David Barton’s Contempt for Teachers

It’s not a secret that pseudo-historian David Barton has no use for the academy. Barton clearly prefers to play like he’s a historian and self-publish his amateur (and heavily politicized) opinions in tract form rather than bother with the whole peer-review process typical in real scholarship. But Barton’s scorn is not limited to college professors — occasionally he slips up and lets his contempt for classroom teachers show.

On Wallbuilders’ Live Internet radio show last Tuesday (April 13), Barton closed his program with a vicious attack on the teachers who participated on the teams that developed draft revisions of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The Texas State Board of Education essentially shredded those drafts in January and March, making scores of changes without input from classroom teachers or even scholars in the social sciences. You can listen to the full clip here, but here’s a taste of what Barton had to say:

“It was classroom teachers who said let’s take out the Liberty Bell.

It was classroom teachers who said let’s teach global citizenship.

It was classroom teachers who said, oh, let’s don’t do Douglas McArthur and General Patton, Nathan Hale.

It was classroom teachers. Now if you think, ah, well it’s just wacky New York City teachers that are liberal left and San Francisco. No, we’re talking about Texas, from a very conservative state. And if you think your kids are not getting indoctrinated in the classroom, just look to a conservative state like Texas and look what we had to fight out of our classroom teachers…

Even a conservative teacher doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a right view of history. I mean these are the teachers that wanted, they went through and removed free market out of every mention in the standards. They didn’t want free market in there…

I’m just telling you folks, you just can’t assume that what your teachers are is not indoctrinating your kids.”

This is pure distortion and right-wing paranoia. In Barton’s bizarre, confused rendering, a cabal of radical classroom teachers conspired to corrupt American history, forcing the state board to step in and restore accuracy.

His whole diatribe wasn’t just an insulting attack on teachers. It was also a carefully calibrated lie designed to discredit the entire curriuclum process and excuse efforts by far-right members of the State Board of Education to twist the curriculum standards into a tool for promoting their own political agendas.

And how distorted was Barton’s attack? He didn’t tell his listeners, for example, that curriculum writers moved a reference to Nathan Hale from first grade to fifth grade, where they thought discussions about Hale’s heroic deeds and his subsequent execution by hanging might be more age-appropriate. Curriculum writers also included requirements that students learn about important customs, patriotic symbols, and celebrations in America, but they didn’t include a laundry list of every possible example. So Barton absurdly suggested to his listeners that teachers were trying to “censor” such examples. And while curriculum writers did include a benign reference to “citizenship in a global society” (as in: we all share the same, interconnected world), references to American citizenship — and the rights and responsibilities of that citizenship — remained through the standards. Yet Barton bizarrely suggests that Texas teachers want to undermine the loyalty of their students to their own nation.

Barton’s guest on Tuesday’s program, state board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, is also suspicious of the state’s supposedly devious classroom teachers. Mercer, contributing to the conspiratorial suggestions that classroom teachers are trying to “indoctrinate” students with leftist ideology, told listeners that the curriculum teams didn’t include a sufficient diversity of people from different walks of life and professional backgrounds:

“I get a list of experts throughout my district, and I have 12 counties, 1.5 million people, but I found out the list did not go to any Chambers of Commerce, did not go to any PTA groups. And the reason why that’s important because in Texas it’s supposed to be our committees are made up of one-third average moms and dads, one third business leaders and one third educators. Well the groups were all educators – not that that’s bad. But on my committee, I had conservative educators come forward tell me they were shut out of the process because they are conservatives – conservative historians in Texas schools, which is pretty shocking.”

What conservatives said they were shut out of the process, Mr. Mercer? Is the Texas Education Agency investigating? Do you have names, or are you just making up an absurd story with vague allegations? (Of course, we already know that at least one board member was trying to weed out potential curriculum writers who were insufficiently conservative.)

In any case, Mercer didn’t bother to tell listeners that Republican board members appointed two-thirds of the curriculum writers. He also didn’t mention that he wasn’t one of those Republicans — Mercer failed to submit the name of even one appointee. He simply couldn’t be bothered to make the effort, but now he wants to smear the reputations of the teachers who did get placed on the curriculum teams. Mercer did, however, appoint Barton to a panel of so-called “experts” to help guide the revision:

“But that’s where we began, so basically, I decided, well, instead of having that I want to appoint a state-wide expert, someone from Texas I knew who was respected throughout the nation, and you know, I appointed David Barton. And that was a huge homerun.”

But Barton has no formal training in the social sciences. His bachelor’s degree is in religious education from Oral Roberts University. That’s it. Truth is, Barton is absurdly unqualified to serve as an “expert” on a panel helping revise curriculum standards for social studies. Indeed, we have repeatedly pointed out Barton’s problems with historical facts (including here, here and here).

So no, Barton is not “respected throughout the nation” as an expert at anything other than political propaganda. And one assumes classroom teachers wouldn’t think too highly of him either after his diatribe last week.

16 thoughts on “David Barton’s Contempt for Teachers

  1. I guess he had some mean teachers when he was a kid and now he’s getting even.
    I mean all that homework.
    And then having to write “I will not make tooting noises in class.” 500 times, single space, both sides of paper…

  2. Barton lied about the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, and Madison’s views on religious freedom. Barton lied about Thomas Jefferson’s views.

