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Texas school board approves controversial textbook changes

The Texas State Board of Education adopted controversial new social studies textbook standards Friday, emphasizing the Christian influences of the nation’s founding fathers, highlighting conservative groups and personalities while downplaying liberal ones, and rewriting common terms such as “democratic” to fall more in line with standards the board deemed more conservative.

The news standards, approved 9 to 5 along party lines by the predominantly Republican Christian board, will affect 4.8 million children in the state of Texas over 10 years, and may influence textbooks published in other states, which often adopt Texas guidelines, where a large percentage of textbooks are published.

According to the Associated Press,

In one of the most significant curriculum changes, the board diluted the rationale for the separation of church and state in a high school government class, noting that the words were not in the Constitution and requiring students to compare and contrast the judicial language with the First Amendment’s wording.

The board also required that the U.S. be referred to as a “constitutional republic” rather than a “democratic” one.

Conservative panel members argued that the state curriculum had long been dominated by liberal ideas, and it was aiming to reverse the trend.

“I think we’ve corrected the imbalance we’ve had in the past and now have our curriculum headed straight down the middle,” Republican Don McLeroy, one of seven social conservatives on the board, said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I’m very pleased with what we’ve accomplished.”

Rod Paige, a former secretary of education under President George Bush appeared during public testimony and requested that the board delay its vote on the standards. “We have allowed ideology to drive and define the standards of our curriculum in Texas.”

Among the controversial amendments adopted, according to the Texas Education Agency:

• Analyze Abraham Lincoln’s ideas about liberty, equality, union and government as contained in his first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address and contrast them with the ideas contained in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address.

• Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase “separation of church and state.”

• Explain instances of institutional racism in American society.

• Discuss the solvency of long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

The final day of the three-day voting process began with an invocation given by Cynthia Dunbar, a conservative member on the board, who shared her views that Christianity is an integral part of the founding of the country. “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England, or the charter of Massachusetts Bay, or the fundamental orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present, a Christian land governed by Christian principles.”

Some other highlights from the debate:

  • In a discussion about Barack Obama, one conservative board member, David Bradley, suggested his middle name, Hussein, be included. After heated debated, Bradley withdraws his amendment, and the board agrees to list the president’s name as Barack H. Obama, as it is on the White House website.
  • A debate on the causes of the civil war was resolved  with the answer: “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery.” Critics like the Texas Freedom Network argued that this list waters down the most important cause of the Civil War: slavery.
  • Oscar Romero, a bishop from El Salvador assassinated in 1980, was added back to the standards in a unanimous vote. He had been removed a list of human rights activists when many board members did not know who he was. One member joked that there had been “no movie” made about him. He was later corrected. (Raul Julia starred in “Romero” in 1989.) The incident became fodder for the national news media, including “The Daily Show.”

A bill introduced into the California state Senate attempts to protect California schools from the decisions made in Texas by requiring California’s board of education to screen state curricula for any of the new standards adopted in Texas. According to the Associated Press:

The bill describes the Texas curriculum changes as “a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings” and “a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.”

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  • rdro

    I haven’t seen the new textbooks but I suspect that you have picked out the bits and pieces that most offend the liberal left. I think it’s bad enough our college students are exposed to mostly progressive thinking and if we can at least reintroduce our kids to some of the more factual conservative ideals along with the liberal teachings they get daily from everything they see and hear we just might wind up with a better educated population that truely has an open mind. There ARE two basic sides to every story and they need to know that. And BTW this country IS a REPUBLIC.

  • neloortiz

    Once again the religious right is making it hard for the religious center and left to be treated normal and with any respect. Another blow to free education and the government stands on the sidelines and do nothing. Are they expect to fix education in this country? Not while the rich gets a good secular education and the poor gets Jesus. rdro mention on the comments before that there are two basic sides to every story, and he is right. There is a right side and then there is a religious side. Anybody in between do not count…..

