Mar 15 2010

The Texas Textbook Hubbub

Texas is becoming a recurring spectacle of the triumph of anti-intellectualism and ignorance over science and reason. The substance of this spectacle is the Texas Board of Education (BoE) and the standards for public school textbooks. This is a local triumph, but it has widespread implications, as Texas is a major purchaser of textbooks, and so the industry generally caters to the Texas standards.

Last year our attention was drawn to the Texas BoE over the science standards, with particular attention to evolution. One member in particular, Don McLeroy (who was chairman but was removed) entertained (by which I mean frightened) us with phrases such as “someone has to stand up to those experts.” The particular controversy was over whether or not to insert language into the standards that opens the door for teachers to “question evolution,” meaning to insert creationist propaganda as science.

The new language that was put in includes that students must “analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations” based in part on “examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific experiments.” Language was also put in to specifically question the age of the universe, the nature of stasis and change in the fossil record, and the complexity of the cell and information in DNA.

This year the focus of the Texas BoE is to review the standards for world history, and amazingly they have been as successful in causing mischief as they were with the science standards. Don McLeroy is still on the BoE, however he recently lost his reelection bid, and so will be out at the end of the year. Meanwhile, he promises to go full steam ahead with his admittedly religious conservative agenda. (See the Nightline interview from Thursday 3/11 for details.)

The Texas BoE, with or without McLeroy, is dominated by Christian Conservatives. This is not inherently a problem, in my opinion, as long as everyone is dedicated to performing their duty rather than using their position to promote their personal ideological agenda. Alas, that does not appear to be the case.

Carl Zimmer reports that the board voted to remove specific references to the Enlightenment (yes, the Enlightenment) and to (wait for it) Thomas Jefferson. Can there be a better metaphor for the fact that the Texas BoE is unenlightened and they desire Texas students to be unenlightened also?

What’s their problem with Thomas Jefferson – we can only imagine. They argued we was superfluous, which is absurd. Could it have something to do with the fact that Jefferson was the primary architect of the separate of church and state, and that he himself was a deist?

In addition, the BoE has voted to engage in a bit of historical revisionism, among other things voting to insert language that suggest the McCarthyism witch hunts of the 1950s were justified and later vindicated. They also voted for removing reference to Thurgood Marshall, and inserting references to the rise of conservatism in the 1980s, the Moral Majority, and the Contract with America.

History textbooks have always had the problem of political bias (remember the old adage that the victors get to write the history books), and it would be misleading to suggest this is a local or new problem. I also probably risk some of your ire by suggesting the Texas BoE is not entirely wrong when they argue that history textbooks have an existing liberal bias. I remember enough of my high school American history class to believe this is probably true. In fact, we had a discussion in class about bias in history books, discussing in particular the treatment of Richard Nixon with that of Millard Fillmore – the point being that the closer you get to the present, or to issues that are still controversial, the more bias becomes an issue.

The goal should be to eliminate all bias from the textbooks, including (especially) our own. If there is a liberal bias, then let’s have a balanced review and do our best to fairly present history from every perspective and with as little bias as possible. The Texas BoE has not chosen this path. Rather, they have chosen to simply insert as much of their own conservative bias as possible. This does not “balance” the history textbooks, however – it simply inserts more biased history.

It seems to me that one solution, perhaps the best, is to review the history texts with as broad and cosmopolitan a view as possible. This will allow for local biases to average out and for a consensus view to emerge. This very solution has been proposed by state governors – who have suggested the creation of national educational standards to replace state standards (a project called common core).  While they are starting with math and English, this could also apply to science and history.

This idea was proposed to solve the debate over the role of the federal government vs state governments in education. States have resisted federal standards – but this system is a voluntary system proposed by the states themselves. So far every state but two has signed on – the holdouts are Alaska and (you guessed it) Texas.

Another potential solution is to dampen the power of the textbook industry over the quality of our educational system, and by extension the power of the Texas BoE. One way to do this is to simply create high quality textbooks and make them available for free online. I think this is the future anyway – why print outdated material when you can have updated online material.  Material can be printed as needed off the online textbooks, especially for use by school systems with limited computer resources. There are already online wiki-style textbooks being developed. What we need now is a non-profit dedicated to organizing these efforts and imposing a system of quality control. I strongly suspect that the quality such a process would produce would be far superior to the crap the textbook industry generally produces.

