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Posted by on Mar 13, 2010 in Education | 60 comments

Texas Board of Education: Making Their Own History

After months of wrangling, and highlighted by several days of acrimonious debate and political stupidity, the Texas State Board of Education passed a new set of curriculum standards yesterday.

There are… um… some problems.

The standard for studying the Age of Enlightenment, for example, will no longer include Thomas Jefferson. Lucky young Texans will instead include the philosophical contributions of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. (Eh?) From a liveblog at Texas Freedom Network:

9:45 – Here’s the amendment Dunbar changed: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Here’s Dunbar’s replacement standard, which passed: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Not only does Dunbar’s amendment completely change the thrust of the standard. It also appalling drops one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.

The Board also “rejected lessons about why the United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom”, while adding “references to “laws of nature and nature’s God” in lessons about major political ideas”. Students must study,

The strong Judeo-Christian influences on the nation’s Founding Fathers, but there will be no coverage of the Bill of Rights “Establishment Clause” that was used to outlaw school-sponsored prayer and affirm separation of church and state in the U.S.

There were heated debates (and walk-outs) on subjects as wide-ranging as memorizing who died at the Alamo based on ancestry, to whether standards should include the cultural influence of hip-hop (they already learn about the Beat Generation). And there were some real jaw-droppers as well:

References to Ralph Nader and Ross Perot are proposed to be removed, while Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate general, is to be listed as a role model for effective leadership, and the ideas in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address are to be laid side by side with Abraham Lincoln’s speeches.

Also: did you know that capitalism is a bad word? Apparently it is here in Texas. I had no idea — but luckily the young folks here will be saved from any degradation; that dirty word will be replaced with “free enterprise”.

Sigh… Since my Adorable Child will be entering high school next year, our impending relocation out of Texas seems all the more timely.

Not everything, however, is necessarily incorrect. Here’s one change, for example, that strikes me as worth discussion. From USA Today:

• [The Board] Struck the word “democratic” in references to the form of U.S. government and replaced it with “constitutional republic.”

Here’s how Wikipedia defines Constitutional Republic:

A constitutional republic is a state where the head of state and other officials are elected as representatives of the people, and must govern according to existing constitutional law that limits the government‘s power over citizens.

In a constitutional republic, executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separated into distinct branches and the will of the majority of the population is tempered by protections for individual rights so that no individual or group has absolute power.

That sounds just like the US to me, but the nature of our government is often described somewhat differently — usually as a democracy — and that’s a tad misleading. Clarifying with “representative democracy” is better (but I rarely see that).

Myself, I think Texas’ new standard is correct. What say you?