Home > Education, Educational Policy, History, Religion, Secularism, Texas, The New York Times, US Constitution > Faith-Based History: "Wrapped in a Flag, Carrying a Cross"

Faith-Based History: "Wrapped in a Flag, Carrying a Cross"

The New York Times magazine recently printed an article on the battle over history (and more general educational) standards in the Texas School System, which has huge influence over the national textbook market. Much of the situation is disturbing – fundamentalist Christians with no particular expertise are rewriting (or trying to) the academic subject standards. America’s religious history should not be whitewashed, but the obvious politicization of history by the Christianist school board members should appall any dispassionate historian or educator.

In the new guidelines, students taking classes in U.S. government are asked to identify traditions that informed America’s founding, “including Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law),” and to “identify the individuals whose principles of law and government institutions informed the American founding documents,” among whom they include Moses. The idea that the Bible and Mosaic law provided foundations for American law has taken root in Christian teaching about American history. So when Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., testified at the board meeting last month in opposition to the board’s approach to bringing religion into history, warning that the Supreme Court has forbidden public schools from “seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through the curriculum,” and in the process said that the founders “did not draw on Mosaic law, as is mentioned in the standards,” several of the board members seemed dumbstruck. Don McLeroy insisted it was a legitimate claim, since the Enlightenment took place in Europe, in a Christian context. Green countered that the Enlightenment had in fact developed in opposition to reliance on biblical law and said he had done a lengthy study in search of American court cases that referenced Mosaic law. “The record is basically bereft,” he said. Nevertheless, biblical law and Moses remain in the TEKS.

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