  • zminor

    Why is our loved and free country teaching Christianity through High School Textbooks to our children? Where is our freedom of religion ? Who is making this decisions and imposing them without our vote? it’s it really a free country anymore or we are we becoming a socialist country? what’s next? a U.S. king instead of president. do you know that in north Korea, civilians have to wear uniforms all the time or they’ll go to prison for life and be forced to hard labor? countries like north Korea are the reason why our ancestors came to America to escape of such government control? In north Korea it’s so controlled by the government (king) that when he decided to quit smoking, he made a law that will prohibit anybody for smoking or they will suffer years of jail time. i do not criticize Christianity but i believe we should keep diversity and freedom of speech, religion and more because it gives us you and me power over the government to decide for ourselves. that’s why I love America!

  • NoShutUp


    Republic didn’t mean what it did when this country was formed. I would tell you to go read your kid’s texts books to learn a thing or two about our history and civics, but I guess there won’t be much of a point in that now. You just keep sticking your head in the sand and screaming, ok?
    Also, progressive. You say that like that word is a bad thing. Golly. God forbid we try to move forward in history instead of attempting to stick to one idea forever, thus sticking our country farther and farther behind, ending it. Good ideas all around!

  • Beccer

    “Oh, no, reality has a “liberal bias”! Quickly, whip it back into shape with our false narrative, or else we’ll never win!”

  • Tom Paine lives

    I once attended a lecture where the professor discussed what he considered to be America’s four unique contributions to world culture: jazz, baseball, public education, and the separation of church and state. Jefferson was a major proponent of the last two, and they are the things I believe the board is trying to erode. Removing Jefferson as a major philosopher in world culture is a huge step toward denying that America was — and continues to be — a product of The Enlightenment, which dared to propose that humans are worthy stewards of the world and of their destiny, and that the right to govern a nation does not belong to monarchs or the clergy but to the individual.

  • david shepherd

    Proposing “The Yellow Highlighter of Texas” as the new state song for the People’s Republic of Texas; thoughts? Joking aside, these decisions by the TSBE should be extremely worrisome to any thinking person, and to all parents of school-age children everywhere.

  • Jennifer

    @rdro: when did critical thinking become “progressive” thinking? Revisionist history is not education, and will not prepare our kids for our global society. Texas SBoE members who voted for this are desperately trying to keep their vision of the world and maintain their identity. It is xenophobia on a large scale, and their massive insecurity about their own beliefs
    are thinly veiled. Otherwise they wouldn’t need to use children’s
    education as a shield to protect themselves. Shameful.

  • Sylvia

    I think it the changes were made to make the books more accurate than there is nothing wrong with it. Unfortunately, so many people choose to fill in the blanks with their own versions of how it happened and all the way the truth has become disgustingly inaccurate. Like it or not this country was founded on strong Christian beliefs.

    Most people who will disagree with these changes do so because it doesn’t say what they want it to.

    It’s better than when the state of CA proposed gender neutral textbooks so as to not offend the kids who were “uncertain of their sexual orientation”.

    I say bravo! to the CA board who approved this. It’s about freakin’ time.

  • d.andrews

    this shows what a sad state of affairs our country is in. it’s no surprise that the religious right have once again tried to ram their views down the throats of the masses. i seem to remember several history lessons that sound hauntingly familiar. martin luther, the crusades, galileo. heaven forbid that our children be told the truth about our country, in all it’s unvarnished glory and shame. heaven forbid our children be given the facts and allowed to form their own views of life based on the truth. our children need to learn about things like slavery and oppression. most of the religious right probably don’t want their children to know that their distant relatives were involved in things like slavery for profit. it’s important to never turn our backs on our past. personally it makes me nauseated that something like this should even be an issue in this day and age.

  • ebinrock

    Ready for something REALLY controversial??

    The real core of the problem, and all this controversy, stems from the fact that we have a public education system in the first place (read: taxpayer-funded). There should not even be any such thing as compulsory education. Parents and individuals should decide for themselves what they want to learn, or even IF they want to learn anything. (If they don’t, they suffer the natural consequences of not getting a job, social exclusion, etc.) Self-education is the only REAL way to have freedom of education to learn all points of view. Believe me, there’s a LOT of REAL, CRITICAL information that is not taught in any of the schools, changed curriculum or not – like the history of the Federal Reserve System and the history of the income tax and how both have destroyed this country. You want a real textbook, how about The Creature From Jekyll Island for a prescribed textbook? Or Harry Browne’s Why Government Doesn’t Work? (Actually, Harry Browne wasn’t an anarchist, he’s mostly talking about Big Government programs.)

