Those Texas History Curriculum Revisions

Katherine Stewart has an article at AlterNet about the changes made to the history curriculum by the Texas Board of Education that reveal just how bad those revisions were. Some of this stuff is straight out of the David Barton jokebook:

While the handful of moderates on the SBOE squeals in opposition, the conservative majority lands blow after blow, passing resolutions imposing its mythological history on the nation’s textbooks.

Cynthia Dunbar, a board member who has described public education as a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion,” and who homeschooled her own children, emerges as a relentless ideologue. During the hearings, she yanks Thomas Jefferson from a standard according to which students are expected to “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas … on political revolutions from 1750 to the present,” and replaces him with the 13th-century theologian St Thomas Aquinas. Moderate Republican board member Bob Craig points out that the curriculum writers clearly intended for the students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson in this part of the standard, not a mix of Protestant and Catholic theologians, but the resolution passes anyway…

The board goes on to remove the word “slavery” from the standards, replacing it with the more benign-seeming “Atlantic triangular trade.” They insist on calling the United States a “constitutional republic” rather than a “democracy” – largely because they want students to think of their country as Republican, not Democratic…

Historical figures of suspect religious views (like Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin) or political tendency (like union organizer Dolores Huerta) are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program. Meanwhile, the board majority makes room for an eclectic array of ancillary figures from the revolutionary period, such as Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull. What these marginal figures have in common, other than being dusted off from high shelves and promoted by the board, is the fact that they were loud defenders of orthodox Christianity.

And the students in Texas public schools are the ones who will be damaged by this propaganda.

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  • d cwilson

    Well, you can certainly say that Dunbar is doing her best to make public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion”.

    Kind of like how republicans say government can’t do anything right, then do their best to prove it once elected.

  • unbound

    “And the students in Texas public schools are the ones who will be damaged by this propaganda.”

    Actually, students across the nation will be damaged by this propaganda. The schoolbook publishers will not be looking to print multiple editions…and with Texas buying the most books, they will simply be using that version across the nation.

  • (T)he students in Texas public schools are the ones who will be damaged by this propaganda.

    Especially on college admissions tests for out-of-state schools.

  • hexidecima

    Time to forcibly eject Texas from the US and they can contentedly become a third world pest hole.

  • Who Knows?

    Time to forcibly eject Texas from the US and they can contentedly become a third world pest hole.

    I was stationed in Texas in the ’70s and it was a nice place. I went back in 2001 and the difference was amazing. They’re doing a pretty good job of turning it into a third world pest hole while remaining a part of the United States.

  • lcallen3

    When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s some of the most popular stories coming out of the Soviet Union were the Soviet’s continuous re-writing of history. These showed up regularly in Pravda and other sources and were meant solely to create a new prominence for Russia in Western history. From the pages of Pravda you would learn that the Russian’s had invented everything and won every war and nothing good had ever come out of the Western Democracies. The stories were a great source of jokes, even showing up regularly coming from the Chekhov character in the original Star Trek series. On a more sinister side,they were also used by the John Birch type anti-communist’s as an example of what would happen to the world if the commies won. Now those same John Birchers and there descendants are doing the same thing in Texas. The commies did win.

  • leonardschneider

    Hey-hey! Courtesy of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, I’ve actually found the training film the Texas BOE uses:

    “Well if it doesn’t fit in with your pet theories…”

  • Hexdecima: Okay, you want to kick Texas out. Great.

    Yeah, and fuck all the progressives, people of color, women, LGBTQ folk, poor people, and everyone else unfortunate enough to be stuck in the hellhole without actually having the legislative heft to fix it. Also, might I note that it’s somehow always the states with the most poor people that get written off by progressives who feel the itch to condemn a place without considering the socioeconomic situation that might lead to its becoming a hellhole? I’d call classism, but of course the progressives who want to kick out all of the states with the dirty unenlightened poor people are just too damn progressive for all of that; it’s sheer coincidence.

