The lies of Texas are upon you

May 22, 2010 • 9:57 am

Yesterday the Texas School Board passed its new, conservatized social studies curriculum by a vote of 10-5.  These changes have ramifications for the entire U.S., for textbook companies don’t like to make special editions for just one state.

Here are a few of the curriculum revisions:

The United States will not longer be characterized as a “democracy,” but as a “constitutional republic.”

Students will be encouraged to “question the doctrine of church-state separation.”

The students will get to learn about the great achievements of the conservative movement, including the leadership of Phyllis Schafly and the Moral Majority.

“Students should study ‘the unintended consequences’ of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. He [David Bradley] also won approval for an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.”

Students still get to study President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but now supplement that with Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address as president of the Confederacy.

Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence has been removed from the list of “great thinkers.”   After all, what great thinker could advocate the separation of church and state?

Martin Luther King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” has been removed from the suggested readings.

But not every amendment passed.  Here’s one that was voted down. According to The New York Times:

Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students study the reasons “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.”

It was defeated on a party-line vote.

See Colbert’s take here.

45 thoughts on “The lies of Texas are upon you

  1. I think students *should* be encouraged to question the doctrine of church and state separation (or anything else they’re taught, for that matter). Questioning something is the only way to decide for yourself that you believe in it. Of course, whether Texas’ curriculum will involve questioning in the good sense or questioning in the “teach the controversy” sense… is more of a problem.

    1. Ther are Texans working against the religious right take over. You may want to visit the Texas Freedom Network ( for thier views.

    2. Yeah, it’s obviously the selectivity that’s the problem. It’s just like the stickers in the front of the science books saying “Evolution is a theory that might not be 100% correct and it should be vigorously examined and challenged.” If the proposal was to put a sticker in the front of every textbook saying, “The contents of this book might not be 100% correct and they should be vigorously examined and challenged,” I say, hellz yeah! “Question everything” and all that.

      But the selectivity of questioning implies criticism.

  2. The United States will not longer be characterized as a “democracy,” but as a “constitutional republic.”

    As far as I can tell, that’s a good thing, because that’s what the U.S.A. actually is. And that also helps to make it clear that it’s a country in which individual rights trump the rights of the group.

    1. Do I correctly recall that the United States has been described as a “democratic republic,” and also as a “representative democracy” or “indirect democracy”? Are these monikers no less reasonable and appropriate than “consitutional republic”? Could it be that conservatives, Republican or not, want to avoid using, or acknowledging as legitimate, the word “democrat,” whether big “D” or little “d”?

      1. That’s almost certainly the case. Nevertheless, a “constitutional republic” is exactly what the USA is classified as by political scientists. For example, “Federal constitutional presidential republic” is what Wikipedia classifies the USA as.

        “Democratic Republic” reeks of communist doublespeak. (e.g., Democratic Republic of Germany, Democratic Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Vietnam)

        1. And I would also congenially augment that with “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” and “People’s Republic of China.” “Republic” indeed has been exploited. I wonder if the U.S. became a bit less of a republic when U.S. Senators were no longer elected by state legislatures. Are U.S. citizens nowadays worthy of directly (and competently) voting in U.S. presidential elections?

    2. I had a similar thought, although clearly context is important. You KNOW the boobs on the Texas BoE made the change not out of a desire for correctness, but because “Democracy” sounds like “Democrat” and “Republic” sounds like “Republican”.

      But yeah, I would totally support stressing to students how the United States — at least federally — is a republic rather than a democracy (or at least emphasize the difference between “representative democracy” and pure democracy), and furthermore to examine some real-life examples of why direct democracy is an abject failure *cough*California*cough*budget problems*cough*prop 8*cough cough, excuse me!

  3. The two initial comments are naive. Of course they are singling out “the doctrine of separate of church and state” as needing to be questioning because they want to dispute the merit and reality of any such principle, which is also why they it designate it a “doctrine” instead of a legal principle.