  • ebinrock

    Anyway, I meant to say in my last post that local school system property taxes (which are huge) need to be repealed, so parents can then afford to take that money and send their kids to private school, or homeschool their kids (with their OWN curriculum, not some state-approved formula).

    And I agree with one post, but only in that, Jesus should not be crammed down kids’ throats by any STATE-RUN education board, but they should be taught by the parents and churches themselves (free exercise). Religion is a matter of conscience, and I even tell my 10-year-old son that coming to Jesus is his decision, not mine, not his mother’s, not the church’s, not anyone else’s. I believe it strongly, though, and I let him know what the Bible says, try to live by example, and hope and pray that he will come to know the goodness and love of God through that Word and His Spirit. No school can substitute for the individual will of the heart.

  • ebinrock

    One more point, and I’ll quit. One poster said the Texas board is trying to deny the other side of history, that our country came out of the Enlightenment, and that is true. I get frustrated with my own church when they don’t recognize, good, bad, or ugly, that our nation was formed by BOTH CHRISTIANS AND ATHIESTS, and that government’s role was intended to be hands-off because it was meant to be a limited form of government.

    Again, the only way you can learn about both Thomas Jefferson AND the more Christian founders is with FREEDOM OF EDUCATION, and freedom of education is only possible when there is no such thing as a public education system, with a board that can dictate what a child learns (and infuse its own agenda and bias). With freedom of education, the individual has access to unlimited books and articles on any given subject, and one can use his/her own mind to judge what is fact/reality/truth.

    When government runs education, it controls what someone can learn. It can use its power to exclude information, or to infuse propaganda. In fact, I think I read somewhere (I’ll have to confirm this) that the original purpose of public education was in fact to dumb down the masses, make them productive workers, and keep them from knowing what their rights were, lest they revolt when their rights were stripped away – something like that.

  • J. Murphy

    The very notion that our children’s minds should be filled with lies and religious propaganda written by the backward cretins in Texas is appalling! Those of us with intelligence and respect for actual historical facts must fight to stop this shameful religious right scheme from spreading any further. There must be no market for Texan textbooks containing rewritten “history”.

  • Not My Real Name

    Debate over textbook comment is something that will always occur but I don’t think there is any greater problem with conservatives having a voice than there is with history being taught along liberal lines.

    What concerns me more is the way PBS has presented the facts in this article. In the first place, there is a picture of someone deleting information from a textbook- implying that what has happened is little more than censorship.

    Secondly why the word ‘controversial’ in the title? There isn’t any significant material in the article itself about actual evidence of controversy so you get the distinct impression that the word is being used in a merely derogatory sense, implying that there is something wrong with the changes made simply because they are controversial. Of course there will be controversy, but there always will be over text book content, no matter who makes the changes or whose favor they work in. Why not just say ‘Texas school board approves conservative textbook changes’?

  • soferraro

    Questioning historical bias? A very good thing to teach students. Directing them towards specific incidents chosen by a school board? Not a good thing to teach. Teaching students to think for themselves? Awesome. Teaching students to think as a governing board thinks? Dangerous and leaning heavily towards brainwashing, which is the opposite of education.
    My question:
    “If religion is not being managed at home by parents/family, then why interject it at school? There again, we as a society are treading on very thin ice, as we need to allow family to have some responsibility in the education of their children. It is not up to the school systems of this country to be the SOLE educator of children in the area of social skills, hygiene, religion, moral character, etc.

  • Big Hairy Ape

    This is just silly. People that have no knowledge of history – responsible for what gets taught. Keep ‘em stupid is the GOP creed.

  • Rod from Indy

    This is exactly why we have separation of church and state. Or are supposed to, anyhow. Republicans constantly try to push Chrisianity, and now are going to force it on the children? I would like to see this fought and repealed. It is backwards and very dangerous for this country.

  • What??

    Are you kidding me? Just because all the right wing lugnuts in Texas think they are better than anyone else, is no reason to change history. Sounds like some of that loco weed that grows so well in the Texas pastures has gotten into their drinking water. But then, what do you expect from a state that harbors the intelligent “W”.

