KO'd in Texas: Why new textbooks may shun Jefferson
Because one influential education board is swayed by Christian fundamentalists, all American students may soon receive a smaller dose of the Sage of Monticello.
That's the concern, after the Texas Board of Education voted Friday, March 12, to replace Enlightenment-guided Thomas Jefferson with the more Bible-guided Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Sir William Blackstone as the thinkers whose ideas helped precipitate some of the political revolutions of Jefferson's day.
Texas, along with California, is widely seen as setting national textbook standards due to their voluminous population and consequent buying power.
And that's upsetting to Charlottesville-based historian Coy Barefoot. The author of the 2002 book Thomas Jefferson on Leadership, Barefoot contends that Texas is twisting history and tearing down the wall of separation between church and state that Jefferson erected with his Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.
Not only did Jefferson's document inspire the First Amendment, its creation was one of just three accomplishments Jefferson wanted engraved on his tombstone.
Board members, however, have denied trying to silence Jefferson, pointing out that the political Jefferson merely synthesized the ideas of other philosophers.
Barefoot isn't buying that explanation and suggests that Jefferson earned the wrath of the Board–- which includes a dentist who disputes the science of evolution–- due, in part, to the Jefferson Bible. (Jefferson so distrusted organized religion that he literally scissored up his own copy of the Gospels to remove passages he thought were added by zealots and to leave only what he considered the true teachings of Jesus.)
"We need only scan the headlines to see what can happen to people in countries that do not have a wall of separation between church and state," says Barefoot.