    Hows ’bout, instead of blaming everyone who lives here (whether because they love it and want to fix it or simply don’t have the resources to leave) for it being a complete shithole, we actually work together to fix it? I don’t appreciate being written off and blamed for these assholes when I went with my (teacher) sister-in-law to protest the SBOE and there were a ton of other people there doing the same. We had a sizeable protest against Prop 8 in Oaklawn in Dallas; every weekend my school’s FMLA organizes people to go and escort women into a local abortion clinic; we work had to advance progressive causes out here, and we do not deserve to be written off as if it’s a fucking coincidence that so many of the people here are poor and have terrible educations. By your logic, gay people should just abandon this hellhole of a country and go somewhere where they already have rights, but they’re still fighting for it because they either want to be or have to be here.

    We are here, fighting. Join us or shut the fuck up.

  • Why is the Texas BOE so influential nationwide when California, which has, presumably, more students, would be placing larger book orders with the publishers?

    Jenniferforester @8:

    I read your post. Keep up the good fight! We need more of you.

  • reverendrodney “Why is the Texas BOE so influential nationwide when California, which has, presumably, more students, would be placing larger book orders with the publishers?”

    Because everything’s bigger in Texas. And California’s budget is a mess (it’s easy to get things but practically impossible to pay for them).

  • The Gregarious Misanthrope


    As I recall, Texas is a single market for school texts whereas California is not, with individual school districts having some autonomy there.

  • Well they can compete with future students from TN for the dumbest people in the nation…The Christian Right is really digging a bigger and bigger hole that our kids are going to have a very hard time climbing out of…

    To jenniferforester @#8 Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Doc Bill

    Right out of the Barton jokebook?

    Hell, Barton was a member of the social studies advisory panel for the SBOE! There was a little flak about conflict of interest since he was pushing a point of view he sells in his books but, hey, ignore the man behind the curtain! Nothing to see there!

    I’m really more angry at the moderates who let the conservatives roll over them time and time again. I guess you get what you pay for, or vote for.

  • Doc Bill, you hit the nail right on the head: you get what you vote for. Conservatives have long grasped that local-level politics are extremely important, and that they can take over fromt he ground up. That’s something we’re catching up on as progressives, and little things like, say, boards of education, are really important. It’s unfortunate in locations like mine where the partisan elections are between a deluded Republican and a sociopathic Republican, and the nonpartisan elections are between a deluded Republican and a sociopathic Republican (with maybe a Libertarian to mix things up), but they call it “nonpartisan.”

  • “Time to forcibly eject Texas from the US and they can contentedly become a third world pest hole.”

    But first, for the love of FSM, remove all of the nukular weapons within their borders and relocate the few dozen reasonable and sane people left there.

    A few other states should get the same treatment, making one big “Theocratic State of TexMissLaBama.”

  • marcus

    @8 We are here, fighting. Join us or shut the fuck up.

    You fucking go jenniferforester! I don’t think Molly could have said it better herself (okay maybe funnier, but she would have totally agreed with the sentiment).

  • Lifelong resident of Texas here and a avid hater of right wing conservative religious nuts and rednecks of all stripes. But there a larger number of people who are not of that ilk than any of you assholes who paint the entire south with one large warped brush will ever know.

    Every time a story about Texas or the South there’s a wholeflotillaa of you worthless douche-canoes flapping your equally worthless lips.

    Y’all are every bit as bad about stereotyping as the people you accuse of that very thing.

  • birgerjohansson

    A couple of centuries ago, Sweden was a theocratic impoverished hellhole. It gets better.

  • etienne

    This depreciation of Enlightenment ideas among the fanatical religious is not restricted to Texas. I taught freshman level college history for many years on the east coast and was often completely stunned by student misinformation regarding that period, exclusively by those with a highly religious background, so much so, in fact, that I openly questioned what exactly they were taught in their HS. No other period of history garnered such acrimonious debate in our classes. On the Enlightenment was blamed all manner of social evils: institutional sexism, wars, inequality of the races (really). Fortunately, most of these young students left my class with a better appreciation of the complexity and context of the period, and the enlightenment principles contained in our founding documents. Some, sadly, still resisted the new knowledge put in front of them.

    Following this train of criticism on and off for a couple years and attempting to understand what was behind it all, I have come to the conclusion that this modern criticism of the Enlightenment is really just a product of a poorly understood 19th century Romanticism. I find it merely an expression of a fear of modernization, of personally being ‘left behind’ intellectually in an increasing scientific and complex world. With this little bit of insight, I’m able to ease the resistant students a bit better into the Enlightenment principles of the Republic by framing our founding ideas as a fearless experiment, in true Enlightenment fashion, rather than a dogmatic system of government which is resistant to change.

