It is commonly said that history is written by the winners, and that true objectivity is rarely, if ever, attained. The Texas Board of Education might be trying to prove this cliché, based on their recent efforts to change their curriculum to one that is rife with political and religious undertones. The real people who are suffering from this change are the children of Texas, who deserve to learn in an environment that is free from these political and religious influences.
If you were asked to revise a school’s curriculum, how would you go about doing this? You’d probably try to track down experts in the various fields and ask them for their opinions (ask a historian about history, etc) and seek advice by researching other credible sources. Then, with this information, try to make an informed, unbiased (as possible), recommendation. Would you, on your next dentist appointment, let the man looking at your teeth make all of the recommendations based on personal opinion more than on historical fact? Probably not. Unless, of course, you are the Texas Board of Education, whose chair from 2007 until 2009 was a dentist.
The conversation on the idea of historical facts is a difficult one because historians do not always agree on how to interpret historical fact. Taking the Venona papers for example, which “document communication between the Soviet Union and its spies” in America during the Cold War, for every historian saying these are important and justify, to an extent, McCarthyism, there is another that “dispute[s] the extent to which transcripts show Soviet involvement in American government,” (Washington Post). In addition to this, the Texas board of Education is also trying to minimize the efforts of some in the civil rights movements, including an amendment that states “that the movement created ‘unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes’ among minorities,” (NY Times). What can be agreed upon, however, is the absurdity that anyone, let alone an entire state, would be allowed to rewrite history. The members of the Texas Board of Education are making their decisions based not on what history is, but what they want it to be.
One of the recent proposed and accepted changes is related to separation of church and state. The board decided to exclude Thomas Jefferson from “the list of world thinkers who inspired 18th- and 19th-century revolutions,” (NY Times). Thomas Jefferson is well-known for coining the phrase ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ Texas, trying to minimize the significance of this idea, presented an alternative idea about religious freedom, and how that idea is different from Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase, despite historical evidence to the contrary. Jefferson’s demotion by the Texas Board of Education from being a ‘founding father’ is an attempt to undermine the credibility that anything he said or wrote might have.
Whatever your personal views on history are, it is hard to deny that Texas is trying to rewrite history in their vision, and by doing so brainwashing the young, impressionable children in their state to think like they do. Unfortunately, their influence does not stop there. Texas’ “huge market for textbooks gives Texas a huge influence on education across the country…” (Texas Freedom Network). This is a dangerous slippery slope that can have impacts across the country because Texas is trying to diminish the idea of the separation between church and state, and by doing so use the public schools to promote their beliefs to children. Texas is going down a path that does not celebrate religious diversity, and is trying to take the rest of the country along. Students deserve to learn in an environment that is free from political and religious influence and ideology and focus more on pure academics.