Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Barton, Marshall and Historical Revision in Texas Schools

Over at his blog Religion in American History, Dr. Paul Harvey has posted an excellent piece on some of the recent controversies surrounding the teaching of history in public schools -- particularly the role that David Barton and his supporters have had on the historical revision of textbooks. Removing Cesar Chavez and Anne Hutchinson from American history? Wow. Amazing how the loudest voices against historical revision are coming from the same people who want to "revise" history to fit their personal agenda.

Instead of posting the highlights from Harvey's posting, I will simply refer you to his blog. Click here to read his entire posting on this issue.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, let's back off from the spin of "deleting" Cesar Chavez and lay out the controversy:

This is a pushback for minor but politically correct figures being slipped into the textbooks some years back, and it was some major figures of American history who got "deleted" in the first place.

Anne Hathaway is an interesting story, but does she get more play than Samuel Adams? Likely. I'd bet Sam Adams gets no play atall, and certainly not John Witherspoon or Roger Sherman.

There were 100s of labor figures as significant as Chavez. Why him? And is he as significant as that great American patriot who organized millions of voters and saved the Founding principles from the sewer of secular humanism...

I of course speak of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

I don't like defending Barton again, nor any of his allies. They seem to have made some dumb statements already. However, the politicization of schoolbook history cannot be laid at their feet. This is a reaction to it.

Being childless, I can't comment much on particulars except to say once I scooped up a history textbook here in California, and it read more like a secular Lives of the Saints, shaped by ethnicity and gender.

Brad Hart said...

Uh, Tom, are you speaking of Anne Hathaway the actress? Or Anne Hathaway the wife of William Shakespeare? Or perhaps you meant Anne Hutchinson??? =)

I agree that Samuel Adams doesn't get the attention he deserves. No argument there. However, I think you are downgrading the significance of Cesar Chavez a bit. He is a relevant figure who should be included in the history books. I fail to see how anybody benefits from having him removed.

I also have to strongly disagree with your claim that Jerry Falwell, "saved the founding principles from the sewer of secular humanism." If you respect Jerry Falwell that's fine. I don't begrudge your right to do so. However, I don't see any evidence that he "saved" any founding principles. As you would put it, "none atall."

Perhaps this is a reaction to secular "revision" but why fight fire with fire? It seems that Barton and his supporters are every bit as guilty of making the same efforts to "revise" history that they level against the "evil" secularist historians.

You can't prove a double negative.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oooops. Hutchinson. Dang me.

And I was having a little evil fun with Rev. Falwell, just to set a few teeth on edge. But he was a provably bigger influence on American politics [and American social politics] than César Chávez, but has zero place in the politically correct history books.

And I'll argue that fact until Texas' cows and cattle all come home.

And I'll return to the original argument, that the historical revisionism took place several years ago, not with today's "deletion" of César Chávez.

Brad Hart said...

Awwww Tom! I was hoping that the Anne Hathaway comment was a Freudian slip! She sure makes for good eye candy...at least in my humble opinion!

Yeah, I agree that Falwell played a role in American social politics. No doubt about that. I guess I don't understand why any of these figures should be removed. I'm all for having Falwell's influence included in the textbooks. But again, why remove Chavez, Hutchinson, etc.? Clearly Barton and his minions have an agenda...and a bogus one at that.

I don't know if I agree with the notion that Barton was simply responding to the already ongoing historical revision of the secularists. I seriously doubt that his intentions were that pure. Instead I think Barton is simply advocating for his own agenda...yes, just like many of the devilish secularists.

Let's be clear on one thing: Barton is not advocating for objective or accurate history. Instead, he wants to see the evangelical Christian version of history become mainstream. And guess what everyone...the man is having quite a bit of success.

Are there secularists who are guilty of the same charges? Of course (Howard Zinn comes to mind). But none of this exonerates Barton. It's not an "equal and opposite reaction" to anything. Instead it’s just the same crap being preached from a different pulpit...and a bully pulpit at that.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I want to make clear I'm not David Barton's asswipe. I think he finds a parade to stand in front of and is a leader by default, not merit.

He's no César Chávez or Jerry Falwell, that's for sure, although come to think of it, they found parades to stand in front of themselves. And if you examine your history, so did MLK and Ronald Reagan.

