Saturday, March 13, 2010

Texas Board of Education Slights Thomas Jefferson

I have just completed reading (a day late) the article in The New York Times regarding the Texas Board of Education's approval to put a more conservative stamp on social studies (whatever happened to history) and economic text books.

The new curriculum standards will put a more favorable light on capitalism,  pronouncing its superiority over other economic systems. At the same time the Founding Father's desires and commitment  to the establishment of a secular government will be questioned. In addition to this the Republican philosophy with respect to politics and government will be presented more positively.

I suppose as an independent conservative it would seem only natural to be hopping up and down over these events. However, there are troubling aspects to what has taken place in Texas. As one who has always loved history I have a great disdain for  revisionist history no matter form it takes.

There is no question that the curriculum in public schools has been pushed significantly leftwards. In the process the progressive movement has successfully changed how students are taught to look at America. The progressive movement in academia has, by and large taught anti capitalism, anti individualism, diminished the notion of self reliance in favor of reliance on government, and has attempted to indoctrinate  students with an anti American view in favor of a multiculturalism global view. So, with respect to teaching a historical and economic perspective that favors capitalism over socialism and puts a more favorable light on America it is indeed a good thing and a move in the right direction.

What is troubling is the move by conservatives (I suspect they are really neo-cons) on the board to dampen the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution, and the belief that because the founding fathers were guided by Christian principals (they were for the most part Deists) it somehow gives reason to question their commitment to the formation of a secular state. As an independent conservative I take issue with both both positions.

 Darwin's theory of evolution is based on science and to refute its validity is, at least in my mind, telling. I shall leave Darwin with only this limited comment. The greater purpose it to look at the apparent impact the Texas Board of Education's decision will have on the teaching of Jeffersonian history. From my read of the New York Times article it will likely become revisionist, or merely overlooked in favor of the neo cons preferences and limited understanding of history.

 A reading of American history and the The Constitution will show the founding fathers did indeed mean to create a purely secular state. As the founders were painfully aware of the injustices caused by the political influences from religion on the state (the Spanish Inquisition, and The Church of England) they determined to create a wall between state and church. This wall became known as "the separation of church and state." It was meant to protect the citizens right to worship in the way they so choose and to insure their government was insulated from influences by any particular religious dogma.

Article 1 of The Bill of Rights states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof... "   Two things are clear...  first, congress is prohibited from establishing a state sanctioned religion , and second... the government shall have no authority to prohibit or deprive the people of their right to worship as they so choose. Seems pretty clear and sensible to this independent conservative.

Thomas Jefferson, the man responsible for authoring The Declaration Independence wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal , that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." from these words it is clear Jefferson believed in a higher authority. It is also true that Jefferson was attributed with establishing the phrase "separation between church and state." For this some conservatives (again likely neo cons) dislike Jefferson, and wish to overlook his significance in history.

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer who believe the nation was founded on Christian principals was able to cut Jefferson from a list of people who, through their writings, inspired revolution in the late 1700's and early 1800's in favor of religious figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and William Blackstone.

Could it be that the neo cons and religious right are pushing an agenda that could very well lead to increased religious intolerance and influence in America? In our our halls of congress, in the judiciary? Religion has always been a lightning rod of intolerance throughout history.

Thomas Jefferson understood the reason and need to separate church and state. It was prudent and correct the founders did so at the time of our founding, and it remains so today. The reason the founders opted for the establishment of a secular state was not because they didn't believe in a higher moral authority. It was because they believed in the right of the individual to chose the faith, and God they worshiped.

The laws that govern a free and just society have their basis in ethics and morality. A belief in a particular religious faith or dogma  is not a pre requisite to forming a proper and just government. The implication that it is so should not be taught in public schools.

Via: Memeorandum


  1. Education needs to be unbiased and anyone who believes that removing the Founders from history does not have the best interests of this nation at heart.

  2. Chris - So true. And I find the motivation behind what I read reason for real concern.

    The conservatives (I call them neo cons) in Texas are running the risk of being just as guilty as that which they accuse the liberals of.

    Conservatives must do better if they hope to gain the preeminent philosophical and political position again.

