Thursday, 23 July 2009

Religious history

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Could the next battle over faith and education in the US be fought in the history classroom rather than the science lab? The Texas state education board, which has previously looked at introducing Intelligent Design and creationism into the science curriculum, has appointed a panel to review the state history curriculum, and that panel includes two fundamentalist Christians known for campaigning to have the role played by Christianity in US history emphasised in education.

David Barton, who founded Christian heritage group WallBuilders, says pupils should be taught that the US constitution was written on the basis that "there is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature", that "there is a creator" and "government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual".

Meanwhile Barton's colleague on the review panel, Reverend Peter Marshall, who the Guardian report says preaches that "Hurricane Katrina and defeat in the Vietnam war were God's punishment for sexual promiscuity and tolerance of homosexuals", has told the Wall Street Journal "We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it." In his submission to the board of education, he stressed that the role of religion in US history is currently underplayed in the history curriculum:
"In light of the overwhelming historical evidence of the influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America, it is simply not up to acceptable academic standards that throughout the social studies (curriculum standards) I could only find one reference to the role of religion in America's past."
Of course, all of this would be to ignore the fact that historians of early US history have long debated the degree of religiosity among the framers of the constitution. When I studied this at university, the consensus appeared to be that the 55 delegates at the Philadelphia Convention held as wide a range of views on religion as they did on political philosophy. But to state this would be to assume that men like Barton and Marshall actually have any interest in genuine historical debates.

It's not even like anyone with any knowledge of US history would wish to downplay the role played by religion. But as Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, which opposes the Religious Right, is quoted as saying in the Guardian, Barton and Marshall are trying to present a view of US history which bears no relation to reality:
"I don't think anyone disputes that faith played a role in our history. But it's a stretch to say that it played the role described by David Barton and Peter Marshall. They're absurdly unqualified to be considered experts. It's a very deceptive and devious way to distort the curriculum in our public schools."
If fundamentalists have indeed shifted their focus from science curriulums to history, it is to be hoped that leading US historians will speak out and help prevent children being taught a vastly distorted view of their own history.

2 comments:

SamTronik said...

What a joke Texas is becoming. It really is one of the most backwards places in the western world.

How is even thinking about doing this possible?!

Richard Eis said...

It's done in texas because of the size of it's school district. Which influences what books are sold to other schools in the US. This is the religious undermining childrens education for their own ends, and they do not care who gets hurt as long as they can keep their dying god alive.
You will next see the arrival of several "new" books from the christians suddenly appearing and telling the "real" (tm) story of US history. These will be pushed to be bought for schools.