David Barton's Sidekick Tries His Hand at Promoting Bad History

by Dan Quinn

Rick Green, the former state legislator and failed Texas Supreme Court candidate who works for David Barton‘s WallBuilders outfit, is promoting his own 15-week online course in American government. Even a casual review of the materials in his class shows that he has the problems with accuracy similar to Barton.

The course’s website promises that “Constitutional expert Rick Green” will provide a “completely fun and exciting” explanation of the U.S. Constitution and “how to participate in our government. From Green’s website:

“As a bonus, high school students who take this class will receive 3 hours of college credit from Ecclesia College if they enroll! You will also be well prepared for taking the CLEP test to receive credit for other colleges. Additionally, we are working towards ACE accreditation, which means that after ACE approval, more colleges will accept this course for credit.”

The website includes a course syllabus and list of textbooks and other materials, including Green’s 2008 self-published book Freedom’s Frame. The most obvious indication that this course is more about promoting an ideological point of view rather than an academic study of the Constitution and American government is the book’s table of contents. Chapters include “A Godless Constitution?”, “Atheist Founding Fathers?” and “What about Separation of Church and State?”

In skimming over the book, it didn’t take us long to find passages that raised questions about Green’s tenuous grasp on facts. Take, for example, a passage in Chapter 2, “Careful Now…the Kids Might See That!” The chapter is essentially a screed attacking court rulings against posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms and a failure (as Green sees it) to teach students about God. The last 50 years, he writes, have seen “moral absolutes” removed from public education while students are taught that they were created not by God but by “randomly gathered protoplasm — an accidental pile of atoms”:

“This has put a new formula in place and removed God from the equation. We should not be surprised when that results in a devaluing of human life.”

He argues that the consequences of all this are dire:

“Consider the astronomical increase in violent crime within our schools in recent years. Columbine, Jonesboro, Paducah, Pearl, Virginia Tech, and unfortunately the list keeps growing. In America fifty years ago, it was unheard of for a student to walk into a classroom, take out a gun, and murder his or her classmates; but in February 2008 alone, we had four school shootings.”

Students murdering classmates was unheard of 50 years ago? What in blazes is Green talking about? There are scores of examples of school shootings and other acts of school violence in American history.

Consider this January 16 piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Schneider notes, for example, the armed schoolboy in South Carolina who killed one of his schoolmates and wounded several others in 1890. In 1853 a Kentucky student shot his teacher to death for punishing his brother.

Then there was the 15-year-old Maryland student who in 1956 shot to death a teacher and wounded two others at a junior high school. Four years later a 14-year-old in the South Texas town of Alice gunned down a 15-year-old classmate in their science class.  One of the most horrific acts of school violence didn’t involve a gun. In 1927 a local school board treasurer planted explosives under Bath Consolidated School in Michigan. The massive explosion that followed killed 38 elementary school children and six adults.

These are just a small fraction of the number of instances of shootings and other school violence we found in American history. Either Rick “Constitutional Expert” Green didn’t bother to do any real research on the issue or he thought using a manufactured talking point to promote an ideological argument was better than the truth. Of course, Green’s mentor, David Barton, who sees himself as a constitutional historian, makes pretty much the same arguments about the decline of American civilization after the courts ruled that state-sponsored prayer in public schools is unconstitutional.

What Green and Barton are most interested in is indoctrination, of course, not education. Still, Green’s course might be “fun” (as advertised) if only because  it could be hard to stifle your laughter when the “constitutional expert” trots out one absurd distortion after another.

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