Saturday, March 13, 2010

Texas BOE Decision

My co-blogger at Positive Liberty, D.A. Ridgely, was on top of this first.

Here is the New York Times story.

And here is Ed Brayton's post with links to the Texas Freedom Network's live blogging.

And here is John Fea's post.

From the New York Times:

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.


I'd like to get more to the bottom of the Jefferson erasure. I understand that the American Founding was more than just Jefferson. But, at the same time, you can't erase his monumental influence from the Founding. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States.

Aquinas was virtually never cited by the Founders (though there a story to be told on his silent influence). Blackstone, though important as a "common law" authority, was a Tory and a supporter of British absolutism. And Calvin likewise, in no uncertain terms, taught Romans 13 means submission to tyrants is obedience to God.

Though there is a story in how Calvinists-Presbyterians came to support revolt, even though Calvin, were he alive and applying his principles, would have supported the British and termed the American Revolution a sinful violation of Romans 13.

That story, however, is too nuanced for K-12 students (you can, by the way, study that story with Mark Noll at the Witherspoon Institute this summer).

One of the problems with tracing the Founding to men who anticipated their ideas is we are left with literally hundreds from which to choose. The men they most often cited, however, were figures from the Enlightenment and the British Whigs. And those two categories overlap, with John Locke being the quintessential "Enlightenment" and "British Whig" figure. Others include Algernon Sidney, Montesquieu, John Milton, Samuel Clarke, Isaac Newton, Joseph Priestley, Richard Price, James Burgh, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon and on and on.

6 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, we're not going to find out the whole story from the New York Times. But I like a lot of the changes. That Hayek and Milton Friedman were missing but Keynes and Marx weren't shows that the pendulum was too far in the other direction.

As for your pet list of unitarians like Milton, Newton and Priestly, whose influence on the Founding was negligible, Jon, it seems like "agenda" isn't the sole province of idiot Texas conservatives.

;-)

Jonathan Rowe said...

As for your pet list of unitarians like Milton, Newton and Priestly, whose influence on the Founding was negligible,...

I simply disagree. Taken together, Milton, Newton and Priestley had immense influence on the Founding.

King of Ireland said...

Here we go with the Romans 13 again. Your claims about Calvin do not jive with his writing on Othniel. Have to read the story and then see how he applies it. At very least he contradicts himself.

Joe Winpisinger said...

This is a little bit mis-informed and over hyped. Jefferson was taken out of the World History standards. Speaking as someone who has taught World and American history this is still wrong but nowhere near as asinine as taking him out of American History.

The standard was great writers that lead to the string of Revolutions from 1770's to 1848 I believe. Jefferson was an influential writer at that time but I am not sure how much influence he had in Europe.

You may want to revise your comments on the others as well because it is World History not American. I know I taught it that ideas that started with Aquinas started a ripple that became a wave by the time of the founding.

I also brought in the American Revolution, and examined our founding documents as compared to others like the Magna Carta and talked about the Enlightenment. I think the French Revolution was in the standards for the next year. I would do nothing different even though I have learned about 80 percent of what I know about all this since then.

Joe/King

Kristo Miettinen said...

This strikes me as, well... political correctness, not conservative overreach. Airbrushing America out of history as a positive role model in liberation struggles (pricipally, one presumes based on the dates, in South America) seems like America-bashing, not conservatism.

The Texas education establishment has taken note of the distortions of their proposals by rebutting only one news organization's coverage, namely FOX:

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=8203

The actual proposals can be found here:

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=3643

They are not really all that bad. Some sops to conservatism, some environmentalism, alot of signs of political compromise left and right.

Tom Van Dyke said...

This is a little bit mis-informed and over hyped. Jefferson was taken out of the World History standards. Speaking as someone who has taught World and American history this is still wrong but nowhere near as asinine as taking him out of American History.

I'd like to hear the whole story. I don't think anyone has yet, especially when the "Texas Freedom Network," an advocacy group itself, is being used as a primary source by some people.

Physically, Jefferson really didn't take part in the Revolution, in fact he caught some flak for it. John and Samuel Adams did, though.