Perhaps others were just as puzzled as we were when the religious-right bloc on the Texas State Board of Education went after the Federal Reserve System earlier this month. At the board’s March 11 meeting, Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, proposed the following standard for revised curriculum standards for high school economics:
“(A)nalyze the decline in value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System in 1913.”
TFN has no economists on staff, but unlike state board members, we have no problem searching for the opinions of experts. A prominent University of Texas economist (we didn’t ask permission to quote him by name, so we won’t identify him here) scoffed at the suggestion that a focus on the Federal Reserve System would be sufficient for analyzing the changing value of the dollar over the course of the last century. “It would not only be insufficient,” he replied. “It would be like searching for a mouse among a herd of elephants.”
In other words, dumb standard.
During debate over the proposal, some board members echoed the views of our UT economist. In fact, board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, marveled at the implication that her board colleagues were so knowledgeable about economics that they could approve such a standard without bothering to consult even one economist. And board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, noted the obvious: there are many reasons for the changing value of currency over time.
Eventually, board members approved a revised standard, with references to the Federal Reserve System and 1913 deleted. Students are simply required to analyze the decline in the value of the dollar — except board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, another member of the board’s religious-right bloc, succeeded in adding the words “including the abandonment of the gold standard.”
We wanted to know why the board’s religious-righters have such hostility to the Fed. And surprise of surprises, we found a likely candidate: the Federal Reserve System (along with the abandonment of the gold standard, which came later) is unbiblical.
Simply Google “Federal Reserve System” and “unbiblical” and you’ll find numerous essays and assorted other screeds attacking the Fed as violating law set out by God in the Bible. Here are some examples:
“Since it was created in 1913, the value of the dollar has depreciated 95 percent. In other words, a 1913 dollar would be worth less than 5 cents today, or it would take $21 today to match the value of $1 in 1913. How did this happen? In Biblical terms, we’ve allowed our federal officials to create a monetary system based on dishonest scales and weights.”
“I have stated for years that the decade of 1910-1919 would likely be identified as perhaps the most troublesome decade in our history due to several unbiblical polices put in place, not the least being the creation of the Federal Reserve System, passing the 16th Amendment (direct income tax), and passing the 17th Amendment, change of electing U.S. Senators by popular vote rather than by state-appointment, as had been the case since the ratification of the constitution. All of these were adopted in 1913.”
Among the most interesting information we found was on the website of Educational Research Analysts, founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler in the East Texas town of Longview. For decades the Gablers were among the most influential textbook censors on the religious right. Today the organization’s head is Neal Frey, who clearly has the ear of far-right members of the State Board of Education. In 2004, for example, Frey persuaded board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, to demand that publishers replace “asexual stealth phrases” (like “couple”) in health textbooks with words that clearly suggest marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Those “asexual stealth phrases,” she (and Frey) argued, actually promote same-sex marriage.
Anyway, Frey publishes textbook “reviews” and newsletters, among other things, on the Educational Research Analysts website. At least twice, those newsletters have promoted economics education along biblical principles. For example, the May 2006 newsletter decries “government sovereignty over money and banking” as unbiblical. It also accuses the Federal Reserve System of violating “constitutional/Biblical principles” by “undermin(ing) the gold standard.”
“Deductively and inductively, the deity of Christ, the Word of God, entails the gold standard.”
The newsletter also makes clear that some of the strategies used by the Fed in setting monetary policy violate biblical mandates:
“Scripture forbids inflationary monetary policy but not a deflationary one. The state cannot expand by deflating as it can through inflation.”
There’s plenty more in that June 2009 newsletter if you’re interested in what biblical literalists want to teach in economics classes. The question is how influential Frey and Educational Research Analysts have been on the board’s decisions regarding curriculum standards for economics and other social studies courses.