What Does Dunbar Really Want to Teach?

by Dan Quinn

Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has been defending her action removing Thomas Jefferson from world history curriculum standards by disingenuously claiming his inclusion simply wasn’t “germane.” And during this month’s state board meeting, she complained that critics were wrong in charging that she and other far-right board members were trying to force their religious views into public school classrooms.

But the truth often has a way of finding its way to light: Dunbar opposes teaching world history students about Jefferson because she defiantly opposes his conviction that mixing government and religion is a threat to freedom for all.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars notes that Dunbar is scheduled to appear  on May 1 at a rally in the nation’s capital (May Day 2010: A Cry to God for a Nation in Distress). She reportedly will call on God to forgive America for supposedly removing Him from American schools. Here is how rally organizer Janet Porter, founder of the fringe religious-right organization Faith2Actiondescribes what Dunbar will tell rally participants:

“She is going to come to May Day and repent for how we have taught our children lies, not only in revisionist history but also evolution, how we’ve kicked God out of school. She will repent on behalf of the education system, and she’s also going to welcome God back in.”

Remember that Dunbar calls public education unconstitutional, “tyrannical” and a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” in her 2008 book, One Nation Under God. In fact, she crammed her book full of inflammatory rhetoric, as when she criticizes Christians who send their children to public schools:

“Our children are, after all, our best and greatest assets, and we are throwing them into the enemy’s flames even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.”

Also in her book, Dunbar endorses a “belief system” that would “require that any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.”

That certainly makes her desire to strike Jefferson from the world history standards easier to understand. Jefferson, after all, was a Deist who believed that a “wall of separation between church and state” was essential to freedom.

Dunbar knew she couldn’t delete Jefferson from the American history standards — nearly everyone would see that as a step too far. But she would naturally oppose teaching world history students that Jefferson and his Enlightenment ideals have for centuries inspired people far outside the United States in their struggles for freedom against oppression.

For Dunbar, teaching students about Jefferson and his ideals is anathema. That helps explain why she replaced Jefferson with theologians Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin in the world history standards. And it tells us more about just what Dunbar wants to teach in our public schools classrooms — a distorted version of history that squares with her own narrow worldview.