Review of Barton’s Textbook, ‘Drive Through History’
Instruction about the influence of religion should be an important part of learning about American history. But a curriculum or textbook that promotes a particular faith, suggests faith beliefs are historical fact or distorts history to promote a religious or ideological agenda crosses an important line and is not appropriate for public school classrooms.
According to a review by Prof. Steven Green, David Barton’s Drive Thru History America crosses this line. While much of the material is not of an overtly religious nature, in several places the book includes content clearly intended to proselytize, making bold statements of faith and asking students to make their own confessions of faith. Moreover, the curriculum presents a problematic historical account of the nation’s founding period that falls well outside mainstream scholarly understanding. It takes historical data out of context, providing inaccurate, incomplete and biased profiles of various leading figures from that era.
Prof. Green concludes: “Any school district adopting this curriculum would likely face a constitutional challenge.”
About the Author
Steven K. Green, J.D., Ph.D. is a Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of History at Willamette University, in Salem, Oregon, where he teaches courses in Constitutional Law, Legal History, First Amendment Law, and Church and State. He also serves as Director of the Willamette Center for Religion, Law and Democracy.
Green is the author of The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in Nineteenth Century America (Oxford University Press, 2010) and the co-author of Religious Freedom and the Court (Baylor University Press, 2008). He has recently completed his third book, A Republic of the Bible: The Great Church-State Debate of the Nineteenth Century.