  • slc1

    Re lonnyjames @ #17

    There is nothing in Texas but wal to wall white trash.

    • scl1-Thanks for proving me right on all counts slc1.

      Keep up the fine work. (You’re 1st “wall” is missing a “l”,btw…)

  • marcus

    lonnyjames @ 21 Please remember that scl1 is a genocidal maniac. He fully supports the total destruction of Iran (and several other places I’m sure). His opinion is not generally respected around here

  • magistramarla


    In answer to your post @ #14, you are exactly right!

    The conservatives set out to take over local governments from the ground up, and they even announced it, but were ignored.

    In the late ’70s or early ’80s, there was a great two or three part article in my husband’s Playboy. The “religious right” had just been thoroughly trounced in an election, and Playboy was interviewing one of the leaders. I remember reading that the guy said that they would just start at ground level. He said that soon religious right members would be school board members and mayors, and then work their way up from there.

    I remember being extremely concerned when I read this, but my husband thought that the American voters were too smart to allow such a thing to happen. I think that most of the country felt that way at the time.

    I wish that someone at Playboy would find that series of articles and reprint them.

  • Marcus…thanx for the heads up. I usually don’t stop to attach names to the comments.

  • coragyps

    All of my fellow Texas voters here need to VOTE next Tuesday. VOTE in the Republican primary, holding your nose if you must. VOTE for State Board of Education candidates that aren’t Bartonites. will point those persons out.

    Since there are no Democrats running for quite a few of those positions, this election IS the determinant of who gets those spots.

    I will hunt you all down and whack you each upside the head should you neglect this important duty. Through the Interwebs, of course.

  • coragyps

    And vote early, and vote often.

  • slc1 @ #20:

    There is a metric fuckton of people here who would be very surprised to find out that they are white, and I would be surprised to find out that any human being is trash.

    You can call a lot of the people here racist, or bigoted, but when you start saying “white trash,” you are not criticizing their politics or looking critically at the educational or economic reasons that they might hold those politics. (Nor are you paying attention to the fact that wealthy white people here are largely conservative, and the fact that a lot of extremely wealthy non-Southerners pour a ton of money into Southern states in order to remind poor white Southerners that they should be scared of the brown hordes and the homosexuals instead of, you know, those wealthy white non-Southerners who run the whole damn show.) You are criticizing them solely for being poor. You are classist, and you are part of the fucking problem. Stay the hell away from my state until you can at least treat all of its people like people and give an honest assessment of its problems. The South is a blood sacrifice on the altar of capitalistic greed, and to characterize its social problems as a sole product of the inherent stupidity and worthlessness of its inhabitants (again, assuming that they are all white and all poor and that all poor white people are bigots because poor people fucking suck) is nothing more than classist bigotry against oppressed people. I’ll happily cede that some of them are in collusion with their own oppression, but here, as everywhere else, they are pacified with a) religion (which is, just in case you haven’t fucking noticed, much stronger in impoverished regions) and b) the promise that maybe someday their overlords will give them some bootstraps so that they can pull themselves the fuck out of their misery. This is no different anywhere else. The difference is, what they are trying to do in Wisconsin and Michigan and other places is what they already successfully did a long fucking time ago here.

    Try being more than “trash,” where “trash” means “poor” (because let’s be honest, it does) when you can’t form a fucking union, and when you will be fired from your low-wage job and replaced by someone else in a heartbeat if you, say, make a stink about not getting lunch breaks when you have diabetes. (My mom, just in case you’re wondering. She never made the stink, and I dearly wanted to, but I didn’t want to cost her her job.) And, praytell, who has the most hostile policies? It’s largely big chain companies that come from other places and come to states like Texas because they have a minimal tax burden on outside companies who want to set up shop here. Please, tell me that the people here are trash–white or otherwise–when they have no access to political power (due to gerrymandering–look at a map of the state of Texas someday to see the absurd gymnastics they engage in in order to ensure that they have the representatives they want) or economic power (because, again, they can’t form a fucking union or even open their mouths about egregious human rights abuses) in order to bootstrap themselves out of this goddamn hellhole of a state.

