies. Last weekend former congressman Tom Delay suggested that this nation's unemployed are out of work by choice. Now, add to to this debacle the radical change in education curriculum and some Texans fear they will become this nation's laughing stock, but I find nothing humorous about any of this.

If this news was not bad enough, it is made even worse with the fact that Texas is the second largest buyer of high school textbooks in the country. For decades, Texas has held school textbook publishers hostage to what is and is not to be included in our children's textbooks.

What Texas demands of publishers, will eventually end up in textbooks slated for purchase in the other 49 states of the union. For conservative right-wing leaders to impose their backward small-minded values on an entire nation smacks of arrogance and deception.

Here, in my opinion, are the real reasons why members of the Texas Board of Education have worked tirelessly to remove Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum:

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity." -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814...

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

"Priests dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live. -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820

"Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind." -Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

"Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789.

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson

"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies." - Thomas Jefferson

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law, and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.

"Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker, in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813.

Clearly, uber-conservative religious leaders, in their minds, have reason to deny Jefferson his seat in this nation's history. Jefferson was a free-thinker who questioned everything, INCLUDING religion. Religious zealots cannot stand the fact that he and many other of our forefathers were deeply suspicious of religion's role in our society-- and especially our government. And clearly it is no coincidence the conservative leaders of the TBOE have removed Jefferson when considering his writings about religion.

Mind you, if right wing conservative leaders have their way, these are surely the first steps of implementing more wholesale changes in our nation's textbooks. Is it so hard to believe that creationism is not the next element they wish to foist on our public schools? Will evolution be the next target for removal?

I have no problem with people having faith in their religion and God, but I do when religious kooks are not content until they force every single person to believe as they do. Anyone who knows me knows I believe in God, just not his (or her) followers-- nor most of organized religion.

The culture war is not going away any time soon. For those who yearn for more enlightened, more intellectual education, one firmly entrenched in science, research and constant review, this is not the time for complacency. For historians, the old adage of 'history textbooks are written by the victors' surely must be alarmed and suspicious of the turn of events of this past weekend.

Again, complacency is the educators worst enemy.


  1. I don't know if it is about complacency. It seems to be more of big business as usual. The cost of textbooks for Texas and then another for the rest of the country certainly will cause them to sky rocket in price.

    If 'W' wanted to look for WMD, he should have started with the Texas School Board. Those nimrods will do more damage to the country than any terrorist plot!

  2. Thomas Jefferson was not removed from Texas text books. 5th grade and 8th grade will continue to have Jefferson included as well as High school. Jefferson was removed from the World History segment, not American History.

  3. I stand behind my remarks, Ticker.

    Every single source I have read indicates a massive radical shift in the social studies curriculum, if approved, is at hand in Texas... and worse, nationwide if the textbook publishers do not stand up to this insanity.