Conclusion

The Texas BoE is a depressing spectacle – they represent the absolute worst example of abusing authority to promote a personal ideology, betraying the public trust to promote instead high educational standards. But perhaps the spectacle can be put to good use, focusing attention on the broader problem of the quality of education in the US and potential solutions. We need better and more uniform standards, and better textbooks.

In his Nightline interview McLeroy acknowledged that the Texas BoE has an influence that goes far beyond Texas – so they are acutely aware of the power they wield and choose to abuse it anyway. Perhaps it is time to move away from the tyranny of local majorities in education, to more consensus and quality-driven standards.

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27 responses so far

27 Responses to “The Texas Textbook Hubbub”

  1. CrookedTimberon 15 Mar 2010 at 9:45 am

    Of course, many of the solutions you propose are sensible and sensibility is anathema to the religious mindset.

    You do have to admire the organization and commitment of these people. It takes quite a bit of planning and surrendering of spare time to so thoroughly pervade education boards and committees across the country. If only the skeptical community could organize in similar fashion.

  2. dcolandunoon 15 Mar 2010 at 10:15 am

    How about we get a group, or other huge book publisher to offer rational, factual, textbooks that has the goal of never bending to ANY local school board.

    Maybe someone like Prometheus Books or the like….

    I think that Texas needs ‘competition’ so they can just fester in their own filth.

  3. MKandeferon 15 Mar 2010 at 10:24 am

    “The Texas BoE, with or without McLeroy, is dominated by Christian Conservatives. This is not inherently a problem, in my opinion, as long as everyone is dedicated to performing their duty rather than using their position to promote their personal ideological agenda.”

    I suppose I must wonder when this won’t ever be a problem. The scientific evidence for evolution and the age of the Earth is incompatible with a Conservative Christian world view. To me it appears that it is inherently a problem when a committee that influences textbook content cannot possibly perform their duty, as performing that duty requires that they claim the opposite of what they actually believe.

    I am happy that you’ve mentioned a project you proposed (seemingly) ages ago, the online textbook program. Has there been any progress on that front?

  4. F. Andy Seidlon 15 Mar 2010 at 11:03 am

    “Another potential solution is to dampen the power of the textbook industry over the quality of our educational system, and by extension the power of the Texas BoE.”

    Absolutely. It’s ridiculous how much power the Texas BoE–and specifically, a small number of religious zealots on the Texas BoD–have over the educational system. But as Charlie Pierce points out in his excellent book “Idiot America”, anything can be “true” in this country if it “moves units”. As it is, the Texas BoE moves units.

    A federal standard would be a great step in the right direction. If there are 48 states that want to move in this direction, IMO they should do so w/o AK and TX. They’ll come around.

    The alternative of going with free, online text books is also viable, and given the huge threat that poses to establish textbook publishers, it seems they should jump on embracing a federal standard solution rather than trying to compete with an open source initiative.

  5. daedalus2uon 15 Mar 2010 at 12:00 pm

    The problem with the Texas BOE is that they make decisions for all of Texas, and that means a lot of textbooks, enough that textbook publishers are willing to pander to them.

    I don’t think there is any legal protection for textbook publishers for publishing factually incorrect material and passing it off as an accurate textbook. A textbook that is filled with errors and distortions is defective, and if those defects were known or should have been known before the textbook was published, the publisher should be liable for correcting the defect.

    I would think there would be a case for any parent of a child in Texas being taught using textbooks that were factually incorrect to file a legal case to require the manufacturer to correct the defects. The cost of the legal case and the potential cost for correcting the defects might be enough to compel most publishers to produce textbooks that were at least factually correct.

  6. superdaveon 15 Mar 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Steve you said
    “the point being that the closer you get to the present, or to issues that are still controversial, the more bias becomes an issue.”

    How much longer does the TBOE have to wait before Thomas Jefferson isn’t too controversial or topical?

  7. rasmuron 15 Mar 2010 at 12:52 pm

    These people scare the hell out of me. I believe they represent one of the greatest threats to science and reason (or history and reason, whatever) in America today. Let’s keep talking about this and doing what we can to promote rationality in education. Maybe you could have something about it on SGU.

  8. artfulDon 15 Mar 2010 at 1:13 pm

    When you dumb something down, isn’t that already a correction for liberal bias?

  9. Traveleron 15 Mar 2010 at 1:22 pm

    A federal standard would be a great step in the right direction.

    I doubt the political feasibility of this. Can you imagine the uproar from the right over having “Obamabooks” “rammed down the throats” of our children?

