Religion doesn’t belong in school
While President Barack Obama and Congress usually draw the nation’s political headlines, a campaign to destroy education standards in our country has been lurking in the shadows.
This movement started in Texas, spawned from the efforts of an evangelical bloc of the State Board of Education, but it has national implications.
In January, the SBOE met to finalize new social studies standards for textbooks. The standards are supposed to be set by groups made up of teachers with the aid of board-appointed experts.
However, in a New York Times article published Feb. 11, reporter Russell Shorto wrote, “Two of the six experts the board chose are well-known advocates for conservative Christian causes.” One of them is a Christian minister and the other runs a Christian-advocacy organization and has no academic background.
These experts, appointed by the Board’s evangelical bloc, steer the guidelines to stress the myth that America was intended to be a Christian nation.
They want to lie to students and tell them that we were founded for Christian reasons and on Christian principles.
The truth is that many of our founders were Deist, not Christian, and all of them were well aware of the dangers that come from fusing church and state issues.
America was founded on principles that were considered radical at the time and derived from the writings of Renaissance philosophers, not the Bible. The country wasn’t intended to be a Christian nation but rather an experiment in liberty, which could possibly be extinguished by a government that adhered to any one particular religion.
Last year, the board angered educators and scientists when it revised science standards, including forcing students to consider weaknesses in the theory of evolution.
This kind of religious influence has no business in the classroom.
The evangelical bloc is comprised of seven of the Board’s 15 members, so they don’t always get their way if they can’t draw another voter to their side — although there are other conservatives who tend to vote with them.
Despite resistance from teachers, experts, and other board members attempting to defeat insidious attempts at sneaking religion into schools through curriculum standards, the bloc frequently gets its way.
The group is able to do so by using its relationships with textbook publishers, simply telling the publishers they want something included or removed and it is done.
And the publishers obey the bloc and make changes behind the scenes because the evangelical members comprise the most powerful voting bloc on the most influential board of education in the country.
“The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country,” Shorto wrote.
Texas uses that money to buy or distribute 48 million textbooks a year, which provides publishers a strong incentive to tailor their books to fit our standards.
This means that the evangelical bloc of the SBOE effectively sets the curriculum for the vast majority of states.
“Texas governs 46 or 47 states,” James Kracht, a Texas A&M University education professor who is involved in the state’s textbook process, said to Shorto.
Everyone should oppose the evangelical bloc’s efforts, even Christians.
The Founding Fathers established this country with the intention of keeping church and state separate not just to protect government from religious influence, but also to protect churches from the hand of government.
Religion and faith belong in the realm of the church, not our schools or the government.
This evangelical bloc is attempting to meld the two to increase the influence of Christianity, but the inevitable result will be the corruption of Christian teachings by government and the undermining of the education of our nation’s children.
David Brooks is a communication senior and may be contacted at [email protected]