And to be fair to the greatness of both those men, those parades were both ready and needful of leadership.

Fact is, Anne Hutchinson isn't more significant in American history than Samuel Adams. In fact, according to our current running poll, he's a lot more significant, unless you want to reformulate the poll.

Yes, this is an "equal and opposite reaction" to the ethnic/gender revision of the textbooks of several years ago. I'd give Frederick Douglass several pages, but I bet Booker T. Washington gets little or no mention atall.

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Lindsey Shuman said...

It's just more proof of the obvious agenda that Barton has. He's a fraud.

By the way weren't the two of you the biggest "anti-Barton posting" advocates on this blog?

Jonathan Rowe said...

I used to call Barton a fraud. I've backed off that term for now. I do think he's a partisan hack. I don't have a problem with the Republican Party (I'm a Libertarian so I'm less involved in this D v. R battle) in principle; but it's clear Barton tries to use history for propaganda purposes in a Marxian sense.

Brad Hart said...

Yeah, I too hate the "fraud" or "liar" label. As I recall, Lindsey, you are responsible for our all-time most popular post (with over 150 comments) entitled, "David Barton: Liar," and I do believe that Tom and I were two of the more vocal opponents of that accusation. Speaking for myself, I don't opposed Barton posts. What I do dislike, however, are the ad hominem attacks against his character. Sure, his history occasionally sucks, and I am all for exposing those errors. But why level the accusations against the man?

I never saw you do the same with Howard Zinn!

bpabbott said...

Hey guys, I'm back on-line (almost). My computer died, I moved and am still waiting on my interenet access at home.

Regarding Barton, my opinion is he is an activist for his world view. He is not a historian ... I seem to recall him making that point, but have been unable to locate a source.

In any event, if his work is read as historically significant, then fraudulent claims (lies) are present. Whether the frauds are intentional, on his part, depends upon his competence and/or knowledge. On that I have no opinion.

jimmiraybob said...

From the Wall Builder’s bio on Barton (which interestingly excludes any mention of educational credentials):

"His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues..."

Now I’m old school and interpret “expert” as someone recognizably proficient in their area of expertise. Not saying this is dishonest. It’s opinion. I’ll leave it go at that.

From other bio information that I’ve found, apparently Barton graduated from Aledo High School in Aledo, Texas and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University. To the best of my knowledge he seems to have focused on general education requirements and has no special training in history or research.

Even without specialized training as a historian or researcher, are we to believe that neither institution ever instilled any sense of critical thought? Did he never take an English-comp class or write a term paper in which the idea of presenting material accurately and in context was important to honest writing? Is it really plausible to believe that Barton is merely a victim of his own innocence and naivety? Especially given his political ambitions and leadership positions.

Other people without specialized training in history or research seem to be able to get it right. How does that happen?

At Wall Builders (a mia culpa in response to critiques of his shoddy historical scholarship):

"Therefore, we unilaterally initiated within our own works a standard of documentation that would exceed the academic standard and instead would conform to the superior legal standard (i.e., relying solely on primary or original sources, using best evidence, rather than relying on the writings of attorneys, professors, or historians)."

The standard that he insists that they (Wall Builders and presumably himself) now employ IS NOT a legal standard but IS an academic standard; a standard that I learned as early as high school and then had reinforced in college/university. At college/university this is academic standards 101. The most liberal professors at university hammered this. Really, anybody that can make this statement just has not received any education, slept through their education, or is being disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst (depending on the observers comfort level).

Then in the mia culpa goes on to assert:

"...despite the fact that they [quotes] are currently "unconfirmed" in primary source documents - are nevertheless completely consistent not only with the character of these men* but also with the character of their era, including U. S. Supreme Court decisions."

So, Barton (Wall Builders are OK with misrepresenting the objective record (through carelessness or intent) as long as it’s done to conform with a particular understanding of "the character of the era."

I assume Stalin and Goebbels** get quite a kick out of this as they frolic in the beyond***.

DP Moynihan (American politician) on opinion v. facts: "You're entitled to your own opinions — but you're not entitled to your own facts."****

* 4. We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves . . . according to the Ten Commandments of God. -- James Madison (unconfirmed) - Um, not so much representative.
**Goebbels on the lie as propaganda tool. Please note, I am not comparing Barton to Goebbels or Stalin. Methods, however, are on the table.
*** not an endorsement of any particular philosophical or religious systems.
**** other attributions may apply.

jimmiraybob said...