    I think a better solution would be for like minded smaller states to band together to develop unified text book standards. They’ve managed to do this to create the multi-state Powerball lottery, why not for text books also? If 10-15 states could agree on a single standard they might also be able to negotiate better prices.

  10. provaxmomon 15 Mar 2010 at 2:05 pm

    “These people scare the hell out of me. I believe they represent one of the greatest threats to science and reason (or history and reason, whatever) in America today. Let’s keep talking about this and doing what we can to promote rationality in education. Maybe you could have something about it on SGU.”

    ^^Yeah, this.^^

    It’s not just these people that scare me, it’s also the fact that there isn’t more outrage over it. Like most of America doesn’t see that this is such a huge step backwards in time. Let’s just teach that the Earth is flat too.

  11. Sastraon 15 Mar 2010 at 2:49 pm

    My understanding is that the Enlightenment philosophy of Thomas Jefferson is to be replaced by studying how the works of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin influenced the founding of the United States. Seems to suggest that they’re trying to lay the groundwork for the discredited “Christian Nation” argument.

    Some people who consider themselves conservative Christians are also staunch supporters of science, evolution, and the separation of church and state: you can pretty much read anything you want into the Bible, and then believe you’re just humbly following the will of God. So ‘conservative Christianity,’ per se, isn’t necessarily a problem: creationism and historical revisionism is.

    Religious zealots tend to lump all “liberals” together, blurring the distinctions between science-based humanists and the “we-all-have-our-own-truths- nobody-is-wrong” pop postmodernists. So they may honestly think that teaching “all sides” satisfies the need for liberal “balance.”

  12. CWon 15 Mar 2010 at 3:28 pm

    How do you not discuss the author of the Declaration of Independence? Do you leave out the Louisiana Purchase too? Jeesh.

    Novella: “I also probably risk some of your ire by suggesting the Texas BoE is not entirely wrong when they argue that history textbooks have an existing liberal bias.”

    I would agree. History textbooks do have a slightly liberal bias. But isn’t that because the underlying philosophy of most historical events worth studying and knowing is inherently skewed towards liberalism (i.e. progressivsm)? Despite Glenn Beck’s angst, most people actually celebrate historical American progressivsm.

  13. einnivon 15 Mar 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I don’t necessarily see a problem with adding things like the Moral Majority and the Contract With America if they are presented factually as influences on modern American politics. Certainly one cannot understand current American politics without understanding that the ’80s saw religious groups deciding to be more directly involved in politics.

    I also remember having discussions in high school, some 20+ years ago, about how it is harder to write history about recent events. But this is a far cry from what they are doing by trying to ignore certain points of view entirely. It is a matter of degrees to some extent but in this case I think calling it matter of orders of magnitude is more accurate.

    The blog entry you included actually left out the most disturbing item which illustrates the extent of the distortions. The blog by Ed Brayton (co-founder of the Panda’s Thumb blog) has more here (http://bit.ly/9U8APd)

    12:28 – Board member Mavis Knight offers the following amendment: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” Knight points out that students should understand that the Founders believed religious freedom was so important that they insisted on separation of church and state.
    12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”

    12:35 – Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans vote no, Democrats vote yes.

    Now this is where I start to get really ticked off. There is zero question about how the founders felt about separation of church and state. It is not all down to one quote from a Jefferson letter. It is quite clearly something they (Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin) all believed in strongly. All one has to do is read what they wrote. So this is not a case of bias this a case of sheer fantasy. In that context the intentions of the other changes are made that much worse.

    It is part of a larger pattern as well. So, in South Dakota we get a resolution that is

    http://bit.ly/aUIZYv
    calling for the “balanced teaching of global warming.”

    “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life,” says the resolution, which passed with mostly GOP votes. It also says global warming is “a scientific theory rather than a proven fact” and a variety of “astrological” and other “dynamics” affect weather.

    Regardless of one’s views on global warming, any skeptic should recognize that the first part is a complete non-sequitur. It is like saying human beings must eat salt to live so therefore salt can’t be bad for you. Then it goes on to demonstrate complete ignorance about the nature of scientific theories.

    Over all these efforts by conservatives often go way beyond any plausible correction of bias (or adding in bias of their own) and go straight to outrageous bullshit. They are suggesting that non-sequitur, ignorance and falsehood be given equal time with other forms of knowledge.

