New Texas textbooks a bit light on historical facts

New Texas textbooks a bit light on historical facts August 30, 2015

Although many concerned citizens, including Aron and me, testified in protest to certain claims like the theocratic dictator Moses having influenced the American  system of government, Texas students will now learn that, and also about what an exceptional snowflake America is.  It could have been worse had people not stepped in to remind the Texas State Board of Education that American history is not all white, nor all ‘Right’, but even though they stopped some of the shenanigans some of it still got through.

A number of concerned people have contacted us about Texas playing fast and loose with the word ‘history’. We have been fighting this issue for years, and others have too, including the nonsectarian secular advocacy group,  Texas Freedom Network. Additionally history professors have testified at every stage of the adoption process, but were largely ignored by the SBOE in favor of right wing ideologues. Zack Kopplin, separation of church and state advocate of near celebrity status, has also been there, like he often is in Texas and his native Louisiana.  He wrote an article for Slate on testimony before the new books were adopted.  Just so you know the caliber of people influencing the  SBOE, he quoted Right Wing ideologue and SBOE darling Roy Smith of ‘Truth in Texas Textbooks’.

Truth in Texas Textbooks submitted a 469-page document of its complaints to the board of education. One complaint was against a Pearson textbook that showed Sam Houston in a “dress.” TTT was concerned by the “subtle message this imagery is conveying to impressionable 7th grade students.” (Pearson responded that the “dress” was “Cherokee garb from the time during which (Houston) lived with the Cherokee.”)

TTT was also opposed to the “anti-American bias/subliminal messages” in a question about the Mexican-American War that made “the U.S. out to be the ‘bad guy’ and Mexico to be the ‘good guy.’”

On that same day bona fide history professors labored in vain to explain to the SBOE what history is.

“We do our students a disservice when we scrub history clean of unpleasant truths,”  Jacqueline Jones, chairwoman of the University of Texas’ History Department, said “and when we present an inaccurate view of the past that promotes a simple-minded, ideologically driven point of view.”

The biggest stumbling block for textbook publishers is that the SBOE managed to adopt flawed standards in 2010. These standards shoehorn history into the SBOE’s agenda of making a history classroom into a bully pulpit where other people’s children are forced to listen to Christian Right Wing propaganda. Lest you think I am exaggerating about the preaching that sometimes goes on in Texas classrooms, as a former Texas teacher, I actually had a a misguided colleague use Social Studies to do just that. We were supposed to teach about world religions, as a part of understanding culture. She told them that unlike other religions, the Ten Commandments actually promise you that you live a long life if you honor your parents.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you”

Won’t teachers like her be thrilled that publishers since the 2010 adoption of the Social Studies standards by the SBOE now will be catering to Religious Right ideology?

(c)  Knowledge and skills.

(1)  History. The student understands how constitutional government, as developed in America and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution, has been influenced by ideas, people, and historical documents. The student is expected to:

(A)  explain major political ideas in history, including the laws of nature and nature’s God, unalienable rights, divine right of kings, social contract theory, and the rights of resistance to illegitimate government;

(B)  identify major intellectual, philosophical, political, and religious traditions that informed the American founding, including Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law), English common law and constitutionalism, Enlightenment, and republicanism, as they address issues of liberty, rights, and responsibilities of individuals;

(C)  identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu;

The standards and the flawed textbooks are indeed at this point spilled milk, because the new textbooks are set to be cracked open in Texas this school year. Moving forward we are looking at 10 years before new textbooks will be adopted. Aron and I have already been to secular advocacy organizations asking them to represent the schoolchildren of Texas on this matter. We will continue to ask everyone we know in our rolodex.

Before you think that the standards were loosely applied in textbooks, this is a screenshot from McGraw-Hill
United State’s Government Texas Edition, one of the major titles, that will appear in classrooms:

"During the 1600s, people from Europe migrated to North America, settling along the Atlantic Coast and inland. The great majority of the colonists were Christians familiar with both the Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible. They brought with them Judeo-Christian values and ideas derived from biblical law. These beliefs made an important contribution to the founding principles and documents of the United States. In the Old Testament, for example, Moses calls for the law to apply equally to all people, even kings, and sets forth rules for a fair trial. The biblical idea of a covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of agreement between people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and helped shape the thinking of the men who designed our constitutional structure."
“During the 1600s, people from Europe migrated to North America, settling along the Atlantic Coast and inland. The great majority of the colonists were Christians familiar with both the Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible. They brought with them Judeo-Christian values and ideas derived from biblical law. These beliefs made an important contribution to the founding principles and documents of the United States. In the Old Testament, for example, Moses calls for the law to apply equally to all people, even kings, and sets forth rules for a fair trial. The biblical idea of a covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of agreement between people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and helped shape the thinking of the men who designed our constitutional structure.”

 

If you are a busy parent, and would like to see more of what might be in your student’s history books, but don’t have the time to run this down yourself; I can do a separate post with more screenshots. We did do an in depth analysis with noted Moses Mythicist, Dr. Robert Price with screenshots of more things too.

Remember when people thought that Moses having horns was a historical fact?
Remember when people thought that Moses having horns was a historical fact?

At this point if you understand history at all, you don’t have to be an ardent atheist to be enraged by what over 5,000,000 Texas schoolchildren will learn this year.  Believe me, I am not spending this kind of time on this problem just to prove how awful our SBOE is. That is almost a self evident axiom, because it has been proven many times over at this point. Unfortunately, secularists can’t always rely on our over-tasked and underfunded organizations to fight every battle. However, we can do more than silently steam in impotent rage.

There have been campaigns in other states like Colorado with similar ideologue school boards that have  exposed right wing propaganda on their local school boards as the sham history it is. Students, parents, and teachers used twitter to parody what their school boards wanted taught as history. That is one suggestion for things to do, and it could be an opportunity to sit down with your child, and make something together. They will come away with a much deeper understanding of exactly what is wrong with their textbooks than if you lecture them about it. Tweet those memes at the Texas Education Agency  @teainfo. Also tweet it to the notorious SBOE @TXSBOE. The Right Wing members deserve some backlash; they have doggedly pursued this corruption of history to fruition. I will be making a nifty meme or 2 myself, and perhaps Aron will as well, and will post them here.

Some other things to do rather than silently implode with rage about Texas History books.

1. Call your student’s school and  school district and ask if Moses is portrayed as a historical figure in the new textbooks.

2. Contact  your Texas Representative .

3. Demonstrate. To that end we will be discussing the best way to accomplish this in the Texas Freethought Coalition, a newly formed alliance of over a dozen regional and student secular community groups.

4. Sign our petition.

5. Sell your soul to Satan! Just kidding. Seriously though the Satanic Temple has sure been making theocrats reconsider pushing their religious beliefs on others. They have made good progress on a number of church/state separation issues like Ten Commandment Monuments on public property.  I wonder how the SBOE would feel about Satan’s influence on American history? It is as negligible as Moses’s influence.


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