Revising History

The Texas State Board of Education has been stirring controversy by revising the State Social Studies Curriculum Standards. The revisions raise important questions about the relationship between government, religion, and education. Yesterday, two University of Texas professors debated the issue as part of the University’s Chautauqua Series. Here are their opening statements. Daniel Bonevac, Professor of Philosophy, defended the Board’s revisions, and Lorenzo Sadun, Professor of Mathematics, critiqued them.

Some thoughts:

  • Why is substituting ‘free enterprise’ for ‘capitalism’, and ‘Constitutional republic’ for ‘democracy’, supposed to be “Orwellian”? These terms aren’t inaccurate. In fact, they’re more precise. A Constitutional republic is a type of democracy. And capitalism and free enterprise aren’t synonymous. Free enterprise has existed from the beginning of human economic interaction, in full display in every farmer’s market or garage sale. Capitalism requires the accumulation of large amounts of capital, and so arose in the Renaissance with the rise of banking and insurance.
  • What is wrong with having students study Aquinas (originator of the concept of natural law, a crucial foundation for the concept of a natural, inalienable right), Calvin (whose model of church governance became the model for a Constitutional republic), and Blackstone (originator of the phrase “the pursuit of happiness,” and recorder of the common law)? It’s not as if the Enlightenment is being slighted; Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu all remain in the standards.
  • No one is proposing religious tests for public office, the establishment of a state religion, or anything of the kind. The question is whether students can be taught about the religious beliefs that motivated many of the important actors in American history.
  • People on the Left are outraged that the Board voted down a proposal to require students 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.” But the First Amendment is already included in the standards. And “establishing a religion” and “promoting or disfavoring a religion” are not equivalent. The proposal is politically tendentious, not the Board’s rejection of it.
  • The Left is also outraged that the Board voted to include the Venona papers in the standards. Evidently they are eager to keep alive the myths about the McCarthy era, the Alger Hiss case, and the Rosenberg trials, suppressing the evidence now available that shows that Hiss was a spy, that the Rosenbergs were guilty, and that the government was infiltrated by Soviet agents at very high levels.

4 thoughts on “Revising History

  1. I attended the debate and I was struck at how much of Prof. Sadun’s objections to the standards implied that the standards were promoting religion. The standards still have to conform with court rulings and various guidelines and would be immediately challenged if they crossed any lines.

    He made the specific objection to using the term “constitutional republic” because it had the word “republic” and would dispose impressionable children to think more positively about Republicans as a result. I think he inadvertently stepped in it on that one. Is it true that our system of government is commonly referred to as a “democracy?” if so, is it a part of a subliminal conditioning to get the weak-minded to think “Democrat, good” and “Republican, bad”? My own anecdotal evidence confirms that this strategy has worked rather well.

    One thing that wasn’t touched on in the debate was the notion that the SBOE needed to consult “experts” as a remedy to their political motivations. Over and over, Prof. Sadun said that the board had ignored the “experts” and made decisions for the standards based on right-wing bias. But are the “experts” objective and apolitical? I would say absolutely not. If you poll any faculty of any university liberal arts program and find more than a handful of conservatives/ Republicans, you aren’t in the United States. OK, maybe George Mason University Economics Department. And let’s forget calling anyone with an ed degree an “expert” in anything, much less politically neutral. Colleges of Ed are bought and paid for by the unions, and, as we know, the NEA is the largest single contributor to the Democratic party.

  2. The part that got me, as Barbara knows (We sat right in front of her.) from seeing my shoulders tense up, was that we “Patiently waited out the Russians and won the Cold War.” Did Charlie Wilson have nothing to do with it? Did President Reagan’s arms build up have nothing to do with the collapse of the Evil Empire? Are the Russians lying when they say that that was the kicker?

    Let’s tell the truth, at least here, among ourselves. Leftists are pretty giddy, when they are only talking among THEMselves, about how they undermine bourgeois society through our own institutions and make us pay for our own destruction. We would not know this, at least not so certainly, if they did not think that we are too stupid to read their wretched publications.

    Philo, you are a prince among men. You kept your cool.

  3. A study done a while ago of the University of Texas faculty’s voting patterns in primary elections showed that 85% were Democrats and only 15% Republicans. (Since it was a matter of voting in a primary, everyone who voted was one or the other.) Only the Schools of Business and Engineering were about 50-50. In Liberal Arts, Economics was the most conservative department. Philosophy was one of the more conservative (I wonder why?), with 15% Republicans. Several Liberal Arts Departments had no Republicans at all, and some big ones had only one or two. So, take a random sample of History professors, and more than 90% are likely to be Democrats.

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