Historians Protest as Texas History Rewrite Heads for Final Vote

Church & State, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Historians Protest as Texas History Rewrite Heads for Final Vote


Historians nationwide are expressing dismay over plans by the Texas State Board of Education to approve social studies standards that promote discredited "Christian nation" concepts and downplay minority contributions to America.

The board, which is stacked with Religious Right activists, attracted national attention earlier this year after it gave preliminary approval to a set of standards that downplay the contributions of Thomas Jefferson, extol capitalism and "American exceptionalism" and highlight the actions of modern conservatives while removing study of noted civil rights leaders.

According to The Washington Post, board member Don McLeroy summed up the board's approach recently, telling a gathering of Tea Party activists, "Our students will be taught that this country was founded on biblical principles."

The board's actions are being interpreted as an effort to rewrite history more to the liking of religious conservatives. A growing number of historians is taking notice, just as biologists often speak out against creationism.

To Daniel Czitrom, a history professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, the Texas flap is familiar.

In 2002, Czitrom's American history textbook titled Oat of Many: A History of the American People was excluded for use in Texas ostensibly because of one section discussing prostitution on the Western frontier. The real reason, Czitrom said, is that his book was too honest in its discussion and failed to promote a simplistic view favored by conservatives.

"They want an American history that ignores or marginalizes African-Americans, women, Latinos, immigrants and popular culture," Czitrom wrote in a column on CNN.com. "Rather than genuinely engaging the fundamental conflicts that have shaped our past, they prefer a celebratory history that denies those fundamental conflicts."

Of the Texas board, Czitrom wrote, "Instead of acknowledging that genuine disagreements over interpretation and emphasis are the lifeblood of history, they reduce it all to a cartoonish process of correcting perceived 'bias.'"

James McPherson, an award-winning historian who has authored several books on the Civil War era, also has criticized the Texas education board.

"One can only regret the conservative pressure groups and members of the Texas education board that have forced certain changes in high school history textbooks used in the state," McPherson told a Washington Post education blog. …

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Historians Protest as Texas History Rewrite Heads for Final Vote
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