Forget about Kansas. What’s the matter with Texas?
As I wrote earlier this year , Texas’ right wing-Christian dominated State Board of Education has mandated a bizarrely warped US history curriculum for Texas school children – and, because of Texas’ enormous influence on the nation’s textbook market, most non-Texan students as well. In March the the board included a plank directing students to learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” Because they didn’t care much for Thomas Jefferson, who coined the evil term “wall of separation between church and state,” they erased him from the history books, only to be replaced by lessons on the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas.
As if scrubbing Jefferson’s name from history were not enough, the board adopted measures in May to requiring students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase ‘separation of church and state ‘” (emphasis supplied). This reflects conservative evangelicals’ false contention that the doctrine of separation of church and state was fabricated by judges and was not part of the original intent of the Constitution’s drafters.
Texans appear to have finally had enough. Last week the Texas Freedom Network released the results of a statewide survey showing that most Texans want an end to the curriculum battles that have divided the Texas State Board of Education. 72% of likely voters say they want teachers and scholars, not politicians, to be responsible for writing curriculum standards. 68% say that separation of church and state is a key constitutional principle, although 49% want religion to have more influence in public schools. And 55% of likely voters oppose publicly funded vouchers that permit students to attend private religious schools.
Only time will tell whether this signals an approaching end to the tragic influence of an unhinged state board of education on the nation’s school children.