Another History FAIL from Leo, Barton

Terri Leo and her colleagues on the Texas State Board of Education have spent years trying to promote their own distorted and politicized versions of American history in our public schools. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Leo got her history wrong yet again in yesterday’s announcement that she will not seek re-election in 2012.

Leo, R-Spring, endorsed Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as her replacement on the board. Toward the end of that endorsement, Leo wrote:

Donna understands fully what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, “The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

Except Lincoln quite likely didn’t say that.

In fact, it’s just one of many “unconfirmed” quotations that the far right’s favorite phony “historian,” David Barton, once attributed to famous Americans in his own work. After years of criticism, Barton felt compelled in 2000 to acknowledge that he has no evidence those quotes were ever uttered. (Yet Leo’s far-right  colleagues on the state board appointed Barton as an “expert” adviser on the social studies curriculum revision in 2009-10 even though he is mostly a political propagandist with no formal academic training in the social sciences.)

Despite his admission of error, Barton’s zombie quotations live on, eating their way into our nation’s civil and political discourse.

Last year, for example, Cynthia Dunbar — one of Leo’s far-right colleagues before leaving the state board at the end of 2010 — used essentially the same unsubstantiated Lincoln quotation (although she appears not to have attributed it to him) in an interview for an article for the New York Times Magazine in February 2010, “How Christian Were the Founders?”:

The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

And as of today, a Texas Tea Party website is still using bogus quotations Barton once attributed to James Madison and Patrick Henry. (The website uses the unsubstantiated quotations to promote the concept of a Christian America.)

Leo, Dunbar and the Texas Tea Partiers provide just three of the numerous examples of how Barton’s revisionist “history” continues to corrupt both education and politics in America.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana famously wrote. Just as true, apparently, is that those who rely on David Barton for history lessons are doomed to getting it wrong — over and over again. Just ask Terri Leo.

10 thoughts on “Another History FAIL from Leo, Barton

  1. Backtracking, it shows up in a book by Norman L. Geisler and Peter Bocchino “Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith” (Bethany House, 2000), p 207. They footnote it to William J Federer, “America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations” (Coppel: FAME, 1994), p 391. That in turn footnotes to:
    Herald Star, Stubenville Ohio, 1984.
    Stephen K. McDowell and Mark A Beliles, “America’s Providential History” (Charlottesville VA, Providence Press, 1988) p 79
    David Barton, “The Myth of Separation” (Aledo TX, Wallbuilder Press 1991), p 16
    Karen Morgan, “People of the Past”, 517-A Greenville, NE, Bristolville, Ohio 44402 (216)889-9746

    Further backtracking later….

  2. The Amazon-viewable 1991 edition of Stephen K. McDowell and Mark A Beliles’ 1988 book has the quote on page 95; presumably it’s in the 1988 edition as well. No source citation appears.

    Google books also turns up a variant in the 1987 “Assuring quality for the social studies in our schools” by Paul Robert Hanna, p. 46; ditto.

    “That philosophy which is taught in the classroom becomes the philosophy of government in the next generation” (again, attributed without source) turns up via Google Books snippet-view only of page 55 from “The American Mercury: Volume 85” (a 1957 collection of the magazine). While The American Mercury was founded by respected (as the field goes) journalist H.L. Mencken, Wikipedia indicates that 1957 was during the period that owner Russell Maguire and editor George Lincoln Rockwell (later head of the American Nazi Party) took it into anti-semite and fascist territory. Time Magazine of Monday, Dec. 15, 1952 mentions the outgoing editor’s allegations of Maguire’s “indiscretions with the Christian Front crowd”. Provisionally, I thus conclude: this quote isn’t a fabrication by Barton, but rather a fabrication by a Christian Fascist of the generation before his.

    Of course, Barton’s propagation would seem unsurprising. Still, that has the potential to be a political embarrassment, if Terry Leo and Donna Bahorich can be associated with the Nazis in the mind of the public. “Are they merely naive, or willfully trying to further the classic Nazi agenda of ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche’?” Though that’s a bit ham-handed, even for a dirty tricks PAC piece.

  3. Oh, incidentally: in the American Mercury, the quote appears along with several others. The apparent lack of trace in Google Web/Books/Scholar of any of those quotes either, further suggests the batch was fabricated entire.