  14. artfulDon 15 Mar 2010 at 4:15 pm

    “The essence of liberal bias is to dismiss or even to censor all opposing views. For liberals, to allow the airing or publishing of an opposing view creates the risk that people might discover errors in the liberal viewpoint. On the other hand, Conservatives typically uphold freedom of ideological expression, with many expressing that although they may oppose a liberal view with every fiber of their being, they will defend to the death their right to say it, because they believe that in the marketplace of ideas the true will always win over the false.”
    http://www.conservapedia.com/Liberal_bias

    So as we can plainly see, those who have taken over the Texas BoE are actually liberal saboteurs.

  15. Bronze Dogon 15 Mar 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I don’t know what exactly it is about McCarthy, but reading about his witch hunts really got me foaming at the mouth. And now they’re trying to cast this unpatriotic villain as a hero?!

    Hell, he was too over the top that people thought his “actor” in Good Night and Good Luck was unrealistic. That wasn’t an actor.

  16. F. Andy Seidlon 15 Mar 2010 at 4:54 pm

    @Traveler: I agree, and that’s really what I was meant. Already 48 of the 50 are agreeable to creating a unified standard. I should have said “unified standard” instead of “federal standard”.

  17. Rob Heberton 15 Mar 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I think the problem with framing the debate in terms of whether or not the “Founding Fathers” ™ believed in a wall of separation between church and state is that it leaves no room for understanding the nuances in the attitudes of various politicians and thinkers of the time.

    It’s unfortunate that the wall of separation language (resurrected in a SCOTUS opinion that quoted a letter Jefferson wrote from France during the time in which Madison’s amendment was being debated in America) has taken over the whole debate. Surprisingly, most statesman at the time weren’t overly concerned with passing a Bill of Rights–Madison had to harangue them to even get it on the docket. Others tried introducing their own amendments that forbade the federal government from establishing a national religion, because they wanted that right retained by state governments. A representative from Maryland (I think it was Maryland; don’t have my casebook on hand) introduced a bill to create a fund to pay for religious instruction.

    Keep in mind that, at the time, there was little “American culture” and the federal government was only a vague shell. Many (including Washington) saw shared religion (by which they meant Christianity) to be the best mechanism for building civic virtues.

    Jefferson and Franklin were kind of outliers in their utter disdain for organized religion. Washington was an outlier in his tremendous support for it. Not everyone was a deist.

    Madison might have been pretty close to the median in his views, and it’s clear from his letters (and the many, many drafts of the First Amendment he wrote, and the state amendments he based it off) that he was trying specifically to prevent the establishment of a national religion. Government was inextricably linked to religion in a number of ways at the time; completing separating the two seemed impossible to many at the time. Jefferson was a radical (one I happen to agree with on many, many things).

    Obviously, stuff has changed since then. The modern legal doctrines concerning establishment, which have grown organically from legislation and judicial decisions, are robust and sensible (IMHO), but depart greatly from what ratifiers of the First Amendment probably thought they were signing on for. That’s okay! We have a different understanding today of what rights are, what a constitution is, etc.

    In my head, the Founding is all about the infiltration of Enlightenment ideals into the fairly conservative religious morality of most people at the time. It’s a triumph; the work of a few radicals like Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison setting the stage for the progressive developments of the next 219 years.

  18. JunkmanJimon 15 Mar 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I am a Texan and yes, these people scare me. Do keep in mind, that we are home to world class medical research facilities and universities not to mention our contributions to aerospace as well many other high tech industries. I find this combination to be very odd indeed. I have had many conversations with conservatives here that resemble holocaust denial or conspiracy theorists. Me and my fellow Houston Skeptics will continue to fight the good fight, that is all we can do.

  19. einnivon 15 Mar 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Rob,

    For the purpose of this comment I’ll use Jefferson’s definition of separation of church and state.
    their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

    While I agree that there was nuance in religious beliefs it is not clear to me what you are objecting to re:separation of church and state. The purpose of the amendment to the standard was to require teaching why people such as Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Washington, and Franklin thought the institutions of government and religion should be separate. This does not preclude teaching nuance in their personal beliefs so I fail to see what your objection is.

    There is no mention of deism in the amendment to standards. No mention of anyone being hostile to religion. So I fail to see your point on those 2 items. What about those particular nuances changes whether or not children should be introduced to an idea that the people who were most influential in shaping the form of the United States government held? An idea that had great influence on other nations at the time and still today.

