Texas Education Board Candidate: The Pilgrims Were Communists!

Informal rule of the Internet: If you Google what you think sounds like a wild historical claim and the first hit leads you to websites from conspiracy theorists and historical revisionists, your instincts are probably correct.

Take, for example, a wild claim by Gail Spurlock, R-Richardson, who is running for her party’s nomination for the District 12 seat on the Texas State Board of Education. There’s plenty to dissect in the videos, but we’ll start today with Spurlock’s outrageous claim that the Pilgrims who settled in America in the early 1600s were — wait for it — communists!

Here’s what Spurlock had to say when asked about the controversial social studies curriculum standards passed the state board’s far-right members in 2010:

Those of us who dug into it, I was horrified at the false information that I had and the missing information from my own education. I didn’t know, for instance, that when the Pilgrims set up their little community – first of all, they were required to be communist. That was in their charter. Communism is that old. It was mandatory. And as a result of that half the people died in the first year. They opened up the Bible, and said “Oh, if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” They turned it into a free market system and they took off and flourished from there.

Here’s the clip:

(The full video is here.)

Right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, have been peddling the idea that Pilgrims attempted communism, were almost destroyed because of it, but were saved when they — as Spurlock puts it — embraced free markets.

It’s a nice narrative if you’re a historical revisionist. But it’s not true. As the New York Times has reported:

Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive.

The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. “The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by,” Mr. Pickering said. “They would have saved it and rationed it to get by.”

It’s one thing when professional entertainers like Limbaugh and Beck distort history. But Spurlock is seeking election to a board that guides what millions of Texas kids learn in their public schools.

Also, it’s worth pointing out a couple of other things about Spulock’s statements here. First, she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the new social studies curriculum standards. Yet even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute disagrees, describing the new standards for American history as “a political distortion of history” with “misrepresentations at every turn.”

Second, Spurlock apparently thinks the general public is, well, dumb (and even talks as if she had served on the board at the time the social studies standards were adopted):

“No, we were restoring history. But there weren’t enough people in the public who were well educated enough to recognize that.”

Stay tuned here for more about what Spurlock and the other candidates had to say to the North Texas Council.

8 thoughts on “Texas Education Board Candidate: The Pilgrims Were Communists!

  1. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common.” (Acts 2:44).

    You will also recall from the Bible that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. He was a roving minster of good who had no permanent home that we know of and lived on handouts and overnight stays provided by friends and strangers. Today, Jesus would most likely be defined as a homeless person. The Christian right more or less hates homeless people in my area. They say that the help they get from various sources should be completely withdrawn so they can experience first hand and rapidly the stark choice between death and personal reform. They believe that each one will reform himself overnight.

    Horse feathers!!! Communism goes a whole lot further back in time than the pilgrims. Note the commentary from the “Biblos” website:

    “And had all things common – Perhaps this has not been well understood. At all the public religious feasts in Jerusalem, there was a sort of community of goods. No man at such times hired houses or beds in Jerusalem; all were lent gratis by the owners: Yoma, fol. 12. Megill. fol. 26. The same may be well supposed of their ovens, cauldrons, tables, spits, and other utensils. Also, provisions of water were made for them at the public expense; Shekalim, cap. 9. See Lightfoot here. Therefore a sort of community of goods was no strange thing at Jerusalem, at such times as these. It appears, however, that this community of goods was carried farther; for we are informed, Acts 2:45, that they sold their possessions and their goods, and parted them to all, as every man had need. But, this probably means that, as in consequence of this remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God; and their conversion, they were detained longer at Jerusalem than they had originally intended, they formed a kind of community for the time being, that none might suffer want on the present occasion; as no doubt the unbelieving Jews, who were mockers, Acts 2:13, would treat these new converts with the most marked disapprobation. That an absolute community of goods never obtained in the Church at Jerusalem, unless for a very short time, is evident from the apostolical precept, 1 Corinthians 16:1, etc., by which collections were ordered to be made for the poor; but, if there had been a community of goods in the Church, there could have been no ground for such recommendations as these, as there could have been no such distinction as rich and poor, if every one, on entering the Church, gave up all his goods to a common stock. Besides, while this sort of community lasted at Jerusalem, it does not appear to have been imperious upon any; persons might or might not thus dispose of their goods, as we learn front the case of Ananias, Acts 5:4. Nor does it appear that what was done at Jerusalem at this time obtained in any other branch of the Christian Church; and in this, and in the fifth chap., where it is mentioned, it is neither praised nor blamed. We may therefore safely infer, it was something that was done at this time, on this occasion, through some local necessity, which the circumstances of the infant Church at Jerusalem might render expedient for that place and on that occasion only.”

    “Distortion of history with misrepresentation at every turn.” The ignornace never ceases and flows forth like a raging river to drown “the least of these.”

  2. Why doesn’t it surprise me that she is wearing a flag pin?

    Back up your claims with credible sources, Gail. Otherwise, shut up.

  3. OMG – I’m speechless.
    Someone must have put lead into the drinking water of some of these Republicans !!!

  4. I’ve been censored! Good Lord, I’ve been censored! Socialism! Tyranny! It’s a police state! Totalitarianism! Oops. Sorry. Lost my head for a second.

  5. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”
    Just as with our children, we feed, clothe, and care for their every need, hopefully with the end goal of creating responsible, self-maintaining, compassionate human beings who can stand on their own as productive members of society. To help the (capable, healthy) poor or less fortunate in our society without those same goals is to not respect them as viable humans, or worse, to affect a continuance of assistance so as to render ourselves discriminatory-expecting only scant or mediocre results, not higher, respectable goals that are the very essence of the human spirit.

  6. Sadly, Ms. Spurlock is not an anomaly. She is all too representative of the calibre of people in charge of overseeing the education of our children.

    People possessed of her level of discernment are the ones who are easily misled into embracing Dominionism. And once they have been convinced of the idea, no possible arguments or evidence to the contrary can sway them–because (they believe) God told them so! Are you going to follow the ways of God or are you going to follow the ways of men?

    They are then easily manipulated by others who are hungry for power. I fear for our future–not just in Texas, but the whole nation.