Moses and the Texas Board of Education

Old GloryThe recent social upheaval over the battle flag of the Armies of Northern Virginia (erroneously called the Confederate Flag) has once again revealed the politicizing of history in Texas and the criminal bowdlerizing of textbooks intended to educate the youth of the country. If you want to isolate a failure with public education, look no further than Texas.

The Washington Post published an editorial that emphasizes the danger inherent in Texas:

How Texas is whitewashing Civil War history

This Fall, Texas schools will teach students that Moses played a bigger role in inspiring the Constitution than slavery did in starting the Civil War. The Lone Star State’s new social studies textbooks, deliberately written to play down slavery’s role in Southern history, do not threaten only Texans — they pose a danger to schoolchildren all over the country.

The Texas board of education adopted a revised social studies curriculum in 2010 after a fierce battle. When it came to social studies standards, conservatives championing causes from a focus on the biblical underpinnings of our legal system to a whitewashed picture of race in the United States won out. The guidelines for teaching Civil War history were particularly concerning: They teach that “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” — carefully ordered to stress the first two and shrug off the last — caused the conflict. Come August, the first textbooks catering to the changed curriculum will make their way to Texas classrooms.

It is alarming that 150 years after the Civil War’s end children are learning that slavery was, as one Texas board of education member put it in 2010, “a side issue.” No serious scholar agrees. Every additional issue at play in 1861 was secondary to slavery — not the other way around. By distorting history, Texas tells its students a dishonest and damaging story about the United States that prevents children from understanding the country today. Also troubling, Texas’s standards look likely to affect more than just Texans: The state is the second-largest in the nation, which means books designed for its students may find their way into schools elsewhere, too.

The subject here is slavery and the causes of the Civil War but it’s not limited to these topics, nor is the mendacity in school textbooks limited to the State of Texas. School Boards across the nation have been known to edit or select textbooks based on an agenda that is not aligned with accuracy or truth.

When I went to public school in California, there was no mention of the Japanese Internment in any of the textbooks for history, civics, etc. As a senior at the University I took an elective course on the history of California that was based on the professor’s textbook which had been rejected for use in the schools. The reason why was, of course, because it included a section on the Japanese Internment as well as an honest representation of subjects such as the Robber Barons, the Los Angeles water rustling, and the treatment of the indigenous natives by the conquering white man.

But to be fair, when I went to school NO textbooks included anything much beyond WWI (WWII was too recent a memory and much too recent to be included in textbooks that had a ten year lag in publishing).

MosesAnd it’s not just the whitewashing of Civil War history that is troublesome in education, perhaps more importantly there is a movement to insert religion into every part of our lives. Moses assisted in the writing of the United States Constitution: he sent Jefferson some preliminary notes on clay tablets? If you study the Bible you will discover three things: first, you can make any point or prove any argument by using the text of the Bible, even very very troubling points like slavery; second, the Bible contains as much evil as it does good; and third, the Bible is clearly intended for primitive people who still wonder where the sun goes at night (and not all of them are in Texas).

We can overcome the idiots, the Luddites, the religious fundamentalists, and the Texas Board of Education simply by thinking for ourselves and asking questions. Even the Bible cannot withstand critical thinking.

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