First it was science. Now it's social studies. What's next – a Religious Right version of algebra?
Texas Freedom Network (TFN) reported over the weekend that the Texas State Board of Education is gearing up to appoint a social studies curriculum "expert" panel, and according to TFN, David Barton is at the top of this "expert" list.
Barton is the founder and president of Texas-based WallBuilders, a Religious Right organization that pushes a sectarian version of American History. Barton, a graduate of Oral Roberts University, has no credentials as a historian, and his historical accounts are based on "Christian nation" propaganda.
The former Texas Republican Party vice chairman argues that separation of church and state is a "myth" and laws should be based on Scripture.
Years ago, Barton cited to this quote that Religious Right groups once attributed to James Madison: "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
My colleague, Rob Boston, reported in Church & State that this quote was eventually declared false by several Madison scholars. WallBuilders then issued a document listing 12 statements allegedly uttered by the Founding Fathers that were now considered suspect or outright false. But for 10 years, Barton had traveled the country citing these quotes and putting on programs about America's alleged "Christian heritage."
Also slated for the State Board of Education's "expert" social studies panel is the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who has a seminary degree.
Marshall's ministry sells Christian-themed instructional materials for homeschoolers. He argues "that it is impossible to restore America to its traditional moral and spiritual foundations unless we recover our original founding vision, and the truth about America's Christian heritage."
"It's absurd to suggest that Texas universities don't have accomplished scholars in the field who are more qualified than ideologues who share a narrow political agenda," said TFN President Kathy Miller. "What's next? Rush Limbaugh on the 'expert' panel?"
For the past six months, the state school board has been at the center of controversy, as it debated whether to include creationist code language in the state's new public school science curriculum.
Nearly half of the board's members are Religious Right allies who aim to use their positions to push creationist concepts in the Texas public school system. In the end, they succeeded in passing a few last-minute amendments that could advance a creationist agenda.
Heading up the board is Don McLeroy, a fundamentalist Christian appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2007. McLeroy has made it clear he does not care what scientists have to say about evolution or any other scientific topic.
Apparently he doesn't care what real historians have to say about history, either.
Fortunately, we may not have to put up with what McLeroy thinks or what the rest of the board has to say for much longer.
McLeroy's confirmation as chairman of the board hangs in the balance in the Senate, as we speak. Many Texas lawmakers are furious at his tactics.
"You've created a hornet's nest like I've never seen here," said State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh to McLeroy during the Senate hearings. "You have a point of view, and you're using this bully pulpit to take the rest of the state there."
But what's even more promising is that since the science curriculum debate, 15 bills have been introduced this session that would strip the state board of its authority over curriculum and textbook standards.
If that happens, it would be one smart move for the Lone Star State.