    Your notion that Madison (et al) somehow pulled a fast one is simply not supported. Yes there were people strongly opposed to his ideals but they lost! The issues were widely known and debated from the time of Jefferson’s religious liberty bill in Virginia (supported by Madison) right up through the contentious debate over the omission of the word God and no requirement of a religious oath in the Constitution. In fact it was, ironically, evangelical Christians who may have provided the deciding support for such secular decisions. Though many states tried to add the words God or Jesus Christ to the preamble of the Constitution all such efforts were ultimately defeated. After the Constitution was ratified many states began altering their Constitutions to reflect the secular nature of the federal one. No, this was no sneak attack. This was a widely accepted ideal.

    It is not clear to me what you are trying to say when you state “[Madison] was trying specifically to prevent the establishment of a national religion.” Is that not the essence of separation? I don’t think you are claiming that he opposed the 2nd half of separation where free exercise is not to be prohibited. Are you hinting at what is sometimes claimed , namely that he wouldn’t have minded a little co-mingling as long as it fell short of a national church? This is simply false as is easily demonstrated , as I said in my original comment, by Madison’s own words.

    So as not to make this comment even longer I am linking to some quotes I have gathered elsewhere. http://bit.ly/bfw4nR . Again, your intention here was not clear to me so if that isn’t what you were claiming then I guess I did a lot of copy paste for nothing.

    Another mistake should be noted. What exactly Washington’s religion was is not exactly a settled issue. Some claim he was in fact a deist based on things like not taking communion and preferring terms like Great Spirit to God. I won’t delve in to that though since it is irrelevant. Regardless of whether or not he thought shared religion was a help to civic government he still strongly support the separation of church and state. You can find a quote by him at the same link above.

    So in summary on the question of the proposed amendment to the school standards (“examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”)… Was separation of church and state a belief held by the men most associated with the founding of the United States government? Yes. Did the founders intend to promote religion as the Republican board member claimed? No. Was it a concept widely debated and accepted (by solid majorities) by the society at large? Yes. Was it important not only to the US but in European revolutions and reforms? Yes. Should it be taught to high school children as an idea that was important to the founding of our country and the world at large? Yes.

  20. SteveAon 16 Mar 2010 at 8:29 am

    Why Texas? I’d have thought that the most populous US state would have the most influence ie California. Does the State of California buy less school books than Texas?

    As far as producing on-line text books. Aside from issues of accessibility and ease-of-use, I don’t think these would have the ‘weight’ and credibility of a paper publication. People, rightly or wrongly, tend to associate the Internet with throwaway, ephemeral information. A book, any book, carries a certain amount of gravitas.

  21. stompsfrogson 16 Mar 2010 at 11:16 am

    My boyfriend works for a text book publisher and he says they’re quite ready to produce online text books. I doubt that they will release them for free, but you’d think that if the books came from a reputable source – like an existing text book publisher – they’d carry enough gravitas.

    I would think colleges would jump on board with this more quickly than they seem to be.

  22. geopaulon 16 Mar 2010 at 12:56 pm

    SteveA:

    Texas is what we call an “adoption state”. Textbooks that are on the approved SBOE list are bought by the state for individual school districts at no direct cost to the schools per se.

    Given that Texas is the second most populous state in the country, with our 900+ public school districts, we are therefore the single largest purchaser of textbooks. Publishers are highly motivated to cater to their biggest customers, and are left with two alternatives. Used to be that there were “Texas Editions” of school books, but technology has changed the economics of book publishing (just like the music business), and the publishers are laboring to keep up and still be profitable.

    Online books may solve this problem in the future, but it assumes that all school children can afford computers and internet access.

  23. Rob Heberton 16 Mar 2010 at 1:28 pm

    @einniv:
    I don’t have anything “against” separation of church and state; I support complete separation. What I was trying to point out is that the language you quoted (“their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state”), and that has overtaken the entire church-state debate, is from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists (a religious minority). He wrote it to assuage their fears that the government would create a national religion. Complete separation is different and more far-reaching than refraining from establishing a national religion. Again: I completely support total separation of church and state; but complete separation and non-establishment are not necessarily the same thing.

