I love being from Texas. The state has no income tax and it seems Texas politicians are always doing something to keep me entertained. Take their latest handy work, for instance. The Texas Education Board approved a new social studies curriculum that makes the following changes:
- No longer requires students to learn about Thomas Jefferson. Instead, they now need to learn about John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas.
- No longer requires students to learn that the US Government prohibits favoring one religion over another. Instead, the students are to learn the religious inspiration behind many of the American founders (except, I suppose, Jefferson).
- Learn about Israeli leader Golda Meir.
- And how the erosion of the US Dollar has occurred ever since we abandoned the gold standard.
Fortunately, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is not part of Social Studies. I can only thank my lucky stars for that one. Texas politics is driven by religion, at least, it always was in my lifetime. Republicans (who dominate the state’s politics) always seems to try to prove how close to Godliness they are by using the power of the state to attempt to create God’s Kingdom on Earth. Strangely, of the religious friends I have, none of them really seem to favor these politician moves. Texas may be religious, but it also has a strong tradition of saying, “To each, his own.”
That being said, I can’t image that many people in Texas would favor replacing learning about Thomas Jefferson with learning about John Calvin. Well, since Texas students aren’t going to be studying Jefferson anymore, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on what his life was about:
- Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The Declaration is not only the most American of all documents in existence, it also became the basis for other revolutionary documents including the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man, and even Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnamese Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights is the only part of the US Constitution of which most everyday citizens seem aware, and has specifically safeguarded many American’s liberties against intrusion from the state.
- Jefferson feared that the federal government would subsume the rights of individual states (particularly Southern States) and powerful banking and financial interests would form the center of American power in New York. I can’t see how Texans could ignore Jefferson given that few people were better able to articulate and fore shadow the specific causes for which the Civil War would later be fought. Given that Texas fought in that war, and given that more than a few Texans favor independence from the United States as a whole, I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would turn away from Jefferson.
- Jefferson also opposed the power of the central government to tax individual citizens, fearing that a central government so empowered would become a “business onto itself” and begin creating justifications for its own existence.
I certainly applaud the teaching that the dollar has lost 98% of its value since the abandonment of the gold standard, however, what better way to put this in a historical (or Social Studies) framework than the teach about the fears of one of Constitution’s framers? And why replace him with Calvin and Aquinas? John Calvin was a 1500s French lawyer who came up with the idea of predetermination: a religious doctrine that not one person I know of holds today. Thomas Aquinas was a Medieval Jesuit Scholastic philosopher who, as far as I can tell, has no bearing whosoever on Texas or American history, or Social Studies. Golda Meir was an Israeli Prime Minister in the formative days of the new state of Israel.
It’s always difficult to pick and chose what historical figures school children should learn, but I can’t fathom, for the life of me, why young Texans need to take time away from learning about Jefferson to instead learn about a Renaissance French thinker, a Medieval Jesuit Scholastic, and an Israeli Prime Minister. I just doesn’t make any sense. Sure, I one could argue that the American Revolution was a child of the Enlightenment, and that these early thinkers had sometime to do with the Enlightenment, but wouldn’t you want to know about the American who actually put these ideas into place? How are either of these figures more relevant to everyday life than the man who wrote the 2nd Amendment, of which, many Texans hold dear.
I suppose Jefferson seems to have offended these politicians with his ideas of separating Church and State. Therefore, they reacted by putting the kibosh on Thomas Jefferson and his dangerous teachings. I can’t say I’m tremendously upset by this given that the children of privilege whose parents will ensure that they receive a good education will, of course, learn about all of these figures. However, I do cringe at the thought of the backwoods football jocks ending their high school education having memorized that the roots of the American revolution lay in the teachings of Aquinas and Calvin. Oh well, in order for American to continue down it’s path, it needs a citizenry that seems largely ignorant of its history. The Texas board of education seems to be doing its part to ensure that they the state is producing just that.