The following e-mail was sent to CWA of Texas by the Chairman of the State Board of Education who feels as we do that our children deserve an education based on fact not on politically correct spin. Please read and help her!
CWA of Texas
From: Barbara Cargill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: November 17, 2014 at 11:32:01 AM CST
To: Barbara Cargill <email@example.com>
Subject: Letter Concerning Textbook Treatment of Religion and the Founders
Reply-To: Barbara Cargill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The State Board of Education is going to vote on the final approval of K-12 history textbooks this week. I thought you might want to see a letter the board recently received. Emile Lester is one of the professors paid by the liberal watchdog group, Texas Freedom Network (TFN), to review proposed history textbooks. TFN also paid two of the other professors who signed this letter. (Countryman at SMU, Brockman at SMU). In addition they paid 7 doctoral students at UT Austin to review textbooks.
Please read the intent of the attached letter and you will see that the signers want to discourage publishers from correctly writing about religion and its influence on our Founding Fathers. The final vote on the books is Friday the 21st so publishers still have time to change content, especially since they are all digital submissions. We don’t want that to happen. Right now they do a fair, balanced job of covering our religious heritage and its influence on our nation’s Founders.
Publishers have already responded to concerns raised by Emile Lester and others. Lester’s letter is yet another attempt to pressure the publishers to change accurate historical information. For example in response to a comment about the role of religion on “equality” before the law, Pearson Publishing responded, “We believe that our presentation of the role of religion in favor of the American Revolution is accurate and clear for this grade level. (A reference to support our position is “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic” on the Library of Congress website.)”
Another commenter wrote, “There is little evidence that the Founders were strongly or directly influenced by Moses or the legal system he established. Moses, for instance, is not mentioned at all in the Federalist Papers.”
Houghton Mifflin Publishing responded, “This is not a factual error citation. Rather, these passages are intended to indicate that Moses and the Ten Commandments were part of the cultural heritage of the founders. The comparison between Moses and the founders suggests only that both established legal systems, thus helping students make the kinds of connections that are encouraged in social studies education.”
To bring one other issue to your attention, in Senate Bill 6, passed in 2011, legislators lowered the required coverage of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to only 50%. As an example, in their U.S. Government book Houghton Mifflin Publishing omits any coverage of Moses and his impact on constitutional government. But Houghton Mifflin can omit Moses or anything else they want as long as they cover just 50% of the TEKS. This law is allowing publishers to choose what they want to omit in our children’s textbooks. We must work to change this in the upcoming legislative session.
This is the standard that lists Moses as well as other influential historical figures. (All of the other individuals listed are covered in the Houghton Mifflin Government textbook.)
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for U.S. Government:
1. History. The student understands how constitutional government, as developed in America and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution, has been influenced by ideas, people, and historical documents. The student is expected to: 1 (C) identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses, William Blackstone, John Locke, and Charles de Montesquieu.
Here’s how you can help now.
Please send a message to email@example.com. Ask board members to support the current wording in the proposed U.S. History books and in the Government books concerning the coverage of religion and its importance in our nation’s founding.
Also please copy or send your e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so that your message will be sent to the publishers to encourage them to stay strong against these attacks on our country’s religious heritage.
You may want to also mention Houghton Mifflin Publishing and that you want them to provide content about ALL of the historical figures in TEKS 1C, including Moses, as stated in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills above.
Your help is appreciated and important! Our students must be taught true, factual history, and this IS an important part of our country’s history that must be passed down from generation to generation.
Letter from Emile Lester:
Dear Sirs and Madams,
Please find attached a letter signed by 52 scholars around the nation regarding the treatment of religion and the founding of the United States in your U.S. Government textbook for grade 12. We appreciate your consideration on this matter.
University of Mary Washington
Department of Political Science and International Affairs
1301 College Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
November 13, 2014
An open letter to: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
McGraw-Hill School Education
Social Studies School Service
From: History, political science and religious studies scholars
We, the undersigned, write in reference to proposed social studies textbooks and materials that
you have submitted for approval in Texas this year. As scholars teaching this material at the
university level, we are committed to ensuring that public schools provide an accurate and
unbiased education about American history and government. Such an education must include a
robust discussion of the relationship between religion and our nation’s founding. Without an
understanding of this relationship, students’ knowledge about our history would be incomplete.