  • Bruch Reed

    There are dumb people everywhere. Now the dummies in Texas have found a way to multiply their dumbness. Way to go, Texas, you backwards backawater of bassackwary.

  • Mo

    The opposite progressive is regressive. Makes one wonder where we are going.

  • Bette S Baysinger

    How about we teach about what really happened, that rich, European, male (with submissive wife), slave owners came over here and took America from Indians by killing them, and lying to the rest. Then immigrant labor was used, and those humans were tossed unceremoniously, usually by making laws against some cultural norm of the group, and we (the US) demonizes them, to build up American industry. History is cyclic, I just learned of an attempt to keep out a population in 1835 of white Europeans, so history needs to be real. We do not teach our children correctly. This isn’t any help fixing that.

  • Joe

    Since when is progressive a bad thing? By the way, facts are facts. Jefferson and the rest of the founders were very much influenced by the writings of Rousseau, Locke, Diderot, Voltaire and others, all of whom felt that state religions were a bad idea based on the historical facts of their own recent history. In other words, they were progressive Enlightenment deists at best. George Washington when he was president was once scolded by his minister for coming to church late, and was asked what sort of example he thought he was setting. Washington apologized, and simply stopped going to church altogether. Today, no one could run for office without declaring his or her allegiance to a, very narrow, selection of Christian churches. As far as the Civil War is concerned. If you want to see the main cause look at the Cornerstone Speech of Alexander Stevens, VP of the CSA where he lays it right on the line, the war was about slavery — period. Not to mention the Lincoln-Douglas debates!

    Finally, while some of the people who came here were devout Christians, such as the Puritans in 1620, many came here for other reasons, mostly to seek a fortune, or seek a new chance in life. By 1776, 150 years after the Pilgrims arrived, the colonies were a completely different place altogether, with people of various religions of different degree, and some with no religious beliefs in particular. If anything, the religious backdrop of today in this country is probably more intolerant and bigoted than that of the late 1700s.

  • jwaltrip

    Things are always left out of history classes. I am 54 years old and didn’t learn very much about black or Indian history in this country. I guess it is true what Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

    If we are so worried about our place in the world, we need to be teaching our ACTUAL history to students and not politicizing everything. Teach everything & have debate & let students make up their own minds. Education in this country will never go forward as long as politicians decide what we should learn.

  • Julie

    I find the decision to amend textbooks to discuss more conservative ideas disturbing. Including more information is okay, and perhaps there is an imbalance. The problem for me comes when historical events that are considered “Democratic”, “liberal” or “progessive” are removed.
    This poses a problem mostly for younger students, that do not have access to more information. College students have a wealth of resources and the ability to distinguish the facts from the propaganda.
    I feel concern for young children in Texas. I don’t know where I would be if I grew up not knowing the incredible history of our country. How can you be proud of something you don’t understand?

  • JBell

    Why is it that when Christians voice an opinion others respond by saying we’re “pushing” our views own their throats? More correctly, we’re trying to get someting “out” that’s already been pushed down ours!

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  • MLab

    Just for frame of reference, this country was founded by puritains looking to escape religious persecution, not Catholics trying to start a new country based on catholic beliefs.

  • someone

    The religious persecution followed us here. Just read all these posts.

  • legend

    As a retired junior high principal and U.S. History teacher, I think that Texas rewrite of history is
    terrible. The teachers and parents need to do something.

  • Laurie Jones

    It is sad and inappropriate to change perceptions of history based on bias and prejudiced opinions. The land of the free and the home of the brave, is now the land of the ignorant and the home of the putrid bigot.

  • Ross NY

    A common misconception is that the civil war was fought over slavery or states rights. It was fought to preserve the Union (inclusive). States seceded when a duly conducted presidential election did not provide them the result they wanted. Tantamount to treason, Lincoln would not negotiate.

    I see nothing here that ‘turns the tide’ as it were. If your not teaching our children to have open minds and make their own decisions based on multiple sources of information we are remiss. Too many political terms have been so watered down by media use they have lost their meanings or worse people no longer know what they mean.