    As to our not being a democracy because individual rights prevail over majorities, that is false. We are a democracy BECAUSE individual rights prevail over majorities, that is what a democracy is. Democracy is not rule of the majority as an end result, democracy is a process. Equal participation from the minority is required for democratic process, and that requires forbidding government actions that undermine minority participation, which necessarily implies that the majority cannot prevail in those situations where it attempts to compromise the democratic participation of minorities.

    1. No, naive would be thinking that it’s going to be a fair fight if students have to dispute with their teachers over the principles behind separation of church and state. It most certainly would not be fair. What I *said*, however, was that you should question everything, as opposed to just believing things because people say they’re so – which is exactly right.

      As for what a democracy is, you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about. Direct democracy is *precisely* majority rules because the majority always has more votes. Representative democracies are somewhat better, in that the elected representatives are expected to be wiser and more concerned with overall wellfare than a random citizen, but they need not be – majorities among representatives are still an unchecked source of power. It’s when those representatives are limited by the law, as in a constitutional republic, that the minority’s rights are really protected. The writings of the Founders make it clear that a democracy is not what the US has nor what it should want. And have you forgotten your Pledge of Allegiance?

      “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands…”

      1. “…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        I recommend substituting “living mod” for ‘Under God.” With today’s focus on childhood obesity, “slim your bod” might be more appropriate.

        Lest we forget. These standards are aimed at high schoolers who, fortunately rebel at adult edicts. Could it be that these directives may work to the benefit of those who oppose them, especially in classes where an alert teacher might address the subject by asking, “What do you think of this and why?”

  4. The other 49 states, the textbook publishers and authors should all refuse to abide by the Texas dumb-ass rules.

  5. See, now lookit here. Thissis the way it is. Them students just got too much to keep straight, and Thomas Jefferson plus Jefferson Davis is just one too many Jeffersons. That’s why TJ got scratched. That Board was a lookin out for them students.

    1. And they added Thomas Aquinas to the “great thinkers who contributed to the founding of the U.S.” list after removing Thomas Jefferson… apparently there’s a “Thomas” quota of one, as well as a “Jefferson” quota.

    2. Hempenstein, it should then be George Jefferson, from All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

  6. It seems the US School Bord process is a good study subject for the more advanced grades on educational processes, doctrines and the problems of majorities.

    Since I’m mostly politically and US naive (besides spending a few years over there), you guys and girls could try to illuminate the subject for me. For example, I see that the term “republic” waved around as if it wasn’t an example of a democracy.

    But: “A republic government is a type of government where the citizens choose the leaders of their country [1] and the people (or at least a part of its people)[2] have an impact on its government.” [Wikipedia.] If everyone has voting rights as in US, it is thus a modern democracy with this inclusive definition.

    As for the subject of democracy people seem to use their own definitions. It is, and I think this is a good definition, “rule of the people” (original definition), through some mechanism. Again, without a declaration of no exceptions, an original democracy is as exclusive as a republic.

    It is, if we look on history, the modern common mechanisms of equality and participation that makes democracy a truly successful concept.

  7. Being not American I don’t really understand a lot of this but I was hoping at least someone would explain what they’ve got against ‘democracy’? This I really don’t get. Why is a republic better than a democracy?

    1. There are two reasons.

      First reason, here’s what David Barton says:

      “Many Americans today seem to be unable to define the difference between the two, but there is a difference, a big difference. That difference rests in the source of authority.”

      The source of authority for a democracy would be the people, and the source of authority for a republic would be… (take a wild guess.) Yep, that’s right, the Bible.

      Second reason, “republic” sounds a lot like “Republican”. (Actually that should probably be the first reason. Lol.)

      1. So it’s not a “(constitutional) republic” they are after, but a theocracy.

        It _could_ be shoehorned into the definition of republic, if there is a privileged priest class that constitutes “a part of the people” and the rest has no voting rights. Something like an Iran on steroids, I imagine.

        But it is much better to just say theocracy.

        1. “explain what they’ve got against ‘democracy’? ”

          Here, read this, and especially note the quotes in white from some of the Founders near the bottom:

          @386sx: Um, no. The Bible has nothing to do with what a republic is or how it works. And by “the authority for a democracy is the people,” you must mean the authority is *the majority.* Because all it takes is 51% to screw over the other 49% – i.e. a lot of the people don’t get their rights. That’s why the US is a republic. PS: Republican *came from* Republic – that’s why it used to be a good thing. Now it stands for wingnuts.

