>Conservatives in Texas re-write history in textbooks

>This story in The New York Times infuriates me. There seems to be a wave of revisionists who seek to modify history and shove their agenda onto the education of the youths in this country.

The Texas Board of Education, on a 10 to 5 party line vote, approved a wave of changes to the state’s social studies curriculum “that will put a conservative stamp on history and economic textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.”

The story notes the BOE in recent years have been locked in an ideological battle between the state’s most active conservative activists who question Darwin’s theory on evolution, the notion that the nations’ Founding Fathers were guided by a separation of church and state and moderate Republicans and Democrats who believe in preserving the teachings of Darwinism and separation of religion from government.

The changes include:

  • calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.
  •  included a plank to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”
  •  pushed through a change to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • mentioning the votes of Civil Rights legislation in which Republicans supported
  • an amendment to study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation.
  • an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.
  • requiring that the history of McCarthyism include “how the later release of the Venona papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government.” The Venona papers were transcripts of some 3,000 communications between the Soviet Union and its agents in the United States.
  • the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”
  • an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.
  • cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)
Efforts by Hispanic board members to include Latinos as role models in the state’s large Hispanic population were defeated, which caused board member Mary Helen Berlanga to storm out of the meeting late Thursday night.

“They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”

Another Democrat, Mavis B. Knight, introduced an amendment requiring students to study the reasons “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.” The amendment was defeated on a party-line vote.

After the vote, Ms. Knight said, “The social conservatives have perverted accurate history to fulfill their own agenda.”

It should be noted these activists are seeking to change what they see as a liberal skewing among teachers and academia in teaching history in the United States. 

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

Only in Texas can conservatives band together and infiltrate academia with their juvenile interpretations of history. With no experience in history (except for what they’ve been told by the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity), a dentist, a lawyer and a Realtor have come together to rewrite history in their favor.

We’ve seen the damage social conservatives and talk radio show hosts can do when they attempt to revise history to their liking. Take Glenn Beck, who claimed the three-fifths rule was an “abolitionist provision.” Or Karl Rove, who in his new book Courage and Consequences, seeks to re-write recent history. Or Trent Lott, who declared Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign was more about defeating communism than preserving Jim Crow in the south. 

I can go on and on about this, but I’m sure you all are familiar of the varied attempts by conservatives to skew history in their favor. 

With the rise of Obama, I wonder if these conservatives feel threatened by the subsequent elevation of women and minorities into power. With the news that minority babies will become the majority by 2050, these conservatives are seeking to maintain their position and views in history and society. It’s not only about academia shoving left-of-center views down the throats of their children. It’s about the fear of losing ground in a society that’s rapidly changing around them.

The type of amendments they injected into the curriculum is an attempt to Reaganize academics, to place a Ronald Reagan interpretation onto history and society. The rise of Reagan bolstered conservatives into feeling their views and opinions were under attack by Democrats, progressives, civil rights activists, feminists, homosexuals and anti-war activists. It explains the rise of the Christian Coalition, the National Rifle Association, the Moral Majority and other right-wing activists nonprofit organizations that have attempted to enforce their views upon America. 

Reaganism attempts to lessen the blow racism has on American society. It seeks to white wash the past by elevating the few Republicans who supported civil rights legislation (while ignoring the fact that an overwhelming majority of white Southern Democrats opposed the legislation and controlled Congress at the time). It seeks to apply a conservative view on the Civil Rights Movement by elevating the violent reputation of the Black Panther Party–while ignoring the fact that the Black Panthers were mainly concerned about the social plight of their communities. 

Reaganism also attempts to blur the concrete line between separation of church and state. They ignore the fact that the First Amendment clearly specifies Americans have a right to practice their own religion and freedom to not practice religion. It also glosses over the fact that the First Amendment (which is part of the U.S. Constitution) forbids Congress from establishing a state-sanctioned religion. Instead, they point to a lack of a specific clause that does not establish such separation. 

Reaganism attempts to promote capitalism as the more superior economic system than its evil competitor, socialism. Reaganites reject criticisms of capitalism as socialism and communism in disguise. Capitalism is good, Reaganites say, because it promotes individuality, self-advancement and competition, ideals embedded in the American fabric.

The ideology also places McCarthyism in a more positive light. It portrays Joseph McCarthy as an American hero who was determined to expose communists for what they really were: devil-worshiping anarchists who wish to overthrow the American government. They gloss over the fact that McCarthyism and its practitioners ruined the lives of many innocent Americans.

Reaganites have overtaken the curricula in the Lone Star State and have used political maneuvers to change the course of education in the state. This sets a dangerous precedent and will motivate others who practice Reaganism to impose their skewed and inaccurate versions of history onto public education in other states.