We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was.
Bernard Lewis, quoted in Teaching Religion, Washington Times, 23 Dec. 2008
When it comes to the text books used by public schools throughout the U.S., the Texas School Board wields vast influence. Approximately 47 other states use the textbooks approved by the Texas School Board. This year, the Texas School Board made revisions to books used in social studies and history - revisions that will effect texts in these subjects for approximately a decade. The School Board made some changes that accurately reflect history as well as refused make changes that would have rewritten history. Further, they refused to include in the curriculum a section holding that institutionalized racism continues to be a major problem in America. A progressive journalist for the AP, Ms. April Castro, is up in arms over all of this.
Ms. Castro all but accuses the "far right" and "ultra-conservative" members of the Texas School Board of having staged a coup over the sane, mainstream, progressive Democrats. Let's take a look at what has her, on behalf of the AP, going ape.
A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education . . .
How about "a majority of the duly elected members of the Texas State Board of Education?" This was not, despite the author's angst, a coup by the evil "far right." The author, Ms. Castro, does not want to admit that what we are seeing is simple democracy.
. . . succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade. [cue primal scream]
Teachers in Texas will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influences of the nation's Founding Fathers, but not highlight the philosophical rationale for the separation of church and state. . . .
What Ms. Castro and progressives are arguing for is a rewrite of history. They wish to rip the First Amendment and Thomas Jefferson's remark on the "separation of Church and State" wholly out of historical context and have schools teach students the progressive's brand of radical secularism as if it were the vision of the founding fathers.
There was no inherent tension between the First Amendment and Christianity at the time of the founding. Indeed, no single document demonstrates just how much a generic form of Christianity was intertwined with our government at our founding than does the Declaration of Independence, composed by Thomas Jefferson and signed by all the members of the Second Continental Congress on 4 July, 1776:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, . . .
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, . . .
Our founding fathers saw our government as fully effectuating Judeo-Christian religious truths arising out of the Enlightenment. History shows that the trappings and spirit of a generic Christianity permeated the public sphere at the time of the founding and for over a century and a half thereafter.
True, our founding fathers, fifteen years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, passed the First Amendment, providing in relevant part:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . .
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison played pivotal roles in the drafing of the First Amendment. Eleven years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Thomas Jefferson coined the term "a wall of separation between church and state" in private correspondence. As blogger JP points out:
Jefferson's phrase, "a wall of separation between Church & State," frequently quoted by secularists in their arguments, is one of the most misunderstood quotes in the history of the United States. It is nearly always quoted out of context, which is why is it nearly always misinterpreted. The Danbury Baptists, a religious minority in Connecticut, wrote to Jefferson in 1801 to express their concerns that they might suffer religious discrimination should an official state religion be adopted. Seeking to reassure the Baptists, Jefferson replied in a letter to them in 1802:
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
Jan. 1. 1802.
Jefferson's personal opinion was a political one, and the phrase "separation of Church & State" does not appear in the Constitution, which restricts Congress from establishing a state religion and preventing American citizens from believing and worshiping freely.
As to precisely what Jefferson believed his words to mean, it is important to note that none of the founders, including Jefferson during his two terms as President, did anything in the slightest to impose radical secularism on America. They did nothing to rip the trappings of Christianity from the public sphere, nor to suggest that those that existed were in violation of the First Amendment. To the contrary, prayers then (and still today) opened Congress. Christianity was an essential part of public school curriculum. Christmas and Easter were celebrated in the public and private sphere. And the federal, state and local governments enacted laws supporting religion and imposing moral prohibitions based on the Judeo-Christian ethic.
To understand how all of this fits together at the time of our founding, one must note that our nation was in large measure founded by deeply religious people escaping institutionalized religious persecution and, further, that Europe was not then long from a series brutal and bloody religious wars that culminated in the Enlightenment. With those truths firmly in mind, Jefferson was virulently opposed to the use of public funds in support of any particular religion and as equally opposed to involving the state in settling religious disputes by favoring one religion or sect over another. Those were the subjects that animated the First Amendment and were the context to Jefferson's phrase, "separation between Church and State."
The historical context was further explained in a speech by James Buckley, the brother of William Buckley:
For most of our history, the First Amendment’s provision prohibiting the “establishment of religion” was understood to do no more than forbid the federal government’s preferential treatment of a particular faith. But while the First Amendment’s purpose was to protect religion and the freedom of conscience from governmental interference, as Thomas Cooley noted in his 1871 treatise on Constitutional Limitations, the Framers considered it entirely appropriate for government “to foster religious worship and religious instruction, as conservators of the public morals and values, if not indispensable, assistants to the preservation of the public order.” As that perceptive observer of the American scene, Alexis de Tocqueville, put it, “while the law allows the American people to do everything, there are things which religion prevents them from imagining and forbids them to dare.”
And so it is not surprising that the Congress that adopted the First Amendment also reenacted the provision of the Northwest Ordinance which declares that “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged;” and early Congresses proceeded to make grants of land to serve religious purposes and to fund sectarian education among the Indians.