  4. Well, regardless, the current widespread American unhappiness with the Tea Party movement does not bode well for religious militant, right wing extremist candidates. Recent statistics indicate that the Religious Right dominates Tea Party membership and that the American people have turned against both the Religious Right and the Tea Party.

    Wait—commercial from the Religious Right

    No, I do not want to send in a one-time donation of $1,000 to receive a vial of anointing oil.”

    One of the best barometers of what is about to go down in the 2011 is in my own Congressional District. We had the same Republican Congressman for about 16 years—a conservative guy but also a pretty good Congressman overall—and certainly not one of the so-called RINOs.. He voluntarily left office to run for Governor in 2010—and lost. A Tea Party candidate was elected to take his place in Congress. The new guy has turned out to be a radical right wingnut. Just one year later, the old Congressman’s son is challenging the newly elected Tea Party wingnut in the Republican primary. Obviously, even their fellow Republicans cannot stand to have these idiots in office. Come election time, there is a good chance that this progressive that tends Democrat is going to vote for the old Republican Congressman’s son—against the Tea Party guy.

    All y’all Tea Partiers and Religious Right wingnuts out there take note. A progressive at TFN Insider plans to vote for a conservative Republican for Congress in 2012 to throw a sitting Tea Party Republican Congressman out into the street. This should give you a clue as to where you stand. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  5. Lie of the Century to date: Corporations are People. George Orwell might have included that in “Newspeak” in his book “1984.” Other Orwellian talk: The Wealthy are job creators. People must show documentation that was never before required to vote because of “Voter Fraud” that does not exist.

    This country is being hijacked by far right religionists who don’t particularly give a damn about religion; power is the name of their game. They want to rewrite history to make this a “Christian Country” when they know full well that the United States was founded as a secular state. They want to make pubic schools extensions of Christian teaching; all other religions can be ignored because ONLY Christianity was protected by the First Amendment.

    I am disgusted with what is going on in this country where the Republican party is attempting to steal next year’s elections by eliminating the poor, black, Hispanics, and whites who cannot afford to buy their birth certificates so they can get documentation required to vote.

    Folks, Corporations are NOT people and the unlimited funds they can spend on propaganda this year and next will change this country’s future forever.

    IT IS TIME FOR ANOTHER REVOLUTION IN ORDER TO TAKE THE GOVERNMENT BACK FROM THOSE WHO WOULD STEAL IT FROM ITS CITIZENS. I pray that this revolution can be peaceful. But if pressure needs to be brought in so be it.

  6. It is nice to see that all of you can hide behind your computers and spew hate and offensive insults. You all will get your judgment in the end.

  7. Charles I wish I could agree with you that the religious right scum are losing their influence. However I do not believe that to be the case. Recent examples:

    1. Two days ago an amendment attached to the defense spending bill, an amendment that would have put restrictions on abortion in Washington DC, was fortunately given the boot. There are still plenty of members of the House willing to jump through hoops when Tony Perkins, Richard Land and other assorted maggots show up on their doorstep.

    2. Last month the state of Virginia passed a bill that will require clinics that perform abortion procedures to have hallways that are as wide as those found in hospitals. This is aimed specifically at Planned Parenthood and in fact Planned Parenthood has said they will not be able to comply. The attorney general of Virginia, a piece of garbage named Ken Cuccinelli, pushed this legislation in conjunction with several extremist lobbying groups.

    3. Earlier this year Michelle Bachmann of Minnnesota, Chris Smith of New Jersey and Mike Pence of Indiana co-sponsored a House bill that would have discontinued funding of Planned Parenthood nationally. This bill was also defeated.

  8. Given that I’ve been backtracked three times (once in person), I’d hardly say I’m “hiding”. In contrast, there seems to be slightly under 1 million people in the US named “Jose”.

    I’d stipulate some of the terms I used have offensive connotations. And, if Jose cares to claim a statement is inaccurate, I’d be interested in listening. If Jose would like to stipulate the accuracy but suggest more polite phrasing for it, I’d also be interested. If Jose is willing to stipulate the accuracy but cannot suggest a more polite phrasing, I expect I would be less interested than amused.