No surprise, of course, that religious-right pressure groups and websites are engaged in an orgy of praise for the politicized curriculum standards the State Board of Education has approved for Texas public schools. And just as predictable is their common, deliberately insulting line of argument: anyone who disagrees with them must be a radical leftist who hates Christians (or is even “demented”).
WorldNetDaily, a far-right website apparently unencumbered with the desire to inform readers with facts rather than half-truths and propaganda, posted an essay this weekend about the new social studies standards. The piece focuses on criticism of state board member Cynthia Dunbar‘s use of prayer to make to make a political argument opening the board’s May 21 meeting:
Critics of a recent successful move to restore some of America’s traditional historical references to textbooks in Texas launched a long list of criticisms against a conservative education board member who dared to mention Jesus and the Christian faith in a meeting invocation.
Then the critics discovered the words were penned by the late Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, whose tenure on the court was marked by the removal of prayer from public schools and other similar moves.
“Those who wish to revise American history are often ignorant of history,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “Some secularists wish to revise history in order to bury America’s rich religious heritage.
“It was the Great Awakening that preceded the American Revolution. Without a religious revival, there would have been no lasting civil liberty, and without the American Revolution, there would be no America,” he said.
“Those who wish to exclude God from our history either suffer from dementia or are dishonest,” said Staver.
We have already noted the selective history evident in Dunbar’s defense of her prayer at the board’s May 21 meeting. And we continue to marvel that the right excuses such a blasphemous use of prayer to score political points even while attacking critics for allegedly being anti-religion.
But “restore some of America’s traditional historical references to textbooks”? Really? Phyllis Schlafly? The Moral Majority? Downplaying the significance of the Enlightenment on political change and the central importance of slavery in causing the Civil War? Whitewashing the abuses of Joseph McCarthy and his supporters during the political witch hunts of the 1950s? None of that is about restoring “America’s traditional historical references.” It’s about promoting personal and political biases — instead of sound scholarship supported by classroom teachers and academic experts — in our children’s classrooms.
OneNewsNow (“the day’s stories from a biblical perspective”) has an article critical of efforts by California lawmakers to bar politicized changes in Texas textbooks from making it into that state’s classrooms. The article quotes Randy Thomasson, president of the far-right group Save California:
“History classes need a makeover so that students are accurately taught about the history, values, and persons that made America great. Who can be against this but those who despise the moral values that founded this country?”
Let’s be clear (yet again): students should learn about the influence of faith in American history. That influence has been evident in many positive ways, including in opposition to slavery and in support of the later civil rights movement. Tragically, our nation has also seen religion misused, such as in defending both slavery and segregation. Why don’t we hear the right suggest students learn about that misuse of religion as well?
Even more important, however, is what the Founders did to protect religious freedom in our nation: barring government from picking and choosing which religion or religions to favor or disfavor. The Founders knew that a government with that kind of power would also be able to limit religious liberty for all Americans. But the State Board of Education refused to require students to learn about that. Separation of church and state is a “myth,” far-right board members insisted, not a key principle of our Constitution.
And don’t expect their far-right supporters across the country to disagree. They’re too busy attacking the personal faith and motivations of everyone else.