Posted by: Mike P. | February 11, 2010

Strange Text Books (2)

Update: 3/12/2010.
Update: 3/18/2010. See end. Well, probably never get to the end of this sad story. 2020?
Update:: 5/22/2010. The board meets. And many of its members invent stuff.

I recently wrote a post that was based on an article describing the internal workings of the texas state board of education. The article appeared in an online magazine that I am not familiar with. Today, a much longer and more in-depth article appeared in the New York Times.

This article is worth reading. This is a quote from the former head of the board. Fortunately, someone at the state level had the sense to demote this person:

McLeroy is a robust, cheerful and inexorable man, whose personality is perhaps typified by the framed letter T on the wall of his office, which he earned as a “yell leader” (Texas A&M nomenclature for cheerleader) in his undergraduate days in the late 1960s. “I consider myself a Christian fundamentalist,” he announced almost as soon as we sat down. He also identifies himself as a young-earth creationist who believes that the earth was created in six days, as the book of Genesis has it, less than 10,000 years ago. He went on to explain how his Christian perspective both governs his work on the state board and guides him in the current effort to adjust American-history textbooks to highlight the role of Christianity. “Textbooks are mostly the product of the liberal establishment, and they’re written with the idea that our religion and our liberty are in conflict,” he said.

A person has the right to believe whatever they want. However, I have a very serious issue with anyone who is going to guide which text books my child reads and wishes to indoctrinate her with this philosophy. There is no scientific basis what so ever for these beliefs. Indeed, most theologians would argue that these books in the bible are meant to be taken allegorically, not literally. If I wish her to learn some particular religious doctrine, I am perfectly capable of either doing it myself and have her attend a particular Sunday school. I do not want unsupported opinion taught as fact. I do not want a dubious interpretation of a theological text taught as fact. I do not want such a poor spiritual interpretation taught to her at all. That is not the place of a public school, and I certainly would not choose a Sunday School that taught such tales either. The Earth is old. Really old. Get over it.

Continuing the above quote:

“But Christianity has had a deep impact on our system. The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”

This quote is obviously true. Well, actually, I disagree with the free market assertion, but I am willing to let that slide since that is not my point. Christianity did have a deep impact on our system. And the writers of the Declaration of the independence and the Constitution were obviously familiar with the bible. There is plenty of research and writings on the thoughts of our true founding fathers, particularly men like Jefferson and Franklin, that makes any assertion that most of the founding fathers believed in a literal interpretation of the bible as laughable. The only way to make this assertion and have it stick is to redefine who the founders of the Unites States were. Perhaps we will agree that the leaders of Salem Mass. during the witch trials really were founding leaders? I think not. I hope not. The Pilgrims? Well, no, not really. They landed here early, but their radical beliefs were why they needed to leave England. They are not the founders of our society. Instead, they are the basis for rather historically inaccurate holiday.

McLeroy remains unbowed and talked cheerfully to me about how, confronted with a statement supporting the validity of evolution that was signed by 800 scientists, he had proudly been able to “stand up to the experts.”

When I am having an argument, and a significant number of experts or peers disagree with me, I go study and make sure I am right. Without exception, I have either been wrong or convinced my peers I am I right. To argue that you are smarter and better than the rest of the world is pure egotism. Someone quote mine the bible for me and comment as to why this is wrong. I am certain there is such a quote. Unless a number of my peers tell me I am wrong 🙂

Further in the article, Martin Marty, emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, past president of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society of Church History and perhaps the unofficial dean of American religious historians states:

“The goal should be natural inclusion. You couldn’t tell the story of the Pilgrims or the Puritans or the Dutch in New York without religion.” Though conservatives would argue otherwise, James Kracht said the absence of religion is not part of a secularist agenda: “I don’t think religion has been purposely taken out of U.S. history, but I do think textbook companies have been cautious in discussing religious beliefs and possibly getting in trouble with some groups.”

This does make sense. It is very important to understand how religion shaped the actions taken by people throughout history. But, at the same time, the manipulation of people through religious doctrine must not be ignored either. However, the texas board of education seems to be more interested in describing how the United States is an ordained country, destined to fulfill a biblical prophesy of some sort. At this point, they fall back into non-sense.

These arguments are just a distraction. Keep your eye on the real decisions that are being made and quickly marginalize these people who try to take unsupportable positions.

: I decided to add this last quote and will try to remember to look up the results in March:

Ratliff has received prominent endorsements and has outraised McLeroy in the neighborhood of 10 to 1. But hard-core conservatives tend to vote in primaries. Anyone looking for signs of where the Republican Party is headed might scan the results of the Texas school-board District 9 Republican primary on the morning of March 3. If Don McLeroy loses, it could signal that the Christian right’s recent power surge has begun to wain. But it probably won’t affect the next generation of schoolbooks. The current board remains in place until next January. By then, decisions on what goes in the Texas curriculum guidelines will be history.

Changes passed, NYTimes Article.

McLeroy Lost.

Update: 3/18/2010


There are some interesting names in this article. As this develops, maybe we can put together what some of these mad nutters are writing, and look for associations between these people and those in our own areas. Guilt by association. Absolutely. So, if I hear the name “Donna Garner” around Cecil County, I should prick my ears up, open my eyes, attend the meetings and see who shows and what sort of opinion they share while at the meeting or event.

Update 5/22/1010

Well, the board met. I will most likely refer to them as the wackos or similar, but of course we must remember that there are good people on the board. They are just outnumbered. And probably rather sad.

Karoli, @Karoli on Twitter, writes in Crooks and Liars about the sad state of affairs that these people are going to bring down on the heads of children in Texas, and most likely in a good number of other states. She had the extreme patience to watch live coverage of their meetings, tweet and blog about it. I am not going to quote her posting extensively here – that is pointless. I will just extract one gem. Fifth graders will now be required to:

explain the importance of morality and ethics in maintaining a functional free enterprise system.

I have a daughter who is getting ready to graduate from fifth grade. All I can stay is what the fuck? (These people made Karoli swear, too.)

Please read Karoli’s postings and visit some of the other links in this article. Aron Ra, posting on YouTube, made a must see video on this topic as well.

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