Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Reads Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Except They Say It's True

 History as seen through the eyes of social conservatives is being rewritten by the Texas Board of Education for school textbooks.

Among the changes:

Although one of the country's founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson's contributions are short-changed because he advocated separation of church and state.

George Wallace marched along side Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as sort of the great white hope in the Civil Rights marches.

Advanced high school students learn the "unintended consequences" of affirmative action programs.

President Nixon's "moral majority," the Republicans 1994 "Contract With America," and the National Rifle Association get equal billing with President Roosevelt's New Deal.

The African slave trade is renamed the "Atlantic Triangular Trade."

Study of Sir Isaac Newton is dropped in favor of examining scientific advances through military technology.

Most important is that the United States is a Christian nation.

The school board is hearing the last of 200 public witnesses Wednesday, will consider dozens of amendments Thursday and will vote on the inclusions Friday.

The changes will be sent to publishers for the state's schools and because Texas is the second most populous state may be purchased by schools in all other states at bargain prices because of the volume sales.

This will be the last hurrah for Cynthia Noland Dunbar, the state board member who ramrodded the changes "to promote patriotism" as her term has expired and is not seeking reelection. She is one of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board and usually finds at least one of the other three Republicans and five Democrats to go along with her cause.

In interviews with the United Kingdom's Guardian, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald and the Dallas Morning News, Dunbar said the changes she backs are all about "fighting for our children's education and our nation's future."

"In Texas we have certain statutory obligations to promote patriotism and to promote the free enterprise system. There seems to have been a move away from a patriotic ideology,” she said in a recent interview with the U.K. Guardian. “There seems to be a denial that this was a nation founded under God. We had to go back and make some corrections."

In California, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has introduced legislation to prevent changes ordered by Texas from being incorporated in California textbooks. Saying the changes are historically inaccurate and dismissive of the contributions of minorities, Yee complained "Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes."

Nonsense, says Jay Diskey, executive director of the schools division of the Association of American Publishers. "It's an urban myth, especially in this digital age we live in, when content can be tailored and customized for individual states and school districts."

He said the California Board of Education's existing review process is so rigorous that the state "may be the last place that would end up with the Texas curriculum." 

Two years ago, Dunbar, a Houston lawyer who home schooled  her own children, published a book, "One Nation Under God," where she argues the United States is ultimately governed by the Bible's scriptures.

''The only accurate method of ascertaining the intent of the founding fathers at the time of our government's inception comes from a biblical world view,'' she wrote. ''We as a nation were intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world.''

Among other revisions in the text books, covering K-12th grades:

"Significant contributions'' of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.

Creationism to receive equal emphases as evolution.

Recasting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as driven by Islamic fundamentalism.

A suggestion that the anti-communist witch-hunt by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s may have been justified (as claimed by right-wing author Ann Coulter).

The Texas Board of Education wields a scissors that cut children's author Bill Martin's popular tale, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" from the curriculum. They confused the name with another Martin who wrote a different book, "Ethical Marxism."



Divergent views in our children's textbooks are valuable but not to the extent of rewriting history to push a political and religious agenda. When my son Matt was in the eighth grade, I paid tuition for him to attend a Christian school across the street where we lived. He came home one afternoon, saying the teacher and the textbook he was required to read "were crazy." The book was published by Bob Jones University. I read his class assignment and some of the passages were similar to those I printed above. "Hang in there, Matt," I said. "The good news you're going back to public school next year. The bad news is you are finishing out this year in school, across the street."

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