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Barbarians At the Gate March 16, 2010

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
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The Texas School Board of Education has finally succeeded in overturning hundreds of years of intellectual history. Via the NY Times:

After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

In fact, this lead paragraph doesn’t quite get at the radical nature of the Board’s decision.

In these revisions to the social science curricula, the word “Enlightenment” has been banned. Students still must “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau…” But Thomas Jefferson has been axed, to be replaced by…Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.

The Enlightenment was a period in European history, beginning roughly in the mid-17th Century, in which science and reason began to replace religious faith as a dominant cultural force; it set the stage for the emergence of democratic government. Thomas Jefferson—who advocated the separation of church and state, as a deist believed that God created a rational universe that can be understood through reason alone, and that God no longer intervenes in the universe—is apparently no longer a representative Enlightenment figure.

Instead, we have Aquinas who lived 400 years before the beginning of the Enlightenment? Now one could plausibly argue that Aquinas was a pre-cursor to the Enlightenment because he believed that God’s creation could be understood through science as well as faith. But he hardly advocated the decline of religion as a cultural authority.

And we have John Calvin who lived 150 years before the Enlightenment. He was a fierce defender of the Reformation, believed that humanity’s fate was fully in God’s hands, that God could only be understood through revelation and scripture, and had the heretic Michael Servetus burned at the stake.

Quite an Enlightenment figure!

And then we have William Blackstone, a Tory and supporter of the British monarchy, who, like Calvin, taught that submission to tyrants is obedience to God, and was vehemently anti-catholic.

This is a travesty that turns history on its head.

As Laurie Fendrich writes:

And who could have guessed that the Texas Board, made up of regular Texans—lawyers, a dentist, a real estate guy, some teachers, etc.—would have ferreted out what Enlightenment scholars have missed all these years: Aquinas and Calvin are critical to understanding the Enlightenment, while Jefferson is not.

The perversion of knowledge into state propaganda resembles nothing so much as what the Communist Bloc did to ideas in the mid-20th century. More fearful of ideas than guns, they simply banned any ideas they didn’t like. In wiping out Jefferson, in particular, the Texas Board looks a lot like the communists who used to airbrush out of official state photos those who had been executed after the famous 1948 Czech show trials.

Why should we care what happens in Texas schools? Texas is the largest market for standardized textbooks in the United States. Publishers use the standards set by the Texas School Board to govern what the school kids in the rest of the country learn.

Child abuse goes national.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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