What kind of textbook would Jesus write?

Over at Religion Dispatches Lauri Lebo has a good piece on the “Texas Textbook Massacre”.  What lies at the root of this nasty exercise in historical revisionism?  According to Lebo, “the board is clearly rewriting history to fit a conservative agenda and a Christian dominant worldview.”

Not all Christians see this as a good thing.  Jesus proclaimed an upside-down kingdom in which the first would be last and the last first.  Jesus envisioned a church in which the servant is greatest of all.   You don’t create that kind of culture through censorship and propaganda.  Any attempt to force the larger society into a Christian mold is the death knell of true Christianity.

Can there be any real peace between “a conservative agenda” and Jesus-style Christianity?  What kind of a social studies text book would Jesus write?

At the end of her article, Lebo lists what she considers the ten most egregious changes to the social studies curriculum in Texas.  Note the shift from an inclusive worldview that celebrates diversity and honors “the least of these” to an exclusive conservatism that vaunts the folks in the big house while denigrating the shack-dwelling share croppers who are just lucky to be on the plantation.

The decision to place Jefferson Davis on a par with Abraham Lincoln speaks for itself.

The Texas establishment might as well be upfront about how it views the world.  The values reflected in the list below have been driving with the state’s love affair with mass incarceration and the death penalty for well over a generation.

Lebo’s List

The amended standards, which will be reviewed and voted on May 19-21, are now available at the Texas Education Agency Web site. The Texas Freedom Network has a pretty comprehensive list as well. In no particular order, here is a list of 10 of the most egregious changes to the social studies curriculum:

1. Exceptionally Unjust: Conservative board members spent much time stressing that students need to learn about “American exceptionalism,” even as they removed the concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3. They also unsuccessfully tried to remove the word “equality.”

2. Disestablishing the Establishment Clause: A proposal suggesting that high school students be able to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others,” was rejected by religious conservatives.

3. The Enlightenment Ends Here: Board members voted to remove Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. Instead, they replaced him with theologians Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. Then, because neither were Enlightenment thinkers, board members also removed the word “Enlightenment.”

4. A Free Substitute for Capitalism: Board conservatives banned the word “capitalism” from the standards, arguing that “liberal professors in academia” use the word in a negative way. The phrase “free enterprise” is to be used in its place.

5. McCarthy, Great American Hero: Led by McLeroy, board members voted to require students to learn about “communist infiltration” in the 1950s in an attempt to absolve Joseph McCarthy for his Cold War Communist witch hunts. McLeroy asserted inaccurately that McCarthy has been “vindicated by history.”

6. Expunge the (Brown) Socialist: The board took Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers of America, from a Grade 3 list of “historical and contemporary figures who have exemplified good citizenship,“ because she was a socialist. Inexplicably, socialist Helen Keller remained on the same list.

7. A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Conservative: Students are required to learn about “conservative heroes and icons” like Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. No similar standard is required for “liberal heroes and icons.”

8. History, Rewritten by the Losers: When studying the writings of President Abraham Lincoln, eighth-grade students in U.S. history class are also required learn about Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

9. Declaring Culture War on Liberal Programs: Students are required to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX.

10. As Goes Hollywood So Goes the Texas School Board: The board removed freedom fighter and Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated during Mass, from a standard about leaders who resisted political oppression. The reason? Because they hadn’t heard of him and, as one board member said, “he didn’t have his own movie” like Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi.

One thought on “What kind of textbook would Jesus write?

  1. There is a reason why Helen Keller would not have bee removed. She is not remembered primarily for being a political figure but as a disabled person who overcame great odds. There would have been an uprising from the disability community if she had been removed and even Texas would not want that.

    I sincerely hope that Texas teachers with integrity put the books aside and supplement the biased viewpoint with materials from other sources such as the Internet and even older versions of the books used in previous classes. What’s next, ignoring Martin Luther King?

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