Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Texas Freedom Network continues to live blog the Texas State Board of Education hearings where the collection of ignorant dolts on that board debate and amend the social studies standards. And it’s getting downright surreal. They actually removed Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment from the history standards. Seriously.

9:27 – The board is taking up remaining amendments on the high school world history course.

9:30 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar wants to change a standard having students study the impact of Enlightenment ideas on political revolutions from 1750 to the present. She wants to drop the reference to Enlightenment ideas (replacing with “the writings of”) and to Thomas Jefferson. She adds Thomas Aquinas and others. Jefferson’s ideas, she argues, were based on other political philosophers listed in the standards. We don’t buy her argument at all. Board member Bob Craig of Lubbock points out that the curriculum writers clearly wanted to students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson. Could Dunbar’s problem be that Jefferson was a Deist? The board approves the amendment, taking Thomas Jefferson OUT of the world history standards.

9:40 – We’re just picking ourselves up off the floor. The board’s far-right faction has spent months now proclaiming the importance of emphasizing America’s exceptionalism in social studies classrooms. But today they voted to remove one of the greatest of America’s Founders, Thomas Jefferson, from a standard about the influence of great political philosophers on political revolutions from 1750 to today.

9:45 – Here’s the amendment Dunbar changed: “explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson on political revolutions from 1750 to the present.” Here’s Dunbar’s replacement standard, which passed: “explain the impact of the writings of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and Sir William Blackstone.” Not only does Dunbar’s amendment completely change the thrust of the standard. It also appalling drops one of the most influential political philosophers in American history — Thomas Jefferson.

9:51 – Dunbar’s amendment striking Jefferson passed with the votes of the board’s far-right members and board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas.

The standard was about the Enlightenment and political revolutions that led to modern liberal democracy. So they removed the Enlightenment references and Thomas Jefferson, who played a key role in the two most prominent revolutions in the history of the Western world, and replaced them with Thomas Aquinas, who lived 500 years before the Enlightenment, and John Calvin, who lived 200 years before the Enlightenment and was a major figure in an entirely different period of history, the Reformation, which preceded the Enlightenment.

Yes, you should, in fact, be mouthing the words “what the fuck” right about now.

And the stupidity continues:

11:21 – Board member Barbara Cargill wants to insert a discussion of the right to bear arms in a standard that focuses on First Amendment rights and the expression of various points of view. This is absurd. If they want students to study the right to bear arms, at least try to find an appropriate place in the standards for it. This is yet another example of politicians destroying the coherence of a curriculum document for no reason other than promoting ideological pet causes. Republican board member Bob Craig of Lubbock is suggesting a better place for such a standard. But the amendment passes anyway. The board’s far-right faction is simply impervious to logic.

11:30 – Board member Pat Hardy notes that elsewhere the standards already require students to study each of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. No one seems to care.

11:33 – Bob Craig tries, once again, to talk some sense into these folks. Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the original standard’s focus on the rights of “petition, assembly, speech, and press in a democratic society” unfairly emphasizes the First Amendment over others. She suggests taking that out altogether if the Second Amendment isn’t included. Board member Ken Mercer argues that the right to bear arms is too important not to include here. But it IS included in the standards. The purpose of the original standard is to have students understand the rights to free expression in a democratic society. The right to bear arms is not relevant to that purpose.

Yep, that one passed too. Oh, and this about church and state:

12:28 – Board member Mavis Knight offers the following amendment: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” Knight points out that students should understand that the Founders believed religious freedom was so important that they insisted on separation of church and state.

12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”

12:35 – Knight’s amendment fails on a straight party-line vote, 5-10. Republicans vote no, Democrats vote yes.

12:38 – Let the word go out here: The Texas State Board of Education today refused to require that students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others. They voted to lie to students by omission.

If you have children in school in Texas, I strongly suggest moving.