Texas rewrites U.S. history, some Jewish groups not amused

 It wasn’t surprising to see two Jewish groups among the signers of a letter supporting a House resolution criticizing the Texas State Board of Education for promoting a public school social studies curriculum that might be more appropriate for a Sunday school or church camp.

It was surprising that there weren’t more Jewish groups willing to criticize a Texas public school system that has added a whole new dimension to the endless church-state wars by essentially rewriting U.S. history and throwing the whole concept of church-state separation in the scrapheap.

The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex); it charges that the state school board “disregarded many academically based recommendations and approved politically biased standards within the curriculum that are outside of mainstream scholarship.”

The new guidelines, critics charge, pretty much remove the civil rights movement from the social studies curriculum and downplay the significance of slavery; church-state separation is held in such contempt that initial drafts pretty much wrote Thomas Jefferson out of U.S. history because he advocated separation.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said “The Texas School Board’s handling of the social studies standards was a travesty. America’s school children cannot be expected to learn accurate history if ideologues are allowed to manipulate the educational process.”

A few months ago, the Anti-Defamation League called the curriculum “inaccurate” and criticized the board for starting a hearing on the issue “with a disconcerting invocation promoting the Christian religion over all others.”

The ADL submitted testimony to the board, citing “numerous writings of the Founding Fathers that clearly indicated their interest was to protect every American’s right to practice the religion of his or her choice, and the only way to do that, they felt, was to keep government out of religion.”

The ADL also complained about “the curriculum lending equal weight to the Gettysburg Address, and the Confederacy President Jefferson Davis’ speech in which he implies states’ rights were the main reason for the Civil War, and not slavery,” according to a statement in May, but apparently the Texas school crusaders never heard of Abe Foxman.

Who cares what happens in remote Texas? Educators across the country care, for the simple reason that Texas’ huge buying power and the activism of its school boards has a huge influence on the publishing industry.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.