David Barton is complaining about a bogus “war on Christmas” in proposed new social studies curriculum standards, but what about his “war on grammar”? And Barton has also complained that too many “insignificant” historial figures have been included in the standards, crowding out people he thinks are more important. So why is he proposing that students be required to study John Wayne, Cecil B. DeMille and Jimmy Stewart?
Those are just a couple of the absurdities we found in Barton’s review of the first draft of the proposed standards for Texas public schools. There are plenty of others.
First, Barton opposes a standard requiring that students “use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation” when writing about social studies topics. He insists that such a standard is more appropriate for an English or reading class and should be removed from social studies.
Really? Does Barton not understand that educators know how important it is to reinforce and build grammar, spelling and punctuation skills throughout the school curriculum? We’re sure he does, which makes his suggestion all the more silly. Of course, when curriculum writers suggest that Easter but not Christmas be listed as an example of Christianity in a standard about holidays in various world religions, the religious right cynically claims that they are engaging in a phony “war on Christmas” and attacking America’s Christian heritage. But what about Barton’s “war on grammar”?
Barton also undermines his own complaints that curriculum writers are promoting personal biases by including historical figures in the standards he thinks aren’t appropriate, such as Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall. He also argues in his review of the first draft of the standards that individuals who are still alive or who have only recently died shouldn’t be in the standards. The standards should instead include “more historically notable individuals.”
So who does Barton want students to study in their high school U.S. history course? He suggests movie actors John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart as well as Cecil B. DeMille, who directed iconic Hollyood films like The Ten Commandments, The King of Kings, The Sign of the Cross and more secular-themed films like The Plainsman and The Greatest Show on Earth. Barton writes:
“(A)ll of (them) used their talents to be social leaders (or societal leaders and spokesmen) advocating Americanism, admiration for the Constitution, and respect for the military.”
Well, we suppose Barton thinks Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall did none of that. Maybe they should have gone into the movie business instead.
Some other points Barton makes in his review:
- U.S. history students should learn that George Washington was saved from death by a God’s direct intervention during the French and Indian War, with Barton proposing a standard about “the providential preservation of (Washington’s) life during the Battle of Monongahela.”
- Barton says a standard that has second-graders learning about different “ethnic and/or cultural celebrations in their local community” simpy “represents multi-cultural diviseness” and “is patently ridiculous” because all students already “know that we have various ethnic groups with difference among them.”
- Barton is also critical of a standard that has Grade 6 students “analyze the efforts and activities institutions use to sustain themselves over time such as compulsory education developing an informed citizenry or religions using monumental architecture to transcend time.” The phrase “compulsory education,” Barton complains, “suggests that only government-run public schools can sustain American institutions.”
- Barton elevates the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to the level of NASA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission in a standard that has government students analyzing “the purpose of selected independent agencies.”
- Barton also reveals his own political biases, in one place even suggesting that students “identify the benefits of the Electoral College System.” In fact, whether or not that system should be changed is a matter of political debate, with some arguing that there are a number of important disadvantages (such as the election of presidents who fail to win even a plurality of the popular vote of the American people).
Barton will have the opportunity to expand on his suggestions when he speaks to the Texas State Board of Education during a discussion of the social studies standards on Thursday.