Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Texas School Board Trying to Rewrite History (first published March 25, 2010)

There’s a old cliché that they do everything bigger in Texas. After reading about the state’s Board of Education recently approving significant changes to portions of social studies and economics curricula that will lead to conservative revisions in textbooks used in state public schools, I’m convinced some Texans’ heads may be too small for their ten-gallon hats.
This year alone, the school board, which is made up of ten Republicans, seven of whom are considered social conservatives, and five Democrats, has passed more than 100 amendments that alter courses in history, sociology and economics, including such far right ideas that casts doubts on the theory of evolution and that our Founding Fathers preferred this nation to be guided primarily by Christian principles, not the concept of the separation of church and state, as outlined in the Bill of Rights amendments of the Constitution.
Yes, that Constitution. The Law of the Land for the last 234 years!
The conservative faction has argued that some members of academia tend “to skew the facts to the left.” The changes, they maintain, are an attempt to balance the facts put forth by “a liberal bias” among the teachers who planned the core curriculum.
The new standards, which are reviewed every ten years, are available for public comment for the next several weeks with a final vote scheduled to take place in May, though the vote could be postponed until next January when two ultraconservative board members will finish their terms after being ousted in the last election.
Granted there are Judeo-Christian principles — do unto others as you would have others do unto you comes to mind — that are the basis for many of our laws, but they are the core for moral behavior, not religious values. America is not, and should never be, guided by a single religion.
As part of their strategy, they also want textbooks to downgrade the influence of Thomas Jefferson — one of the author’s of the Constitution — because he originated the phrase “separation of church and state.”
Apparently these Texans prefer to overlook the historical fact that many who first settled this nation were persecuted in their homelands because of religion. They set out on a voyage of thousands of miles across a harsh ocean and faced countless hardships to establish a society that became a melting pot of diversification. Any scheme to alter those facts to infer that the United States was conceived as a Christian nation is absolutely preposterous.
After ignoring historical facts, these narrow-minded conservatives also refuse to accept massive research and tangible scientific evidence that substantiates Darwin’s theory of evolution. They repeatedly debunk evolution and the fact that Man has simian ancestors, as they prefer the highly speculative biblical version of Creation — known as Creationism or Intelligent Design (an oxymoron if there ever was one).
For devout millions who cherish their religions, faith is the driving force that inspires them — without substantial evidence of how a Supreme Being created the universe. With the introduction of any theory there is a risk it will be proven false, however, over the years more and more evidence has been amassed to support Charles Darwin, while the theories presented in the Bible are merely strengthened by a belief system adhered to by those devoted to their religion.
Centuries before Darwin, Galileo put science and religion in the proper perspective when he said: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use.”
Our nation has become strongly divided on matters of politics in the last 25 years, causing a distinct division of red (conservative) and blue (liberal) states, which has led to a rift in the nation’s politics. But now that divide could seriously influence education if these right-wing modifications affect future editions of textbooks in other red states.
The fact that a small faction wants to rewrite history to satisfy their political beliefs is not only detrimental to our educational system but also a danger to our society.
Until there is concrete evidence that the proposed changes are valid, it is utterly inappropriate for any group to undermine accurate historical accounts supported by distorted political principles.
The ideas for changes in textbooks for the second largest school system in the nation (California is first), prompted by an influential group of Christian fundamentalists elected to the state’s Board of Education, are more suitable at a Sunday Church sermon rather than any public school classroom.
If the proposed changes lead to revisions of textbooks, let’s hope this sort of ideological mind-control, based on religious dogma not scientific fact, doesn’t spread beyond Texas borders, since it’s well known that a mind is a terrible thing to waste — especially when the information is unsubstantiated.