    Why should we think he’d be telling the truth about anything, now?

  3. Anyone know the specifics of David Barton’s Liberty Bell complaint? I might speculate that he’s talking about the urban legend of the Liberty Bell being run to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a myth invented by George Lippard of Philadelphia in a fictional story for _The Saturday Currier_ in 1847.

  4. Ed, we don’t.
    In fact most of his cohorts and fans know he’s lying.

    Jim, are you the descendant of George? If so, you ought to know.

  5. Okay, if a person really believed that “experts are not needed,” than why does Barton et al. sell themselves as experts?

  6. There you go, doing that “makin’ sense” thing again.
    The SBOE has no need for that, now.
    Don’t go trying to unconfuse people.

  7. To borrow a worn out phrase from the Clinton administration, David Barton and his associates must believe that there is some sort “vast liberal conspiracy” trying to tear down public education in the United States. You know conspiracy theories. Their reach is by its very nature VAST. If it were not, it would not be much fun, and it would not be much of a conspiracy. For example, take the vast UFO abduction conspiracy, their purported clandestine genetic engineering of the human race, and some gray aliens mating with female abductees to produce strange-eyed humans with unusual facial features—like say maybe Taylor Swift. When you have a conspiracy like that, the scope and sweep must be sufficiently large to capture and support any mindless drivel you might choose to generate.

    For example, it is not enough to just say that a few liberal apples have spoiled the whole apple barrel of public education in Texas. That is not vast. Vast is this. Most public school teachers, administrators, and expert social studies curriculum advisors in the Texas public schools are hopeless liberals. Notice the use of “most.” Many of them have been so brainwashed that they do not even know that they are hopeless liberals. That opens the sails a bit wider. Then comes the all-time, major league clincher of vastness. Even the conservative teachers, administrators, and social studies curriculum experts have been so thoroughly contaminated in their younger years by liberal teachers and professors that most of them are sold out to a liberal social studies perspective—and do not even know it.

    Yep folks. Sound familiar? You have seen this in an old movie. It was called “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Giant green bean pods with a “liberal-making power” have descended upon Texas and turned very nearly the whole lot of you into mindless social studies liberals. Even the conservatives were not immune. It all happened because you dared to sleep in the face of the vast liberal conspiracy. But fear not!!! David Barton and his friends are your Kevin McCarthy. They are your messiah—your salvation. All you have to do is listen to them, be constantly vigilant and dispel sleep—or wake up from a brief doze before it is too late.

    Then again, if you are a normal and sensible human being, you might just stop for a second, realize that this whole Barton nonsense is really just a lousy movie remake based on a wild and outlandish plot line. Check it out:


  8. I’ve always assumed that a solid majority of folks in Texas were rather conservative. And Republican. At the very least it is the face the State puts forward to the rest of the nation.

    If this is indeed the case then how is it the government run schools attracted nothing but liberal instructors with an agenda to subvert and pervert the minds of innocent Texas children?

    But maybe that’s it. Yeah. That’s it! It’s actually a giant conspiracy!! Texas is REALLY about as conservative as Taxachusetts! Damn you Texas. You really had me going there for a while.

  9. I find the attacks on Mr Barton’s reputation rather than a focus on facts in these comments rather shallow.

    Are we to say that nothing was wrong with the standards presented in the curriculum? What about the attempt to delay the vote on the standards until after the election to increase the chances of winning? What about the attempt to abolish the elected body?

    I wonder how many of those who have left comments on this board are active Christians, and based on that, what skewing that has on the perception of Mr. Barton’s motives. I dare say very few, given the hateful tone of the comments.

  10. I wonder how many of those who have left comments on this board are active Christians, and based on that, what skewing that has on the perception of Mr. Barton’s motives. I dare say very few, given the hateful tone of the comments.

    Why should that matter? James Madison was probably the “most Christian” of the founders, and also the most ardent proponent of separation of church and state. He fully understood that the right to worship was sacred, important, and protected by the First Amendment.

    The question is, why would any claiming to be Christian NOT defend Madison’s stand? Madison spelled out exactly how the marriage of church and state produced lethargy in the clergy and corruption in the state (see the Memorial and Remonstrance).

    Why isn’t Barton defending the Christian position here?

    Nice of all these people to defend Christian freedom, whether they are Christian or not.

    (I suspect you’d be surprised at how many of us are Christian, Charley. You appear not to be too familiar with the history of religious freedom in the U.S.)

  11. Charley, David Barton is a con artist. Neither I nor anyone else has to show him any respect. Doesn’t have anything to do with hatred.
    The first thing that’s required here, is that folks decide whether they’re talking about Christianity as a religion, or as a political movement.
    Or as a con, which exploits the hijacking of a religion as a political movement.

  12. It would be nice if websites such as these were equally concerned about the left-wing tenured radicals holding forth in, for example, schools of education. Barton is an idiot but sadly, left-wing idiots are both ubiquitous and easily able to coat their nonsense with a misleading veneer of respectability by virtue of fluency in the superficially persuasive but ultimately meaningless codes of professorese.

    Here’s an account of what goes on in a leading education school, from a normal idealistic center-left person’s point of view