Spring Newsletter 2010

Something is rotten in the state of Texas

TexasOn March 11th, the Texas State Board of Education (Texas SBOE) voted on a variety of amendments to the state social studies, world history and U.S. government curricula. Prepare to be appalled at the outcomes.  As reported by the Texas Freedom Network, the Board voted to:

- Remove Thomas Jefferson from the world history curriculum on the impact of Enlightenment thinkers;
- Include exploration of the right to bear arms in the curriculum on First Amendment rights and free expression;
- Strike down an amendment that would have required students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”
What is most emblematic of the Board’s far-right majority members’ (lack of) understanding of the separation between religion and government in America is the third item in this litany of woes. According to Cynthia Dunbar, one of the more prominent conservatives on the Board, the separation of religion and government wasn’t actually the Founders’ intent – they wanted to promote religion. Therefore, said Dunbar, the proposed amendment was “not historically accurate.”
 
To quote our friends at the Texas Freedom Network: “The Texas State Board of Education…refused to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others. They voted to lie to students by omission.”
 
While Thomas Jefferson fortunately has not been completely cut out of Texas education standards, there is no doubt that he is one of the preeminent American scholars of the Enlightenment era and it is a shame students will not learn of his influence and contributions in that area. Furthermore, it is appalling that students will receive a misleading education on the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment with the inclusion of the “right to bear arms”– a freedom that has its own section of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment – in exploration of its provisions.  
 
What is most unfortunate is that this narrow-minded group of individuals has such incredible power over what children learn not just in Texas, but around the country, impacting what children are taughtfor the next decade.  Why?  Because the state of Texas buys or distributes nearly 50 million textbooks each year, which leads publishers to write books that match the state’s curriculum demands.
 
In response to these troubling developments, Interfaith Alliance president, Rev. Welton Gaddy, sent a letter to three major textbook publishers. In the letter, Rev. Gaddy asked that the publishers not be swayed to rewrite their textbooks by the Texas SBOE’s misguided attempts to reshape our nation’s history, despite Texas being a primary consumer of their products. Hopefully, for once, what happens in Texas will stay in Texas, and eventually be undone for, as Rev. Gaddy said in the letter, "nothing less than the integrity of our children's education and their future are at stake."
 

Over the next few months, the Texas SBOE will continue to amend and revise the social studies curriculum with the final vote on the adoption of the standards to occur sometime in May.