Sunday, February 14, 2010
Young Earth Creationists Want Your History Textbooks Too
Historian Russell Shorto has a long article in the New York Times magazine about school board debates as to how to teach the issue of the religious intentions of the founding fathers. Did the founding fathers wish this to be a "Christian country?" Shorto is one of the leading historians today in understanding the complex role of religion in the scientific revolution and the rise of modernity. I would have liked to have seen more of him explaining to readers why this issue defies simple ideological verdicts of yes America was founded as a Christian nation or no it was not. Instead, Shorto focuses on the Texas school board and its leading conservative, Dan McLeroy. McLeroy wishes to make sure that children learn about how Ronald Reagan restored national confidence, Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the NRA. He is also a young-Earth creationist, who believes that the Bible is the ultimate source of our legal principles. (Why can't young Earthers just stick to destroying science and leave history alone?)
Those of my readers not from the State of Texas might think to breathe a sigh of relief; McLeroy is not on your State's school board so he does not affect you. Here is the problem, the major textbook publishing companies, for a variety of reasons, take their cues from the Texas school system. They will publish their history textbooks with Texas in mind and these textbooks are then used throughout the country, including a school near you. Let us be very clear. McLeroy, through his power of blackmail, has control over what sort of history your children will be learning and he is not just out to try to teach creationism to your children; he is also trying to teach a Christian apologist narrative. Imagine if Artscroll and Rabbi Berel Wein were being put in charge of writing history textbooks. Do you believe that McLeroy cares about a historical method or any critical analysis of history?
As a Libertarian and a follower of J. S. Mill, this is a good example of why I do not support government-funded public schools. I ask all of you, dear readers, who believe in government-controlled public schools, how can you trust the government to not abuse this power to ideologically indoctrinate your children? Would you trust the government to run the media? Government-controlled public education means that people like McLeroy will have control over your children and there is nothing you can do about it. I have every intention of making sure that no young-Earth creationists have any influence in the education of my children by sending any future children of mine to a carefully picked private school. (If need be, I will homeschool my children myself.) Every parent in this country deserves this opportunity and should not be forced into the hands of McLeroy simply because they cannot afford to pay twice over for their children's education.
As a history teacher, this is a good example of why I refuse to use official textbooks. I know that any official textbook has been held hostage to the interests of non-historians, out simply to score ideology points. Thus it is hopelessly tainted. I will stick to history books written by historians and answerable only to historians.