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COLUMN: Rewriting textbooks would send America back to the dark ages

Monday, May 31, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 1, 2010

* The Texas Board of Education approved the changes to textbooks purchased by the state. A earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the government organization that approved the change.

I really do not understand why American super conservatives have it in for public education.

Why do they insist on cutting public school budgets? Why do they campaign for the elimination of the Department of Education when the agency’s primary job concerns discrimination, not curriculum? Why are they trying to destroy centuries of scientific research and discovery in the name of religion? Have they learned nothing from history?

Through the act of legislation or rule making, state or school boards requiring biblical “truths” taught as fact or “science” establishes religious education in public schools and is a clear violation of the intent of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment is the "Establishment Clause," not a “Separation clause.” The First Amendment allows each of us to believe in our own version of God or no God at all. The First Amendment also says that the state cannot support “an established religion.” Theocratic conservatives believe that they do not stress one religion over another, they stress only multiple forms of Christianity.

Of course, those who went to private and religious-based schools have never been held to the same high standards as those who attended public institutions. Maybe if they were, the United States, starting with Texas, would not be compromising the education of our children and grandchildren, the Constitution, the Supreme Court … the list seemingly goes on infinitely.

The *Texas Board of Education approved the rewriting of the social study standards for grades K-12 in the Lone Star State. The board is removing many influential liberals and progressives from the learning process, including Republican progressive and anti-war advocate Robert La Follette and author of “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan.

According to the board, the new curriculum will include the “Social Gospel … Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association." It rejects the American ideal of a pluralistic government and accepts the misleading notion that America is a Christian nation.

If a person, law, court decision, government agency, columnist or newspaper does not conform to the “new” teachings, will we return to a time when intellectuals, heretics, scientists and other non-Christians in practice or thought are routinely tortured and murdered? Are we returning to the Dark Ages?

This idea is not something new. In 1987, Allan Bloom spoke about the destruction of American education by the theocratic conservatives in “Closing of the American Mind,” something that the Texas board has accomplished by rewriting American history. In 2008, Morris Berman wrote “Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire,” addressing the false concept of American economic superiority, which is now part of the new curriculum.

There are also plenty of books and articles supporting the misdirected curriculum changes, including Phillip Johnson’s 1998 “Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education,” a book based on biblical teachings, not science or verifiable history. Johnson is a practitioner of the “Young Earth Theory,” which says our planet is just 6,014 years old, not the 4.5 billion years that have been shown through scientific and verifiable calculations.

I do believe that our government will never become an atheistic theocracy. However, those advocating a Christian theocratic government need to remember that Jesus tells the people to abide by the laws of a pluralistic government — the Roman Empire. The Romans were religious people, just not believers in Jesus’ faith.

Texas, the largest textbook purchaser in our nation, takes the lead in having textbooks edited to meet its standards. The same books and curriculum will be available to all school districts.

Here is my promise: If the Missouri Board of Education or the Columbia or Hallsville school districts adopt the new Texas standards or books, I will be one of the first in line to file suit to protect the education of my grandchildren (all Christians) and their First Amendment rights.

Does the United States really want to erase more than a thousand years of scientific advancements and 700 years of history? Let us not read this headline in future history books: “The Neo-Dark Ages, 2010 to ? The greatest step backward in America’s history.”

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.


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Comments

Janet Horton May 31, 2010 | 5:45 p.m.

The imposition of religious legalism on culture and society is unfortunately not likely to go away. Today's cohort is reminiscent of the 1400's book burners, Grolamo Savonarola, Fra Silvestro, and Fra Domenico da Pescia. Mass hysteria is fickle, and those self-appointed culture police came to the same brutal end they had imposed on others. Apocalyptic fear and untreated obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD, aka scruples) in every culture have ruined lives for at least 6014 years. When fear abandons compassion, as it seems to be doing these days, societies should be wary. Those who forget history, or reduce it to scrupulous religious conformity, may well be destined to repeat it.

Janet Horton, Illinois reader

(Report Comment)
Ray Ferreira June 2, 2010 | 11:36 a.m.

Remember, George Orwell has shown us that book burning is a very outdated way to prevent the unknowing public from stumbling onto potentially dangerous information. Rewriting is a much more modern solution.

Today, as literature is quickly transforming from ink on paper to pixels on screens, rewriting is even faster and more effective than ever. In a few short years, all this hubbub about edited textbooks in Texas will be forgotten, and we'll simply move on... in a simpler, more conservative, more Christian society.

Or maybe not.

(Report Comment)

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