I assume Stalin and Goebbels** get quite a kick out of this as they frolic in the beyond***.

Presumably at the business end of a pointy object while dancing in a lake of fire to put it in one frame of reference. I don't want it misconstrued as to where I think they ought to be. :)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I just wanted to represent the controversy accurately.

Yes, Barton is an activist with an agenda. So is Chris Rodda. So is Ed Brayton. So be it.

I assume Stalin and Goebbels** get quite a kick out of this as they frolic in the beyond***.

Godwin's Law:

"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

jimmiraybob said...

Godwin's Law

Oh come on now. I wasn't calling Barton Hitler or the Wall Builders Nazis. I was referencing masters of political propaganda - on topic.

But if that's too over the top please disregard.

King of Ireland said...

The history textbooks I have used suck period. The biggest problem is that they seek to be so politically correct that it is watered down and general.

The whole argument that the 3 other people were all scholars is a good one. But be careful of that argument because it can be used against the Rodda's and Brayton's of the world too when it comes to telling people what the Bible says. See my comment from Jon's post today for more details.

jimmiraybob said...

Since there is some cross posting between here and the Religion in American History post I thought that I would cross post this here.

The following is a general definition for seminary that seems in accord with others that I found on-line:

Etymology: Middle English, seedbed, nursery, from Latin seminarium, from semin-, semen see Date:1542
1: an environment in which something originates and from which it is propagated [a seminary of vice and crime]
2 a: an institution of secondary or higher education
2 b: an institution for the training of candidates for the priesthood, ministry, or rabbinate

As to “when did the seminaries become colleges,” why ask Barton? Here’s a brief rundown of three major institutions of higher learning of 18th century America:

The Harvard Guide
Harvard College was established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was named for its first benefactor, John Harvard of Charlestown, a young minister who, upon his death in 1638, left his library and half his estate to the new institution. Harvard's first scholarship fund was created in 1643 with a gift from Ann Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson.

During its early years, the College offered a classic academic course based on the English university model but consistent with the prevailing Puritan philosophy of the first colonists. Although many of its early graduates became ministers in Puritan congregations throughout New England, the College was never formally affiliated with a specific religious denomination. An early brochure, published in 1643, justified the College's existence: "To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches.

Yale University – About Yale
Yale’s roots can be traced back to the 1640s, when colonial clergymen led an effort to establish a college in New Haven to preserve the tradition of European liberal education in the New World. This vision was fulfilled in 1701, when the charter was granted for a school [the Collegiate School (Oviatt, 1916)] “wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State.” In 1718 the school was renamed “Yale College” in gratitude to the Welsh merchant Elihu Yale, who had donated the proceeds from the sale of nine bales of goods together with 417 books and a portrait of King George I.

More here (Edwin Oviatt, 1916. The Beginnings of Yale (1701-1726)).

A Handbook for Administrative and Support Staff
Milestones: A Short History of Princeton University

Princeton University was founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey. It was the result of a charter issued by John Hamilton, acting governor of the province, to the College’s board of trustees, whose members were leaders in the Presbyterian Church. They organized the College to train students, “different sentiments in religion not withstanding,” a policy that shaped the character of the school.


In 1896, the College of New Jersey became Princeton University.

To have attended any of these colleges/universities (seminaries) does not imply religious training toward ministry. No doubt there were seminaries devoted to this endeavor.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Quite so, JRB. The "seminary" claim is bogus, or to be charitable, so weak as to be irrelevant.

Kristo Miettinen said...

Folks, as I read Harvey, the accusation against Barton et al is not that they wanted to delete Chavez from history, but that they did not want to include Chavez in a roster of role models of citizenship - a very different issue.

We're talking about fifth graders here, so the class is likely not history but social studies.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, then, I agree with Harvey, if it's "social studies." As long as Jerry Falwell gets equal positive treatment. Both were influences on the polity, our "society."

Strange, though, that neither Dr. Harvey nor his supporters actually formulated your point, Kristo, at least with such clarity.

Too busy hacking on Barton, et al. You know how it goes. It was never about Chavez.