Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A plea to Mexico: Please take Texas

You think I would learn to expect the worse from Texas by now, especially when it comes to education, but they still have the power to surprise me.

Not only has the Texas Board of Education recently approved new science standards that have made room for creationist critiques of evolution, but now they’re busy revising the states social studies curriculum.

Why you might ask? So they can decide how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history of course.
In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history. Three reviewers, appointed by social Conservatives, have recommended revamping the K-12 curriculum to emphasize the roles of the Bible, the Christian faith and the civic virtue of religion in the study of American history. Two of them want to remove or de-emphasize references to several historical figures who have become liberal icons, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall.

"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," said Rev. Peter Marshall, a Christian minister and one of the reviewers appointed by the conservative camp.

The conservative reviewers say they believe that children must learn that America's founding principles are biblical. For instance, they say the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution stems from a scriptural understanding of man's fall and inherent sinfulness, or "radical depravity," which means he can be governed only by an intricate system of checks and balances.

The curriculum, they say, should clearly present Christianity as an overall force for good -- and a key reason for American exceptionalism, the notion that the country stands above and apart.

"America is a special place and we need to be sure we communicate that to our children," said Don McLeroy, a leading conservative on the board. "The foundational principles of our country are very biblical.... That needs to come out in the textbooks."

Besides the obvious reasons I’m not happy with this new distorted focus of Christianity and American History crap, I’m really annoyed by the fact a minister is part of these “outside experts.” (Who preaches that Watergate, the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina were God's judgments on the nation's sexual immorality no less.)

I don't know about you, but it would make sense to have people who are actually trained in history studies to help decide the framework of our children's history courses.

The article goes on to point out that the three reviewers appointed by the moderate and liberal board members are all professors of history or education at Texas universities. Not only do these three want “less-sweeping changes to the existing curriculum,” but they also want to include more “diverse role models.”

Why am I not surprised?
But the emphasis on Christianity as a driving force is disputed by some historians, who focus on the economic motivation of many colonists and the fractured views of religion among the Founding Fathers. "There appears to me too much politics in some of this," said Lybeth Hodges, a professor of history at Texas Woman's University and another of the curriculum reviewers.

The conservative Christian reviewers, in turn, are skeptical of the professional historians' emphasis on multiculturalism, views stated most forcefully by Mr. de la Teja but echoed by Ms. Hodges. Reaching for examples of achievement by different racial and ethnic groups is divisive, Mr. Barton said, and distorts history.

Wait, what? I’d really like Mr. Barton to explain how including Latinos and Native Americans into Texas’ history curriculum is “divisive” and “distorts history.” Maybe in regards to the corrupt and one sided “Christianity is amazing and wonderful” history Barton wants to force unto children, but in respect to the actual facts, not so much.

The only plus side is these six reviewers aren’t the last stop in this process. After they make their recommendations, social studies teachers will meet to write the new standards this summer. Then the teacher’s recommendations will be sent to the Texas Board of Education. (Unfortunately, they'll probably muck everything up anyways.)

The fact some people think this way though, is more evidence of what a sham our current education system is and why religious activists do not belong on curriculum boards.

We should not allow these sorts of people to use our schools to indoctrinate our children.

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