    I will also point out that the idea of “white trash” is inherently racist because it assumes that white people are trash when they behave in the way that our society attributes as natural to people of color, and in particular black people. Congratulations, you’ve managed to be classist AND racist on this thread.

    You know jack shit about Texas, or any other place, if you’re willing to call people that.

  • slc1

    Re marcus @ #22

    Well, just for the information of Mr. marcus, the mayor of Falls Church, Va., who is an Iranian Jew, doesn’t agree with me either. I still say that a half dozen well targeted 15 megaton bombs on Iran will solve the problem cheaply and efficiently.

    Re lonnyjames

    Of course, I meant wall. Just for the information of Mr. lonnyjames, I’m originally from the South (Southern California he he)

  • slc1

    Re jenniferforrester @ #27

    Well, perhaps peckerwoods would be less racist.

    However, the state where I currently reside is just as backward as Texas, at least the portion south of the Occoquan is. Unfortunately, us folks in Northern Virginia are stuck with the rest of the state. One of the great tragedies of the aftermath of the Civil War was that Northern Virginia was not made a separate state, like West Virginia.

  • slc1

    Re jenniferforester

    To be fair about this, Texas does have some fine public universities, including but not necessarily limited to Un. of Texas and Texas A&M, in addition to a fine private university, Rice.

  • “Peckerwoods,” “rednecks,” “white trash”; all of these are used to denote white people who are so disgraceful as to be poor and/or backwoods as “other,” and these terms are, again, inherently racist because they are assuming that those are unnatural states for white people but natural for the racial Other. They originate in the idea that work was undignified for white people, which dates back to the days of slavery. All of the ills here, all of them, can be traced to the fuckery of chattel slavery. You, however, are not helping.

    Again, you know jack shit about it, since you’re willing to diminish Texans to “peckerwoods” and “white trash.” If you want to call bigoted Texans bigots, that is fair game. If you want to call racists racists, homophobes homophobes, misogynists misogynists, Bible-thumpers Bible-thumpers, you will have my absolute support, and I have no problem calling out my fellow Texans, and particularly my fellow white Texans, on these problems. Fucking have at it. But do not presume to boil this down to poor white people, or any kind of poor people, being inherently inferior, particularly since some of the most conservative people in the state are far from being what people think of as “peckerwoods” and “white trash” since they have a ton of money. (Unless you assume that Dubya grew up poor, for some idiotic reason, and he is culturally Texan, if not culturally country.)

    I can also tell you that we have some of the finest music programs in the country (due, ironically enough, to the proliferation of football teams, which need good marching bands) in our public schools, and I say that as a graduate from one of the finest high schools for music in the country (L.D. Bell High School) and as a student at the finest public music university in the world: UNT. (I am a musician, but I am an English major.) There are things of value here, like you acknowledge, but you erase them when you insist on claiming that Texas is wall-to-wall “white trash” or “peckerwoods,” and you erase every POC, feminist, LGBTQ, progressive person out here (and every overlap of those categories) when you do that. We get erased by Texans who claim to have a monopoly on what it means to be Texan, and then we get erased by out-of-state and out-of-region progressives who reduce us all to bigoted, classist stereotypes. It’s getting fucking old being erased like this.

    You’re not going to stop them from gutting our educational system of facts by calling Texans white trash and peckerwoods. You’re just going to make people who are already suspicious of liberals even moreso, and that makes me fucking furious, because I think that some people would be winnable if they weren’t always encountering this image of progressives as elitist assholes who look down upon the proles. I don’t think this is what progressives are, as a fire-breathing one myself, but when you go out of your way to prove yourself to be what conservatives constantly whinge about you make it a fuck of a lot harder. Shut the fuck up about my state; I know what a hellhole it is, and why, and I’m a hell of a lot more interested in saving it than you are, you condescending asshole.

    I’m genuinely sorry if this is a derail, but it is sickening to death to see classist bigots take over every thread that even tangentially mentions the South and joke about how awesome it would be if we could just get rid of it, because everyone here is the same. It’s bigotry and it’s erasing and it’s fucking wrong, and it does nothing to further the aims of this post or of progressives in the South. It solves nothing.

