It has been increasingly difficult to ignore the racially charged statements that keep coming from far-right members of the State Board of Education and their appointees to panels helping revise social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. In fact, their statements are becoming increasingly incendiary, as if they are hoping to provoke a bitter and divisive backlash. These right-wing critics have repeatedly complained about "multiculturalism" and what they see as an "overrepresentation of minorities" in the social studies standards. Some have even demanded that historical figures who did so much to advance the cause of civil rights for the poor and minorities -- people like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall -- should be removed from the standards because they are "poor role models" or their accomplishments were supposedly inferior. Taken on their own, these arguments are alarming enough. But one of the people calling for the removal of Chavez and for de-emphasizing the contributions of minorities in American history, David Barton, gave speeches before white supremacist groups in the early 1990s. Barton later claimed that he didn't know the groups were "part of a Nazi movement." Well, maybe once. But twice? Really? In any case, does he not realize how that history -- innocent or not -- colors his arguments now? How his remarks are likely to inflame passions? The latest troubling example of dragging race into the debate over the curriculum standards comes in an e-mail newsletter last week from one of the curriculum writing team members, Peter Morrison. Read More
It's bad enough that the State Board of Education claims David Barton is an "expert" who is qualified to help guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. But now we're told Barton is a "constitutional expert," too. Wow. Not bad considering that he earned only a bachelor's degree in religious education, right? Read More
Texas isn’t the only state witnessing a campaign to baptize (and rewrite) early American history. A group in Florida calling themselves No Separation has begun purchasing billboard space to spread their message that:
Our Founding Fathers knew that America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious. It’s not suited for governing anyone else.
The billboards feature quotes from early American leaders that, taken out of context, would seem to denounce the separation of church and state. Only it turns out that this propaganda isn’t just misleading; it’s outright false! One of the quotes attributed to George Washington is completely fabricated. According to the billboard, Washington proclaimed,
“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
But Washington, of course, never said that. So the billboard sponsors acted quickly to correct their error. Well…not exactly. When confronted with this lie, a spokesperson for the group articulated a rather flexible view of historical accuracy:
“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form. However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political… Read More
Chris Rodda, writing for Daily Kos, explains why giving David Barton any influence over a public school curriculum is a very bad idea. As you know, the Texas State Board of Education has appointed Barton to a panel of so-called “experts” guiding the revision of the state’s social studies curriculum standards. Barton founded and heads WallBuilders, a Texas-based organization that argues against separation of church and state and for basing our laws and society on fundamentalist Christian biblical principles.
Money quote from Rodda’s piece:
“(V)ery little of what I’ve been reading about the Texas BOE seems to convey just how dangerous Barton really is. His agenda for the teaching of American history is not merely a somewhat more religious ‘interpretation’ of history, as some are describing it — it’s an all out, lie packed, completely revised, Christian nationalist version of history, designed to muster support for a very clear political agenda.”
Rodda has also shown how Barton’s historical revisionism has already been influential in classrooms. Two years ago she reported that a Barton essay in a U.S. Department of Defense Junior ROTC American history curriculum offers a twisted (and… Read More
So says Peter Marshall, a supposed social studies “expert” helping revise curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The far-right evangelical minister from Massachusetts, appointed to an “expert” panel by social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal in a story this week about the ongoing curriculum revision:
“We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.”
Of course, the enemy in that war is anyone — even fellow Christians — who don’t share Marshall’s personal religious and political beliefs. Marshall has made that very clear.
The mix of intolerance and violent imagery employed by Marshall and others of the religious right is as extreme today as when the movement’s shock troops declared a “culture war” in America nearly two decades ago. That kind of hyperbolic nonsense is something Texans will hear more and more over the coming months. That’s because the state board also put another far-right political activist, David Barton, on the “expert” social studies panel.
Never mind that Marshall and Barton are absurdly unqualified to be… Read More