Even when I lived in Texas, I was shocked by the absolute power the Texas Board of Education have in choosing books for the schools curricula. Ten years later, it's still influenced by conservative ideologues. It's extremely embarrassing at times to tell people that I lived there.
From Religion Dispatches, a story about the Christianist Texas Taliban at work.
Texas Board of Education Wants to Change HistoryRead all of "Texas Board of Education Wants to Change History"
If any question remains about the religious and political motivations of certain members of the Texas Board of Education, one need only read the words of their social studies curriculum experts.
Rev. Peter Marshall (one of their appointed academic experts), for example, wants to restore America, according to the Web site of his Massachusetts-based ministry, “to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America’s Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival.” He also believes that Hurricane Katrina, Watergate, and the Vietnam War are the result of divine wrath.
As part of his curriculum review for the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills process, Marshall issued an assessment of a Grade 5 history section in which students are asked to “describe the accomplishments of significant colonial leaders such as Anne Hutchinson, William Penn, John Smith, and Roger Williams.”
Marshall, along with his fellow reviewer David Barton, did not believe that students in the public education system should learn about Hutchinson:Anne Hutchinson does not belong in the company of these eminent gentlemen. She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn’t accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble. (emphasis added)
One of the original Puritans, Hutchinson disagreed with some of the scriptural teachings of the religious leaders and began hosting her own Bible study classes in her home. For this crime, Hutchinson was placed on trial and banished from her community. Later, she and her exiled family were killed in a Siwanoy attack.
“This is a prime example of somebody who believed in religious freedom and was persecuted for that,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Certainly, there can be legitimate debate regarding the amount of prominence Hutchinson should receive in the Texas educational system. But describing a woman kicked out of her community for wanting to worship God in her own way as “making trouble” reveals much about what Marshall and his supporters really think about the principle of religious freedom.
The irony, of course, is that these are the same men who argue forcefully that educators must do a better job at teaching this nation’s Christian heritage.