Well now we get to see the fruit of all that labor: the new social studies textbooks, which the SBOE will vote to approve or reject in November. These proposed textbooks were written based on the state's new curriculum standards - standards that, it was pointed out in 2011, downplay the screwing over of Native Americans, as well as slavery, among other things. Meanwhile, the "Biblical influences" underlying America's founding were brought front and center. The standards were put into place writing these new textbooks, and the results are questionable at best, according to a report from the progressive education watchdog group Texas Freedom Network.
Anyways, after the whole science textbook brawl, the folks at TFN were, perhaps understandably, a little leery of the efforts to create textbooks following the SBOE standards. TFN got a group of professors and academic types together to review the textbooks, and the academics were not entirely impressed. In fact, some passages apparently left them horrified, based on the report they just put out. You can read the main report and all the sub-reports that went into it, if you've a hankering to. We can't say these reports are exactly knee-slapping funny, but we still found ourselves cackling with ghoulish delight at what could soon be taught as "history" and "fact" in a Texas classroom near you. Here's a list of our favorites:
10. Moses basically invented the United States. Surprising, we know. We honestly were under the impression that the Founding Fathers - though all likely versed in biblical scripture - relied pretty heavily on people like John Locke and company, but it seems we were misinformed, as far as these textbooks go. One textbook asks students, "Where did the Founders get their ideas?" To our surprise, Moses (as in Exodus, Ten Plagues, played-by Charlton Heston Moses) is at the top of the list. The book follows up with Locke, Charles de Montesquieu and William Blackstone, but Moses and his stone tablets are definitely leading the pack.
Sure, Thomas Jefferson was basically cribbing from Locke when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, but really Moses was the one who helped start it all, according to this textbook (and we are using the term "textbook" very lightly.) Heck, it's been clearly documented how the ideas of Locke, Montesquieu and Blackstone contributed to the country's founding documents (Locke's central ideas are either paraphrased or alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, while Montesquieu and Blackstone get mention in the Federalist Papers), but it turns out that Moses did all the heavy lifting first.
According to Perfection Learning's textbook, the "concept" that Moses supposedly contributed to the founders: "A nation needs a written code of behavior." And thus Moses gets the credit. Then, in a delightful bit of embroidery, Moses and Solomon share credit for helping plant the seeds of democracy "deep in human history." We just won't even bother to mention in the text that Moses was more into theocracy than democracy, and Solomon was a monarch, and one who believed that cutting a baby in half was a pretty fair form of justice. But yeah, sure. It was all thanks to those two.
9. "Much of the violence you read about in the Middle East is related to jihad." Really? It's that simple, is it? We had no idea that all of the many tensions, tendencies and complexities - economics, natural resources, population pressures and all - that are the makeup of the complicated political, social and economic world that is the Middle East were just the cause of one little old holy war. Man, if we had known this sooner, perhaps there would be peace in the Middle East by now. Someone should hurry up and carry Active Classroom: World History over the big water to that sandy place that probably looks exactly like the cartoon world of Aladdin (complete with talking parrots) right this second. Someone needs to call President Obama right this second and say the answer to ISIS and the civil war in Syria and the mess in Iraq and the whole Israel/Palestine conflict is to be had in the pages of this one book. Send it to Congress too. Because it's all related to jihad. We'll bet hundreds of years of conflict over religion and, you know, oil have nothing to do with anything. Not a smidge.
8. Hindus are strict vegetarians. Did y'all Hindus hear that? If you are having a piece of chicken while reading this, drop it immediately. According to the textbooks created along the guidelines arbitrated by the Lone Star State, you are totally doing your whole religion incorrectly. Hey, we know some Shaivites aren't even vegetarian and that Brahmins get to eat fish and other meat, but the textbook says no meat for y'all. And these textbooks are always right. Kind of. Also, selfishness is the only form of desire, Buddhists. Adjust accordingly.
7. Mark Twain may have named the Gilded Age, but he was obviously wrong about it. The Gilded Age was the best. Seriously, according to some of these textbooks, from the 1870s to about 1900, life was just grand in the United States, despite what Twain, that grouchy old writer, had to say about it. Everyone was happy. Everybody was optimistic and whistling while they worked in factories that were perfectly safe. There definitely wasn't desperate poverty amongst millions of European immigrants pouring into this country. The fact that women couldn't vote - and wouldn't be able to until 1920 - wasn't a big deal at all. See, they could get married, work as servants or shop girls, go work in factories or have low-paying but utterly respectable jobs as teachers. Plenty of options. Plus, Social Darwinism became a thing about this time, and that whole "survival of the fittest" mindset, as applied to human society, really made for a caring society. See, Twain was critical, but "most Americans were not as cynical. The dizzying array of things to do and buy convinced the growing middle class that modern America was in a true golden age," according to Pearson Education's United States History: 1877 to the Present. Sure. Whatever.