    As to the points about deism and hostility to religion: People tend to operate under a false dichotomy when they talk about the beliefs of the founders. One myth is that they were all practicing Christians, and that they intended to create a Christian nation. The other myth is that they were all anti-religious deists who were trying to create a completely secular nation. Neither is true. The reason it matters is that I don’t think people in the former camp (like the Texas BoE) would be so cavalier about erasing Jefferson from the history books if they didn’t think his inclusion bolstered the latter camp in some zero-sum game. (I’m not saying that you’re operating under this false dichotomy. I’m saying that the reliance on the “separation” language instead of the “establishment” language leans the debate to this kind of dichotomy)

    I also never said it was a “sneak attack” or that they “pulled a fast one.” I assume you’re basing that off the “infiltration of Enlightenment ideals” language in my original post. You completely misunderstand me. I don’t mean that anyone was tricked. What I mean is that certain post-Enlightenment ideals (rationality, freedom of conscience, political equality) affected the religious beliefs of people at the time. The “infiltration” naturally results from the co-existence of those ideas. Christianity in the post-Enlightenment era is very different from Christianity in the pre-Enlightenment era.

    “Are you hinting at what is sometimes claimed , namely that he wouldn’t have minded a little co-mingling as long as it fell short of a national church? This is simply false as is easily demonstrated , as I said in my original comment, by Madison’s own words.” What Madison would or would not have minded isn’t the point. What matters is what the states ratified. Many (maybe most) people really were fine with co-mingling. Again, I think they were wrong.

    As to the Texas BoE amendment to the education standards: Obviously, those guys are assholes. They are blatantly inserting their own political bias into the curriculum, and the amendment should have failed. I took that as a given.

    I think our main disagreement, excepting instances where I was unclear or you misunderstood me, is on the equivalence of “no establishment” and “separation.” I don’t think they’re the same thing. I don’t think a First Amendment requiring “complete separation,” as opposed to “no law respecting an establishment of religion,” would have passed, although I would have voted for it. We don’t have a national religion, and contemporary doctrines concerning establishment take for granted that there is some co-mingling of religion and government, that there is not complete and utter separation. That lack of separation is, right now, legally acceptable unless it reaches the level of establishment.

  24. einnivon 16 Mar 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Rob,

    I suspected we didn’t disagree on much. I think you are right that perhaps the difference between no establishment and separation is our main disagreement (or misunderstanding). It just seemed with ” that he was trying specifically to prevent the establishment of a national religion” you were implying that Madison perhaps didn’t see the first amendment as expansively as we do today. My point with providing his quotes was simply to point out that wasn’t the case. He, for instance, vetoed a law creating a chaplain for Congress even though it fell far short of declaring Christianity the official religion. He saw that, though it didn’t force anyone to join any particular sect, it could intrude upon people’s free exercise of their chosen sect and thereby have an effect similar to establishment. That’s a pretty expansive view.

    As to how far that expansive view spread beyond the founders I would just argue that many religious sects did understand the implications of the Constitution and their support is why it ultimately was accepted. Remember too that the Constitution consciously included no reference to God and strictly forbid religious tests for holding office. This strongly suggests a desire for government to keep its nose out of religion in general not “merely” against establishment. Surely not everyone agreed with these view but I would argue that it was well understood by opponents and friends alike.

    I won’t belabor this point over a minor difference of opinion any longer. I will just leave off with a cute poem, found in Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers, by a Baptist Rev. David Thomas that accompanied a petition against a religious assessment bill in Virginia that I think shows the spirit of the age.

    Tax all things; water, air and light
    If there need be; yea, tax the night
    But let our brave heroick minds
    Move freely as celestial winds.
    Make vice and folly feel your rod,
    But leave our consciences to God.

  25. thaison 16 Mar 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Although I do think that the textbook issue is very important, the curriculum is no longer dictated by textbooks. The even more important issue is, as mentioned in the conclusion of Steve’s article, the curriculum standards which are set currently by states.

    The standards are what we, as public school teachers, are required to teach. If our textbooks are inadequate (as is the 6th grade social studies book I use to teach is), we, the teachers, are still required to teach the standards by whatever other means.

    Therefore, a useful and quality textbook with meaningful and relevant information is important, but not necessary.

    My point is NOT that the textbook is unimportant — they are important — but the issue that is even more pressing is keeping our eye on the verbiage of the standards of Texas and all states, as the state mandated curriculum standards will have even further reaching implications than just the textbooks.

  26. SteveAon 18 Mar 2010 at 8:30 am

    Thanks geopaul. All clear now.

  27. son 19 Mar 2010 at 9:47 am

    I am eagerly waiting for Texas BoE starting to request that Jefferson be deleted from John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence. Oh wait… removing facts and persons was what they did in the Soviet Union…

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