Conservative Group Rips Texas’ Religious Right Social Studies Standards

Texas’ new Religious Right-approved social studies standards are under fire from an unexpected source: a conservative think tank.

The Lone Star State received a “D” for the social studies curriculum that its State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted last year. The grade comes from a report issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank.

The Texas standards became the focus of national attention in spring of 2010 after the elected school board proposed a curriculum downplaying Thomas Jefferson and the separation of church and state, while playing up “Christian nation” propaganda.

Bypassing objections and national ridicule, the Religious Right bloc on the board adopted the revisionist history standards, which were heavily influenced by David Barton. Barton is a Religious Right activist in Texas who, despite his lack of academic credentials, promotes Christian-nation history. In doing so, the SBOE disregarded advice from credentialed historians and academics.

Reviewers at the Fordham Institute evaluated each state’s history standards in grades K-12, reporting that 28 states deserve D or F grades.

Concerning Texas, the Foundation wrote, “The conservative majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has openly sought to use the state curriculum to promote its political priorities, molding the telling of the past to justify its current views and aims. Indeed, the SBOE majority displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.

“Members of the SBOE also showed themselves determined to inject their personal religious beliefs into history education,” the report continued. “‘Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law)’ and ‘Moses’ are, incredibly, listed as the principal political influences on America’s founders. The separation of church and state, a much-debated and crucial concept in the drafting of the state constitutions (1777–1781) and the federal Constitution (1787), is simply dismissed.”

The Fordham report scored the Texas standards for “blatant politicizing” and added, “Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not outright invented. The complicated but undeniable history of separation between church and state is flatly dismissed.”

Don’t look for change soon, however. SBOE Chair Gail Lowe defended the curriculum and criticized the Fordham report for being based on “misinformation.”