In sum, as understood by those who wrote it, the First Amendment did not forbid the government from being biased in favor of religion as such so long as it championed none. . . .
What Ms. Castro is arguing for is a rewrite of history to put the words of modern radical secularism/aethism into the mouths of our founding fathers. But the history of modern radical secularism only begins in the latter half of the twentieth century, when Justice Black incorporated Jefferson's phrase, "separation between Church and State," into First Amendment jurisprudence and then added his own exposition upon the phrase in very broad terms. His 1947 decision in Everson was seized upon by the radical left to fundamentally alter our government through the Courts, not the ballot box, and to strip all aspects of Christianity from the public sphere. Perhaps the high (or low if you like) water mark of this effort by the progressive left was Obama's proclamation during a speech in Turkey of all places that America is "not a Christan nation."
What Ms. Castro is arguing for is part of the left's war on Christianity and Judaism that stretches back to Rousseau and the French Revolution. I agree with Ms. Castro that it should be taught - but not as part of the philosophy of our founding fathers, since it wasn't. It should be taught as part of the socialist philosophy of Rousseau, Marx, Lenin and their ilk that has infected America like a cancer since the early twentieth century. It should be taught as a part of their philosophy seeking to deconstruct the foundations of Western Civilization and install in its place a secular, socialist utopia.
Curriculum standards also will describe the U.S. government as a "constitutional republic," rather than "democratic," . . .
Wow. What is Ms. Castro's problem with this? Whatever it is, this woman is desperately in need of a civics lesson. We are a "constitutional republic." Indeed, the only place you will find a true democracy in America is in a few towns in Vermont.
. . . and students will be required to study the decline in value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard. . . .
Hmmmm, is there now a problem with teaching actual economic history? I am not sure what sort of rewrite Ms. Castro is asking for here. But evidently, she views this is as just another nefarious plot by conservatives to tell the truth.
Ultraconservatives wielded their power over hundreds of subjects this week, . . .
Ms. Castro is attempting to redefine what is the "center" of America. She would have us believe that progressivism is the new mainstream and if you disagree with it, then you are an "ultraconservative," living on the fringes, bitterly clinging to your guns and bibles, and no doubt drinking copious amounts of tea.
By late Thursday night, three other Democrats seemed to sense their futility and left, leaving Republicans to easily push through amendments heralding "American exceptionalism" and the U.S. free enterprise system, suggesting it thrives best absent excessive government intervention.
Ms. Castro's progressive credentials could not be more evident. She evidently sees "American exceptionalism" and the minimally regulated free enterprise system as controversial subjects. But the truth is, we are exceptional (quick, someone tell Obama). Unlike every other country on the face of this earth, we are not defined by a single nationality or even a few nationalities. Nor are we defined by a single religion, a class system, or even a deep seated and common culture. We are a mix of all and sundry defined only by a few ideals - democracy, freedom, liberty. and respect for property rights being the at their core. And if Ms. Castro believes a more heavily regulated economic system is better than what we have, I wish she would point to the models she has in mind, or the countries that have outperformed our economy. Given her knowledge of history and her evident antipathy to free market economics, I am sure it would be illuminating.
Board members argued about the classification of historic periods (still B.C. and A.D., rather than B.C.E. and C.E.); . . .
B.C. - Before Christ, and A.D. - "Anno Domini" which means "in the year of our Lord," are the manner by which we in Western Civilization have counted the years for most of two thousand years. And indeed, the history of Western Civilization is completely intertwined with the history of the Christianity, Judaism and, on the periphary, Islam. There is no intellectually honest way to separate them out of Western history of the last two millennia.
That said, intellecutal honesty and modern progressivism are mutually exclusive concepts. Thus it is no surprise that secular progressives in academia are constantly searching for new ways of separating Western Civilization from Christianity. One of the things they hit upon was to substitute B.C.E. - Before the Common Era, and C.E. - the Common Era, as a new way of identifying the years. Obviously, Ms. Castro is offended that "ultra-conservatives" refuse to join with progressive academia in their multi-front war on Christianity.
. . . whether students should be required to explain the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on global politics (they will); and whether former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir should be required learning (she will). . . .
Again, its difficult to see what Ms. Castro objects to here. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is always ostensibly at the center of Middle Eastern politics. It is a flashpoint that directly involves the larger issues of Muslim triumphalism, the Islamist's desires to destroy Judaism, and their desires to subjugate the West and establish Sharia law across the world. These issues are of central importance to the citizens of America today. So what could possibly be controversial about students studying that? Indeed, it would be a point of controversy if they did not study it.
And what could possibly be wrong with studying the fascinating and strong willed Israeli Premier, Golda Meir. Is this just the anti-semitism coming through that is seemingly built into the DNA of progressives? I can think of no other reason why Ms. Castro would find this objectionable.
In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class. . . .
Hah. How dare these fringe right-wingers teach that there is a Second Amendment.
