Hey, Texas, don't mess with textbooks: Public schools are no place for partisan agendas
Texas conservatives want to cut Thomas Jefferson, César Chávez, Edward Kennedy, and other 'liberals' from textbooks.
(Page 2 of 2)
But the conservatives did ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” adding Phyllis Schlafly, the Moral Majority, and the National Rifle Association. Another approved amendment inserted the conservatives’ contested and negative stance on legislation that sought to achieve equality for women and minorities. Students will be required to study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action, and Title IX.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In economics, the board’s Republicans replaced “capitalism” with the “U.S. free enterprise system” to imply that the market thrives best absent excessive government intervention – a perspective of US economics subject to change with the times and events such as the recent banking crisis.
Then there’s the arresting and unconstitutional introduction of religion into a public school curriculum. Christian conservatives’ changes require teachers in Texas to stress the perceived Judeo-Christian influences of the nation’s Founding Fathers, but not to highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state.
In fact, the board’s seven Christian conservatives overtly believe that America has a preordained mission to emphatically practice Christian values.
Cynthia Dunbar, a Christian activist on the Texas board, is candid about her agenda to put the Christian “truth” into the school system in her book “One Nation Under God.”
Although Ms. Dunbar spearheaded the amendment that succeeded in removing Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum, primarily because he penned the phrase “separation of church and state,” it does not alter the fact that the Founders used the First Amendment to create separate spheres for government and religion.
Using public schools to push forward Christian values violates that division.
Further, the Supreme Court historically has shown deference to Jefferson’s separationist views, establishing the position that “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.”
Dunbar’s curriculum amendment uses a public system to foster her personal mix of ideological, not historical, Christian nation beliefs. There is certainly no consensus on the assertion that the Founding Fathers intended us to be Christian.
Yes, many of the Founding Fathers were Christian. But others, like Jefferson, were deists or even atheists. Despite their individual beliefs, they united behind the First Amendment, wherein a Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
In a recent election for Texas Board of Education slots, McLeroy, thankfully, was defeated by a moderate Republican, Thomas Ratliff, who said, “My attitude is this country was founded by a group of men who were Christians but who didn’t want the government dictating religion, and that’s exactly what McLeroy and his colleagues are trying to do.” Mr. Ratliff’s opposition to conservatives in his own party demonstrates that civic issues contain multiple perspectives – an essential reminder for the aggressive Christian conservative bloc that sought to replace the public school curriculum with their own agenda.
The changes made by the Texas board are now open to public comment. A final vote is slated for May. Despite the recent board elections, most expect the conservatives’ agenda to remain intact because the Republicans still have a majority.
But perhaps with more national attention on this issue, there’s a chance that the decisions in May will rebalance the K-12 curriculum. If not, the new Texas textbooks will become part of history, which informs involvement in civic issues.
Taraneh Ghajar Jerven is a freelance writer.