          1. Thanks, I read that too. So these theocrats (or, I suspect, here: libertarians) inject territorial property rights as a foil for in fact professing to representative democracy. Interesting, and it reveals a whole lot of the psychology behind this.

            Also, I didn’t realize that theocrats and libertarians in practice could share deeper roots than being members of the same party for its conservative trait. They are actually served by the same obfuscatory strategy.

            [Did I mention that I see ideology as in practice so much belief? I’m sure I have. ;-)]

          2. Well here’s what the Texas fundies like David Barton and the BOE mean by Republic:

            “If the source of law for a democracy is the popular feeling of the people, then what is the source of law for the American republic? According to Founder Noah Webster:

            ‘[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.’ 13

            The transcendent values of Biblical natural law were the foundation of the American republic. Consider the stability this provides: in our republic, murder will always be a crime, for it is always a crime according to the Word of God. however, in a democracy, if majority of the people decide that murder is no longer a crime, murder will no longer be a crime.”, David Barton,

            1. Well thanks for all that. I will have to ponder on this a bit. This democracy of which they speak exists nowhere on Earth that I’m aware of nor ever has.

              And the bit about ‘sovereignty’ being in each individual person seems novel, where is that written? Certainly not in the bible, nor as far as I’m aware the constitution of your fine country. But I do see that the trouble with democracy is that it has no “Ultimate Truth” which this sort is obsessed with. So I think I sort of get it. Cheers.

            2. Ugh, what an asshat. See here’s the thing though, if people are just going to lie about what a government is or what it’s based on, there’s no reason they’d have to do it with the word “republic.” They could have just as easily defined democracy any old way they please and then give fake references for that (such as saying Noah Webster was a Founder, when he wasn’t.)

              This David Barton guy needs to watch this:

            3. They could have just as easily defined democracy any old way they please and then give fake references for that (such as saying Noah Webster was a Founder, when he wasn’t.)

              Well that’s where the “Republican” part comes in. “Republic” sounds a lot like “Republican”, so they choose to define “Republic” any way they please. 😀

            4. Tim Martin
              Posted May 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

              “Ugh, what an asshat…”

              Tim, we here all agree with that, David Barton is a liar and a slanderer. However, please understand that David Barton is one of three religious rightwingers appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry to the State Board of Education. His bachelor’s degree is in religious education from Oral Roberts University. Barton is absurdly unqualified to serve as an “expert” on a panel helping revise curriculum standards for social studies. So why is he an appointed advisor to the school board? Make no mistake, David Barton represents the perspective of much of the religious right, many of whom simply beleive him because he says he what they want to believe and because their clergy endorse him. However extreme he is, he is no more extreme than the governor of Texas or the religious right generally.

  8. Look, its true that the United States was founded as a republic. However, after the amendments that enfranchised people without property, women and Africans we became an indirect democracy. I think it is the case that democracy as a concept is a process that entails preservation of the individual rights that facilitate equal opportunity for participation, including, but not limited to, rights of equality before the law for minorities. Individual rights are rooted in democratic principle, there is little if any justification for free speech, non-establishment, free association, equality before the law, etc. outside of a democratic context. And that is why many right wingers don’t want to use the term democracy, because they oppose equality before the law for non-monotheists, they are monotheistic supremacists (if not Christian supremacists).

    1. An indirect or representative democracy is still a kind of republic. From Wikipedia: “A republic government is a type of government where the citizens choose the leaders of their country and the people (or at least a part of its people) have an impact on its government.”

      That is us.

      And look at the republic James Madison described in Federalist #10: “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy …”

      Notice he’s defining a representative democracy, which he calls a republic. “Democracy” without a modifier refers to direct democracy, which, if you believe the Founders, is bad bad bad.

      In the US, we don’t get our rights from the rule of the majority. They’re set out in our constitution (see: constitutional republic). We put them in there because it is “self-evident” that men are endowed with certain unalienable rights.