  • eraser

    @ ebinrock
    The reason public eduacation was created was so every family Including the poor ones would be bought up with some sort of standared, so every chlid will not have an entirely different interpretation on how 2+2 works. And one other thing what makes you think that every parent has the time or knowledge needed to teach children how to function in the real world? Thats what school does and is sopposed to do, equalize.

  • TFurey

    These changes are most certainly bad for everyone. However, I would like to point something out that seems overlooked. Most people say that they are outright changing history, but that isn’t exactly correct. The framing of issues can steer a student to come to a specific conclusion, whether by omission or addition. The changes are not necessarily completely incorrect, but rather, an incomplete representation.

    “A common misconception is that the civil war was fought over slavery or states rights. It was fought to preserve the Union (inclusive). States seceded when a duly conducted presidential election did not provide them the result they wanted. Tantamount to treason, Lincoln would not negotiate.”

    If you’re solely considering the position of the north, you might be right. However, there were attempts to negotiate a compromise, but it was clear that it would not work. If you include the south, you will realize that their succession was because of a political divide caused by slavery. All other major factors, regionalism, taxation, and expansion were all part of the issue of slavery. It is not a myth that the civil war occured because of slavery.

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  • Jesse

    Wrong. Separation of church and state was meant to protect religion from the government. However, it has been co-opted and commandeered over time to mean that religious beliefs have no place in government. But anyone who looks at the founding fathers can know that many of our deeply-cherished values originated from a firm belief in God. I am not agreeing with forcing religion on anyone, but a worldview will always inform voting. Just as yours does.

  • Jesse

    THANK YOU. Not only is state-run education a bad idea conceptually, it is also a bad idea in practice. Inefficient and corrupt indoctrination. Private schools are shown do achieve much higher levels of success with far less funding.

  • JL Grey

    I have no problem with facts at all, but this is all going much further than just “correcting” facts. This is a group of pissed of republican conservatives who are out to push their own agenda…to make America the way they want it. They are angry and throwing a tantrum like children because they don’t want Obama in office. It’s like a magnified version of liberals with GW Bush. Except these types of people are the ones that get petty and childish when they don’t get their way. And that is what it boils down to; getting their way. They only care about “freedoms” when it fits in with their lifestyles. They HAVE to be right and when they aren’t told they are right, they do drastic, radical things like this. Downplaying slavery? Debates over Obama’s name? Christian have destroyed countless other cultures and societies. America was founded by people trying to get away from Religious binding. Now, here are the Christians again, shoving their agenda down people’s throats. People are supposed to be DRAWN to Christianity, not dragged and shoved. Now, in an effort to solidify this arrogant, self-righteous behavior, they are tampering with education. Someone needs to put a stop to these people.

  • Steven Bass

    THANK YOU! They were also influenced by Hegel. So freedom of religion was also a dialectic argument. Freedom of religion implied the possibility that there was no religion and therefore protected people from religion.

  • BubblyKCA

    How do you know that the history that you were taught was correct?

  • BubblyKCA

    Well the reason that they’re changing it is exactly what you stated, because they can’t distinguish facts from propaganda, and the way the textbooks were written, they were propagandizing on the side of liberals. For example, the word liberal, or democrat meant something different back in Lincoln’s time. In fact, Lincoln was part of the Republican party. So removing confusing words will actually allow the children to make up their own minds. And how are you so sure that the history that you were taught was correct. I was taught that Columbus was a hero…

  • BubblyKCA

    Unfortunately when people use the term progressive these days, they are actually talking about regressive changes. See how that word play fooled you? Just like liberal means freedom, but in reality liberals are against individual freedom. I’m not arguing that republicans are for it either, but liberals are definitely not for it, but they’ve stolen the word from its true meaning.

  • BubblyKCA

    Where in this article does it say that they’re pushing Christianity??

  • BubblyKCA

    No it’s not, that’s why they’re changing the curriculum, duh.

  • BubblyKCA

    I wish everyone had a mind like you. Whether you agree with the changes or not, it’s undeniable that this article has a political sway. That’s why conservatives want to defund PBS and other public broadcasting, because they are bias.

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  • Tobago

    Stupid, idiotic, Neanderthals is what most Texans are.