  3. I found the article "The Misuse Of Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation”" quite helpful. Also the 4th principle in Skousen's "The 5,000 Year Leap" that Glenn Beck talks about echoes these sentiments. As you point out, there is a wall of separation at the Federal level for religion. States were left to decide what level of separation they were comfortable with as 7 of the 13 colonies had established state religions when the Constitution was approved.

    I don't advocate a return to state-established religion; just in letting the states using their 10th Amendment rights decide where they will draw the line with religion.

    I have no problem if Texans decide to teach creationism as a theory next to Darwinism--I am more worried about the Federal government abusing the Constitution in dictating Federal guidelines.

    Indeed, could we not agree to a complete elimination of the Dpt Of Education as that is not the role of the Federal Government? Maybe we could use the DOE budget in paying down some of the debt.

    Finally, I believe Jefferson should be revered and studied as with the other Founding Fathers and would hope Texans would continue to do so.

  4. nacilbupera - First, thank you for visiting RN USA.

    Second, thanks so much for the link to the Kentucky Resolutions. I am sure there are those who are unfamiliar with Jefferson's position with respect to the "Alien and Sedition Act", and will find this link helpful.

    Indeed, we could very well agree that the elimination of the Department Of Education is desirable and that education should not be a function of the federal government.

    I would advocate for eliminating OSHA as well as the DOE budget to help pay down our crushing debt level.

    And since you bring up the debt... we should also end government subsidies to businesses as well as curtail our interventionist foreign policy and the military industrial complex..

    It is time we started acting like the conservatives we profess to be.

  5. Les: Great article. I don’t know a lot about Jefferson, but the more I learn the more I find there is to admire.

    Jefferson knew that separation of Church and State was important not just for governing but for individual rights. As you stated,It was because they believed in the right of the individual to chose the faith, and God they worshiped.

    The laws that govern a free and just society have their basis in ethics and morality. A belief in a particular religious faith or dogma is not a pre requisite to forming a proper and just government. The implication that it is so should not be taught in public schools.

    My opinion is that we need ethical and moral people in our society and government, however we don’t need our society or government to be religious. People can be moral and have ethics without religion, therefore having a particular faith is not a prerequisite to forming a proper/just government and it should not be taught that way in school.

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  7. Pam - Thanks... and yes Jefferson, his intellect, and his philosophy of governing ought to be admired (and accepted practice) even today.

  8. You know, if conservatism as a whole would just get back to the kinds of principles you express in this posting, I wouldn't have much of a problem with it. It's the conviction of some latter-day fundamentalists that belief in a particular religion is "a pre requisite to forming a proper and just government", or to "the laws that govern a free and just society", that's the problem.

    The secularism of the state Jefferson and the other Founders established was not meant to be hostile to religion, as such. The issue back then was conflicts between different forms of religion. In the late 18th century the memory of the terrible religious wars in Europe were still fresh -- wars which happened because the norm back then was for a country to have an established religion, which led to endless conflicts over which religion, or rather, which sect of Christianity. Those wars lie in the distant past now, but considering what a welter of divergent sects exist in the US, any compromise of the First Amendment's establishment clause would risk reviving such conflicts.

    Any revolution inspired by Calvin would hardly have led to anything we would recognize as a free society. Any why would they snub Jefferson in favor of figures who were not even American?

  9. infidel - Good points on which we could agree.

    The problem with religion mixed with governance is that religion can be just as power hungry as government.

    When the justification is tied up in the irrationality of rabid religious dogma, or rabid political ideology you have a dangerous mixture as you well know and I point out.

    I thank you for your insight.

  10. Infidel: If Liberalism AND Conservatism would BOTH get back to their original intent, I don't think anyone would have a "real" problem. But it seems BOTH have taken on new forms and grown into power-hungry-monsters we don't recognize.

  11. I agree with you 100%. I cringe every time I hear some self-described conservative start doing the same things the left has been doing only in the other direction. It's no better when we do it than when they do it.

  12. AndrewPrice - So true... so true. Conservatives should start acting like real conservatives and perhaps then the movement will be resurgent again.


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