Part 1 focused on the process of creating our curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and the effect of making the textbook adoption process widely accessible to the public. Part 2 discussed the SBOE vote and began the discussion on Moses. Now the rest my thoughts on the social studies textbooks adoption.
Moses - Final Thoughts
I want to provide just a few more examples from my research regarding Moses and the Ten Commandments in the country's founding.
In ruling for the state that allowed the continued display of the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, the majority Supreme Court opinion (Van Orden v. Perry) cites the MANY places that Moses and the Ten Commandments are acknowledged throughout our nation’s capital. The Supreme Court majority opinion stated, "Our opinions, like our building, have recognized the role the Decalogue plays in America's heritage...Moses was a lawgiver as well as a religious leader. And the Ten Commandments have an undeniable historical meaning..."
In researching Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, neither noted for their religious piety, I discovered that Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams were tasked with designing the nation’s first Seal of the United States, the emblem symbolizing our country to the world. Both Jefferson and Franklin submitted seals that depicted scenes from the life of Moses. Franklin submitted Moses and the Red Sea. Jefferson submitted Moses and the Exodus. Neither seal was adopted, but does the fact that these two founders proposed these submissions for consideration surprise you? It did me, but it so perfectly illustrates the mindset of the times. John Adams wrote the following in the margin of a book in his personal library, “As much as I love, esteem, and admire the Greeks, I believe the Hebrews have done more to enlighten and civilize the world. Moses did more than all their [Greek] legislators and philosophers.”
The Library of Congress website discusses religious understanding and influence on the founding plainly:
Many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the seventeenth century by men and women, who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and fled Europe. The New England colonies, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were conceived and established "as plantations of religion." Some settlers who arrived in these areas came for secular motives--"to catch fish" as one New Englander put it--but the great majority left Europe to worship God in the way they believed to be correct. They enthusiastically supported the efforts of their leaders to create "a city on a hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove that God's plan for his churches could be successfully realized in the American wilderness. Even colonies like Virginia, which were planned as commercial ventures, were led by entrepreneurs who considered themselves "militant Protestants" and who worked diligently to promote the prosperity of the church.
It simply isn’t credible to claim that an acknowledgment of the lawgiver Moses and the Ten Commandments, in the evolution toward American law and government, is outrageously beyond the pale.
Why the SBOE Adoption Process is Important
In spite of the fact that the procedures used during the adoption of Proclamation 2015 materials made the work cumbersome, I am convinced the open process provided through the SBOE is the best way to ensure instructional materials (IMs) have the vetting the public expects before IMs hit the classroom. Where else can members of the Sikh and Hindu communities have their voices heard by publishers so that long time misconceptions in IMs are expressed and corrected, as was the case during this review? All the public review helps make the classroom materials stronger and better.
There has also been much press lately discussing the flexibility of local school districts to choose materials other than those reviewed and adopted by the SBOE. With the passage of Senate Bill 6 in 2011, local districts can now purchase any materials they choose with the allotment of state funds provided. There is no restriction on which IMs may be chosen. Districts are required to self-certify that materials chosen cover 100% of our curriculum standards. However, the same public access as provided for by the SBOE is not required. Districts vary widely to the extent public access and review are provided for and encouraged before IMs are adopted and placed in the hands of students. 19 Texas Administrative Code 66.104 states the local IMs selection requirements as follows:
Each local board of trustees of a school district or governing body of an open-enrollment charter school shall adopt a policy for selecting instructional materials. Final selections must be recorded in the minutes of the board of trustees or governing body.
There is no requirement for a PUBLIC process only that a policy for selection be in place. It’s the public process, provided by the SBOE, that I believe is of great value. As messy as a public process is, it is, well...public. We should do no less for the taxpayers, but particularly for our students.
The Purpose of a Public School Curriculum
Our legislators have clearly outlined what they expect from our curriculum in Texas Education Code 28.002(h): “the primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.”
The social studies IMs just adopted, though not perfect by any means, support this expectation. I am in complete agreement with this philosophy. We should not teach neutrality in the appreciation of America. We should not encourage the impression that America is just one country among many: nothing special, nothing worth defending (the sentiment all too prevalent in modern culture today). Because our country’s survival depends on the willing participation of the citizenry to risk “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor,” as our founding fathers did, should the need arise, America cannot withstand an indifferent populace.
Tell our children the whole truth, certainly. Patriotism does not discourage appropriate and regular self-examination nor require us to denigrate others. Patriots are not in the business of puffing themselves up at others’ expense. They are also not in the business of self-flagellation. Just as our families cannot survive absent love, support and protection, our country’s survival depends on citizens with an appreciation of our American principles and values. These principles, these ideas are what must hold us together: individual freedom, federalism, limited government, representative government. private property, "all men are created equal," and checks and balances.
The guarantees of individual freedom allow us to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we see fit, for the most part. But appreciating the rights of the individual is only part of what Americans need to value. For the American experiment to continue, it requires a certain amount of collective devotion of its citizenry to America, not just to self-interests. As Ben Franklin so succinctly stated when asked, as he emerged from the Constitutional Convention, what type of government we were going to have, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Our form of government, our freedoms, our values and all we hold dear require informed and vigilant "keepers". We are the keepers, as was every generation of Americans before and all those to come.
I do appreciate your sticking with me in order to understand my perspective on the social studies textbooks adoption. There are so many more topics in this discussion I could cover. However, I hope the information shared has been enlightening.We may not always agree. However, I know we all want the best for the students of Texas. Please know I continue to be a partner alongside you as we work together to ensure the best education for our children.
I am honored to serve you and the children of Texas!