Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Texas BOE: Paine or No Paine?

Here’s a rather amusing exchange they had in the hearings being held by the Texas Board of (Mis-)Education over their social studies standards. They’ve been debating which historical figures to leave in and which ones to leave out, with the wingnut brigade — none of whom have the first clue about American history — essentially wanting everyone who ever said anything that might be considered liberal to be taken out.

The problem is, everything this bunch knows about American history is what they’ve read in religious right pamphlets and websites. That ignorance lends itself to very vague recollections as the basis of actual motions for consideration, as when Barbara Cargill, one of the wingnuts, had a vague memory that Thomas Paine did something important, so he should be studied.

Pat Hardy, a Republican board member from Fort Worth and a former award-winning social studies teacher, practically begged her colleagues to stop and think. In one particularly revealing discussion, Ms. Hardy saved fellow board member Barbara Cargill from doing something the Republican from The Woodlands near Houston would likely have come to regret.

As you know, Ms. Cargill and other members of the board’s far-right faction want the new social studies standards to emphasize patriotism and Christianity. So at one point during the debate over those standards, it wasn’t surprising to see Ms. Cargill propose adding Thomas Paine to the Grade 5 standards.

Ms. Hardy asked if she was really, really sure she wanted to add Paine. Ms. Cargill appeared confused and noted that Paine was a patriot who had written “Common Sense,” published in 1776, in which he had argued for American independence from Great Britain.

Ms. Hardy tried again, asking if she knew anything else about Paine, suggesting that Paine might not be so ideal a historical figure as her colleague might think. Ms. Cargill had no answer and finally dropped her suggestion, noting that Paine was already in the standards for another grade anyway.

Hardy, you may recall, was the one who made a motion to ban a children’s book author because he had the same name as the author of a book about Marxism, but she did so solely because another member of the wingnut brigade, Terri Leo, told her about it. That gives you some idea of the intellectual rigor of this group of clowns. That motion passed, by the way.

And Hardy is considered the intellectual leader of the wingnut brigade, the smartest and best educated of the group (which is a lot like being the most moral Congressman).

I’m not sure which is worse, that one of them didn’t know a damn thing about Thomas Paine but felt competent to suggest his inclusion in the curriculum, or that the rest of them would likely not want Paine in the standards because he was a critic of Christianity and the validity of the Bible. Both are frightening.

What sane society allows people like this to write curriculum for anything other than a Sunday School class at the local fundie church?