Texas conservatives attempt to rewrite history to their liking

October 14, 2010 — by Giulia Curcelli

Most high school students know of Thomas Jefferson—who he was, what he did and the immensity of his influence on America. But after the proposal of new legislation by the Texas State Board of Education, high school students there may no longer learn about Jefferson and other important elements of American history. Attempting to change history is wrong and should never be permitted or accepted.

The board, made up of five Democrats and 10 religious conservatives, has proposed that Jefferson be removed from the Texas curriculum, most likely because Jefferson, a deist, believed in reason rather than faith. Jefferson would be replaced with 16th century religious figure John Calvin, with whom he has no connection. Replacing Jefferson is absurd considering his enormous impact in the founding of America. As the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, the United States would not be what it is today.

The board has also removed the curriculum’s reference to “sex and gender as social constructs” because they felt it would expose students to “transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else,” but the reality is that these people do exist and the board has no reason to deny it other than their own personal feelings. In fact, removing the reference called more attention to it than the phrase would have called to itself.

In addition, the board decided to use the term “constitutional republic” rather than “democratic republic” to describe the U.S. government. Why? Apparently to eliminate the use of the word “democratic” in hopes of encouraging students to be more conservative.

Furthermore, the board has added a variety of conservative groups and people to the curriculum. Among these additions are the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing research group, the Moral Majority, an evangelical Christian political organization, and Phyllis Schlafly, a political activist and conservative lawyer opposed to feminism.

Considering that they have not had anywhere near as significant of an impact as a figure like Jefferson who may be removed from the curriculum, one has to wonder what the Texas Board of Education is thinking.

Recently, they also passed a resolution encouraging textbook publishers to limit the content printed about Islam. Although the resolution does not bind the textbook companies to remove content, it suggests that they minimize Islamic references, most likely due to the recent wave of Islamophobia in many parts of America. The extremely conservative Christian members of the board have passed this resolution in an attempt to impose their narrow-mindedness on Texas students. If the board continues to shape textbook content to their liking, students will be unfairly and unknowingly influenced by the religious beliefs of the board.

As one of the largest textbook purchasers in the country, Texas has an incredible amount of influence over the entire country’s curriculum. The proposed changes could alter this generation’s entire way of thinking, and all students deserve a politically and religiously unbiased education. Luckily, California State Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco penned a bill promising the Texas changes will not affect California textbooks.

The proposed changes to Texas curriculum by the State Board of Education are unbelievably partisan, something history should never be. Whether ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal, biased perceptions of history should never be mistaken for true fact.