Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Those Who Will Not Learn from History: How Texas Decides What Your Children Will Study about Our Past

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Those Who Will Not Learn from History: How Texas Decides What Your Children Will Study about Our Past

Article excerpt

LIKE IT OR not, the far-Right members of the Texas State Board of Education may have already decided what your children will learn about American history.

The Board is in the midst of a major revision to the state's social studies standards. It is well known that textbook publishers cater to their largest clients. California, the nation's largest textbook market, is bankrupt; Texas is the second largest. This means that, when it comes to teaching American history, as Texas goes, so goes the nation.

Two of the consultants hired last year by the conservative members of the Texas Board are David Barton and Peter Marshall. Both run ministries that promote the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and use the past for the purpose of promoting Republican politics. Neither man is a trained historian, but their books are wildly popular among the Christian Right.

In January and March, the Board made decisions about who was in and who was out of the new curriculum. Since far-Right conservatives currently hold a majority of seats, they managed to push through most of the revisions they wanted.

For example, in state social studies standards on how Americans have worked to expand their economic opportunities and political rights, the Board deleted those Americans' "racial, ethnic, gender, and religious groups" as a factor to consider--even through this standard was part of a larger category focused on "how people from various groups contribute to our national identity."

Board conservatives decided to remove the word "imperialism" from the American history curriculum and replace it with "expansionism." They approved a statement endorsing American exceptionalism, the idea that America has a special destiny to spread its ideals and values to the world. They also approved a statement vindicating the activities of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, by saying later information "confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government. …

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