Do progressives now advocate selective teaching of only those rights in the Bill of Rights with which they agree? It wouldn't surprise me in the least, though even Ms. Castro is apparently too abashed to do anything other than to obliquely suggest as much. Perhaps the ultra-conservatives will actually be so reactionary as to teach quotes such as:
“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty . . . . The right to self-defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine the right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” . . .
That quote came from Blackstone's Commentaries on the law at about the time of our founding and was explicitly referencing the Second Amendment. Whether the Second Amendment provides an individual right to bear arms is moot. Does Castro think ignoring the Second Amendment will make it go away, or that students should be kept ignorant of the facts, established in Heller, that our founders saw the right to keep and bear arms as both a necessity for self-defense and, ultimately, as the final defense of the individual against a government that becomes tyrannical? Modern progressives view both as a danger to the paternalistic big government that they would like to see in America. And thus, I guess, Ms. Castro would strike them from the education of our students. How Orwellian.
Conservatives beat back multiple attempts to include hip-hop as an example of a significant cultural movement.
Certainly as to a musical genres, hip-hop and rap are very significant and should be taught as such. But to define something as a cultural movement means it marks a fundamental change in public attitudes. Neither hip hop nor rap come close to qualifying on that count. Indeed, the subjects of a significant segment of hip hop and rap - misogyny, violence, killing police, killing informants, rape of "bitches" and "whores," all told with multiple profanities - are hardly part of mainstream American culture, nor have they caused a shift in our culture. It is simply stunning that progressives would want to have our children glorify any of that - let alone to hold it out as an advancement in American culture.
Numerous attempts to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history also were denied, inducing one amendment that would specify that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.
History teaches that Tejanos did form a part of the Alamo force, they did fight shoulder to shoulder with Bowie and Crockett, and they did perish in the fight. And as to others of Hispanic heritage, many contributed to our nation and are worthy of study. These are the only valid criticisms Ms. Castro makes in her progressive manifesto masquerading as a serious news story.
Another amendment deleted a requirement that sociology students "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."
I'd like to hear that one explained myself. If we are going to teach about racism in America today and efforts to combat it, shouldn't we be teaching about Rev. Wright, Louis Farrakhan, and perhaps the true story of race hustlers, such as those exposed in the Ricci decision last year. That is a reality progressives clearly do not intend to have taught as part of a public school curriculum on "institutional racism." Rather, they seek to put into the textbooks a justification for treating blacks - and all other victim classes - as permanent victims. Progressives want our schools to teach that, if you are white or conservative, you are ipso facto a racist and that, if you are a member of a victim class, then you are entitled to special treatment - unless of course you act outside your victim classification, in which case you are insured of opprobrium and character assassination by the left. How are our children to understand their pre-ordained roles in the progressive world of permanent victims and victimizers if not trained in school? No wonder Ms. Castro is concerned with this. I am surprised she didn't lead with it, since it is at the very core of progressivism.
Democrats did score a victory by deleting a portion of an amendment by Republican Don McLeroy suggesting that the civil rights movement led to "unrealistic expectations for equal outcomes."
McLeroy has got this skewed, but not wholly wrong. The Civil Rights movement that existed through much of the twentieth century was a struggle for equality of opportunity. Thus, it confuses the issues to fully conflate "equality of outcomes" with the Civil Rights movemet.
It is socialism that advocates equality of outcomes - and socialism predates the American Civil Rights movement by 120 years. Socialist ethos today fully vest the race and identity politics of progressives - and it was the progressives who loudly proclaimed the civil rights movement as their raison d'etre in the wake of the murder of Martin Luther King.
What needs to be taught are that there are two mutually exclusive philosophies at work in America today. What our founders wrote into the Declaration of Independence, based on the philosophy of John Locke, was that "all men are created equal" in terms of God's law and that all have the right to enjoy the basic freedoms granted by God. They believed in equality of opportunity for all Americans.
The opposing philosophy, that of Rousseau and Marx, is a belief that God doesn't exist and that the government should use the police power of the state to insure "equality of outcomes." That of necessity means that people must be treated unequally under the law and that property must be forcefully taken in order to be redistributed. That is utopian socialism.
Those two philosophies cannot exist in tandem. That, and the ramifications of both philosophies, are what need to be taught to our students.
Thus with but a few quibbles, I see the Texas school text-book as positive developments indeed. As to the AP, I wonder if they could have hired a more progressive and more historically ignorant reporter than Ms. Castro.
Update: The NYT has an article on this issue also. They raise two points of note.
One is a vote by the School Board to scrap the teaching of Thomas Jefferson in favor of teaching John Calvin and others. That is over the top. Jefferson, besides being a two term president, was one of, if not the, most influential of the Founding Fathers. He is inextricably bound up in our political DNA. Taking him out of the history books is a travesty. Indeed, if the Judeo-Christian roots of our nation and the meaning of the First Amendment are to be honestly treated, then the teaching of Thomas Jefferson has to be front and center.
The second issue pointed out by the NYT is that an amendment offered by Democrats, defeated on a party line vote, provided that "the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.” That, as discussed above, is fundamentally at odds with the historical reality.