Unfortunately, your textbooks exaggerate and even invent claims about the influence of Moses and
the “Judeo-Christian tradition” on our nation’s founding and on Western political traditions.
To cite a few representative examples:
• “When the Framers set out to write the Constitution, they drew upon the wisdom of
philosophers, historians and economists. Here are a few of the people whose words influenced
the content of that remarkable document.” Moses is listed first on this list, followed by Locke,
Montesquieu, and Blackstone. The “concept” Moses is alleged to have contributed is that “A
nation needs a written code of behavior.” (Perfection Learning)
• “[The] biblical idea of a covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of
agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and
contributed to our constitutional structure.” (emphasis added) (McGraw-Hill)
• “The roots of democratic government in today’s world – including government in the United
States…include elements related to Judeo-Christian philosophy, dating back thousands of
years to Old Testament texts and Biblical figures such as Moses and Solomon.” (Pearson)
These and similar passages mislead students about the nature of the religious influence on our
founding and directly contradict scholarly consensus in our fields. They distort the legacy of our
Founders and major Biblical figures by misrepresenting their ideas and actions.
The opportunity to educate our nation’s students comes with a responsibility to treat students
and our nation’s past with respect. We take this responsibility seriously. By eliminating the
exaggerations and inventions in your textbooks about the influence of religion on our founding,
you can demonstrate that you take this responsibility seriously as well.
We ask that you revise your proposed materials to make them historically accurate and faithful to
mainstream scholarship in our fields.
(NOTE: Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only.)
Bruce Grelle, California State University, Chico
Susan Douglas, Georgetown University
Diane L. Moore, Harvard University
Amir Hussain, Loyola Marymount University
John Fea, Messiah College
Crista DeLuzio, Southern Methodist University
David R. Brockman, Southern Methodist University
Edward F. Countryman, Southern Methodist University
Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University
James K. Hopkins, Southern Methodist University
Jeffrey A. Engel, Southern Methodist University
Jill DeTemple, Southern Methodist University
Jill E. Kelly, Southern Methodist University
Johan Elverskog, Southern Methodist University
Kathleen A. Wellman, Southern Methodist University
Laurence H. Winnie, Southern Methodist University
Mark A. Chancey, Southern Methodist University
Neil Foley, Southern Methodist University
Richard W. Cogley, Southern Methodist University
Sherry L. Smith, Southern Methodist University
Shira Lander, Southern Methodist University
Steven Lindquist, Southern Methodist University
Thomas J. Knock, Southern Methodist University
Kate Carté Engel, Southern Methodist University
Claudia V. Camp, Texas Christian University
Simon Stow, The College of William and Mary
Susan Harding, University of California, Santa Cruz
Craig Vasey, University of Mary Washington
Emile Lester, University of Mary Washington
Jason Davison, University of Mary Washington
Jess Rigelhaupt, University of Mary Washington
John Broome, University of Mary Washington
Mary Beth Mathews, University of Mary Washington
Mehdi Aminrazavi, University of Mary Washington
Venitta McCall, University of Mary Washington
David Ambuel, University of Mary Washington
James Goehring, University of Mary Washington
Nina Mikhalevsky, University of Mary Washington
Ranjit Singh, University of Mary Washington
Rosalyn Cooperman, University of Mary Washington
Stephen Farnsworth, University of Mary Washington
Joseph Coleman Carter, University of Texas at Austin
David Armstrong, University of Texas at Austin
Oliver Freiberger, University of Texas at Austin
Jacqueline Jones, University of Texas at Austin
Jennifer Graber, University of Texas at Austin
Steve Friesen, University of Texas at Austin
Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia
George Klosko, University of Virginia
Michael Signer, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Patrick Roberts, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Steven K. Green, Willamette University