      Those are the facts. A *real* argument to support Explicit Atheists claim would involve showing evidence that Republicans call our government a democracy LESS than Democrats.


      1. Republicans are more of mixed group, they not all religiously motivated. However, among conservatives who are religiously motivated, such as the majority on the Texas Board of Education, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that they won’t vote for any atheists for public office and that they also have no interest in equal opportunity of participation for atheists in governing, especially if those atheists are openly critical of religious belief. I have discussed this with intelligent and mainstream activists who are conservative and religious and this underlying attitude that atheists are disqualified from equal consideration before the laws is consistent and clear. Justice Scalia is honest and direct about this, he publicly says that the constitution permits the disregard of atheists and polytheists (and public statements like that are greeted with silence, just about no protests or criticism in the media that would certainly be vocal if similar statements were made against homosexuals, for example). Are you willing to bet that the majority of those who constitute the majority on the Texas Board don’t agree with that supremacist and anti-democratic sentiment regarding the inferior status of atheists under the law?

      2. I say that commitment to non-direct democracy for some but not for others, to civic equality for some but not for others, is against non-direct democracy and against civic equality because those concepts, properly understood, necessarily apply to everyone.

        The religious right tends to believe that the non-religious are untrustworthy and irresponsible and that all positions of trust and responsibility should be held by the religious only. So they actively oppose the participation of the non-religious and they actively oppose equality of opportunity of participation of the non-religious. They know that this is what they believe, and they know that their beliefs are against full non-direct democracy and civic equality, and that is why they don’t want to use the word democracy. Republic fits their concept of government better because republic is broad enough to encompass non-equality of opportunity to participate for the less desrving non-religious than does the more inclusive concept of non-direct democracy with civic equality for all.

  9. This is the last gasp of the WW2/Korean War generation, clinging to the bible while having knowledge that they themselves lived lives of immense hypocrisy, and now in the 11th hour, wish to gain the favors of an invisible friend. I predict, the students they intend to brainwash, will react oppositely to what they intend. Gen Y, and every generation afterwards, have been and will be reared with unparalleled access to information. Students love to raise the ire of authority, and their ability to find conflicting information is be laughably easy. They won’t fall for it, and it will prove to these generations that this version of Christianity is a lie, and has always been propagated as such. This lie could save us in the end, from prolonged perils of religion.

  10. Texas is fiercely opposed to the idea that Arizona will win the title of “Biggest Asshat in the Nation” and has been working hard to win that for itself, I see.

    1. So if you lift a 10-Gallon Asshat from it’s owner, you will find nothing but hot air?


  11. Regarding Andy James comment that this is a “last gasp” of those “clinging to the bible”: A wait and watch complacency attitude that is defended on a time is inevitably on our side argument is a mistake in more ways than one.

    It takes time and ongoing and unrelenting effort to make progress in reducing people’s dependency on supremacist faith based dogmas and increasing reliance on following the weight of the evidence wherever that takes us. It is a difficult goal and there is no guarantee we will forever move forward. With the future everything is always uncertain and we shape the probabilities of the various possible outcomes by our actions while we are here within whatever context was bequeathed to us by those who came before. So while patience is required, the better and more productive attitude is that the sooner more progress is made the better and lets all work together for that purpose.

    1. I agree with you. We need people to continue to speak out and seek the truth. My point was that our voiced skepticism, along with the tangible results of science (along with secular works of fiction), and accessibility of this information on the web combine to put extreme stress on the faith industry. The believers twenty or thirty years hence will be by and large old and the technologically isolated.

  12. Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence has been removed from the list of “great thinkers.”

    In reaction to widespread criticism, Thomas Jefferson has been restored to a list of political philosophers that students will study in world history.

  13. Supplanting Democracy with Republic is nothing but branding in my eyes. Puting a term into use that equates to Republican is just marketing/PR slight of hand to link the party to “what the US is”. Worse still, they are targeting an already market riddled demographic with American teens. Believe me, it sounds ridiculous to even say, but that is instantly what I gather from that move plain and simple. Unfortunately, it is being played to the hilt in textbooks.

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