In a system where facts seem like beliefs and beliefs act like facts, I fear for the education of our children and grandchildren. I support religious freedom as thoroughly as I support public education. However, when we confuse religious beliefs with historical facts, we cheat children of quality education.
Arguments over history books in Texas reflect years of discussions between conservatives and liberals. Each side insists on its own biases and ideologies. Although individual districts may choose books other than those on the state board’s approved lists, all selected textbooks remain in use for a decade. A decade of teaching untruths and lack of facts can evoke a lot of damage. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network claims that some preferred books on American history include too much religion. Miller worries about the importance given to Moses. Many people wonder why Moses shows up in a U.S. history text at all.
Conservatives, like MerryLynn Gerstenschalager, vice president of the Texas Eagle Forum, claim that liberal books present misleading ideas about climate change. She and other conservatives warn against books, which they feel communicate a preference toward communism.
Other changes found their way into the standards and approved history textbooks. Consider the following:
Preferred books eliminate civil rights leaders such as Cesar Chavez, Ted Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayer.
New history texts diminish the importance of slavery.
Ideas from Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address (which makes no mention of slavery) are compared to Lincoln’s speeches.
Conservative books incorrectly explain the meaning of separation of church and state.
The religious beliefs of our Founders tend to be exaggerated. Not all leaders claimed to be religious. Not all called themselves Christian.
Interesting side note — In California, Senator Leland Yee introduced Senate Bill 1451, to ensure that as California considers textbook adoption, board members must not use the Texas standards. According to Yee, the Texas standards deviate from accepted historical teachings. Rod Paige, the conservative former Secretary of Education claims that the new Texas standards “skew” history.
As a retired educator, I believe facts must be taught accurately. Learning about Moses belongs in Church Schools. Biases must be clarified as opinions. Granted, some of the historical facts make us terribly uncomfortable. Discomfort does not give us permission to eliminate factual information from education. In fact, unless we study uncomfortable truths, we fail to learn from our mistakes. The current adoption of Texas state textbooks illustrates the dangerous trend to move away from facts toward the ideas of the Religious Right. No wonder I fear for the education of our children and grandchildren!
“Texas Textbooks: What Happened, What It Means, and What We Can Do About It.” People for the American Way. 2015.
Strauss, Valerie. “California Bill Takes Aim At New Texas Standards.” The Washington Post. May 22, 2010.
Weissert, Will. “Publisher Withdraws Controversial Textbook in Texas.” Huff Post Politics. July 20, 2015.
Weissert, Will. “Texas Textbooks Fails Approval.” The Huffington Post. November 11, 2014.