AUSTIN, Texas — Social studies textbooks that have been proposed for use by Texas students next fall are coming under fire by those who take issue with the positively Christian worldview therein, including suggestions that Moses and the Ten Commandments were an influence on the founding of the nation.
The Texas Board of Education is set to vote tomorrow on the controversial set of books that are proposed for eight public social studies courses, which may also find their way into other states across the nation.
Opponents of the textbooks take issue with a number of factors, including its linking of terrorism to Islam, its challenge to the contention that humans are responsible for climate change and its assertion that the laws of Moses were an influence on America’s Founding Fathers. Edward Countryman of the Daily Beast outlined these matters in September after his colleagues on the review panel spoke against portions of the textbooks during the monthly board meeting.
“Southern Methodist University department chair Kathleen Wellman . . . told the SBOE that the effect of the TEKS requirement to find biblical origins for the Constitution would be to make Moses the ‘first American.’ Some historians give that honor to Benjamin Franklin. Whoever might merit it, Moses definitely does not qualify,” he wrote.
Others are cited as influencing the founding of the nation include Thomas Acquinas, John Calvin and English judge Willam Blackstone, known for his respected “Blackstone’s Commentaries” on the law.
Similar objections were made on Tuesday as four hours to testimony were heard by the board from both sides of the argument.
“We are deeply concerned over the ahistorical nature of those representations,” Jennifer Graber, a religious studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told those gathered, stating that the textbooks “exaggerate and even invent claims” about Christianity’s influence on the founding of the nation.
Some have gone so far as to state that the textbooks lie to students.
“These textbooks were teaching pretty much the opposite of the truth,” Emile Lester, a reviewer from the University of Mary Washington, stated. “You would hope publishers felt their main allegiance be to the education of students, but it was quite obvious that their main goal was to appease members of the State Board of Educators.”
But David Bradley, a member of the board consisting of 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats, told reporters that despite outcry, many have expressed support for the textbooks’ content.
“[L]et us not forget the religious character of our origin,” American statesman Daniel Webster declared during his famous “Plymouth Oration” in 1820. “Our fathers were brought hither for their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political or literary.”
“Let us cherish these sentiments,” he continued, “and extend this influence still more widely, in the full conviction that [it] is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.”