Monday, March 15, 2010

Historical revisionism in action

"There's nothing more dangerous than ignorance in action." -Tom Smothers.

The New York Times had an interesting piece on the successful efforts of conservative ideologues in Texas to warp the state's history textbooks. It's not just the usual liberal suspects that get these revisionist 'historians' all hot and bothered. The Crusaders succeeded in minimizing the influence attributed to Thomas Jefferson, despite his status as a fierce advocate for a limited role for the federal government. It seems they don't like that the Founding Father had the audacity to coin the phrase "separation between church and state."


PlanetAlbany said...

"Warp" seems to me an overstatement. I agree with some of the changes, disagree with others, and note that liberals have long devoted energy to revising textbooks on political lines. The story you linked to confirms that, with (probably liberal) Hispanics unsuccessfully lobbying for changes. The textbooks I have enountered in New York often seem to me to have a liberal slant -- but I acknowledge it's in the eye of the beholder. I just don't think conservative ax-grinding is any worse.

Brian F said...

Some of your comments have merit, though I'm not sure you'd be so sanguine if they'd decreed Roe v Wade be described as the greatest advancement in the history of women's rights. Frankly, I seriously doubt Texas' textbooks were ever that liberal to begin with.

But what initially struck me was the dismissiveness toward Jefferson, someone whose huge influence would seem undeniable regardless of one's ideology.

On second look, I'm struck by two passages in the article. The first that described the bloc of board members who "believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles" and the second that described the contempt toward Jefferson as being based on his belief in the separation of church and state. You don't have to be Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens to wonder and be concerned about the link between these two things.