In a new article by the Lone Star Report, available here, Cynthia Dunbar of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) states that “I actually had a call from Norwegian International Radio, and I asked them why they were so interested. His response was this is very foreign to us because we have appointed experts who deal with this and they tell our students what they’re going to learn and it never becomes political. And I said well yes, when you have a representative body it can become very political and controversial because you’re giving the electorate a voice as opposed to having certain people tell the rest of the country what they’re going to believe — like in a pre-Holocaust Germany.”
The answer is NO, it is the SBOE that is like pe-Holocaust Germany!!!. The reason is simple. In a process that took over a year, not ONE historian of any type was consulted as to the accuracy of the changes instituted by the SBOE this May. Instead, they had a Dentist and a Pastor. Sort of like Heinrich Himmler, a defunct Chicken farmer, and Josef Goebbels, who wrote his Ph.D thesis on 18th century romantic drama. What is so shocking is that Dunbar has created the exact environment that she has accused other of doing. They have created an environment where history has become politicized and censorship reigns supreme. Hitler would approve.
While history has many components. It is the ever increasing inquiry that adds to the very essence of what is history. The SBOE has stated that in their new standards, Thomas Jefferson was NOT influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. A historical un truth. I think Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke would disagree. All one has to do is look at the Declaration of Independence and READ the “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Gary Wills who wrote a whole historical work on those who influenced Jefferson’s ideas would also disagree with the SBOE. This whole controversy has served to galvanize historians. It is clear that the SBOE thinks that historians don’t “do any real work”. That historians are only out to set an agenda. Well, they are only partially correct. Historians are interested in finding an explanation that a set of facts reveals. Historians of merit are not interested in twisting facts to make it fit a preferred explanation. Those that try are up against peer review ask Martin Bernal about his attempts to refocus the knowledge of Ancient Greece. While his work has some significant problems, at least it can be scholarly argued and his point of view can be discussed. The SBOE has just merely censored information. Goebbels would be proud that Dunbar has followed his line of thought. If you are in the majority, then your history rules.
The problem with that argument is that there certain areas of truth that are beyond the reach of majorities. Constitutionalists call this negative freedom: that there are certain liberties that the government is not allowed to do listed plainly in the Bill of Rights. Whether we agree with certain aspects of these amendments, these liberties are beyond the reach of majorities and not subject to the fluctuations of elections. The same argument can be taken to math and history. 2 +2 is 4 and no matter how many people may think it is 5, it is still 4. History, in the same vein, is not just a matter of interpretation. That makes it sound like history can be manipulated whenever one wants to do so. However, like math, history is an interpretation that must follow a line of argument that is based on facts, theorems they are called in mathematics. If you have a set of evidence that points to a particular line of argumentation, no amount of manipulation, aside from censorship, can alter those facts.
What the SBOE has done for Texas students is to provide a new alternative universe. They have not disadvantaged their high schools students in the rest of the 49 states. They have provided a new curriculum that is no longer fact based. Rather it is based on the preferences of a fickle electorate. Democracy is a great system. And in a Constitutional Republic like ours, it is great that we can debate. However, what Texas has done is not for the purpose of intellectual stimulation. The SBOE has subjected and degraded all historians by leaving the new social studies and history curriculum to the expertise of a Dentist and a Pastor. I think when I retire I will have the time to become a Dentist.