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Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 3 April 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Textbooks Swing To the Far Right

Mulling changes to the state’s social studies curriculum, Texas Christian conservatives apparently have no qualms about putting loyalty to their religion above their nation’s Constitution.

Over three days in March, the Republican-controlled state Board of Education voted 10-5 to approve a series of changes, including replacing President Thomas Jefferson with theologian John Calvin (a Frenchman!) and St. Thomas Aquinas on a list of people whose writings inspired revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Satirist Stephen Colbert summed up the “Texas textbook massacre” like this:

“Members removed any reference to Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. You see, Jefferson coined the term ‘separation of church and state.’ So Texas has coined the term, ‘separation of Jefferson and history.’ ”

Texas buys a lot of textbooks, so publishers are prone to gear content nationwide to what’s acceptable to big purchasers. A final vote on the curriculum is set for the board’s May meeting.

The board rejected 10-5 an amendment by member Mavis Knight to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”

Board member David Bradley told the New York Times: “I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state. I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

By the same margin, the board approved a high school government standard requiring students to learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

Home Schools Create Evolution Doubt

The Associated Press reported in March that “Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want.”

“The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians,” said Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association. “Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program.”

Disdain for Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution are evident in the biology books favored by home-schooling parents. The introduction to one, from Bob Jones University Press, says: “Those who do not believe that the bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling. This book was not written for them.”

Jerry Coyne, an ecology and evolution professor at the University of Chicago, reviewed sections of the books at The AP’s request. “I feel fairly strongly about this. These books are promulgating lies to kids,” Coyne said.

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