  • StevoR

    @ ^ jenniferforester : Well said. Very well said.

    Great work you’re doing too, & hopefully it will make a big difference. FWIW, I think you are winning, slowly, painfully with two steps forward one back at times but winning.

    @ 6. lcallen3 : “The commies did win.”

    Now *that’s* rewriting history for ya!

    (Try telling that to Krushchev or Gorbatchov!)

  • marcus

    Thank you jenniferforester.

  • (All of this, of course, aside from what are the obviously repugnant views of slc1 on Iran, but his views on the South are not that off from a few self-proclaimed progressives who manage to show up when this sort of topic is discussed. Most progressives I know, legit or not, don’t advocate turning entire nations full of human beings into glass, and I am thankful for at least that.)

  • dingojack

    Jennifer – watch out or SLC will be mentally dropping a few 15Mt nukes on Texas anytime now.

    😉 Dingo


    BTW Cause and effect. Is religiousity high in the south due to poverty or vice versa?

  • ehmm

    The board goes on to remove the word “slavery” from the standards, replacing it with the more benign-seeming “Atlantic triangular trade.”

    That’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever read. How the hell do these people live with themselves?

  • ehmm

    … also, regarding the generalizations about Texas, I’ve known a few people from there and I’ve visited the state a few times. These school board clowns do not speak for everyone.

  • dan4

    While I won’t generalize about Texans as a whole, I suspect there are a more Cynthia Dunbars in the state than there are Bob Craigs.

  • Michael Heath

    The board goes on to remove the word “slavery” from the standards, replacing it with the more benign-seeming “Atlantic triangular trade.”

    ehmm writes:

    That’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever read. How the hell do these people live with themselves?

    These are the same people who slavishly celebrate a god they irrationally believe exists and will punish many humans for all eternity. So their position on this point of history is an improvement relative to one of the core tenets of their faith.

    The immorality, evil, and inhumanity promoted by conservative Christians comes easy when your exemplar is near-infinitely evil.

  • “Y’all are every bit as bad about stereotyping as the people you accuse of that very thing.”

    I see what you did there.

    “These school board clowns do not speak for everyone.”

    Sadly, you are incorrect. They may not THINK for everyone, but they do speak for everyone.

    Participation in politics by a minority of teh Batshit KKKrazzees has led to this pass. It is entirely the responsibility of Texans (or other state residents) to fix their own states. We have the same sort of redneckfucktards in my neck of the woods and everywhere else that I’ve ever lived. The idea is to NOT hand them the reins by failing to participate in the process.

  • left0ver1under

    I saw this video on youtube a few days ago, about anti-foreigner protests in Japan:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if those protesters “learnt” from controversial textbooks which claim Japan was the “victim” in World War II. Somehow, I can see the same thing happening in Texas.

    Santayana said “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

    I’ve also heard it said, “Those who rewrite history are trying to repeat it.”

  • Doc Bill

    Due to redistricting all 15 seats on the Texas SBOE are up for election. The Houston Chronicle has come out for the moderates, endorsed them and published several editorials slamming the conservative ideologues. If the radical conservatives get voted in again, well, what can you do?

    Also, the state legislature, if you recall, failed to confirm the former chair, McLeroy, or his successor. There are moves afoot to put some oversight on the SBOE which currently has none! Incredible as it may seem the SBOE could vote into the standards “the sky is pink” and nothing could be done about it.

    Somebody has to stand up to the morons who say that somebody needs to stand up to the experts. Or something like that!

  • Ichthyic

    The idea is to NOT hand them the reins by failing to participate in the process.


    there simply is no other way to fix the problems here.

    If you want progressivism, if you want rationality in your government, hell if you even want total anarchy…

    the only way to accomplish this is to participate YOURSELF.

    protesting is extremely limited in effect; if you want to do something right, gotta do it yourself.

  • lancifer

    Atlantic triangular trade?

    So those fetid ships were filled with triangles? Who knew.

    Thanks Texas SBOE!

  • jonathanabbey

    Cynthia Dunbar left the TSBOE at the beginning of 2011, after having embarassed the Republican party of Texas a bit much.

    Not sure why this story is here just now?