Thursday, May 13, 2010

Remember the Alamo

We’re about to re-fight the battle of the Alamo here in Texas. No, it’s not a reenactment of the actual battle. We’re fighting a battle that is being chronicled on national television and in the New York Times over the state social studies curriculum…the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies. Fox News calls it the textbook wars. The line in the sand is over the U.S. history and government portion of the curriculum (with a little world history thrown in for good measure). Our state curriculum is adopted for a term of ten years. You’re probably wondering why this merits national attention and you might be saying “who cares?”

The nation is tuning in because the Texas curriculum becomes the nation’s curriculum because it is the largest textbook market. Publishers don’t redo the textbooks for each state because it’s not economically feasible. So…everyone in the country is going to be studying Texas’ U.S. history curriculum. Again, so what? History is history..

Here is what’s at stake: our national identity. Whatever students (our future policy-makers and national leaders) study as an adolescent in their history class becomes part of their “worldview” of our country. The fight in Texas is over whether or not you are a believer in “exceptionalism” or “imperialism” – whether you are proud of our country’s rich history or are an apologist for it.

You see, our State Board and the curriculum writers believe that our nation is a Christian nation founded by diverse individuals who came to the “New World” for religious freedom. They believe that our founding fathers were a group of statesmen who, at great risk to their own lives and in spite of their differences, acted for the greater good. They believed in "government of the people, for the people, and by the people," in other words popular sovereignty.

The birth of the nation was a great experiment blessed by the hand of God. When Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman at the close of the Continental Congress, “Well Dr. Franklin, what have we got, a monarchy or a republic?” He responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” We have kept it by the grace of God. I believe that we are exceptional…that we do have unique values and beliefs from other nations in the world. Does that mean that we haven’t made mistakes? Of course not. But, because we have an exceptional system, we have the ability to rectify the mistakes we have made.

The people who have written our new curriculum also believe in Judeo-Christian values, upholding the mottos “E Pluribus Unum” and “In God We Trust.” They believe that the Ten Commandments should be studied alongside with Hammurabi’s Code, the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, etc. as part of the history of the law.

The opposing camp believes that the curriculum writers are writing revisionist history because, for one thing (they say), many of our founding fathers were not Christians but Deists. They do not believe that there should be the thread of Christianity and the Judeo-Christian belief system that is woven into the curriculum. They also believe they we are ignoring the fact that America was imperialistic.

What is really happening is that we are moving the culture wars that are currently being fought in the nation into our classrooms.

I’m afraid we may have some “blood letting” next Friday when the State Board of Education votes on the new curriculum. I know that I don’t want to be present, although I have been in the past. I will be at home grieving for my nation, the republic I hope we can keep.

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