  • Anonymous

    What’s hilarious here is California stating they are “a threat to the APOLITICAL nature of . . . . academic content standards in California” Please.

  • Anonymous

    Where are they interjecting religion into the schools? By discussing the religious affiliations of the Founding Fathers — which is the truth? As the liberals have changed history and taught our children that all the founding fathers were Deists and had no particular religion. I think what’s pissing of the Progressives on this page is that the board had the gall to have kids think about the sustainability of social security. How dare they??

  • Anonymous

    Which of the changes do you find to be “lies”?

  • Anonymous

    Just making the statement containing the words “reality” and “bias” you have proven yours.

  • Anonymous

    Where exactly are they “teaching Christianity”? Did you read the article.?

  • Anonymous

    Why are we continuing to allow ONE group from ONE state to alter history to suit their personal desires?

    I keep hoping this is a joke… I ams eriously and genuinely afraid it’s not. This push by a select group to make this a genuine Christian nation will only result in destruction…

  • Anonymous

    I think its funny that they assume just because its in a textbook means the kids will retain what they read. The have long since forgotten the liberal BS, they will do the same for the conservative BS too.

  • Anonymous

    Spam much, Mr. Troll?

  • Anonymous

    You are a paid troll…STFU and let the adults in the room give their opinions.

  • Joseph Jarrell

    And furthermore, at that time, education was entirely the domain of the church. So it was partially about keeping the state from using schools for propagandizing kids. So yes, we’re very far from what was intended.

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  • TRex

    Yeah…like Maryland (Catholic)? Massachussetts (Puritan)? Rhode Island (Baptist…though RI seems to have welcomed everyone…)? There really wasn’t true ‘religious freedom’ everywhere in the colonies (or states). Lots of religious intolerance and persecution here too, from the earliest days.

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  • Anthony in Manhattan

    “controversial??” sounds like much ado about nothing, i was expecting things like George Washington did not exist or America is actually still legally a part of England. these are minor minor changes.

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    [...] When the Texas Board of Education tries to downplay slavery as a cause of the Civil War or to scrub away Latino leaders such as Oscar Romero from its textbooks, you must know “stop talking about [...]

  • Anonymous

    THis country does best as a Christian nation….look at history. The times we were ashamed of were times when we forgot Christian principles.

  • Anonymous

    Look at footnotes and original sources. If all the books do is quote Bill Ayers, or some other modern day Guru, then you know the book is probably not correct.

  • Anonymous

    LOL – you keep telling yourself that.

    America has never nor shall ever be a ‘Christian nation”. If that ever happened it would be the end of this country as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

    Our foundation was built not upon ‘Christian” principles but of nontheistic common sense. The same common sense that has led to the expansion of any village to a town, town to a city, city to a nation. The laws we have are not based
    upon Christian principles but a social need. To demand otherwise is merely delusion. Thou shall not kill? Please… according to the Bible, God is the single worst mass murderer in history.

    Any religion which practices freedom, equality, love and tolerance, peace and charity over anger, hatred, death, etc. is great. I’m all for it. The problem with most peoples’ interpretation of Christianity is that it PREACHES these things but practices the latter.

    Do not forget the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, Slavery, Hitler’s Germany, the murder of homoseuxals… all of these are based upon “Christian” morals. In fact, if you want to see a prime example of a genuine Christian nation, look at WWII Germany or, alternatively, even at the Middle East today. Substitute Islamism with Christianity and you see a theocratic nation basing the entirety of its laws on its own interpretation of its religion.

    THAT is what a “Christian Nation” would look like. It is nothing to yearn for.

  • Anonymous

    When you start throwing stones, it means you have nothing to add to the discussion.

  • Anonymous

    This is one of the problems with the above…and with all school districts….they equalize too much and the students do not have any thoughts or creative ideas of their own that dont fit the system

  • Allison

    who reads textbooks anyways?! :)

  • History In the Making |

    [...] to PBS, the board has emphasized the Christian influences on the nation’s founding fathers, [...]

  • paulalovescats

    Huh? We are a “constitutional republic”, not a democracy.

  • paulalovescats

    “Anyways”? Obviously not you.